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Digital Picture Frame Vs. Photo Album

Pros and Cons of Digital Photo Frames

Because it uses electronics to display images instead of paper, the digital picture frame can show off your photos in a variety of ways. But it can be expensive and uses electricity, so it is not particularly environmentally sensitive.

Most frames today feature an 8- or 10-inch screen that typically with 800 by 600 or 1,024 by 768 resolution. Frames are available at a wide range of prices, with the median at about $100. The highest-end frames store the images locally on flash memory chips, include a slot for a flash card, and have the option of connecting to a wireless network to pull images from web sites and services.

Most frames can do things that the static album can’t, such as show video clips and play music from an Internet radio station. In other words, digital frames, such as HP’s Smart WiFi Display (link to review) have evolved into multimedia viewers that can display a variety of media.

This extraordinary amount of flexibility leaves a physical album in the dust. On top of running photos in a particular order or shuffling the images at random, frames can show transitions between shots and can display several images at once.

But digital frames are second best when it comes to making sure that all images are correctly oriented. Be prepared to send some time rotating images with photo editing software, so that photos are right-side up.

Digital imaging is improving every day but even the best images are still second best in terms of detail, color balance and subtlety compared to a professionally printed shot (especially one captured on film). The gap becomes even wider when the images are shown on a small, low resolution picture frame display.

Then, there’s the power issue. While a paper photo album doesn’t use any power after it’s been created, a digital frame consumes a small amount of electricity every second that it’s plugged in. An 8-inch frame consumes 7 watts or 61.3 kilowatt hours of power over a year, according to our Kill-A-Watt testing over a short period of time. The cost to the consumer would be less than $7 a year, but the environmental cost would be the the equivalent of spewing 97.1 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere if the frame was powered on for a year.

Less expensive than a professionally printed album but more expensive than an album that you print yourself, a digital picture frame is a nice alternative because it can show thousands of images rather than several hundred. But, it uses much more energy than a paper album.

Pros of picture frame:

A good picture frame can show images in different ways, transitions and music, video, all in an attractive design that can fit into your décor.

Cons of picture frame:

Picture frames can be expensive, have a small screen and use power even when nobody’s looking.

Brian Nadel

Brian Nadel is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in technology reporting and reviewing. He works out of the suburban New York City area and has covered topics from nuclear power plants and Wi-Fi routers to cars and tablets. The former editor-in-chief of Mobile Computing and Communications, Nadel is the recipient of the TransPacific Writing Award.