From the moment you open the box, eStarling does a pretty good job holding your hand and making use of the frame pretty simple. You have all the usual options for displaying pictures that past digital frames have lead us to expect, including memory card slots that accommodate a couple different card types (SD, MS, MMC.) But what’s way more interesting to me is the wireless and social mechanisms for displaying pictures.
When you pull the device out of the box, a greeting card immediately invites you to plug in the frame and connect it to your wifi connection (beware: this frame is much cooler if you have a wifi network.) Once you’re connected, the frame prompts you to visit their website and activate your account. Once you do you will get an email address dedicated to your frame, and you (or your friends and family) can email pictures to your frame. You can also log into your account on their website to upload pictures from your computer to your eStarling account – these will then appear on your frame (it took my pictures about 15 minutes to show up.) One of the neatest features is the social component – you can link your frame to a variety of social websites and services, including Facebook, Flickr, Phtobucket, Picassa, Twitter (not sure about this one), YouTube and more. In addition to these services, you can also subscribe to RSS feeds – popular ones like National Geographic or even a user-designated feed. You can also post small videos to play on your frame if you so choose.
I did have some issues with some of the social services. For instance, I linked my Flickr account to my eStarling frame. It was a pretty simple, one-click connection which presumably links up eStarling’s service with Flickrs API. Two issues presented themselves though:
1. After clicking through the Flickr to link up the accounts, instead of a “Success, awesome job, well done!” screen, I was presented with a page full of gibberish. There was no message to tell me whether I had successfully linked the account. I didn’t know for sure until photos started appearing on the frame.
2. When those photos did appear, they weren’t mine. They were photos of friends mine, people to whom I am linked on Flickr. But none of my own photos made it into the frame. Now, I like my friends and all, but I don’t need their photos on my frame. Whether it’s going to sit in my home, or in my parent’s home, I want my own pictures on my frame.
Ultimately I was forced to use the “custom RSS” feature and take my Flickr account’s own RSS feed and manually link that with my frame. Even after doing that, only my most recent set (about 20 pictures or so) showed up on the frame. I don’t really know how to pull specific sets or additional photos from Flickr into the frame.
The frame has an eight inch display (800×600 pixels) and the clarity is pretty darn sharp. (Any blurring in the images in this post is due to the photographer, not the frame.) It’s a touch screen interface, and there are light-up touch screen buttons along the right side. You must use the touch screen in order to connect to the wireless network, but almost everything else can be accomplished through eStarling’s web portal. The touch buttons let you skip through photos, or jump back to menus to select specifc photos, or access settings for the frame. But I found the touch buttons a little finicky to use – fortunately the included remote also allows you to control action on the frame.
Lastly, there’s packaging. In the unboxing I discovered very little wasteful or non-recyclable material. There was one small piece of closed-cell foam for padding, and a foam sleeve for the frame. Everything else was cardboard, including the majority of the boxe’s padding. 5 gold stars for being conscious of the environment.
Overall I was impressed with the frame. The picture clarity, the simple setup, and the social components were all fantastic. I love that it’s wifi, and I dig the fact that I can update the photos remotely, up to and including if the frame is in another state (or country.) However, I do think the web interface and tools need a little refinement. They are feature-rich but lacking in the fine points of usability. Some improvements could include better feedback to user actions (letting you know if you succeeded in linking an account), and better fine-tuning of services (to include / exclude friends’ photos, etc.) They don’t need more options, they just need to refine and improve the ones they’ve got.
Daniel Lim at Slashgear also wrote a nice review of this frame. If I were forced to give this frame a numeric rating, something which I am loathe to do, I would give it an 8 out of 10. They did a good job. I just hope they keep improving the little sucker, especially the web interface and options.
This post is also available on 1TO10REVIEWS.