Monday, October 24, 2011

Sony DPF-D810 - Full Review
Are Photo frames in? Last when we checked, we didn’t see too may folk around us owning them. But there’s a good many photo frames out there. There’s also a lot of us, consumers, with tonnes of digital pictures that we want to show off, but are unable to do so easily and effectively. One of our geeks bought a photo frame for his parents, and we wanted to take a look and see what the fuss is all about. Be warned though – this is the first photo frame that we’ve actually used so this review is partly a review of the Sony DPF-D810 Photo Frame, and partly a look at the need for a digital photo frame in a modern household in India. Our complete thoughts await past the “Read more” link, after the slideshow of the photos. Dive right in.
Hardware - Build and construction
Sony DPF-D810 - Box contents
In the box, you get the Digital Photo Frame itself, a software disc, a thin cylindrical stand to prop up the DPF-D810 on a flat surface, an AC Adapter, a remote control with a watch battery and the basic documentation. We were impressed with the device when we unboxed it, since we’ve seen a few cheap, chintzy photo frames on store shelves. Thankfully, the Sony DPF-D810 lives up to the Sony name. The entire frame and the black finish is clean and classy. Also, the frame-to-image size ratio is just right. The bezel width does not overpower the image, unlike some digital photo frames on the market. The Sony logo that lights up on the frame only in landscape mode and disappears when in portrait mode is a nice touch. It would have been nice if it could have been turned off too – it can be disturbing in a completely dark room (but hey, if the logo presents problems then light from the photo frame itself would be disturbing, right?), since the LED for the logo is very bright.
Sony DPF-D810 - Calendar display option 1  Sony DPF-D810 - Calendar display option 2
The 800x480 display is bright and inviting. Pixel density is horrible, but since you won’t be holding the photo frame to your face (like you do with your phone) you won’t notice the lack of dense pixels. The display makes for a compelling argument in favour of digital photo frames.
Sony DPF-D810 - Glowing SONY logo  Sony DPF-D810 - Back
Overall, there are no complaints from us for the Sony Digital Photo Frame D810 on the hardware front. It feels pretty solid. A minor qualm, depending on personal preference, would be the single rod-like “stand” to prop up the unit on a table/desk. It requires delicate balance – a careless hand could easily tip it over. When this happens to a traditional photo frame, and the glass breaks, it’s pretty sad to see that object worth Rs. 100 – Rs. 300 destroyed. Imagine how you would feel if a careless hand tipped over your investment of about Rs. 5000. It’s something to think about – you could solve it by appropriate placement, but if your home has kids running amok, we strongly recommend that you steer clear of such digital photo frames.
Software – User Interface
Sony DPF-D810 - Software interface
Computing interfaces in today’s world have increasingly moved to touch-based interfaces. We’re not saying that it’s better – it’s just the way it is. So getting used to the concept of seeing onscreen menus (that look touch friendly) while operating it via the buttons at the back makes for a difficult User Interface. We get why the buttons are out-of-view – it makes for a nicer looking digital photo frame from the front. However, Sony needs to put in more work into building the buttons with an ability for the user to distinguish between them, without having to glance to the back and front of the device constantly. What makes it worse is that all of the buttons are the same size and placed in a single line. Most Digital Photo Frames out there in today’s world seem to have this sort of an interface. It’s pretty tedious, and we definitely don’t want to keep fiddling with this interface. In all likelihood, for an average consumer, the pain of using the D810 over time would reduce frequent updates of photos and other changes/modifications. The software response also has a bit of a lag, which doesn't help matters. Overall, its not bad per se, but it’s not an intuitive method of handling, either. However, as a Digital Photo Frame, the Sony DPF-D810 gets the job done.
Sony DPF-D810 - Button controls
We must note here that we were pleasantly surprised to find a plethora of options in the interface and settings menu. It’s not just a case of dumping all your photos onto the built-in storage and watching your photos whizz past on a regular basis. There are options to have different themes for the slideshows, options to show photo calendars and many other settings for waking or sleeping. The wide range of options (it could be that we felt this way since this was our first experience with a Digital Photo Frame) is definitely not going to convince you to buy this, but if you’re considering this gadget, they definitely sweeten the deal.

