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CEIVA 8-Inch Digital Photo Frame - digital photo frame review: CEIVA 8-Inch Digital Photo Frame - digital photo frame

CEIVA 8-Inch Digital Photo Frame - digital photo frame

David Carnoy
David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
6 min read
Ceiva Logic, one of the pioneers in the digital photo frame arena, has been selling digital photo displays for several years with a unique business model: to get pictures onto your frame, you were required to buy a special Web-based subscription service. For folks dealing with tech-challenged family members--such as a parent or grandparent--the service was a godsend because it allowed you to push photos remotely to the frame via a standard telephone line. The only problem with earlier Ceiva photo frames was that their resolution was middling, so the pictures you sent just didn't look all that good. And in the last 18 months or so, as competitors such as Philips have brought out slicker frames with built-in slots that allowed you to easily transfer and view photos directly from memory cards, the need for a "push" service has diminished. In short, Ceiva frames were getting a little long in the tooth, and it was high time for the company to come up with something fresh.

Ceiva's completely redesigned lineup currently consists of 7- and 8-inch models, with a few options available for each model. The model reviewed here is the 8-inch model ($199 with 3 months of service), which offers interchangeable faceplates while the 7-inch frame does not. The frame measures 8.5x10.0x3.0 inches (HWD), though the screen itself is only 6.5x5.0 inches. The frame's default color is a simple, flat black, but you can also swap in an included faceplate that has a faux wood-grain finish. Unlike competing models, the Ceiva doesn't have an adjustable leg on the back of the frame for propping it up. Rather, the base of the frame simply acts as a stand, which means that the frame is designed to sit only in landscape mode. While it's nice to have the ability make a frame stand vertically (in portrait mode), the lack of the feature isn't a big deal. We actually found the stand on the Ceiva preferable to the adjustable leg (the frame sat more securely), and we didn't encounter any glare issues that made us want to adjust the angle of the frame.


CEIVA 8-Inch Digital Photo Frame - digital photo frame

The Good

Ceiva's redesigned 8-inch diagonal digital photo frame has an attractive, modern look, 640x480 resolution, slots for most memory card types, as well as USB connectivity for thumbdrives, and interchangeable faceplates. Optional accessories allow you to connect your frame to Ceiva's convenient web-based PicturePlan service via a corded Ethernet connection (Ceiva Broadband adapter) or a wireless network (Ceiva Wireless adapter).

The Bad

The PicturePlan service could be more affordable, wireless setup is a little tricky, and you can't import large image files into PicturePlan.

The Bottom Line

For fans of Ceiva's PicturePlan service, the company's fourth-generation 8-inch digital photo frame represents a nice upgrade. But with new, more user-friendly frames hitting the market, Ceiva's subscription-based service may be a harder sell to new customers.

Aesthetically, the one point of contention is the set of buttons than run along the bottom of the frame. While having them front and center makes navigating the menus on the frame easier, the overall look isn't as clean as that of some the frames that have their buttons tucked away behind the frame somewhere. This reviewer didn't mind the visible buttons, but it does make the frame look more like a TV or a monitor than, well, a photo frame. In case you're wondering, it's powered by an AC adapter and has no built-in rechargeable battery.

The screen resolution (640x480) is a bump up from the resolution of earlier Ceiva frames; pictures appear sharp, but because of a lack of pixel density--and resolution--you do get some blotchiness in backgrounds. From a picture-quality standpoint, while the Ceiva frame may not be at the top of the class, it's certainly a solid B.

The 640x480 display has enough memory to store as many as 50 photos internally. Additionally, around back you'll find slots for Compact Flash, SD, MMC, and Memory Stick memory cards (xD requires an adapter), which give you the ability to create a slideshow of as many as 500 hundreds photos at a time (why the cap, we're not sure, but that's what Ceiva reps told us). Connectivity options also include both a standard USB port and a mini USB port, so you can you can also view images from a thumbdrive.

