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AVLabs AVL994 Portable Photo Album & Presenter review: AVLabs AVL994 Portable Photo Album & Presenter

If there was an award for the most interesting concept for a digital photo frame, then the Portable Photo Album & Presenter from AVLabs would probably win hands down.

Lexy Savvides Principal Video Producer
Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
Expertise Wearables | Smartwatches | Mobile phones | Photography | Health tech | Assistive robotics Credentials
  • Webby Award honoree, 2x Gold Telly Award winner
Lexy Savvides
3 min read

If there was an award for the most interesting concept for a digital photo frame, then the Portable Photo Album & Presenter from AVLabs would probably win hands down.

8.0

AVLabs AVL994 Portable Photo Album & Presenter

The Good

Frame automatically orients itself in portrait or landscape. Good resolution and brightness. In-built battery.

The Bad

No Compact Flash support. No remote control.

The Bottom Line

The Portable Photo Album & Presenter is a novel idea that's more suited to a home than professional use, and is a pretty good digital photo frame as well.

Design and features

Conceptually, it's a kind of do-it-all device that you can tote around in your matching two-piece suit in board meetings, and then happily turn back into a standard photo display unit as you change into your civvies. Coated in a faux-leather trim on its rear side and decked out in full piano black at the front, this device certainly wouldn't look out of place sitting around at a liquid lunch. It comes packed neatly in a matching leatherette case too, to impress all and sundry.

A pouch always makes the ladies swoon. (Credit: CBSi)

Measuring 8 inches across, the screen's resolution tops 800x600 pixels. Around the side you'll find the requisite power input as well as a mini-USB port to connect to a computer, plus a three-in-one media card slot which supports SD, Memory Stick and MMC (even though MMC for digital cameras has been MIA since around 2004). On the other side, navigational buttons dipped in a squishy plastic are lined up, and arrow buttons to move between selections are on both sides. Inside, it has another trick up its sleeve, with 4GB of internal storage and to complement the whole "portable" tag, a battery that will last up to three hours when not tethered to a power source.

To transfer images to the internal memory you need to plug the frame into a computer and use the device as if it were an external hard drive or USB storage: create the relevant folders for your photos and then transfer them through. Included with the device are mounts that let you stand the frame in the more traditional upright way, if the whole portable thing isn't your idea of a good time.

Performance

At first the navigation is a little confusing, as there is no remote provided in the box and all functions have to be accessed from the actual unit itself. The arrow buttons on either side at the top allow movement between rows (unlike the straight up and down arrow buttons found on other digital photo frames). Selecting an image to display is easy enough though — simply navigate to the photo you want to see and hit OK.

Colours appear fairly accurate on the screen and even though individual pixels are visible on close inspection, from a distance the picture looks fairly bright and clear. That said, you only really want to be looking at this frame from front on: the viewing angle isn't great which limits its usability in meeting situations. The frame will read standard JPEG and BMP files, but not TIFF.

The slideshow interval can be set to three speeds — slow, normal or fast — but that's not where the customisation ends. There's a choice of 10 transition effects ranging from the standard fade, to things as descriptive as "Silk". The effect looks nothing like its namesake, for the record.

There are some elements to the photo frame that make it unsuitable for business presentations though. For example, with no PowerPoint support your presentations will have to be converted into still JPEGs to view. Plus, there's no Compact Flash slot, which means photographers who wish to display photos straight from their digital SLR will have to first transfer them to a computer, and then put them on the frame.

Conclusion

The Portable Photo Album & Presenter is a novel idea even if it isn't that suited to professional presentations. However, while it has a very nice quality to it as a stand-alone photo frame, the navigation system can be a little cumbersome without a remote.