My review of the FRAMEN Play­er 2019 with Stream­ing Tech­nol­o­gy

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The FRAMEN Play­er is a 21.5-inch dig­i­tal pic­ture frame that was devel­oped in Ger­many. After recent­ly get­ting a favor­able impres­sion of the FRAMEN Pho­to App, I spent two weeks thor­ough­ly test­ing the Play­er.

Designed in Frank­furt for the world

Just as Apple prints "Designed in Cal­i­for­nia" on their prod­uct pack­ag­ing to put "Made in Chi­na" a lit­tle behind, FRAMEN can right­ly say that their pic­ture frame is a prod­uct of Frank­furt engi­neer­ing and design art.

The FRAMEN Play­er is avail­able in black and white

Advised by the engi­neer­ing office Zuehlke from Eschborn, a sub­urb of Frankfurt/Germany, the founders start­ed over a year ago to build a uni­ver­sal­ly deploy­able dig­i­tal pic­ture frame.

What makes the FRAMEN Play­er spe­cial is the stream­ing-based image stor­age solu­tion. This allows a high degree of flex­i­bil­i­ty in han­dling and play­back.

A breath of fresh air

The mar­ket for high-qual­i­­ty dig­i­tal pic­ture frames is rel­a­tive­ly small. Although there are a large num­ber of small­er pic­ture frames, there are prob­a­bly no more than ten man­u­fac­tur­ers for sizes over 20 inch­es.

The prod­uct genre, which start­ed around 2006 with lots of enthu­si­asm, was not able to impress in the years that fol­lowed with com­pelling ideas and designs. The soft­ware devel­op­ment was more of an after­thought, and most designs were mediocre, to put it mild­ly. No won­der that many dig­i­tal pic­ture frames giv­en at Christ­mas end­ed up in the draw­er.

In the last two years, how­ev­er, the mar­ket has expe­ri­enced a breath of fresh air. Prod­ucts such as Samsung's The Frame, Meural's art-sub­­scribed pic­ture frames and FRAMEN's mar­ket entry last year give hope that the mar­ket will become more sophis­ti­cat­ed.

The com­pa­ny FRAMEN gave me a FRAMEN Play­er for test­ing pur­pos­es. In addi­tion to the white frame pro­vid­ed, the pack­age also includ­ed a black remov­able frame.

My prod­uct review is based on my arti­cle "The ulti­mate 10 point check­list for buy­ing a dig­i­tal pho­to frame", where you can read in more detail about my approach.

My tests are unbi­ased. There are no finan­cial or mate­r­i­al dona­tions to be dis­closed.

Look & Feel

In addi­tion to the frame, the ship­ment includ­ed a remote con­trol with bat­ter­ies, an upright sup­port, and a wall brack­et.

The FRAMEN Play­er has a neat­ly fin­ished 57.5 cm x 37 cm inter­change­able wood­en frame, avail­able in black or white. The frame is fas­tened with six screws and can be quick­ly dis­as­sem­bled with a small coin. The remov­able frames can be pur­chased sep­a­rate­ly in white or black for € 99.

The frame comes with a white passe-partout of coat­ed card­board in a width of 2.5 cm.

The passe-partout looks very stur­dy and can be cleaned eas­i­ly with a damp cloth.

The FRAMEN Play­er has a vis­i­ble motion sen­sor inte­grat­ed into the passe-partout in the cor­ner (in the pre­vi­ous mod­el the sen­sor was still in the mid­dle) and next to it a small hole for the infrared sen­sor, which is used for the remote con­trol.

I'm not a fan of vis­i­ble sen­sors, but I read­i­ly admit that after a few days, I hard­ly noticed the sen­sors any­more.

I couldn't spot any dis­rup­tive LED lights in the front or back.

The ini­tial set­up is a bit tedious with the remote con­trol until the WiFi con­nec­tion is estab­lished. After that, most func­tions can be used via the app, and the IR remote con­trol can be put away. A short man­u­al would be help­ful.

The dis­play

The screen has a diag­o­nal screen size of 21.5 inch­es, so it is 47.5 cm wide and 26.6 cm long.

The res­o­lu­tion is 1920 x 1080 pix­els, which cor­re­sponds to a pix­el den­si­ty of 102 pix­els per inch (val­ues around 90 are good, high­er is bet­ter). This results in a sharp mon­i­tor.

The aspect ratio is indus­try-stan­­dard 16:9, which is suit­able for video play­back (which FRAMEN Play­er is not yet capa­ble of) and dig­i­tal sig­nage appli­ca­tions.

