Digital photo frames have been around for a while, but they haven't taken off nearly as fast as the digital photo market. The combination of high prices and mediocre image quality has hurt their growth. However, that's changing as prices come down for higher-resolution displays that serve up sharper pictures as well as convenient features more suited to digital camera users. Philips's entry, the Digital Photo Display 7FF1, is a compact, sleek model that's part of this new breed of digital photo frame. And while it's not cheap, it largely delivers on the promise this type of accessory offers.
The frame looks a lot like a mini version of the display on Apple's original iMac flat-panel all-in-one computers, with a clear frame around a white border that surrounds the 5.4-by-3.6-inch, 133ppi LCD panel. From a viewing perspective, a black border around the display is preferable because it increases the perceived contrast and makes the picture pop a little more. But this is a minor gripe; we really like the look of the frame, which also comes in a wood-tone version for those looking for a less modern, more traditionally styled frame. The adjustable--and removable--stand on its back lets you set the frame either vertically or horizontally on a table or other surface.
The 16-bit (65,536 potential colors) display has 12MB of memory built into it, which allows you to store between 50 and 80 photos--internally. Additionally, around back you'll find slots for CompactFlash, SD, MMC, and Memory Stick memory cards, which give you the ability to display hundreds or even thousands of photos. You can choose to leave the images on the card or transfer however many will fit into the display's remaining internal memory. A USB port, also on the back, lets you upload photos from a USB flash drive or straight from your camera, as long as the latter allows peer-to-peer transfer.
The one small advantage to transferring the photos to the display's internal memory is that as part of the copying process, the unit automatically resizes the images to the size of the display (720x540). For instance, we shot some images with an Olympus Evolt 500 dSLR that started out with resolutions of 3,264x2,448 that were subsequently trimmed down. However, the only real impact of the smaller file sizes is that transition effects in slide-show mode--you can select between none, fade, slide, scroll, snake, or random--work more smoothly. In other words, if you have a fairly high-capacity memory card (512MB or more), you're probably better off just loading the card with photos and leaving it in the display.