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Lifewire / Danny Chadwick
Displays pictures smoothly and clearly
Connects to social media and cloud storage
Compatible with SD cards and USB devices
If this device cost $50, we’d recommend that you buy three of them. However, you’ll get a lot more for you dollar if you go with the competition.
The Pix-Star Fotoconnect XD has been around since 2012, so it’s not exactly new tech. If you’re used to high-definition displays, a snappy interface, and seamless integration with your mobile devices, you may feel like you’ve gone back in time with this digital photo frame.
Nevertheless, it displays your pictures clearly and smoothly, and has physical connection ports that aren’t available in other products at this price point. It also easily syncs with your social media photo albums. If you don’t mind a slightly retro user experience, it gets the job done. The main problem is the price.
The Pix-Star FotoConnect comes in both 10-inch and 15-inch sizes. Our testing model was the 10-inch version. The frame itself is plain, black plastic that will match nicely with almost any home decor. Ideally, you’ll want to place it near an electrical outlet where you can easily hide the power cord—a black wire strung across the wall would spoil its understated style.
You control the frame via a simple candy-bar-shaped remote control. The remote is mostly self-explanatory, and the only functions that need special instruction are the send and receive email buttons (even those take about one minute to master). Using the remote feels like a throwback, even if it is straightforward, but this is the overall nature of the FotoConnect XD.
There are multiple ways to get your digital photos onto this frame, and the variety of connectivity options is by far this device’s most compelling feature. Once the FotoConnect XD is connected to Wi-Fi, you can upload your images to Pix-Star’s website and they’ll automatically sync to the frame.
The variety of connectivity options is by far this device’s most compelling feature.
The website also allows you to sync photo albums from online services and social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Flickr, and more. This is especially convenient because once you sync an online photo album, the frame will display new posts or uploads automatically.
You also have the option to email images directly to the frame. We like this feature because it allows you to give the frame’s email address to anyone you like. Family and friends can instantly share photos to your frame—and you can send your photos to theirs—seamlessly and privately.
The FotoConnect also includes physical ports for SD cards and USB devices, so you can display images directly from your camera’s card or from a flash drive. The USB port will only work with storage-only devices—in our testing, we tried hooking up a smartphone to the USB port and the FotoConnect was unable to display photos from it.
Based on our experience using this device, we think the best way to sync photos to the FotoConnect is via the Pix-Star Snap app, which is available for both iOS and Android. It’s a simple app that lets you send pictures, video, and audio messages from your mobile device directly to your frame. We found it odd that Pix-Star doesn’t push the app more, and that it focuses so much on older technology like email.
Don’t let the simplicity of the frame fool you: this is not a plug-and-play device. It took us about an hour to set it up and get familiar with all its features. Setting up the actual hardware out of the box took about two minutes, most of which involved opening and installing the remote’s AAA batteries and the frame’s AC power adapter. But the rest took a little bit longer.
Even by 2012’s standards, this device’s interface would be antiquated.
The most time-consuming part of the process was using the remote to input the Wi-Fi password (this is a pain if you have a strong one). By default, the digital keyboard is laid out ABC style instead of QWERTY, which is confusing and jarring, and there’s a toggle button hiding in the bottom right corner that we missed our first time through. If you happen to have a USB keyboard, we recommend connecting that to the frame and using it instead of the remote to set up the hardware.
Once it was connected to the internet, the frame prompted us to go to Pix-Star’s website, create an account, and register our frame. When we did this, we got to choose a Pix-Star username that we’d use to send and receive photos through the frame.
Note that your frame will be linked to your username, so if you ever want to give away your FotoConnect or sell it, you’ll have to contact Pix-Star to disassociate your account from the hardware.
The Pix-Star FotoConnect XD has an LCD display with a resolution of 600 x 800 pixels, roughly the image quality that you would expect from a DVD player. It doesn’t deliver the fine details and rich colors you get with an iPad or Samsung Galaxy, but the screen looked crisp and clear in our testing, and the motion of the transitions, effects, and zooms were as smooth as could be expected.
We never noticed any pixelation, compression artifacts, or other distortion that would distract you from the image on the screen.
Note: Pix-Star has since released a new version of the 10-inch FotoConnect that has a higher-resolution 1024 x 768 display.
During our testing, we used hundreds of images of various resolutions, from scanned photos and older digital cameras to HD images captured with today’s newest technology. We never noticed any pixelation, compression artifacts, or other distortion that would distract you from the image on the screen.
The FotoConnect has built-in speakers directly under the display. In testing, the sound was listenable, but our music was muted and the audio in general lacked the volume and body necessary for room-filling audio. This isn’t surprising considering this device’s size and price.
The FotoConnet’s user interface feels incredibly dated. Even by 2012’s standards, this interface would be antiquated. It is frustrating to use at first, but once you’ve learned its flow and idiosyncrasies, it’s usable enough. The mobile app and website feel much more modern and functional, but they still lack some of the polish you’d expect from services in 2019.
There are a couple of extras in the FotoConnect’s software, including eight games that you can play with the remote control. They’re mostly classic favorites like Snake, Sudoku, and Minesweeper. Sliding Puzzle is the only one that uses your pictures in-game, so we thought that was the most fun. The rest are fine if you’re bored, but they aren’t exactly party-pleasers.
If the FotoConnect XD was around $50, it would make all the flaws in this device tolerable. However, at the time of this writing, the FotoConnect retails for about $150. This is far too expensive for a device with so many antiquated features.
We tested this digital photo frame side-by-side with the Nixplay Seed. They’re about the same price on Amazon, but the Nixplay Seed outperforms the FotoConnect in almost every way. From the display resolution and interface to the remote and mobile app—it’s not even a contest. The only advantage the FotoConnect has over the Seed is that the Seed lacks physical connectivity ports for SD cards and USB flash drives.
The Pix-Star FotoConnect’s aging tech is too difficult to overcome.
We would have been a lot more forgiving of this frame’s flaws a decade ago. But today, despite the FotoConnect’s great connectivity and syncing capabilities, it’s hard to recommend this device at its current price point.