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Tech Report – Digital Photo Frames...and more

By Michael Connolly

What started out as a nice simple idea – a photo frame that could be loaded with interchangeable images of the family – has recently become very complicated. Thanks to massive leaps in storage capacity and programming capability, the digital picture frame is rapidly turning into a tablet computer.

The original concept was really very appealing. You could load up a photo frame with dozens of pictures of family and friends and, at the touch of a button, bring up a new image every day or continuously loop slide-shows of your favorite albums.

If you were really adventurous, you could set up a wireless network in Grandma's house and hang a wireless-enabled digital photo frame on her wall. Each night, you could select a picture of one of the kids and send it to her photo frame, so the new image would be there to greet her every morning. Not only could you load photos but you could also stream the occasional family video, which she could playback at her leisure.

The problem, of course, is that nothing stays simple in the world of tech for too long. If you have a wireless interface, then why stop at photos, music and video? Why not give that frame some widgets or Internet browsing capability and let Grandma share that hilarious YouTube video you watched last night?

And we're not done yet. We can load it up with Pandora for Internet radio choices, provide daily weather reports, an alarm clock service, news headlines and even traffic reports. Before we're finished, Grandma's going to think her granddaughter's turned into Hannah Montana and that nice photo frame has become the most annoying thing in her life!

Fortunately, if you want to keep it relatively simple, there are still some digital photo frames on the market that haven't strayed too far from the original concept. Here are three of our favorites:

Kodak EasyShare W1020 Wireless Digital Frame

If you like the idea of wireless, then this is a great place to start.  A traditional picture-frame look with a 10-inch screen, 512MB of memory and built-in Wi-Fi. Once you install the Kodak EasyShare desktop software on your PC, you can wirelessly transfer photos, slideshows, video and music, all at a starting price of around $170 on Amazon.com

Sony 8-inch Digital Photo Frame (DPF-D80)

A good basic desktop photo frame. No video or audio capabilities but good-looking and easy-to-use. Stores up to 500 photos, which can be loaded from a PC via a USB cable. Automatically re-sizes the images to fit the screen. Has a large built-in clock and calendar display, if you want an occasional alternative to pictures. From $110.

ViewSonic DPG807

An affordable, attractive design with good image quality. Can be desktop mounted or has keyhole slots for wall-mounting. Sleek touch controls that temporarily illuminate. Automatically re-sizes images to the screen's resolution. Supports video and MP3 playback. Built-in clock with calendar and alarm. From $69.99.

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