Pacific Digital Memory Frame

Pacific Digital Memory Frame


Introduction

Pacific Digital recently introduced the "Memory Frame", claiming it as the worlds first USB digital photo frame. The Memory Frame is designed to make sharing and viewing photos much easier, and it is an exceptionally good idea with the rapid uptake of digital cameras, if the unit performs as well as it should. A 5.6 inch active TFT screen takes up most of the photo frame area with a 320x240 pixel display.

MemoryFrame_Unit.jpg
Memory Frame Unit

This digital photo frame will act as a standalone unit which you can plug your digital camera in to, and it will automatically download and display your photos. The device can, of course, be plugged into your PC and pictures/firmware updates can be sent that way. The Memory Frame can store a maximum of 55 photos in its memory, which should be about enough for any user.

Specifications
  • Bright 5.6" TFT
  • USB 1.1 Interface
  • 55 Photos Maximum Storage
  • 640x480 logical resolution, 320x240 physical
  • 16MB Ram & 8MB Flash Memory
  • Dimensions : 211 x 161 x 43 mm
  • Weight : 800g
  • Software is Windows 98/NT/ME/XP/2000 compatible
It is worth noting that although Linux and MacOS have USB support, the Memory Frame is not compatible. Only USB versions of Windows will be able to support the unit, which will cover most users.

Included Items
  • Memory Frame
  • 5 x 7 " decorative frame
  • External Power supply
  • USB Cable (2 meters)
  • Installation CD (including Digital PixMaster software)
  • Users Manual
  • Warranty Card/Information
MemoryFrame_Included.jpg

Contents of the Memory Frame

Pacific Digital don't bundle any unnecessary extras in the package, but do include everything you need to start using the Memory Frame. The Installation CD includes drivers for Windows 98 upwards, as well as the Digital PixMaster software (specifically designed for this unit).

Features

The Memory Frame boasts a "bright active matrix TFT screen" with a 320x240 pixel display area, which at first sounds like it will hold up to the task rather well. Unfortunately, the screen is inadequate even from when viewing the optimised demo pictures. When looking at the screen from any angle, the image is pixelated and devoid of any detail. I was extremely disappointed to see that the unit features such a poor display when it is the main component in the product - especially since a High Quality 15" TFT Display could be picked up for the same price. The LCD module was nowhere near as good as that found in a standard TFT monitor, in all respects. The viewing angle is less than optimal, and you have to look directly at the image to see it clearly - which is rather off putting, as it limits where you can hang/stand the frame.

MemoryFrame_Picture.jpg

View from above

One of the main selling points of the Memory Frame is that it can import photos directly from a digital camera - but only ones with full "mass storage device" compliance. Fortunately, this covers most new digital cameras - but did not work with our test camera, the Fujifilm FP1300. After reading up on the internet, several people have had problems with a few cameras - although Pacific Digital may upgrade the firmware to enable these at a later date. If you do not have a supported camera, you can either hook this unit up to a PC, or buy a cheap card reader unit.

Each image can be configured individually or as a group to have a certain image transition effect and to display for a certain amount of time. The effects are pretty standard, but they do liven up the transitions. A nice "fade to" or "dissolve" effect would have been a welcome addition in the effects menu.

MemoryFrame_Option.gif

Transition Effects

The build quality of the unit is excellent, and it has been designed with simplicity and usability in mind. The frame can be hung vertically or horizontally, or placed on a desk with the pull out stand. There control buttons are hidden behind the top of the frame and include brightness controls, forward/back, and GUI menu functions. On the bottom of the unit there is a power socket, a camera USB port (type A) and a computer USB port (type B).

MemoryFrame_Ports.jpg

Ports

The wood frame around the unit can be swapped for most standard frames you can buy, although pacific digital do sell some styles of their own. Two retaining clips hold the frame onto the main body, making it easy to change it to suit the location.​

MemoryFrame_Frames.jpg

Frame Styles

Installation

The Memory Frame doesn't require a great deal of installation, it is simply a case of "plug in, power up". Each time the Memory Frame is turned on it takes about 30 seconds to actually boot-up. The very first time it is powered up there are several pre-set photos shown as well as some marketing talk, but this gives you a small insight to what the unit can do before you use it.

MemoryFrame_Menu.jpg

Memory Frame Controls

The menu interface is very user friendly, and anyone should be able to control all aspects of the functionality via this. Pacific Digital have made an excellent job with the GUI of the device, and an equally impressive piece of software for your PC. The bundled PixMaster software was easy to use and seemingly bug free.

MemoryFrame_Software.jpg

PixMaster Software

Unlike our digital camera, our IWILL CR620 6-in-1 card reader was accepted by the unit and could handle all media formats. When the unit detects a digital camera or media card, you have the option of importing all of the pictures, or view them in thumbnail mode and select the items you wish to transfer. Transfer takes on average 6 seconds per image so it is quite acceptable to pick photos out one by one, although it may take a few minutes.

Conclusion

The Memory Frame is an excellent concept and is of a very high built quality, but it has some severe drawbacks. The LCD module is simply not up to the job - which is rather puzzling, as this is also the most important component. With the current display, I would have expected the price to be just less than £100 - but it is more than double that at the moment. It would be wise for Pacific Digital to redesign the Memory Frame to include a larger 8 x 10 inch, higher quality display - this would come close to the current retailing price.

Author
Ian Cunningham
First release
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