For the pre­sen­ta­tion of pho­tographs tak­en with an aspect ratio of 3:2, it requires about 15% crop, unless you accept that the images are shown with side­bars, which doesn't look very nice.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it is a prob­lem of the dig­i­tal pho­to frame mar­ket that there are hard­ly any frames over 20 inch­es that have an aspect ratio that is suit­able for stan­dard 3:2 pho­tog­ra­phy. Pho­tog­ra­phers can only choose self-build solu­tions, but the avail­abil­i­ty of 16:10 mon­i­tors also con­tin­ues to decline.

The man­u­fac­tur­er indi­cates the screen as mat­te, but I found it some­what glossy. The light reflec­tions were stronger com­pared with a matt mon­i­tor from ASUS but with­in an accept­able range.

The col­ors are rather neu­tral. In a direct com­par­i­son with a (much more expen­sive) col­or-cal­i­brat­ed iMac mon­i­tor, a sub­tle dif­fer­ence was notice­able in the red tones.

Front view: To the left the FRAMEN Play­er, to the right an Apple iMac

The view­ing angle sta­bil­i­ty was less con­vinc­ing. The dis­play is an IPS type and should have an issue with this.

How­ev­er, col­ors and black tones seemed some­what fad­ed and low in con­trast when viewed from the side. A com­par­i­son with oth­er mon­i­tors con­firmed the less pleas­ing view­ing angle sta­bil­i­ty of the FRAMEN Play­er.

Side view: FRAMEN Play­er to the left, Apple iMac to the right

The FRAMEN Play­er comes with a wall fix­ing that allows both hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal mount­ing. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant for busi­ness appli­ca­tions.

Com­put­er Hard­ware

Inside the FRAMEN Play­er is a mod­ern Android board.

There is no fan, and the noise lev­el is 0 dB. Even the pow­er sup­ply, which some­times pro­duces a buzzing noise with sim­pler mod­els, is silent.

The onboard WiFi sup­ports both 2.4 and 5 GHz, which is espe­cial­ly use­ful for the FRAMEN's stream­ing tech­nol­o­gy.

There are var­i­ous con­nec­tors on the back, but they are for main­te­nance pur­pos­es only. Images are always trans­ferred wire­less­ly, so you don't need a USB port or SD card slot.

The FRAMEN Play­er is very flat but comes with an exter­nal pow­er sup­ply. If you want to use a mains con­nec­tion direct­ly behind the frame, this is unfa­vor­able, because the pow­er sup­ply is not built into the mon­i­tor. Since the wall mount­ing of the frame cre­ates a cer­tain dis­tance to the wall any­way, you may hide be able to hide the pow­er sup­ply behind it.

Image Man­age­ment

In this are the FRAMEN Play­er starts to shine. The soft­ware is one of the best I've seen in this appli­ca­tion.

Since it can also be used with oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers and for DIY projects, I have an in-depth review in my post "The FRAMEN soft­ware suite for dig­i­tal pho­to frames, tele­vi­sions and mobile devices".

FRAMEN uses stream­ing tech­nol­o­gy and uploads all images to Ama­zon and Deutsche Telekom cloud servers. From there they are then sent by playlist to the con­nect­ed pic­ture frames.

Images can be uploaded very con­ve­nient­ly to playlists either via the mobile app or via the brows­er on any plat­form. The eas­i­est way to do this on your mobile is via Cam­era Roll, where you can pick your favorite pic­tures.

I pre­fer upload­ing via the brows­er, but this also works very swift­ly.

In the free FRAMEN Pho­to App, you can upload as many pic­tures as you like at the same time. When upload­ing via brows­er, only 20 images can be uploaded at a time, but that is not too much of a nui­sance. The stor­age lim­it is 2 GB, which equals about 1000 pic­tures. If you need more, you can get a sub­scrip­tion.

It is just as easy to delete images. You can also share playlists with oth­er peo­ple ("Pub­lic Link") and allow them to upload their images. Sort of a "Fam­i­ly & Friends" fea­ture.

FRAMEN offers over one hun­dred thou­sand free stock images sort­ed by cat­e­gories.

There is no inter­face with Drop­box or Google Pho­tos. But the FRAMEN Play­er solu­tion is so com­fort­able that I don't see this as a down­side.

With the stream­ing solu­tion, you are not bound to a spe­cif­ic loca­tion, as you do not com­mu­ni­cate direct­ly with the frame, but always with the "cloud." The cloud then con­trols the deliv­ery to the FRAMEN Play­er.

Videos are cur­rent­ly not sup­port­ed. In a lat­er release, this may be the case.

Image play­back options

As already com­ment­ed in my arti­cle about the FRAMEN soft­ware, there is still room for improve­ment con­cern­ing the play­back con­trol.

As already com­ment­ed in my arti­cle about the FRAMEN soft­ware, there is still room for improve­ment con­cern­ing the play­back con­trol.

