Why don’t people use a small TV as a digital picture frame?

Folks: In shopping for a digital picture frame, I found the following:

Isn’t the LCD television a better value? Yet even in McMansions, where space is not an issue and sightlines to the digital picture frame could be quite long, I haven’t seen anyone use a small TV as a digital picture frame. What am I missing?

[Power consumption for the TV is higher, as you’d expect with so much more screen area; about 25 watts compared to 10-14 for a digital picture frame.]

16 thoughts on “Why don’t people use a small TV as a digital picture frame?

  1. I know plenty of people (even my mom, included) who just use screensavers as the same basic idea. When not using her computer, her monitor (17″ in this case), turns into a nice digital picture frame. And I agree, this is a much smarter route, in my opinion, since a 10″ in my opinion is far too small unless you walk over, pick it up, and view it like an actual photo (I’ve never NOT done this). TVs can be seen from a nice distance, however, like you said. You’re not missing a thing.

    If you’re worried about power, I’d suggest buying a Kill-A-Watt, hook it up, and see what a monitor that’s not doing much (displaying a simple picture) uses in terms of power. Stated power consumption is usually, but not always, kinda overblown for computers/monitors. And I have no idea if monitors fluctuate power in use, it may just be steady no matter what.


  2. Totally agree… I got an old imac g5 a couple of months back and it is serving as the world’s most over-featured digital photo frame.

  3. I think you’ve got to add the price of the device to drive that television, and the technical acumen (however small) to hook it up. Someone in CVS who says “I want to see pictures of my grandchildren” is going to buy a complete device to show herself pictures of her grandchildren, not the parts to hook up said device.

    But I think as the various streaming-video-off-the-net devices start their inevitable infiltration we’ll see more TVs as picture frames.

  4. Phil:

    Sony tends to sell its products at higher prices than competing brands. A price comparison between Sony LCD TV’s and Sony digital photo frames might be more helpful.

    In addition, not all digital photo frames are bought to be used in McMansions. Quite a few of my coworkers have these in their cubicles, where space constraint has to be considered.

  5. Dan: Add the price of the device to drive the television? You mean the $5 USB thumb drive? The Vizio can show photos in JPEG format natively. It doesn’t need additional software or hardware.

    Bob: The Sony is more expensive than some other photo frames, but many of those other photo frames have ridiculously bad image quality, with the cheapest and crudest LCD possible. Consumers are fairly picky about television image quality, which leads me to believe that the Vizio’s screen is pretty good.

    Dan: Can the Vizio read an RSS feed? No. Neither can the Sony.

  6. I think most people only see a television as a television. They may know that it has USB connectors and various other PC connections, but they never think to use it. My mother in law was fascinated when I connected my Mac Mini to her 52″ plasma (I was running it headless and connecting remotely, but needed a monitor just long enough to get logged in).

  7. I have one of those Vizio TVs in my exercise area at home. The image quality is decent but a bit washed out. Which is what you expect for well under $200 at Costco. For displaying photography I want the highest pixel density per square inch possible. Those new iPhone displays, for instance. So the Sony could, in theory, produce better looking (but smaller) images. TVs look sharp because the pictures move.

  8. Also, the TV’s don’t tend to have many options for randomizing, fades and stuff. This will probably improve over time but the ones I have seen thus far don’t have much in this way.

    I had an early LCD frame built by a small company, before all the major players got into it. When it gave up late last year I went through a ton of choices and ended up with a 9 or 10 inch sony. I agonized about the price premium I was paying for the sony name but I have to say it is really worth the money.

  9. Phil, I did look at the Kodak’s. Seems like at one point I was going to go for it. I really don’t recall what tipped me over to the Sony. I think maybe it was the overall look. It was 10 months ago….

    We have a 42″ Samsung flat panel in our break room that we stream pictures to with DLNA. With a large TV, you aren’t going to ever be as close as with a 7″ picture frame, so it will look decent anyway.

  10. You’re always charged a premium for specialized products. It’s the tax you pay for not having a use-what-you-got attitude. That’s the reason my personal hair clipper costs $9.99 and a lower-quality one at the pet store with a picture of a dog on the box costs $44.99.

  11. We amaze visiting friends by using Opera’s internet channel on our Wii, hooked up to big plasma, to view a homemade slideshow page I optimized for the Wii.

    This solves the “using a TV is too hard/featureless” points brought up by others, because anybody can use a Wii, and lots of even those CVS visitors have one. I don’t know how many have managed to connect it to the internet, though.

    I really wish more photo sources and consuming devices would support MediaRSS! That’d be awesome in everything from smartphones to TVs to gaming consoles when it comes to sharing. My favorite is my “on this day” feed off my custom photo server for a fun look at what my family’s done in years past. My kids like to pull that one up on the Wii and laugh at how they used to look, and even my parents pull it in via Google’s MediaRSS-aware screensaver.

    The bottom line answers is that it’s still to hard to do for most people, but it’s getting very close.

  12. Phil,

    Going the other direction, I actually just bought a 37″ Vizio at least in part to be able to display pictures. Since I’m a die-hard cheapskate who doesn’t watch much television, the price of new TVs always bugged me… until I figured out that I could have a rotating display of pictures for less than the cost of two matted/mounted/framed prints of equivalent size. The vizio has a side USB port and even has options to change the modes of the slideshow (duration, fade, etc.) Now I wonder why I didn’t do it earlier.

    Sure, 1080×1920 is still less than two megapixels, but a short action in photoshop downsizes the pictures to those dimensions, and then a little judicious sharpening makes them look pretty darn good.

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