Picture this

By Mir
December 6, 2006

The very lovely Megan writes:

Dear helpful, sweet, and ever-so-pretty Mir,

I would like to buy my parents a digital picture frame pre-loaded with pictures of their new grandson. Can you recommend any particular brands, features, and (of course) where to buy them on the cheap-ish?

First of all, I have to commend you on your choice of gift. Those digital photo frames are a fabulous idea for almost anyone, and for a grandparent (and a new one, at that!) they’re particularly wonderful. Short of being able to imbue the unit with the scent of your baby’s head, I’d say this is a gift idea that approaches perfection.

There are two options available in digital photo frames. The first option is a stand-alone unit that takes some sort of memory card and/or can be connected to your computer with a USB cord to load pictures. This is a one time purchase with no continuing expense, so it’s definitely more cost-effective than the alternative. However, it requires a smidgen of technological savvy to load and operate, so it’s not a good idea for grandparents who are frightened of gadgets (or whom you don’t visit often enough to be able to update it for them).

The second option is a bundle like the ones offered by CEIVA, where you purchase a frame that stays on an internet connection for automatic downloading of new pictures at specified intervals. While the CEIVA frames themselves tend to be a bit more affordable than their counterparts, the service will run you about $100/year. I think that’s pretty ridiculous unless you have money to burn, but some people really love it. It is a good option for a recipient who wants new pictures daily and cannot handle downloading files, themselves.

But for the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume you want a standalone frame without an automatic service. [And here’s a tip for you if you’re on the fence because your intended receiver isn’t a technogeek and you won’t be available, in person, all that often: Buy a frame that takes removable memory, and then buy two cards. Load up one card with pictures for the gift-giving. Load the second card with new pictures and mail it later on, and have them mail you back the first card. Lather, rinse, repeat. I don’t care how scary Grandma thinks the shiny boxes are; she can be taught to change a memory card without angst.]

This is one of those purchases where I would urge you to go for the best you can afford, because the bad ones tend to have a lot of problems, and it’s a gift, and it’s worth the investment. That said, my recommendation is the Philips 7FF1 (which you can read all about through that link). I often turn to cnet for reviews, and the rating there is spectacular. But I also happened to receive one of these frames for review a while back and I have to tell you—it was slick. Very, very nice. I’m still bitter that I didn’t get to keep it. Anyway, based on both the tech reviews and personal experience, I don’t hesitate to recommend it as being an awesome product. The display is crisp and clear, the slideshow effects are nice, the interface is straightforward. If you can afford it, buy the 7FF1.

Can you afford it? Well, I don’t know, because I’m not you. I’m finding the best price on it over at Buy.com, but it’s “temporarily out of stock” in all the varieties I check. They will allow you to order it anyway, but who knows when you’ll get it. That’s risky. On the other hand, they’re still doing $20 off with Google Checkout, plus their starting price is reasonable… so you may be willing to take the risk.

Alternatively, you can get it at Amazon with free shipping for about the same bottom line. (Buy.com is cheaper, and has the $20 off with Google Checkout, but you have to pay shipping. It ships for free from Amazon.)

“But Mir,” I can hear you saying, “I want some options under a hundred bucks! This is expensive!” Yup. It is. Let’s put it this way: You can buy one for under $100, but check the reviews. The cheaper frames are junk. If you’re going to spend the money, spend the money. For whatever reason, there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground on this technology. You have to go for the good stuff or you’ll likely have nothing at all that actually works.

If this is simply out of your price range right now, I’d suggest you hold off rather than going for a cheaper model. The prices are already falling (when that Philips technology first came out, the price was nearly twice what it is now) and more suitable options will be coming out. Pinky swear.

Now bring that baby over here and let me sniff his head.


  1. Mir, you are normally more right than anyone I know. However, I was recently given the SmartParts (which until a few days ago thought was SmartyPants) frame. The small one is currently $99, but we’ve hit sales (like Black Friday) for $50ish. It is the clearest frame I’ve owned (and I’ve been a digital frame owner for YEARS — yes, even when they were REALLY pricey.)
    So, yes, it is possible to get one for less money that is still decent. Now if only I could get an 11×16 frame for my wall for a reasonable price…hmmmm.
    OK, here’s the linky: http://www.circuitcity.com/ccd/Search.do?c=1&context=&keyword=smartparts&searchSection=All&go.x=0&go.y=0

  2. Thanks Mir. This is very helpful information. I planned to get my in-laws one of these for Christmas. But since the prices are falling so fast, and they’re still a bit out of my reach, I’m going to wait until a birthday or mother/father’s day to do it.

  3. My grandmother who thinks computers are too futuristic for her consideration loves her Ceiva. Nothing makes her happier than waking up in the morning and discovering new pictures of her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. It was the best present we ever got her.

  4. Well, it didn’t let me say it but it was a link to a digital picture keychain for $9

  5. Thanks for the link, Denise!

    As always, be an informed buyer. Those keychains look great but have pretty awful reviews on Amazon. Just do your research before you buy.

  6. I tried to get some of the frames Target had on sale for $68 on Black Friday but there was an all out tug of war for them and I wasn’t getting in the middle of that.

    We’re thinking of doing CEIVA for my husband’s grandparents but I hate the $10 a month. It’s cool though that you can give the account information to any one so the whole family could upload pictures for them. I just want someone else to pay the $10 a month. (And the hassle of trying to collect $10 from all the family members would be insane.)

  7. I don’t know any particular brand names (my husband has been researching these, not me), but there’s at least one frame out now that will download pictures from Flickr, and I think there’s another one coming out this spring.

    Unfortunately, the one that’s out now has a big fat logo on the frame. Who wants that?

  8. Katie- if your family is getting together to get the Ceiva, they can get the $100/year downloading fee. It’s cheaper than the monthly rate and saves you the hassle of bothering everyone twelves times a year.

  9. i just got the phillips one for my parents….and I had to pick on up for myself, of course. I love it! So easy to use and nice and clear.
    I worried about some of the other ones, as the reveiws said you had to make sure the pictures were a certain size or it warped them.
    The phillips one works great. I just snap the pictures and take my SD card out of the camera…and into the frame…and viola….it works! 🙂

  10. I find the Philips digital photo display 7FF1 an excellent styled photoframe. The slideshow even gets a lot better when you know how to optimally and easily crop and resize the photo’s to fit the frame. On this (Dutch??) website is a manual which i found very useful on how to use it.
    Love, Elisabeth 😀

  11. Oops, this website i mean 🙂

    Leerwiki Manuals

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