Sharing Digital Memories with your Analog Family


To prepare for your annual bout of feverish, zeal-laden frenzy that accompanies that frenetic period from the middle of November until the bacchanal bliss of January first, we present a simplified gift-giving guide to one of the most popular gifts: the digital picture frame. Despite its recent introduction to the digital marketplace, the popularity and practicality of having a standalone petite and stylish screen present an entire album or gallery's worth of photographs in a single device has won over the favor of both the technophiles and the Luddites amongst us. Manufacturers produce a slew of display options that vary from the pocket-sized key fob to a 32” diagonal behemoth. Today we will wade through the offerings and help you match the right frame to the right person on your gift list.


For starters, save yourself a great deal of stress and skip scouring the specs – this is not that complicated. Generally, each digital frame consists of a low-power computer processor and a very basic LCD screen with inputs for memory cards or USB thumb drives. They all present JPEG images in a slideshow that in most cases is customizable as far as order, time on screen and transitions are concerned. Additionally, most mid- to high-end frames also have audio and video playback features. The audio works in conjunction with the photos so a slideshow can have accompanying digital music in the background. The majority also have remotes to organize and navigate a photo collection. When selecting digital picture frames as gifts you should really be contemplating these factors:

Aluratek 11" hi-res digital picture frame.The Frame Border: Generally, you can't go wrong with basic black, but since these displays are meant to mesh in to existing décor and be fairly indistinguishable from a traditional printed picture frame, most digital screens have a choice of borders or faceplates. Wood finishes are both classic and classy; they look right at home on a mantlepiece. A great example of this is the Aluratek 11" hi-res digital picture frame.

Inputs: Nearly all of the frames have USB inputs for thumb drives and hard drives, multi-card flash memory slots, or both. Knowing a little about your intended recipient's camera and photo storage preferences helps here. If your giftee has a point-and-shoot camera that uses Secure Digital (SD) cards then you should select a frame that utilizes that card format.

15” Smartparts frameScreen Size: Screen size is a determining factor when it comes to pricing, but not the only one. It is safe to say that bigger is going to be costlier, yet sometimes the big ones might not be the best. If you look around your own home or office at the printed picture frames you own, you will find that most contain 4x6” or 5x7” photographs resting on a desk or table. The occasional 8x10” and larger prints reside on the wall. This rule of thumb carries over to digital as well. Most frames, especially the larger ones like the 15" Smartparts frame have both desktop stands as well as a slot that allow the frame to be hung from a nail on the wall. A guideline for converting from the LCD display measurement of diagonals to traditional print sizes; a digital frame that is 7” roughly presents the area of a 4x6” print, an 8” to 9” diagonal is a 5x7” while a 12” frame is close to an 8x10” image.

1.1" Tricod Heart-Shaped DigiFrameThe Soon to be Gifted: This is where intimate knowledge of your friend or family member is required. Do they have pictures in a frame, album, online gallery; do they own a digital camera or computer? If not, coax them out of their cave/shack/rock they have been living under and into the 21st century with a warm meal and a shower. For the rest, selecting a frame is rather easy. Does grandma have a gigantic keychain or purse peppered with a dozen wallet-sized prints of the grandkids? Well, one of the portable compact frames, such as the 1.1" Tricod Heart-Shaped DigiFrame that functions as a keychain, pendant, or even as an alarm clock like the Media Street eMotion Compact, is going to be good fit. Shopping for someone in college or in their first apartment where they have a cluster of taped-up snapshots adorning an otherwise bare wall? Help them clean it up with a basic mid-sized frame like a Kodak EasyShare M1020 10" frame and then buy them a large poster to cover-up all the tape marks left in the paint.

Kingston 2GB DataTraveller 100 (Red)Now that you have selected the digital picture frame that is right for your friend or family, don't wrap it up in holiday packaging just yet. The new digital frame gift etiquette dictates that you should pre-load the frame. Simply grab a cheap and compatible memory card or USB flash drive - no need to get anything huge or fast, in fact whatever you can get for under $15 will do the job quite nicely. Then dump a few fun snapshots, music or videos to get their collection started. If you aren't brave enough to pre-install the card or drive into the display or if the device comes with internal memory that has to be loaded from a computer, you might offer to help transfer some files out of their collection when you present the frame. Regardless of how you decide to present the digital frame, it will be substantially more appreciated than a necktie or slippers.

So there you have it; the ins-and-outs of digital frame buying and giving – a starting point for your adventures in holiday shopping.