Everyday Use, Connectivity
Sony DPF-D810 - Startup demo
When the DPF-D810 is powered on, it displays a couple of screens with basic instructions (such as the one above) and then cycles through the various slideshow and calendar views with stock images. The unit has the ability to transfer images from various options such as certain types of Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick formats, SD cards (full-sized, mind you – not microSD), MMC cards and a full-sized USB port. None of us here use any form of Memory Stick storage, nor do we possess any MMC cards. We didn’t have microSD to SD adapters for our microSD cards, so we were left with transferring stuff through the USB port. The biggest question on our minds was – would the device be able to transfer photos directly from another imaging device such as a digital camera or a mobile phone? Plugging in a USB pen drive worked without complaint, as expected. We moved on to testing an Android phone and a Sony Digital Camera. We are happy to report that the DPF-D810 had no issues in picking up the photos off of both devices. As soon as the external medium is connected or inserted, the DPF-D810 starts cycling through a simple slideshow of all the images it could find on the device/memory card. If you need to transfer images to the device’s internal memory, you’ll have to go into the settings and select the images to be transferred. This is a chore we’d rather not perform, but there’s no alternative sadly. The transfer rate is very slow – it took us a little more than 5 minutes to transfer about fifty 10 megapixel images, which were averaging at around 3 MB per image. This could be because the device converts your images to a lower resolution to save space. Another gripe we have with the Sony DPF-D810 in particular, is the lack of a CF slot and the lack of RAW compatibility. With many DSLR cameras using CF (Compact Flash) memory cards and shooting RAW images, we’d like to see support for such options in a digital photo frame. RAW compatibility is a tough ask, we admit – there’s no standardised RAW format yet.
Sony DPF-D810 - Delete photos options  Sony DPF-D810 - Settings menu
Looking at all the lapses in the User Interface and feasibility section, we were slightly apprehensive of how easy it would be to delete all the images we loaded onto it. With a sigh of relief, we realised that the device has a “Delete All” option.
Sony DPF-D810 - Remote Control unit  Sony DPF-D810 - AC Adapter
The remote control is a very neat option. It’s the only saving grace for the button layout at the back of the device. You’re not going to want to use the remote from afar – the onscreen text would be too small in a few Settings screens. It is infinitely more useful than the rear control panel, though. One complaint though – the buttons felt a bit sticky, and not too easy to press. With respect to the AC Adapter, we feel that this kills most of the usage scenarios of the Digital Photo Frame. It is confounding to have the wire cluttering an already wire-filled table-top or desk. The lack of an internal battery compartment is a huge minus. We simply can’t accept that this device has to be connected to AC power all the time. You may feel differently – but this is definitely something to consider, since the spots where traditional photo frames are placed may not have access to a power point. The quality of the Adapter and the remote control are passable. They’re nothing to swoon over, but they’re good enough for accompanying pieces for the DPF-D810.
Final thoughts
We’ve never given digital photo frames much thought. Looking at the device displaying our photos, however, it felt that this is a must-have in every modern home. The only problem that we see is the entry price – any decent digital photo frame starts at around Rs. 5,000/- or so, which is pretty steep for a device that justs sits around on your desk and displays photos. Without the DPF-D810, life has gone on as per usual. We haven’t missed it one bit. Guess this goes to show that Digital Photo Frames are yet to become (if they ever will) an integral part of our digital lives. If you’ve got the cash, by all means, go in for a digital photo frame; it’s worth the novelty (provided you’re willing to live through a clunky user interface and the requirement of a power-point near the location of the frame) of having your photos displayed in slideshows for friends and family to enjoy.

1 comments:

avi majumdar said...

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