Nov. 22, 2011 at 7:18 PM ET
By Kara Reinhardt
For all the time we spend saying “cheese” over the holidays, we seem to spend little time admiring the photos that result. Family portraits that don’t make the cut for the Christmas card wind up languishing on a memory card. A digital picture frame lets you put all those photos on display. It can also make a thoughtful gift, even for someone who’s not very tech-savvy, if you preload it with a selection of favorite snapshots. Respected brands such as Kodak and Sony offer plenty of features -- and, more important, excellent image quality -- for less than $80.
Look for resolution of at least 640x480 for a 7-inch frame. Larger frames require more pixels to display crisp photos. Experts recommend an aspect ratio of 4:3, the automatic setting on most digital cameras, or 3:2, which is standard on digital SLR cameras. Widescreen may be the way to go in an HDTV, but in a digital frame, an aspect ratio of 16:9 can make photos appear distorted or cropped.
You can fill a digital frame with pictures in a few different ways. Probably the simplest method is to insert a memory card or USB flash drive. Loading photos from a computer using a USB cord is a common alternative. Most models come with some internal memory so you don’t have to leave an external memory source in the frame all the time. A more sophisticated option is to transfer photos wirelessly, but low-cost frames seldom offer that capability.
Extra features available in this price range include a remote control, a slide show function, and built-in speakers and support for audio files, so you can set your photos to music. Many frames also double as a clock, alarm clock, and calendar.
Below are Cheapism’s top picks for affordable digital photo frames.
One final tip: PCMagpoints out that there’s no need to buy a device to display your photos if you own an iPad. You already have a $500 frame.
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