Kodak EasyShare EX-811 (Black) review: Kodak EasyShare EX-811 (Black)

When transferring photos to the display's internal memory, some photo frames, including the Philips 9FF2M4, automatically resize the images to the size of the display, reducing their file sizes in the process. However, this model doesn't do that--yet--so if you've shot images at a high resolution, you're going to eat the internal memory up pretty fast (with even snapshot cameras producing images in excess of 3MB per image, you're looking at only storing 40 photos or so on the frame). Of course, if you know you're shooting photos to store on the frame, you could reduce the resolution setting on your camera or, better yet, crop the images yourself before transferring them to the frame.

To test the frame's file playback capabilities, we loaded up an SD card with audio, video, and image files. We had no problem locating the various types using the included small remote control to navigate the menu system. The frame was able to play back the majority of AVI and MPEG 4 files we threw at it, and Kodak says it tried to make sure the frame was able to support video output from most major still cameras (many camera phone video formats are supported as well). Just don't expect the built-in stereo speakers' sound quality to blow you away. It's passable, but the EX-811 isn't designed to be a tabletop stereo.

As for the remote, it's one of the better ones we've seen ship with a photo frame, with clearly labeled buttons that activate key functions (there's a set of buttons on the top of the frame itself, but it's much more convenient to control the frame with the remote). We also appreciated that Kodak includes a plastic remote holder that snaps into the keyhole slots on the back of the frame (so long as you aren't using them for mounting purposes). Since the remote is small, it's good to have a place to store it when you're not using it so you won't misplace it. We should note that you have to point the remote directly at the IR sensor on the frame at fairly close range (within five feet or so) to get it to respond to your button pushes.

As for picture quality, we didn't have any major complaints. Images appear sharp and detailed with accurate colors and only a little stair-stepping in images where there are curved lines, such as the outline of a person's shoulder. In other words, those lines may not be totally smooth curves, but they aren't clearly jagged either (the "jaggie" phenomenon is due to lack of pixel density).

As noted, the display is a wide-screen LCD, with a resolution of 800 x 480. While some cameras can now offer a setting that allows you to take wide-screen pictures, most cameras still serve up 4:3 images that would fit perfectly on a 640 x 480 display. When you go up to 800 x 480, the display ends up cropping some of the image. Kodak claims its frame does this with utmost care to preserve as much of your original photo as possible, but inevitably some of it will be missing. You can choose to display your photo in native 4:3 aspect ratio with black bars on either side of the photo, but most people will find it preferable to fill the screen with their images, even if it means losing a little bit of the image (sometimes, of course, a little cropping is good).

In the final analysis, we were pretty impressed with the EX-811. While it may not be ultrastylish looking and may have a few minor flaws, it's got a strong feature set and offers good image quality. Obviously, its key competitive advantage is its online integration with EasyShare Gallery, but it also doesn't hurt that Kodak's done a good job making it easy to set up the frame to work with your wireless network and interact with your PC--as well as your EasyShare Gallery. Hopefully, with its next firmware update (yes, the frame is firmware-upgradable), the company will fix the issue of automatically resizing the images to fit the frame when copying photos to internal memory. If Kodak adds this feature, we'd feel comfortable awarding the frame an Editors' Choice.

Editor's note: Along with this 8-inch model, Kodak also makes a 10-inch Wi-Fi-enabled frame, the EX-1011 model, as well as two models without wireless connectivity, the 8-inch SV-811, and 7-inch SV-710