Why have one photo on your desk when you can have thousands? Kodak is one of the latest manufacturers to join the ever-growing digital photo frame market, and its latest model includes a wireless connection to beam photos from your PC or the EasyShare Gallery directly to the frame. We tested several models earlier this year, and the Wi-Fi-enabled EasyShare EX811 beats them all, assuming you have the cash.
The sleek, black EX811 doesn't look as techy as other frames from Ceiva, Coby, and Philips--and that's a good thing. At first glance, you might not even notice that the frame is digital. Optional faceplates are coming soon to make the device a better match for any decor, but the plain black is fine for our tastes. On the back, you'll find all of the basic controls, including Power, Play, and Menu.
This photo frame features a bright eight-inch display, 128MB of internal memory, and reads six memory cards. The EX811 plays both photos and video (AVI, MOV, MPEG-1, MPEG-4), as well as music (MP3). Despite all of these features, the Kodak EX811 is easy to use and actually looks like a frame you'd want to show off. We're not crazy about how the frame hides an inch of the photo on all four sides, though.
After you insert a memory card, the EX811 gives you the option of viewing the files or transferring them to the frame's internal memory. You can also upload files from your notebook or digicam via USB. You can stand the EX811 vertically or horizontally, or mount it on a wall. The remote is easy to use, with clearly labeled and responsive buttons. While using it, we rarely had to push a button more than once to execute a command.
The frame's Wi-Fi capability is its most exciting feature. Connecting the EX811 to our wireless network couldn't have been simpler. We installed the EasyShare Gallery software on our PC and downloaded Windows Media Player 11. After the frame scanned for available wireless networks, we selected one with the remote, and it connected automatically. Just make sure that Windows Media Player 11 is set to share content, or you won't be able to stream your photos.
To test the EX811, we connected it to a secure network in the office and to our network at home. We had no trouble with either network and found entering the security key with the included remote a snap. While streaming images from our notebook, the EX811 played a smooth slideshow. It took a moment for the thumbnail gallery images to load, but the delay was tolerable.
Once we started a slideshow, the full-sized images quickly loaded. Images looked bright with accurate colors, and we were able to zoom in, as well as copy and delete images, right on the frame.
Synching with Kodak's EasyShare Gallery gives you access to the photos stored in your EasyShare account. Once you've connected the frame to your online gallery, you can stream thousands of photos to it. We've tested other frames with Wi-Fi capabilities, but the EX811 is the simplest to use, and use of its online gallery is free (Ceiva, for instance, charges a monthly fee).
In addition to photos, you can also play MP3s and videos on the EX811. These files can be streamed from your PC or a USB thumb drive. Music pumped through the two stereo speakers in the back sounded decent, and a video clip that we shot with a Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 played back smoothly on the frame. While we weren't blown away by the sound, this device wasn't designed to replace your stereo.
Overall, the Kodak EasyShare EX811 is the simplest, best-looking photo frame we've tested. It's also the most expensive. At $229, the Kodak costs $30 more than than the Philips PhotoFrame, which recently received our Editors' Choice in a roundup of four entries. But the EX811's Wi-Fi and free EasyShare Gallery synching features make it stand out from the pack. And its ease of use and versatility make it the perfect gift or desk accessory.
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