Manually transferring images can be done with the included USB cable. However, by doing this it skips the optimization process for storing images on the frame, so you'll either want to avoid this by using a USB flash drive to add images when not using a memory card or decrease the resolution of your images before you drag them over to the frame's memory. The SPX12 comes with a small Windows-only application for use with the USB connection. It's basic, but it works.
The display is first-rate with saturated colors and appropriate brightness, which is good since neither is adjustable. What can be changed are SyncPix settings--the controls for slide shows. You can set the speed each image is shown (3 seconds up to 30 minutes), the number of slides on the screen at one time (one to four or a mix), pick from nine transition effects or random or none at all, slide-show order (in the order they are in the album or random), sleep delay for use with the motion detector (from 15 minutes to 9 hours), and the volume for the speakers. Getting around the interface can be a little tricky, but in the end it's pretty simple if not entirely logical.
Unfortunately, the frame has some performance problems. First, copying and optimizing our set of 27 test photos (99MB) took 52 minutes from a fast (300X Lexar) CompactFlash card, or about 2 minutes per photo; unfortunately, we couldn't do a comparison time for SD because despite clearing out all the photos from the frame, using two different SD cards, renaming the files, and disconnecting the power, it considered the files on the SD card duplicates and refused to copy them. However, a different set of 14 photos (40MB) took 105 minutes (7.5 minutes per photo). Part of the problem is that the frame seems to randomly get hung up on a photo for no discernible reason.
Furthermore, during playback, processor-intensive effects that require the image to move off screen such as Motion, which is sort of a zoom-and-pan Ken Burns effect, causes images to stutter as they move and appear wavy; at best it's not fun to watch, and at worst borders on annoying. Stick with the simple Fade, Inward, and Outward effects, or leave them off all together and you'll be fine. Also, while you can listen to an audio track during a slide show, the frame's processor doesn't seem to be able to handle the task. The slide show slows to a crawl and the frame stops responding to the remote control with exception of the volume. Oddly enough, the small speakers can actually get quite loud and sound pretty good.
Buyers only get a 90-day warranty from Smartparts, which is on the short side; better competitors generally offer six months or a year. On top of that, the company's Web site support area is weak, though they do have an 800 number and e-mail listed should you need help or a repair.
It's attractive and displays nice, saturated photos, but given its speed deficiencies and short warranty, the Smartparts SPX12 is overpriced for what it delivers.