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Pandigital 8.0-inch Frame (Black) review: Pandigital 8.0-inch Frame (Black)

The Pandigital 8-inch digital photo frame may not have built-in Wi-Fi, but it does deliver a pretty sharp-looking picture, has a fairly straightforward interface and support for video and audio playback, which makes it an all-around solid digital photo frame.

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
David Carnoy
5 min read

We hadn't heard about Pandigital digital photo frames until a public relations representative contacted us about reviewing a model, but it turns out Pandigital photo frames are widely available at major retailers, and the 8-inch model reviewed here is an all-around solid photo frame that has a couple of small design flaws but not any major shortcomings.


Pandigital 8.0-inch Frame (Black)

The Good

This attractively designed Pandigital digital photo frame has a bright, relatively sharp 8-inch diagonal display, 64MB of built-in memory, plus slots for virtually all memory card types, as well as USB connectivity for computers and thumbdrives. The frame also supports MP3 and video playback (there are built-in speakers on the back) and ships with a small remote control and a second interchangeable frame to customize the frame's look.

The Bad

The built-in speakers sound very tinny; when transferring photos to the display's internal memory, images aren't automatically resized to the size of the display to reduce file sizes; and the interchangeable frames aren't as easy to swap on and off as they should be.

The Bottom Line

The Pandigital 8-inch digital photo frame may not have built-in Wi-Fi, but it does deliver a pretty sharp-looking picture, has a fairly straightforward interface, and support for video and audio playback, which makes it an all-around solid digital photo frame.

Similar to the Philips Digital Photo Display 7FF, the acrylic version of the Pandigital frame looks a lot like a mini version of the display on Apple's original iMac flat-panel all-in-one computer, with a clear frame around a silver border that surrounds the 6.45x4.9-inch (8-inch diagonal) LCD panel. If that modernist look doesn't suit you, you can swap in a more traditionally styled black wooden frame, though it takes more effort than it should (we had trouble getting the acrylic frame off). The flip-out stand on the back allows you to prop the frame up horizontally--but not vertically--and there's a keyhole slot at the top that gives you the option of mounting the frame on a wall with a single screw or picture hook (not included).

The 640x480 display has 64MB of memory built into it. Additionally, on the back you'll find slots for Compact Flash, SD, MMC, xD, and Memory Stick memory cards, which give you the ability to display hundreds or even thousands of photos, as well as playback AVI, MPEG-1 and MPEG-4 video files, and MP3 audio files. You can choose to leave the images (or video) on the card or transfer however many will fit into the display's remaining internal memory. Another option is to upload photos from your camera or computer to the display via a USB cable. Some users have noted that they've had trouble connecting their frames to their computers, and although we had no problem, Pandigital reps told us that users need to "be patient because it may take up to a minute for your computer to recognize all of the frame's slots and internal memory after it shows up as a USB storage device on your PC."

When transferring photos to the display's internal memory, some photo frames, including the Philips frame, automatically resize the images to the size of the display, reducing their file sizes in the process. However, this model doesn't do that, so if you've shot images at 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 20 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 crop the images yourself before transferring them to the frame. Lower resolution images also will load faster on the frame.

All in all, we liked the interface on the frame. It's not ultraslick, but it's straightforward enough, though some digital-imaging novices may take a bit more time--and manual consulting--to figure everything out. To test the frame's file playback capabilities, we loaded up a Seagate external USB drive 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. We couldn't play back one of our AVI files, but our MPEG-4 and MP3 files loaded fine. That said, some of the video files didn't play back entirely smoothly, and the built-in stereo speakers' sound quality was passable, but barely. In other words, don't expect to use the frame as a mini stereo system, but it's a nice plus that you can not only see your videos (most likely shot with your digital camera or cameraphone), but hear them as well.

As for the remote, it has its pros and cons. On the positive side, it does make navigating the frame and controlling its functions easier. On the downside, it's small, which makes it easy to lose, though Pandigital smartly equipped it with grooves that allow you to store it in the CompactFlash slot on the side of the frame when not in use (it's hidden if you use the black wooden frame, but it does show through the acrylic border). You also have to point the remote directly at the IR sensor on the frame at a fairly close range (within 5 feet or so) to get it to respond to your button pushes.

At first we thought you could only access set-up options from a button on the remote, but after consulting the manual, we discovered you also can hold down the exit button to get into this all-important menu that allows you to make adjustments to slide show effects (there are six), copy and delete files, and make picture tweaks.

As noted, the display is pretty sharp, and while it didn't quite measure up to the Philips photo frame we had on hand, it was pretty close. One thing we did notice was that because of a lack of pixel density, the frame exhibited some stair-stepping in images where there was a curved line, such as the outline of a person's shoulder. In other words, that line wasn't a smooth curve but a slightly jagged one.

Fans of Ceiva photo frames, which allow you to automatically "push" photos to them via the Internet (a good option for those who want to send regular photo updates to a grandparent or other family members), will note that this model doesn't offer that feature, (which Ceiva does charge a fee for). Nor does it have built-in Wi-Fi that allows you to tie into an online photo gallery like Kodak's frames will.

If you don't care about that sort of functionality and are fine with simply playing back files from flash memory or a hard drive, then the Pandigital 8-inch digital photo frame's solid feature set, decent picture quality, and straightforward operation make it a reasonable deal at its online price of around $175. But if that online connectivity is something you crave, it will lose some of its luster.

Editor's note: Along with this 8-inch model, Pandigital also makes 5.6-, 7.2-, and 9.2-inch digital photo frames.