Wednesday, January 03, 2007

eSUCKling


I, like several of my friends and many other Flickr addicted geeks, was enthralled when I read the specs for the eStarling. A wi-fi enabled LCD picture frame that automatically downloads images via RSS. Specifically Flickr RSS feeds. I pre-ordered mine in November. When it finally arrived late December (just in time for Christmas gifting), excitement quickly turned to disappointment, and then slowly to hate after an hour or more of fiddling. Around midnight on Dec 23, I had decided I could not give the 4 other frames I had purchased as gifts. Thankfully, there were other gifts and I did not have to resort making my own hand drawn self-portrait and decorate the frame with dried macaroni. My 3-year son beat me to that idea anyway.

Here is my eStarling review in eight bullet points:

  1. Flickr RSS feed never worked.
  2. LCD quality very poor. The image would flicker, the color is not vivid , and resolution is poor. Completely the opposite of the Adobe flash demo on the eStarling homepage.
  3. LCD dimensions, a 16:9 ratio, required resizing/cropping every photo to fit on the screen without blank space.
  4. The WiFi range is unusably. I was able to get connectivity, but only less then 10 feet from the WiFi hub.
  5. The actual dimensions of the LCD in pixels is not in the documentation, I had to google for reviews. [The online support has added this info since then.] It is a paltry 480 x 234 pixels.
  6. The documentation is very sparse. It consists of just a postcard sized quickstart guide. It is not made clear that you cannot use the frame at all (ie via a memory card) without the wifi connecting.
  7. Status messages on LCD is uninformative. See the photo above.
  8. Menu navigation on LCD (slide show mode 6sec/10sec/stop) option flickers on the screen for a moment. It takes a few times through before you can read any one of the messages.

Gizmodo has several posts panning the eStarling:
eStarling Hands-On Update: Buyer Beware
eStarling Woes: Digital Picture Frame Shipped with Wrong AC Adapter

The one saving grace has been that ThinkGeek has a very slick customer experience, including making returns. Kudos to ThinkGeek for putting their customers first. Now, if only they vetted the products they carry.