Decode the Hype
Being digital artists, photo frames might look like attractive ways to showcase art and content, these devices are being pushed more and more. I got HPs ‘flagship’ model as a present, it retails for $300! I was so excited, but not for long. Unable to find any info online especially reviews, I thought I would post this here.
Lets first just get some things out of the way before I talk about the quality of what the device DOES do lets talk about what it does not, yet claims to do.
The following quotes are from the HP site itself:
The HP DreamScreen is a gateway to the Internet using your wireless network to access
weather info, Snapfish and your favorite web destinations.
This is just untrue. There is no integrated web browser. It has three web ‘apps’ on it: SnapFish, Pandora, Facebook. That’s it. It does not read RSS feeds, or do much of anything you probably want it to do, simple things like display news or recipes.
Stay current with social network sites like Facebook
‘Like’ facebook? There is only Facebook: nothing else.
Be organized with a built-in alarm clock & calendar.
This is laughable. Wondering how to sync the calendar with outlook or google or anything; maybe even just add appointments, I finally consulted their online documentation. Here, seriously, is the feature list for the calendar ‘app’:
View the current month, press right or left to view the next or previous month.
BWAH HA HA HA… *sigh*
Easy wireless access to your digital entertainment
It shows an icon for a video, but actually; it doesn’t stream video, it plays some videos, only at specific resolutions from specific codecs; off physical media.
Touch-enabled controls—Get fast, easy access to information and entertainment with simple touch controls embedded in the display
This is referring to some buttons around the bezel of the screen and is just so untrue they would have to change the marketing campaign in Europe or get sued. This does however remind me of the old In Living Color sketch where the handcapped superhero always says he is ‘not handicapped, but HANDY-CAPABLE!’.
Videos—Watch home movies and video clips in full screen – Its simple!
It’s as simple as taking your video, recompressing it to a supported video codec, resizing it to a specific resolution, and then physically transferring it ot the device –so simple grandma could do it! (with gordian knot, virtualdub, CCCP, and all those other video tools she has)
Decode the Hype: The Screen
The thing is a frickin’ 300 dollar photo frame, but it’s resolution is 800 x 480, this equates to 0.38 megapixels, at the time the frame came out, the average cheap point n shoot ranks 9 to 10 megapixels: this is well over twenty times the resolution of the screen!
Because of this, it can take 10 full seconds to load a photo and downsample it to 800 pixels from it’s original resolution. This makes browsing photos a pain, and loading photos from your camera cards nearly useless. Power users will use photoshop or xnView to batch all their content to 800 pixels.
There is aliasing galore, as 800 pixels is the resolution of many phones and handheld devices, not 13″ photo frames!
UPDATE: I have talked to HP and done some hunting, uncovering something that is just ridiculous: The DreamScreen 130 has a 1280×800 resolution. However, HPs software only works ar 800×480, the resolution of the cheapest screen, (the 100). To get around this, they upscale to 1280 pixels. This means they down sample your image to 800 pixels, then they upscale it with a software upscaler, so your pictures will ALWAYS LOOK LIKE JAGGY AND SOFT: NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO. This is a joke, HP should be ashamed of themselves.
Notice the terrible artifacts from the 1280 image, which was downscaled by the frame software, then upscaled to fit the panel.
It is a cheap TN panel, the gamma of your images widely fluctuates depending on the angle they are viewed. I would be ok if they had a low resolution but used a nice IPS, SIPS, or OLED panel, but this is just unremarkable. The black point is a dark shade of grey, in all seriousness, the panel quality seems on par with something like the panels they use in the dashboard of a Prius, or other industrial UI readouts.
Pretty terrible banding
Pretty bad black point
Pretty bad white point
Pretty mediocre contrast
Decode the Hype: Misc Tech Tidbits
Streaming / Network
Streaming requires lots of Microsoft Windows Media software and services running on a PC server in your house that is always on, they relied on this instead of doing the footwork themselves. If you were under the impression from their marketing that it could read files off samba shares or work with Macintosh, you would be wrong.
Software / User Interface
The software is pretty terrible. It is very clunky and unresponsive. Many times it does not recognize that physical media has been inserted and must be rebooted. The UI graphics themselves show terrible compression artifacts.
When you bring up the on screen keyboard to type in, say, the name of the device, it clearly shows buttons like [HTTP://], [www.], [.com], and others to make it easier to browse the web, however there is no web browser! There are other places in the print ads and UI itself that refer to features the device just does not have!
The device claims to have a ‘touch sensitive screen’, and IT DOES! A small area around the bezel of the screen has botons that can be pressed/touched! This product is in NO WAY a touch screen device, and has no touch sensitivity, other than the buttons on the bezel, the marketing is a lie.
On the CD that ships with it, they have a ton of readme files showing they used a lot of GPL’d code, however the source installer did not work on my windows 7, x64.
- They used Linux and GPL’d code so they will have to release theirs soon, hopefully it will be taken under the wing of the open source community and all these issues can be fixed by hard working college students and kids in their spare time.
- The packaging/box is very high quality with a great look and feel
- The screen is low res and low quality
- The device is way overpriced for the quality of it’s screen and software
- The docs and UI refer to features that just do not exist
- No battery, it must always remain plugged into the wall
- Super-glossy, all you may be seeing is windows!
- Software-wise, the average cellphone is vastly superior in extensibility and quality (browsing photos, playing mp3s, videos…)
- The UI looks like a rip of cell phone UIs, but only in pictures… There are no smooth animated transitions, nothing in common with the user interfaces they seemed to want to copy. To an experienced person, the UI feels like something HP outsourced to Asia and sent them a poor art-bible of the end product they were expecting…
- The device seems unfinished