Digital photo frames have enjoyed the move from showpiece to household name, finding a strong following among those with digital cameras. With so many currently available, can this frame from Philips impress?

Out of the box it looks and feels like a quality product. The display is bordered by a brushed aluminium frame, marked only with the Philips name in the bottom left corner. The back has been considerately designed, in glossy white plastic and neatly curved so it appears thinner than it actually is. The overall look is as though it went to the Mac school of design, and that’s no bad thing.

Even the stand is exquisitely designed, looking something like a silver stiletto heel - it certainly beats the usual plastic flap. Design is important in a digital photo frame, after all, it is going to be on display all the time.

The 8-inch frame takes on the 4:3 format which isn’t the most common, but may well be the most practical for displaying a variety of images from different cameras. The aspect ratio of your photos will depend on the camera they were taken with, many of which will give you the aspect ratio in the settings menu. Whilst 16:9 is now the norm for televisions, it isn’t always the norm for photos, so worth checking before you invest.

Philips boast that their 4:3 panel is the best option for distortion-free image viewing. This, generally, we found to be true and unlike some frames, it will respect the format of the original image and not stretch to fill. You will have black bars on some images, but that’s perhaps no hardship.

The display itself is an 800 x 600 resolution panel, so it is nice and crisp. The 250cd/m2 brightness delivers nice bright pictures too, enhanced by some Philips digital processing – imagen Pro claims to analyse your images and adjust for optimal viewing. Whether it does anything or not we can’t tell: bad images still look bad, but great images look fantastic.

Certainly we have no complaints about the quality of the images displayed. The viewing angle is also pretty good, unless you happen to be looking from below the frame, in which case it blacks out very quickly, although this is a pretty unusual scenario unless you’ve set it on a high shelf.

Getting your images into the frame is pretty easy too, with Philips providing PhotoFrame Manager software so you can drag and drop straight onto the frame to store images on the 128MB internal memory, via the Mini-USB slot on the back.

However, it is often easier to leave your frame where it is and move photos onto a card at your PC, or just take it straight from the camera and plug it into the frame. Ranged across the back you’ll find Compact Flash, SD and SDHC, Multimedia Card, xD-Picture Card, Memory Stick/Pro/Duo/Pro Duo support, as well as standard USB on the side. Spoilt for choice, you should have no problem viewing images, albeit only in JPEG format.

You can also choose to have the frame in landscape or portrait modes and it will automatically orientate the photos for you, so if you have mainly portrait photography, but the odd landscape image then things will still come out right. Other neat touches like the collage settings mean you can mix things up a little and bring some variety to the way you view your photos, although you’ll find that some collage images are viciously cropped.

Verdict

There are the normal settings to give you different transitions and so on, so you can create your own slideshows exactly as you want them. There is no remote control as you’ll find on other frames, but we’ve never really been a fan of remotes. Besides, setting up a slideshow is easy enough. There is also a neat calendar mode which will also show photos, ideal for the office.

The basic controls reside around the back of the frame so don’t clutter up the sides and spoil the clean lines. The controls can sometimes be slow to respond whilst the frame thinks about things – and sometimes you’ll get a beep, but no response, so you do need to be firm and have patience.

Overall, a great looking frame with plenty of photo features and a solid design. However, it lacks the multimedia support now common on other frames, and doesn’t have Wi-Fi to let you share wirelessly. With a price tag of £129 it does look a little expensive.