Review: Parrot DIA Is A Design-Bending, Android-Running, Picture-Framing Showpiece

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The Parrot DIA is essentially a digital picture frame, but Parrot’s reputation for design bending and aesthetic pleasure (for a premium) pushes this picture-viewer way out of the competition’s frame.

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Digital photos are often left to waste away in the depths of computer hard drives to never be seen again. If they are seen, they’re usually uploaded in low quality to Facebook or archived away on Flickr. While there are tonnes of digital picture frames on the market with relatively small price tags, the DIA sets itself apart in some very key areas.

Firstly, the DIA is an unlikely Android device. The Wi-Fi-enabled 10.4 inch screen hooks up to the Internet and can browse just like a smartphone, controlled by the tiny trackball that sits atop the frame. From here it can latch onto photo content paired from Facebook, Flickr, Picasa or through email, turning stored images into displayed beauties.

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Web browsing is just one Internet-enabled function of the DIA

Most striking on the unit though are the visuals, with the nodesign team taking apart the typical screen to create a layered light-box that resembles something of a mid-90s Mac computer monitor with an edge. A thin film displays images in high resolution while a gleaming backdrop lights the frame. It’s an aesthetically pleasing design that offers something unique without being too obtrusive to casually slide into the flow of a mantelpiece or kitchen bench.

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The separation of light and picture

The flush appeal of the seamless touch-sensitive buttons on the top of the frame and the otherwise sharp, squared-off edges is slightly diminished by the SD card and USB inputs though, and we would’ve preferred seeing them tucked away behind the unit. These inputs are far from unappreciated though, adding more connectivity options to the list – especially convenient when displaying photos straight from an SD card fresh out of a camera.

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More on the connection side, the DIA also connects directly to a PC for drag-and-drop functionality, or to devices via Bluetooth. When going online via Wi-Fi, the frame can pick up images through email and can latch onto RSS feeds.

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Touch-sensitive buttons and trackball

Design takes a toll on practicality though, with the separated backlight and picture layer sapping away at colour. The picture quality could be improved on the contrast and brightness side, with the escaping light around the edges of the frame doing no justice to the high resolution of the screen. Images also take time to load up onto the screen, even if playing back directly off USB or SD card. As the photo transitions to the next, images are loaded from the top down in about a second or so. It doesn’t ruin the party, but for the price you’d expect a little more computing grunt in the back-end of the device to make everything flow.

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On an angle the light seeping is more obvious, though the picture is more luminous from front on

For something a little different, Parrot has also thrown in ‘apps’ or functions like ‘Holidays 2.0’ which takes to Google Maps in a global trek of geotagged photos. Viewers are taken on a virtual global tour as the DIA tracks along the atlas, zooming in on continents, countries, cities and exact locations from the geotag data on applicable photos. If you don’t have your own geotagged pics, Parrot has thrown in a bunch of their own to demo. It’s a fun addition and something different but, as mentioned earlier, loading times make the transitions a little less attractive at times.

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Functions for pairing social media and photoblog accounts, as well as add-ons like alarms, RSS feeds, etc

The asking price is over $500 for the luxury of displaying your hidden (and sometimes forgotten) digital memories in style. But when design overlaps practicality, a bit of the lustre starts to fade on this expensive piece of mantel-beauty. An overdose on added connectivity options easily makes up for some of the picture shortcomings though, with more options on the DIA than you’ll find on any other run-of-the-mill digital picture frame.

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