With its DreamScreen 100, HP reaches out beyond the familiar digital photo frame concept. This 10-inch color frame incorporates wireless support for popular applications such as Facebook, Snapfish, Pandora, and HP's own packaging of Net radio stations, among other built-in audio and visual functions.
Sleek and minimalist in shiny black, the DreamScreen 100 is nevertheless better suited for sitting on a desktop than hanging on a wall. This is due both to its not inconsiderable weight and to the need to keep the unit plugged in at all times. So, even though it's ostensibly a wireless device, the DreamScreen 100 is really tethered to one place.
Setting up the DreamScreen 100 was almost unbelievably easy, even with the labor of entering passwords and network keys via the sturdy-yet-sensitive remote. The interface is attractive, intuitive, and highly readable, with large icons and titles making each function abundantly clear. In addition, the frame comes with video tutorials to teach you how to use the frame.
Unfortunately, the bundled desktop program is for Windows only, and only Windows PCs can connect to the frame via Wi-Fi. However, Mac users can connect to the frame via USB and drag and drop audio, photo, and video files into the 2GB of internal frame memory.
The DreamScreen 100 has slots for memory cards and is compatible with all the usual suspects, such as SDHC, MMC, MS, and USB flash drives, in addition to CompactFlash.
Of course, the DreamScreen 100 still serves as a digital picture frame displaying BMP, JPEG, and PNG files (we wish that list included TIFFs). Like other frames, it allows you to program on and off times and includes both clock (with analog and digital flavors and alarm options) and calendar functions. The DreamScreen 100 will also display the clock next to a slide show if you wish.
In our tests, the screen's display was impressive and crisp, rendering commendably accurate (if a touch cool) colors and snappy images in our slide shows. You can view slide shows with display intervals ranging from 5 seconds to 24 hours, with or without music. Audio comes from Pandora, which selects music it thinks you will like based on tastes you specify, or from your own library. Sound was a strong point in this frame: Although you won't get booming bass or extreme clarity, the DreamScreen 100 cranks out audio that's akin to most laptops, and the frame has an audio-out jack.
The DreamScreen 100 also provides a Facebook application, allowing you to view friends' updates and photos, as well as upcoming events. You cannot, however, fully browse profiles or create your own status updates on the device ("keyboard" functionality is limited to entering network and application keys and passwords via the remote). The online photo application Snapfish is integrated into the frame, so you can view online albums on the DreamScreen 100.
HP's radio feature is neat, but has a few quirks: Navigation is limited (you can search only by location or genre, not by name), so adding stations to your favorites list is a chore involving lots of drilling. The DreamScreen 100 will play MP3, PCM, WMA, and AAC audio files. It also supports MPG and MP4 video formats, both of which played smoothly and without issue in our tests.
HP claims that it plans to provide support for more applications, so hopefully we can look forward to seeing the integration of Flickr, Shutterfly, and more. And it would be especially cool if future updates include some sort of browser to allow for RSS feeds.
Macworld's buying advice
The DreamScreen 100 is stuck between two worlds: A rather small digital picture frame or an exceptionally cool, multifunctional bedside alarm/clock radio. Until the DreamScreen offers more online functionality or HP drops its price, this super frame may remain a rather expensive toy for the desktop or kitchen counter.
[Kathleen Cullen is a freelance contributor.]