Samsung WiFi Photo Frame and Monitor

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Product: Samsung SPF-85V WiFi Photo Frame / USB Monitor
Provided By: Samsung Canada
Price:

 

Introduction:

Digital photo frames are getting very popular.  The first and second generation of these frames were pretty ugly in my book, but as LCD prices have come down, the image quality and feature list of these digital devices have improved.  A couple of years ago, there wasn't a digital frame on the market that I'd consider perching on my desk or hanging on my wall but times have changed.  Some of the features that are gaining popularity are things like WiFi, RSS feeds and even double-purpose LCD displays that also serve as a small USB monitor.

Today we are taking a look at the Samsung SPF-85V Digital Photo Frame that comes equipped with pretty much everything you need in a frame; plus a couple of extras.  With a resolution of 800x600, it's not the highest resolution frame on the market, but it's at a price point that makes it very attractive.

 Box
Box

 

First Impressions:

While there really isn't a lot to a digital photo frame, the SPF-85V came pretty well packaged and included the usual power adapter, ball-socket stand, accompanying documents and a Mini-USB cable for hooking up this unit as a USB Monitor.  Nothing really out of the ordinary, but the overall presentation and packaging was done very well.

 Bundle
Bundle

 

Before we get our eyes dirty by looking at this little unit, let's take a quick look at the specs before we show off the SPF-85V.

 Frame Specs

On the next page we'll get our hands and eyes on the frame.


First Look:

When you first lay your eyes on this frame pictured below, you may think I did some weird photo shopping to give the frame border a crazy textured look.  The truth is, that is how it is designed.  You may be a fan of this or you may hate it, but the actual appearance of the texture in a room is much less that what you see in the picture.  Still, it may take a while to get used too.  I wondered why Samsung didn't choose a smooth glossy surface, and then I realized the controls are in the frame and are touch-sensitive.  A glossy frame would show fingerprints much more than this one does.  I guess the design team was on the right track.

Frame Front
Frame Front

 

The images below show off the headphone (for a frame?) jack, power connector, reset hole, media slots, and speakers.  Make sure you take a quick look through them before you carry on.

 Rear
Rear
Media Ports
Media Ports
Speaker Slits
Speaker Slits

 

The reason we see a headphone jack is because the SPF-85V has the capability to serve as a simple audio and video player.  If you have this frame beside your bed or at your desk, Samsung figures you might want to plug headphones into it so that when you are playing back the slide show of your wicked air while you were out boarding, the Def Leppard won't disturb others.

While I've seen many cheap digital photo frames come with a credit card sized remote this frame from Samsung is remote-free.  I don't believe this is an issue though as I've personally never used the remote for my frame - except when standing right in front of it.  Samsung's nice touch-frame interface take the place of the often crappy remote.

 



Functions & Settings:

The SPF-85V is more than a standard photo frame.  In addition to displaying pictures, it also works as a music player, move player, offers clock and alarm functions as well as doubles as an 8" USB monitor.  While the screen resolution of 800x600 is a little small for an additional display, it really is handy to clear off your desktop and leave applications like Tweetdeck and Windows Live Messenger running and visible.

Functions
Functions

 

The setup of the SPF-85V is pretty straight-forward.  You have to use the touch-frame controls on the right side to select the menu, up, down, right, left, Enter, Return and Play functions.  These controls fade within a couple seconds after touching the frame, and can be made to appear by simply touching the frame on the right side.  A quick slide of your finger on the frame makes them appear.

 Network
Network Settings
 Options
Options
 Frame Settings
Frame Settings

 

Pictured above are the network settings as well as some frame preferences.  While there certainly are more setting and tweaking that is available, they are honestly pretty uninteresting.



Testing the SPF-85V:

The SPF-85V comes with 64MB of built-in memory that is accessible for storing pictures and videos.  While this isn't near as much as many other $200+ frames, the reality is that with RSS and network capabilities, you can set up the frame to grab new pictures off the web.  If you want them to stay hard and fast in your frame, you have USB and memory card options as well.  I set the frame to grab pictures by means of RSS from my flickr photostream and it always kept a nice new bunch of pictures on the frame.  It was interesting to see the frame get new pictures within a few minutes of uploading them to flickr with my Eye-Fi card.  With hands-off wireless upload and RSS streaming, you have to be careful what you take a picture of.

 Memory
Memory 
 RSS PhotoStream
RSS Photo Stream

 

 

While the frame is capable of playing back video clips, the included "Dragon Wars" clip didn't actually play back that smoothly.  The performance may be adequate for some video clips, but as you can see below the image had quite a bit of ghosting and blurring and the action sequences were less than impressive.  We all know that if it can't make "Transformers" look amazing, it's not worth playing, right?


Movie
Movie Playback

 

Other features that Samsung throws in are the music playback feature as well as a calendar and alarm clock.  I really doubt that many users are going to take advantage of these features, but I guess it's better to include them than to exclude them - unless the price has to take a big hike in order to pay for the feature list.

 Music
Music
Calendar
Calendar

 

One of the more unique features of the SPF-85V is its ability to double as a USB LCD Monitor.  This requires special software installed on the client PC, but it seemed to work without a hitch.  One of the nice things about this is that you can rotate the display and display in either portrait or landscape mode when displaying pictures or when in use as a USB LCD.  Pictured below is an image of the SPF-85V hooked to my T61 ThinkPad laptop - which is sitting in a dock, hooked to a 22" LCD on the left.

Monitor
Monitor

Final Thoughts:

While there are a lot of nice things to say about the SPF-85V WiFi digital photo frame, there are a few issues that keep it from being a "must have" product in my opinion.  The first one is price.  This is an 8" unit that will set you back over $200 online and while it has a nice list of features, the premium you pay for these features is a little excessive.  You can get many other 8" frames for about half-price of the SPF-85V.  Another downside is the battery life.  It is horrible.  It runs for a little over 30 minutes when set at 70% brightness.  Basically this is a battery backup in case the power flicks, but it doesn't offer any real utility.  You can't leave it on your desk unplugged for a single meeting and if you can't impress, what's the point?

 

The screen resolution, quality and features are very nice however.  I just don't believe that they are worth the extra $100 price tag.

Pros:

  • Excellent quality
  • USB Monitor support
  • WiFi enabled
  • Pulls RSS photos from virtually any RSS picture channel
  • Sleek touch-frame

 

Cons:

  • Expensive when compared to other frames with 90% of features
  • Battery life is useless / short
  BCCRating

 

I'd like to thank Samsung Canada for sending this unit our way for a review.  It was nice to have around and even though it's not perfect, I'll still be sad to see it go.

If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.