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Tech Review 

by Marty Demarest


These days, it seems the next craze in digital toys comes along about every five minutes as tech companies continue to turn out one gadget after another in the hopes of stumbling upon the right toy that compels consumers to buy in bulk. One of the not-so-recent but still-on-the rise pieces to come out of the gadget mill of late is the digital picture frame. When they first hit the market, prices were, naturally, astronomical. Now that the hype has waned slightly and the novelty has worn off a bit, prices are coming down to earth -- and the masses, wanting to view all their digital photos, are buying.


The Ceiva Internet Digital Picture Frame ($150) employs a sleek design with classic appointments. It's an ordinary-looking 8x10 wooden frame finished in black with a 5x7 viewable LCD screen. Digital images are uploaded via your computer to a central Web server, where they can be managed, manipulated and then sent to as many different Ceiva frame owners as the sender desires (great for sharing pictures with relatives who haven't quite come around to computers yet). The frame is plug-and-play simplicity at its best, with one-button operation, slide-show convenience and a built-in memory that can store up to 20 photos. One drawback of the unit is that you can only accept and download photos via an Internet connection. Oh yeah, and that Ceiva online service will set you back $80 a year.


Looking for more frame for your buck without the hassle of service-fee entanglements? At $400, the Digi-Frame LCD Digital Frame (with the same screen dimensions) is considerably pricier than the Ceiva but can hold up to 1,500 images. It's also Mac- and PC-compatible and allows for importing directly from your digital camera's CompactFlash or SmartMedia cards, completely eliminating the need for a computer. The frame scrolls through pictures singly or as a slide show, has an intelligent graphical user interface and comes with three different interchangeable frames (in brushed aluminum, a burled wood-grain look and translucent blue) and CD-ROM software for the computer-savvy digital photographer.


You can display images from your digital camera instantly: just insert the SmartMedia or CompactFlash memory card from your digital camera, and the picture frame will scroll through pictures singly or as a slide show. It comes with a Macintosh- and PC-compatible serial cable, software on CD-ROM and an external power supply. Image area is 5.6 inches diagonal.


The first two frames are available online at Amazon.com and Buy.com, while the Digi-Frame is available at Target


stores.

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