How to buy the best digital photo frame How to choose and where to buy

Which? Archive

This article, How to buy the best digital photo frame, was last updated on 03 March 2010 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Technology articles.

Digital photo frames have proved a huge hit in the shops since they were launched in 2005, and the choices are growing all the time. The good news is that they're getting cheaper and quality is improving.

For help choosing the best digital photo frame watch the Which? buyers' guide video

Key ring digital photo frames

You can now buy tiny digital photo frames but beware, image quality is normally very poor

Pixels mean quality for a digital photo frame

The ideal digital photo frame would display your images as clearly as a printed photograph. As this is nearly impossible, we recommend looking for the greatest number of pixels you can buy.

A digital photo frame with a resolution of 800x480 (384,000) pixels has three times more pixels than a 480x234 (112,320) model. These figures may seem impressive, but even basic digital cameras now have upwards of five million pixels (5Mp), and these frames can barely show half a million.

What size of digital photo frame do you need?

Digital photo frames are available in different sizes, matching those traditionally used for real prints. The smallest screens are found on keyrings, but these are more of a novelty item. 

The most popular frame sizes are 7, 8, 9, and 10 inches, but 12 and 15-inch frames are becoming more widely available as the technology improves. The size is measured diagonally, like TV screens. Like televisions, they're mostly widescreen (16:9 ratio). Resolution generally increases in line with frame size, but not always.

Be aware that digital photo frames are far more intrusive than print frames because the pictures change, so be careful to choose the size that's right for your room.

Display options on a digital photo frame

Some digital photo frames will automatically adjust pictures so that they're the right way up when you rotate the frame. This means that portrait photos will always be upright and landscape photos always horizontal.

Ask in the shop what the frame will do with a picture that's been cropped or isn't the same proportions as the display. Most frames will try to resize the photo to fit, with varying degrees of success – it may be squashed or cropped – but some frames will add black borders around the edge, which gives a better effect.

Before heading to the shops or looking online, make sure you read our latest digital photo frame reviews to find the best models.

Just about all digital photo frames offer slideshow options. You can vary the time a photo stays up and choose a favourite transition to go from one to the next. Check that the frame offers suitable slideshow settings – the amount of time that an image is on the screen can be varied from seconds to an hour, for example. 

Transitions can include slide, mosaic and wipe effects, but their appeal can rapidly wear off, so check that there's a basic transition that fades between images.

Some digital photo frames have an internal clock so you can set which times of day they turn on or off. 

And if you're a keen video maker or viewer, you might like a digital photo frame that has video playback and built-in speakers.

High street retailers

We recommend viewing several digital photo frames in person before you buy. This will help you decide whether the frame will complement the style of your home and give you a better idea about the picture quality you can expect. You could even take along a memory card of your favourite photos to see whether the digital photo frames do them justice.

Buying digital photo frames online

Digital photo frames are often cheaper online than in-store, so it’s worth shopping around to find the best possible prices.

How to follow the latest Which? Tech news

Are you a Twitter user? Follow WhichTech on Twitter for regular tech tweets.

Prefer RSS? Don't miss a thing with the Which? tech RSS feed

For just the main headlines in newsletter form, sign-up to our weekly Which? tech email.

Apple iPad 2 3G data plans compared - find the best 3G plan for your iPad
Best Android tablets round-up - we look at the best iPad alternatives around
Best cheap laptops for under £500 - find the best laptop deals