Review: eStarling ImpactV Wireless Clip Frame
January 28, 2009
Finally, a Wi-Fi-enabled digital picture frame that we can love. The ImpactV ($199.99) displays photos and videos, which users can easily upload from cell phones (there's even a free iPhone app) or Web browsers--and the frame's display looks great, too.
eStarling ImpactV Wireless Clip Frame
Cons: Can't display photos in random order; will only upload three photos at a time from the browser interface.
You've probably never heard of eStarling, but if you're looking for a Wi-Fi-enabled photo frame, you should get to know it. The company currently lists four Wi-Fi frames on its site, and we tested the largest, the ImpactV, which lists for $199. Unlike the last Wi-Fi frame we tested, the Sony Vaio Frame CP1, the ImpactV is remarkably easy to use. It also lets you easily upload new pics from any Web browser or from any cell phone with a data plan, making it an ideal choice for Grandma's house.
The ImpactV offers an 8-inch, 800 by 600 pixel display, with luminous colors. Some of our outdoor photos looked three-dimensional, they were so bright and clear. The frame connects to 802.11b/g home networks. In our testing, it only took a few minutes to find our network and enter the security key. After that, we always had a strong connection.
You'll get 512MB of storage for photos and videos, although you can increase that by adding a card to the MMS/SD/MS card slot. That info is available on the Web site, although it's missing from the box. Missing from both places are the supported media formats. The frame only accepts JPEG files, but you can load TIF, BMP, WBMP, PNG, and GIF files through the browser and the server will convert them. It can take an ever larger variety of video files, including MPEG-1, MPEG-4, WMV, RealVideo, DV, and other less-used formats.
We love the versatility of options for adding photos to the ImpactV. When you first set up the frame, it prompts you to create a user name and password, which you use to log in to your account at eStarling.net. From there, you can easily upload photos or videos, although we found one big gotcha: you can only upload three items at a time. You can queue up more than that, but only the first three load. It's a hassle if you want to load a lot quickly. Uploads were speedy, though, and photos appeared on our frames in minutes.
You get an e-mail address when you first set up the frame, and you can use that to e-mail pictures to your account from any cell phone. The company offers an app called Seeframe from the iTunes Store, making mobile uploads even easier for iPhone owners. You can give your e-mail address to other people, so that they can e-mail you pictures from their travels. Don't worry, you can control who has access with the online settings, so that you don't get unwanted pics.
The online settings let you subscribe to RSS feeds or Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, Twitter, and YouTube channels. There's no option for loading music, though, as there is with the Vaio CP1.
Our biggest fault with the setup options is that you can't easily see how much of the storage space you're using. The online account doesn't show it and the frame itself doesn't give sizes. The only way you can tell is to connect the ImpactV with the included USB cable and mount it like an external drive.
The ImpactV comes with a compact remote, which stores in the back of the frame when not in use. There are also touch buttons on the right side, which only appear when you run a finger over them.
We liked the quality of our photos and the menu options. You can have each picture play for as little as three seconds or as long as one hour (we'd like to see an even longer time added). You can control transition effects or turn them off completely. Advanced options let you set automatic daily startup and shutdown times, so that you don't have to do so manually. This didn't work perfectly for us: while the frame always shut down on time, it didn't usually start up on schedule. Photo playback was easy, although we wish there was an option to display photos in random order. The online settings also let you create custom playlists that will run at whatever time you chose. To do so, you need to tag your photos with keywords first.
The ImpactV lets you load videos just like you'd load photos, then play them by hitting the Enter button while one is on the screen. We were confused at first, since we thought we should hit the Play/Pause button.
The best Wi-Fi frame we've come across, the ImpactV displays photos and videos, and makes them all look great. Whether it's for yourself or a gift, this is an attractive choice.
Troy is a regular contributor to PDA Street, Intranet Journal, and Laptop Magazine. He also writes a weekly consumer technology column, which is published in the Jersey Journal newspaper. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TDreier.