estarling-frameI’ve been looking at connected photo frames for a while now. Until recently they have been been too closed and lacking in features. I think that the eStarling TouchConnect comes the closest I’ve seen to what I envision as the perfect digital photo frame. And the best thing is, it works, and works well with the iPhone.

This main way you will get photos and videos to this frame is via email. That’s right, email. The ingenious way that eStarling have come up with to get photos on to the frame over the network involves you connecting the frame to a GMail account and sending photos and video to display to that account. An interesting solution to how to get images to the frame. I’ve set up an account photoframetest@gmail.com — feel free to send me your (clean) photos.

Photos and Videos

Not only can you email photos, you can also mail videos right to the device from anywhere from your iPhone. Traveling and want to send the family back home some pictures or a short video (less than 20 MB)? Just email it. Give one of these frames to the grandparents and be able to send photos to them anytime from anywhere with your iPhone. A fantastic feature.

The frame will automatically download the photos and videos in the background and they will be added to the rotation on your frame. You also have the option of pulling up thumbnail screens and navigate between the photos stored in the 2 GB on board memory.

Connected Services

Connected is right in the title of this frame. And it is connected. It allows access to your photos via email as stated above, Flickr, Picasa, RSS Feeds, and even Facebook. Setting up these services is made very easy and done by either entering in your login information or utilizing the same email address you set up to send photos to the frame to activate links.

RSS Feeds

You can grab an RSS feed from one of many places to feed photos into the photo frame. A great and very flexible feature. Just search for “photo RSS” for a huge list of feeds you can use from news sources, photography sites, etc. Here’s a great one from the Boston Globe’s Big Picture feature.

Flickr

The Flickr connection allows you to authenticate with your Flickr account. Even though you need to authenticate there is no way to choose what pictures to show. Only your public pictures will show on the frame. I chose not to authenticate with Flickr as the authentication was requesting delete access. There’s no need for that and I consider it a risk, so I chose to not authenticate. You’d be better off just choosing one of the RSS feeds from Flickr and using those as it will get you the same result without needing to authenticate and giving the frame delete access.

You can get creative with the Flickr RSS feeds as well and use tags to designate which photos should show up on the frame. What I did is create a unique tag for the frame and pull the RSS feed for the photos with that tag. To do this, navigate to the Flickr page for the tag you want to use and grab the RSS feed link from the bottom of the page.

Flickr videos are not supported at this time.

Facebook

Authenticating with Facebook was pretty easy. Clicking on a link and giving the app access. The frame then quickly pulled down all of the photos I had uploaded to Facebook. Would really like the ability to grab photos friends have uploaded too.

Picasa

You have the option of signing into any Google account to authenticate with Picasa. Good if you already have an account set up and don’t want to move things to the Google account you are using for the photo frames email address. From there the photo frame pulls your latest photos. Again, with this service, I’d like some ability to designate which photos to download.

Google Calender?

That’s right, there’s also Google Calendar integration. You can authenticate to any Google Calendar and have your daily calendar shown on the screen. Did we mention this frame was connected?

Twitter Is Everywhere

Yep, now you can read and sent tweets from a photo frame. I’m not sure, can you even use Twitter from a computer anymore?

How About The Screen

The screen on this photo frame is a pretty decent 10.1 inches. The resolution isn’t that fantastic at 800×480, but good enough for most pictures viewed from more than a few inches away. The real issue is that it collects fingerprints like crazy. Keep something close by to clean those off.

On screen navigation allows you to move between photos and turn on / off the different connected features. In addition, there’s an optional sidebar that allows you show the time, date, and local weather. As the screen is 16×9, for 4×6 images, this sidebar fills in the extra space.

SD Card Support

When you insert an SD card into the frame it will switch from showing your connected photos to the photos on the card. Great for quickly showing family recent photos. Unfortunately videos on the SD card are not supported.

Overall, I think the TouchConnect frame is the most connected frame I’ve seen yet. I really appreciate all of the connection options they have provides. And while you can turn them on and off at will, all of the images blend when they are all turned on. Would be nice to be able to navigate the images from each service individually and find a way to limit what is downloaded. If you turn everything on it’s easy to have hundreds of images all at once with no way to segment them.

But, with conservative and proper set up, it can really work well.

Want to know more about this digital frame? Here’s the eStarling product page and the PDF Product Manual.

It’s available right now, on special price, for $199 from the manufacturer’s web site.

Disclosure notice: eStarling provided us a review model of this photo frame for the purposes of completing this review.

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