It’s Mum’s birthday soon, and rather than the stock standards plants, perfume or pampering products we decided that the perfect pressie would be a digital photo frame. Rather than buy from a large retailer, I’d heard good things about Kogan‘s other products and decided to try out their digital photo frame offering.
The ordering process
After reviewing the models on offer, I settled on buying two;
Kogan offer the ability to pay via Paypal – which is a great alternative if you don’t have your credit card handy or are too lazy to walk to the bedroom to get your purse to get your credit card. Unfortunately, I encountered difficulty paying by Paypal – the web design of the cart is a little misleading and I didn’t realise that there were fields that I had to fill in that appeared at the bottom of the page – where I wasn’t looking.
Not to be deterred, I emailed Kogan support at 11pm at night – and very surprisingly got a response within half an hour! Awesome stuff. They confirmed the order hadn’t gone through. A second attempt at ordering via Paypal was more successful, but only because I persisted with the cumbersome web interface. This definitely needs refinement.
The shipping charges, at $16.70 were reasonable. The packages arrived via TOLL, wrapped together for easy handling within 36 hours of me placing the order – excellent delivery turnaround, keeping in mind I ordered at 11pm at night. The packaging was plain but easy to carry because each frame is shipped in a box with a carry handle – which also makes it easy to wrap as a gift!
I consider manuals as references rather than installation guides. If a product is not intuitive enough that you can’t configure it without resorting to the manual, then there hasn’t been enough thought put into the product’s design. After taking the 10.4″ photo frame out of its packaging, and plugging it into power, it immediately started to show the three pre-loaded images. A very good start.
Both photo frames shipped with mini-USB cable and a remote control – meaning you don’t have to go hunting around for cables. Under Windows XP I plugged the mini USB cable in, and Windows immediately recognised the digital photo frame and allowed me to drag and drop content in, just like any normal USB thumb drive. Win so far – but being a Linux user of course I had to repeat the experiment. Luckily this also turned out to work seamlessly. Under FC9, I simply plugged in the USB cable, and the photo frame mounted like a normal USB drive. The onboard capacity of 1GB storage is adequate for most people – if you are that hardcore that you need several gigs of storage then you’re obviously going to use a card in the card reader or a USB drive in the USB slot instead. Although I shoot my photos in high resolution JPEG, most of them are only 2-3MB in the end, so that equates to over 400 photos in 1GB.
NOTE: The other methods of getting the photo frame to read content haven’t been tested – the photo frames come with standard USB size port, and a SD/MMC/MS/CF Card reader as input options as well.
Next was the challenge of optimising the frame’s settings. I found this difficult to do using the onboard buttons, and resorted to using the remote control for configuration. The names of settings were intuitive, and the device was configured and running in about seven minutes. After a little experimentation, the optimal settings included;
- Setting the picture display to ‘stretch’ rather than to ‘crop’ or ‘original’. On the larger model, the screen ratio is 4:3, with a resolution of 1024 x 768, which is similar to a lot of photographs taken in landscape view. Portrait photographs are displayed well, but obviously not at the same size. The smaller model appeared to have some difficulty with different photo sizes – when set to stretch they were often distorted to the point that it was noticeable – but this is probably due to the 16:9 ratio of the smaller frame. The best results were obtained where I limited the photos on the frame to those in landscape orientation.
- The brightness, saturation and contrast had to be adjusted: The default settings were acceptable, but a little tweaking, particularly of contrast and saturation, gave the pictures better strength. Because the screen is LCD based, unlike a plasma display, the blacks are not as deep as you might expect. Upping the contrast can help compensate for this a little.
After about ten minutes of going through the configuration options, I could not find a setting to display the photos in random order rather than sequentially. I admitted defeat and referred to the user manual. Unfortunately there does not appear to be a random playback function – something Kogan may wish to consider for future models.
NOTE: I didn’t test the frames with movies or sounds. Seriously, if I want to watch a movie or play sounds, a photo frame isn’t going to be my device of choice 🙂
Of course, now that the digital photo frame was configured, the next question was what to put on it. Luckily I had a fair few photos lying around my local HD, but I had hundreds on Flickr and no easy way to pull them all down again. Enter downloadr, a Flickr-API tool written in Adobe AIR intended for backing up your Flickr photostream. It’s in beta, but I was able to do everything I needed with it. The bonus is that, being an Adobe AIR application, it runs on both Windows and Linux (just like jUploadr, my Flickr upload tool of choice for Linux).
Power consumption for the photo frames is not given in the product specifications. Both models tested use a 12V 1.5A power supply. Some basic calculations tell us that if the device were operating at full power 24 hours a day, it would consume 18Wh of electricity a day. This doesn’t seem like a lot at first, but this device isn’t like an iron or a microwave that is only used for a few minutes each time – it is designed to be powered on for long periods of time. It would be nice to know from Kogan how the power consumption rates under lab conditions.
On the plus side, the photo frames can be configured to auto power on and off at certain times, once the date and time is configured.
Once the protective film is removed from the screen surface, I found that fingerprints show up very easily – and that the screen had to be constantly wiped down. This might just be due to me fiddling with it – once pictures are loaded, it’s unlikely that people are going to be touching it very much. The outer branding of the frame is very minimal – the only ‘Kogan’ logo is shown when the screen starts up. This is quite unobtrusive and helps the screen blend well in its environment. The larger model is intended for wall mounting and comes with a sturdier frame and holes to mount on a wall. Both of the devices were surprisingly light – at less than 1.5kg each.
I’m surprised that Kogan hasn’t entered the digital signage market; a lot of their products centre on televisions and screens and it would seem a natural progression to go down the digital signage path. As it is, the 15″ photo frame would be a very low end digital signage solution – if you were prepared to update content via sneakernet. With the addition of network connectivity – wireless or wired – it could become part of a digital signage deployment. A previous Kogan photo frame model was shipped with wireless, so I don’t know why they haven’t pursued this. Obviously, the digital signage market isn’t very mature yet and there’s very few standards.