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Kodak OLED Wireless Frame review: Kodak OLED Wireless Frame

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Let's get this out of the way: Kodak's OLED Wireless Frame costs $1,000. Who the heck would pay that much for a 7.6-inch digital frame that usually costs closer to $200? Well, Kodak would be quick to say that this is more about proof-of-concept than creating a mass-consumption product. The company developed the technology behind OLED (organic light-emitting diode), which has come to embody the future of flat-panel display technology. And this little photo frame, like Sony's $2,500 XEL-1 OLED TV, are at the cutting-edge--and you usually have to pay a serious premium to play there.

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Kodak OLED Wireless Frame

The Good

Excellent display quality; sleek design; built-in Wi-Fi; zippy performance; easy to set up; supports MP3 and video playback.

The Bad

Expensive; glossy finish is a fingerprint magnet; relatively small screen; Mac owners can't wirelessly connect to their computers.

The Bottom Line

Kodak's OLED Wireless Frame offers excellent image quality and features for a rather preposterous price.

Whenever people talk about OLED, the first thing they mention is how thin the display is, and this frame measures only about 0.4 inch at its thickest point. But the base, which measures about an inch high, extends about 3.5 inches back, so some of the thin factor is lost. That base houses much of the electronics: built-in speakers (yes, there's sound for MP3 files and video), a multiformat slot for adding photos (no CompactFlash, though), and both mini and standard USB ports. There's also an audio input and output, both of which accept mini jacks.

OLED is also known for delivering a bright picture with eye-popping color and deep blacks. And in this regard, the Kodak frame lives up to the hype. While the image quality isn't perfect, it's probably the best we've seen from a photo frame to date. Pictures appear sharp, the color is rich and well saturated--and also very close to accurate--and the contrast is excellent. The one issue is that the frame isn't very high resolution; it's 800x480, so you will see some slight stair-stepping on curved edges, like on the ears of the dog in the test images that Kodak included with the frame. To notice the flaws, you do have to move in very close to the frame; from a few feet away everything looks great.

We also noticed another small flaw: ghosting of images when playing a slide-show image with a lot of white in it (like the aforementioned Dalmatian) transitioning into a darker picture. For a moment, you can see the faint outline of the brighter image before it quickly fades. Kodak says this shouldn't happen, and we're awaiting a second frame to confirm its claims.

As for features, the frame is loaded. For starters, it comes with 2GB of internal memory and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. This frame, like several other new frames, is a touch-border model, which means that you touch the bezel of the frame to access menus and settings. The various touch points along the bottom and right side of the frame light up when you touch the bezel; unfortunately the finish of the bezel is glossy, so it's a fingerprint magnet. We're not sure about the whole touch-panel concept, but this is one of the best implementation we've seen of it, particularly because the touch points are sensitive and the frame is very responsive.

That's another one of the frame's strong points: the performance is quite good. Pictures and movies, even those with large file sizes, load quickly, and menus open and close with limited lag. This is a zippy frame.

We're not going to go into too much depth on all the features, but obviously the wireless connectivity plays a key role. Once you connect to your Wi-Fi network (you input any security keys through a virtual keyboard) and install the Kodak EasyShare desktop software on your Windows PC, you can wirelessly transfer photos from your computer to the frame. You can also access photos you've stored on your online Kodak Gallery account, as well as access friends' albums that are linked to your account. You can also tap into Flickr and FrameChannel and subscribe to Photo RSS feeds. FrameChannel also provides RSS feeds for news, weather, and sports scores. Mac users can't transfer photos from their PCs to the frame wirelessly, but they can take advantage of all the online services. The interface isn't quite Apple-like, but it is pretty easuy to ise. No major complaints there.

All of these features are in addition to the more standard features (slide-show transitions, automatic image resizing) that are offered on Kodak's regular LCD wireless photo frames, the 8-inch W820 and the 10-inch W1020. They, too, play back most videos (MOV, AVI, MPEG 1, and MPEG 4) shot with popular digital still cameras. However, the frame will not display video from Flip Video cameras.

The truth is Kodak's cheaper LCD wireless photo frames do a perfectly good job of displaying images and offer the same functionality, including the same Quick Touch Border interface. No, the picture isn't as good (though it is the same resolution). And no, the LCD models aren't built as well or have upgraded built-in speakers. But they cost about a quarter of the price of this model.

That said, if you want the Ferrari of photo frames, look no further, and by all means, drop a grand on this baby. You'll probably be the first on your block with one.