Selection of digital photo frames
This section describes how do select a digital photo frame. A DPF
consists of three main parts: LCD-panel, PCB and frame. All of these
components have to be checked. In addition, also accessories and
especially usability is important. Therefore, it is recommended to test
the models, either by visiting the factory or by buying samples. Besides
that it may be important to ask the minimum order quantity and whether
OEM is possible. The necessary certificates (FCC in
USA, CE and RoHS in
Europe) should be a k.o.-criterion for buyers.
1. LCD-panel (Liquid Crystal Display Panel)
For sizes of 7" or below, mostly analogue TFT LCD panels are used.
Bigger models usually use digital panels. Their quality is much better.
However, the price also goes up. In general 4:3 is better than 16:9, as
digital cameras use 4:3. Some models, however, include a button that
allows to switch that ratio. The resolution for a 7" frame is
usually 480 * 234 pixel (= 480 * 3 * 234 or 1440 * 234). The higher the
resolution, the better the picture quality. The important point with
panels is to ask whether the panels are new or recycled. For 8" or
below, most of the panels are new. For bigger models, some companies use
recycled panels. An indirect way to find out whether the panels are
recycled is, that for recycled panels no RoHS certificate can be
provided. Popular panel brands are Innolux, AU or LG, but also Sharp.
2. PCB (Printed Circuit Board)
The PCB is the heart of a digital photo frame. For the board it is
important, which solution is being used on the board. Solution is the
used software. Popular solutions are Zoran for the simple function
models. For the simple "multimedia" digital photo frames Sunplus,
Cheertek (both are originally solutions for DVD players), MTK and
Macronix (the original solution for digital photo cameras) are widely
used. For the improved "multimedia" digital photo frames Amlogic is
usually used. The solution is just the technical background. For the
user the outcome is important. The solution decides which file types and
which cards can be supported. It also decides whether a built-in-memory
2.1. Supported cards
For digital photo cameras different kinds of memory cards exists.
Different brands use different cards.
It is hard to find information about the market share of memory cards.
However, I find one statistics which shows the market share of memory
cards in Western
Europe in 2004. I assume that the market share for the
cards is not significantly different in the
USA. In 2004, 25 million
digital photo cameras have been sold in Western Europe.
Top 5 producers 2004
Some older cameras also use CF or SM cards. In addition, a USB host can
be important, as many people use USB memory sticks. A USB host should be
standard for multimedia photo frames. A USB host can be an alternative
if the photo frame does not support all memory card. With a USB host, a
card-reader can be bought additionally. Therefore it indirectly can
support all memory cards. High-end products also have a
More information about memory cards.
2.2. Supported file formats
Digital cameras uses JPEG file format to store the pictures. However,
a lot of more file formats exists. This point will give you a short
For digital photo frames, JPEG pictures are standard. All products can
display JPEG as this format is the file format used by digital cameras
to store pictures. Some photo frames can also display BMP, GIF, PNG or
TIFF. However, these file formats are not commonly used for pictures and
therefore not very important.
For multimedia photo frames MP3 is standard. Notable here is that for an
export to Europe the Sisvel license is necessary. Some products can also
play WMA (also widely used in the Internet) or WAV-files. WAV files are
usually very big and therefore not widely used, especially for sharing
in the internet.
Standard video format which are supported are AVI and MPEG I, II and IV,
but also MP4. Even if the manufacturer assures that AVI or MP4 is
supported, the photo frame may not display all AVI or MP4 files. This is
because AVI and MP4 are file containers and no file format and may
contain many files in different codecs, which the photo frame may not be
able to read.
Some products, especially Amlogic solutions, can display text files in
the txt-format. For some newer models, even lyrics for MP3 are
More information about media
2.3. Built-in memory
Built-in memory can be very useful. Only this way, data can be stored
in the machine directly. Currently the maximum capacity is 2 GB. Cheertek solution can maximum support 32 MB plus 3 screen protection
pictures, which can not be changed. Sunplus does not have any internal
memory, but it can store 3 pictures which can be changed. Some
solutions do not support internal memory at all.
2.4. File management
Better photo frames can also manage the files. Therefore it is possible
to delete, rename and copy files between the cards and internal memory.
Some models offer some extras such as calendar, clock, alarm, auto
on/off or a voice recorder. The solution also decides whether the photo
frame has AV in/out. With AV out, the pictures on the photo frame can be
watched on a TV. With AV in a DVD player can be connected with the photo
frame and it is possible to watch movies on the DPF.
The digital photo frame is as much furniture as it is an electronic
product. Therefore the outside appearance is important. Many customers
will base their buying decision on the outside appearance. Usually
frames are made of plastic (often with a transparent, outside acrylic
frame). These frames can be made in every colors. Additionally, also
wooden and metal/aluminum frames are common. Many companies charge more
for wooden frames.
Some companies offer specialties such as light in the frame. Some
companies also offer changeable frames and deliver more frames for one
Accessories, such as additional frame plates, cables etc. should be
A very important aspect is the usability. Therefore testing is
recommended, either by factory visit or by buying samples.
Simple function models usually do not have a remote control. They are
operated by buttons on the machine. The buttons should be easy to
More complicated models use a remote control with OSD (open screen
display) menu. This interface has to be user friendly and easy to
operate with and without remote control. As for the remote control,
it should not include too many buttons.