Cur­rent­ly, only one playlist can be select­ed. Accord­ing to FRAMEN, mul­ti­s­e­lec­tion is on the devel­op­ment agen­da, but not yet imple­ment­ed.

Also, pho­to playlists fol­low the defined order; a shuf­fle play option would be very desir­able.

Frame con­trol with the FRAMEN Pho­to App

The FRAMEN Play­er only offers to fade to black between two images. I much pre­fer a cross-fade for pri­vate users. For busi­ness cus­tomers, how­ev­er, this point is less rel­e­vant.

The slideshow delays can be set from five sec­onds to 24 hours. You can also pause an image, which is very con­ve­nient.

The FRAMEN Play­er dis­plays the name of the pho­tog­ra­ph­er for stock images or the name of the uploader for own images in small let­ters in the low­er right cor­ner. This is because of the agree­ment with the pho­tog­ra­phers.

Images can be dis­played in full-screen mode, or with bars if the aspect ratio of the pho­to does not match the frame's for­mat.

Also, images can be rotat­ed.

On the mobile app, you can see at any time which pic­ture is cur­rent­ly shown on the pic­ture frame or frames. The func­tion is very well imple­ment­ed and most handy.

Add images and con­trol of the dig­i­tal pic­ture frames

Gen­er­al frame con­trol and oper­a­tion

The FRAMEN Play­er includes a remote con­trol which is only need­ed for switch­ing the frame on and off after the ini­tial set­up. All oth­er func­tions can be accessed via the FRAMEN Pho­to App. This also includes the bright­ness con­trol of the screen.

The Play­er has a motion detec­tor that can turn the frame on and off. In the sys­tem set­tings, you will need the remote con­trol again, and the delay can be set. Select Dis­play -> Human Sen­sor.

There is cur­rent­ly no inter­face to Ama­zon Alexa or Google Home.

Ener­gy effi­cien­cy

I mea­sured 23 watts in nor­mal play­back mode and less than 1 watt in stand­by mode. This is a good rat­ing.

Cabling

The FRAMEN Play­er has an exter­nal pow­er sup­ply with a rel­a­tive­ly unob­tru­sive 2m cable. A flat cable ver­sion is not offered.

Pric­ing and sub­scrip­tion ser­vices

The FRAMEN Play­er comes at €499. I could not find a reduced street price. The play­er can be pur­chased either direct­ly from FRAMEN or online.

You do not need a sub­scrip­tion for nor­mal use. The free pack­age is lim­it­ed to about 1000 pic­tures and three con­nect­ed play­ers. That should be enough for most peo­ple.

Above that, there is a pre­mi­um pack­age for €119 per year, which allows ten play­ers, 100GB mem­o­ry (approx. 50 000 images) and 1000 pic­tures per upload at the same time.

Espe­cial­ly for occa­sions such as wed­dings, the Event Pack­age offers the same fea­tures as Pre­mi­um but can be sub­scribed to month­ly as a short-term sub­scrip­tion for €19.

Con­clu­sion

The FRAMEN Play­er is a very durable dig­i­tal pic­ture frame, that is pow­ered by a com­pelling soft­ware.

It may even become the per­fect soft­ware for dig­i­tal pic­ture frames if the issues I men­tioned like playlist selec­tion, shuf­fle play, and image tran­si­tions are being addressed in future releas­es.

When rec­om­mend­ing a pho­to frame, the intend­ed use is cru­cial.

From where I stand, the FRAMEN Play­er is very well qual­i­fied for busi­ness appli­ca­tions and events. It is stur­dy, has well-engi­neered soft­ware, is easy to use, and is high­ly ver­sa­tile. It also offers con­tin­u­ous tele­mon­i­tor­ing of all con­nect­ed frames. For dig­i­tal sig­nage appli­ca­tions, this is a much cheap­er alter­na­tive than the cur­rent ones.

I am some­what unde­cid­ed when it comes to rec­om­mend­ing this for home use or pho­tog­ra­phers. On the one hand, the soft­ware is per­fect for fam­i­lies and friends. On the oth­er hand, the qual­i­ty of the screen mer­its an upgrade.

But any­one who has tried the stream­ing tech­nol­o­gy with their pic­ture frames is unlike­ly to go back to local stor­age.

Stream­ing makes man­ag­ing your pho­tos, the weak point of many dig­i­tal pho­to frames, very easy.

For a pic­ture frame gets bet­ter with reg­u­lar image updates and a high vol­ume of pho­tos. And the eas­i­er this process is made for the user, the more he will enjoy his image play­er - both in busi­ness and pri­vate life.

In this regard, the FRAMEN Play­er sets new stan­dards.