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Philips AJL308: Wait for Version 2

I've been a fan of the digital picture frame concept for a long time.  In the late 1990's, for example, I lugged a prototype that we had built in the Microsoft Home group around various home networking shows all over North American and Europe just to show off the idea. People went gaga for it. 

So when blogs like Engadget and CNet Crave started to write about the Philips AJL308 Digital Picture Frame and Clock Radio, I was pretty interested. The premise– wake up to pictures of your loved ones — was pretty compelling. I thought that Janice would particularly appreciate it, and if it was really easy to use, it might be just the thing to give as Christmas gifts to the grand parents. So I ripped over  to eBay and bought one to check it out.

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Alas, although the idea is great, Philips execution of it sucks

  • Setting the time and other configuration options is reminiscent of trying to use a 1970's era digital watch.  "Press this button twice, wait for the flash, then pirouette through the hopscotch court, stand on your head and press the clock button one more time."  Your spouse, mother, or grandmother is not going to be able to set this thing up. 
  • Once you've gone through the mental stress of configuring the device, do NOT unplug it.  There's no battery back-up.  You'll be configuring it all over again.  In fact, don't even open the configuration menu, because periodically it seems to simply lose all of the configuration if you're simply in the configuration menu.
  • The resolution is awful.  Worse yet, it doesn't scale the pictures properly by default.  Instead it displays them in "widescreen" mode, a.k.a. chopping the top and bottom of the picture off.  You can forget about showing all those beautiful pictures you snapped with your spiffy digital SLR.  They look awful on this device. 
  • The software is moronic too.  For instance, in slideshow mode, large images of your pictures cycle like a slide show.  However, in clock mode, only one picture is ever displayed on screen.  Why doesn't the little onscreen polaroid behave like the slide show.

I could go on.  There were lots more problems, and I was very disappointed.  You will be too.  Save your money for version 2.

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • stevex November 14, 2007, 6:27 am

    I bought a digital photo frame from The Source (or maybe it was still Radio Shack then) a couple years ago, and it was equally terrible (though it wasn't trying to be a clock radio). The resolution was terrible, you could see what looked like interlaced scan lines when you were close to it, and the aspect ratio was also off.

    I wrote a little tool for taking photos and fixing the aspect ratio for this device, maybe it would also work for yours. It's here:
    http://blog.stevex.net/index.php/software/frameco

    The 'Scale for Centrios 7" Frame' button scales images to correct for the aspect distortion that happens when you display them widescreen.

    Another problem with the Centrios frame – now that it's 2 or 3 years old, it's acquired a severe reddish tint.

  • Alec November 14, 2007, 7:38 am

    Hey thanks, Steve. I'll try it out.

  • Jim Courtney November 14, 2007, 10:53 am

    These days you would think they might figure out how to sync to the WWV time reference broadcast. I set my wife's clock about seven years ago when she got it for Christmas and, other than to set and turn on/off the alarm, it has never been touched. Even adjusts for DST changes.

  • Alexandre Rafalovitc November 14, 2007, 11:24 am

    If you favor functionality over screen size, have a look at Chumby. I have written why I think it is promising as a (small) picture frame at: http://blog.outerthoughts.com/2007/10/chumby-digi

  • MGU November 15, 2007, 9:16 am

    Hey Alec, Don't send me one, or your Mum for that matter. Dad

  • Surprised November 17, 2008, 7:31 pm

    I was a bit disappointed to know of this frame's faults, as I really like all the functionalities of it. I hope they come up with a (much) better version with all the problems taken care of.
    Thanks for the review Alec, much appreciated! Saved me from doing a big mistake.
    Will buy a cheapo one for the time being and will wait for a better one of these to come out.

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