Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Review: Viewsonic DF88W 8" Digital Picture Frame

My lovely wife got me a Viewsonic DF88W-523 picture frame for my birthday this year and I got it all setup at work today. It all starts with opening the box, I have noticed a trend in high-quality products recently that pays more attention to the unboxing process experience. I was pleased to slide the white inner-box out of it's "store-display" sleeve. The inside box opens like a book with two flaps covering the goodies. On the right side is the frame itself while the left side hold the AC adapter, USB cables and stand. I really do love the new presentation instead of digging through folds and tape to get everything you need out.

The frame itself was very easy and quick to setup. The AC adapter is reasonably small and has a long enough cord to place the frame in the right spot. This unit has about 1" of clear edging and a glossy black plastic framing the actual 8" screen and looks very stylish and fits right in with most modern picture frames. On the back of the frame is a 4-way directional control along with Enter and Esc buttons and a 3-position switch for off, on and on with the clear edging to be lit with some blue LED's. I was glad to see that the edge lighting was an option and turned it off initially. I connected the frame to my PC with the included USB to Mini-USB cable (I now have more than 50 of these cables) and Vista recognized each slot and the internal memory on the unit as a separate drive. They kindly gave the internal memory a drive label so it was quick to find. I picked out 12 of my favorite digital pictures and copied them over to the frame. The unit is inactive when it is plugged into the PC except to display a message of PC Connecting... I had to reset the unit after I transferred the pictures over and it came up with a calendar/time page and a static picture of snowy trees. I tried the included remote control out and it didn't seem to do anything. I actually had to open the instruction manual at this point to figure out how to get to my pictures. The enter button will take you to the memory card selection screen where you can select which card you want to manage/view media from. I say media because the unit also plays video and MP3's. Once you have selected your source, you have another menu to show pictures, play music, play videos or setup options. If you show pictures it shows a 9-thumbnail view, select a picture and the slide show starts. Overall the interface was clunky and non-intuitive but if done right, you shouldn't need to spend much time in it. If you dig into the Setup menu you can change the speed of the slideshow by selecting Slideshow Model in Picture Settings (starting to feel the interface pain?). The options there are Slow (10-sec per image), Medium (5-sec per image) and Fast (3-sec per image). The fact that there are 15-transitions and 3-speed settings doesn't please me a whole lot. The good news is that you can hit the escape as soon as the show starts and it will hold that picture. When you are interested in a new image, hit the left or right directional to select a new picture. I guess this is a manual delay but it works for me. I would prefer a 1-hour or user customizable setting. Now on to the good stuff.

So far you would probably consider not buying this frame, here is why you should. The image quality is stunning. Viewsonic did a great job where it counts. If you think about 800x480 on an 8-inch screen it's and incredibly high level of detail in a small space. All of my pictures are crisp with no blur and look just like their paper counterparts. The lighting and contrast are defaulted very nicely. I have not yet noticed any drop offs in the angle of viewing vertically or horizontally. Even the frame-glow is growing on me, more because it attracts peoples attention and why else would we setup a digital picture frame other than to attract attention to our photos who were previously doomed to live out their lives in some corner of our hard drives or worse a dusty CD.

Someday I will play with the video and audio capabilities of this frame but honestly, while I am at work, I don't need another distraction and can't think of a practical use. If I am going to do video, I am going to watch it on a big LCD panel (read TV). If I want to listen to music, it's not going to be from tinny sub-laptop grade speakers in the back of this frame.

The last nice feature I haven't used but plan to is the ability to transfer pictures from a USB device like a thumb drive. It's nice to have the ability to plug my camera's memory stick into the unit and copy pictures off but realistically, I always preprocess my images, remove red-eye, adjust contrast and brightness, crop, etc, before I am going to be presenting them. This way I can fix them up and dump them to my thumb drive, take them to work and use the included mini-USB to female-USB adapter to copy them off.

Overall I am very pleased and look forward to enjoying pictures on this frame. I will update this post with any changes as I get more time with it.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sir:
    Thank you for taking the time to mention the ViewSonic. We received one for Christmas and I made the mistake of "reading the instruction book.....instead of just proceeding". Since your article I have added wonderful family holiday pictures to the ones which the children included for us. I look forward to adding music; but am in no rush to return to the directional booklet. I agree that the pictures are superb!
    Thanks again for your time. Judy