It's worth noting that the internal memory is reserved for storing photos pushed to the frame via Ceiva's online PicturePlan service. However, while you can't transfer images from a card to the frame's internal memory, you can upload images from a card to your online Ceiva account if your frame has a broadband connection. Technically, you can also upload images through the phone-line connection, but we found that this option was extremely slow with images that haven't been sized down in a computer. We also appreciated that you can set the frame to turn on and off at certain times.

The frame comes in a base model with the aforementioned second faceplate. However, Ceiva does offer accessories that allow you to connect your frame to the Web-based PicturePlan service via a corded Ethernet connection (Ceiva Broadband adapter--$25) or a wireless network (Ceiva Wireless adapter--$35). Those without an Internet connection can still use a phone line to connect to PicturePlan, but you'll get your photos delivered faster to the frame with a broadband connection--whether it's wired or wireless. Additionally, Ceiva sells the frame in special bundles with a year's worth of the PicturePlan service for a discounted price. A year of the service costs $99, or you can get three years for $249.

Setting up a PicturePlan account online is relatively easy, though complete novices may run into some difficulties. On the most basic level, the idea behind the service is that you upload photos from your Mac, PC, or even a mobile phone, into an online-based photo album or albums. You can then choose which photos to send--or remove--from the frame and have new updates delivered daily or even hourly. Ceiva currently has 22 "channels" from which to choose. Subscribe to a channel and new pictures from that channel will be sent to the frame on a daily basis, providing fresh content and some potentially useful information. For instance, there's a weather channel that gives you the daily forecast and a horoscope channel that delivers your sign's daily horoscope. Another delivers vintage images from yesteryear. Needless to say, some channels are more useful than others.

Setting up the wired Ethernet connection was a snap--the dongle plugs into the USB port, so you will give up the use of that port while the Ethernet adapter is connected. However, we found that the wireless setup was trickier. While we expected it to be a little cumbersome to enter security keys via a virtual keyboard on the frame, we didn't expect to run into some menu selections we didn't really understand. In other words, the process appears more techie than it should, and this is coming from reviewers who are pretty tech savvy. Luckily, Ceiva customer service is very good, so if you run into any snafus with setup, they should be able to guide you through the process. Still, to cut down on those calls, Ceiva should do some work to make the wireless setup a little less intimidating.

We had a couple of other gripes. We test frames with a variety of image sizes, and the one thing we noticed is that if you have large images on your card--say, from a digital SLR camera--load times from the card can be a little sluggish. We also noticed that, contrary to what the manual states, when you're using Ceiva's PicturePlan service, you can't import and convert very large images (file sizes greater than 4MB) for storage in your online photo album. In other words, you have to manually reduce the image to have the service accept it for conversion to a frame-friendly size. Since JPG compression results in varying file sizes, a very complex scene might result in a file size greater than 4MB, even with a camera that doesn't usually top 3MB. That's serious issue, one that Ceiva needs to do something about , since more and more folks--and even relative novices--are buying cameras with very high megapixel counts.

On a more positive note, if you subscribe to the PicturePlan service, the company can--and will be--updating the firmware on the frame and making little tweaks to improve the frame's functionality. If you don't subscribe to the service--or just let your subscription lapse--you can still update the frame's firmware manually by going to the Ceiva site and downloading the firmware upgrade.

In the final analysis, Ceiva has done a decent job updating both the look and the features of its frames, really bringing them into the 21st century. That said, the company will face stiff competition from Kodak, which has similarly featured frames that tap into Kodak's online Picture Gallery service. While Kodak may not offer the special channel system that Ceiva does, the Kodak service does enable you to remotely send pictures to the frame--and the service is free. That would appear to present a bit of a problem for Ceiva.

That said, if you're a fan of the Ceiva service, you should strongly consider upgrading to this 8-inch model. However, if you just want a frame that accepts memory cards and don't care about remotely sending photos to the frame, the Philips 8-inch model is probably a better option. Kodak's new frames also seem like an attractive alternative, but as of this writing, they hadn't quite hit the market, so we'll reserve final judgment until they do.


CEIVA 8-Inch Digital Photo Frame - digital photo frame

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7
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