Digital Spectrum MF-801 - Review
GREAT NEWS FOR OWNERS OF DIGITAL SPECTRUM FRAMES!
If you have been frustrated by the lack of support from Digital Spectrum for your Digital Spectrum digital frame (ex., MF 801, MF 1040, MV 1500, etc.), HELP is now available!
Since there is no longer a person available to answer calls for Digital Spectrum, the head of sales and business development for Vodality (a digital sign company with digital frame roots) is willing to answer questions and provide support for Digital Spectrum digital frame owners!
Email your concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org and please leave a phone number where you can be reached for a return call.
If the frame is under warranty (one year), it can be repaired at no charge and returned to you but you will have to pay the shipping charges to get it there.
If the frame is out of warranty, you will receive a repair quote and you will be responsible for the shipping charges both ways. In most cases, this will probably be less expensive solution than buying a new frame.
Additionally, parts for many of the frames, such as adapters, remotes, and stands are still available on line at the DSI Store.
I would appreciate your feedback about this service, which should prove very helpful to many of the visitors to my site.
UPDATE: Digital Spectrum - The Phaseout of Consumer Digital Frames
Digital Spectrum has discontinued manufacturing digital frames for consumers. The company's main focus now is the expansion of its Commercial Digital Signage division. Personal digital frames that are still in inventory will be available for sale on the company's website until they are gone.
This has implications for those who already have Digital Spectrum consumer digital frames or those who were planning to buy them in the future. It will become more and more difficult to find the frames, parts and accessories, though it will be a very long time before Amazon or eBay also run out.
Tech support may not be available. You can always contact me, however, if you have a technical problem with a Digital Spectrum frame. I will do my best to come up with a viable solution for you.
The Frame Appearance of the Digital Spectrum MF-801 (one of Digital Spectrum's ULTRA series of digital frames)
The general appearance of the frame of the Digital Spectrum MF-801 is very pleasing. The frame mechanism itself is stylishly thin. The included reddish-brown wooden frame, combined with either of the 2 interchangeable magnetic bezels or faceplates, presents a traditional look that could easily fit into almost any décor.
The memory card slot, USB flash and mini USB ports are on the left of the back of the Digital Spectrum MF-801 frame. The joystick and Menu and Back buttons are on the right. Both of these areas are indented making them easy to access, especially if the frame is to be hung on the wall. There is also an On/Off switch on the back. (This switch should remain in the On position in order to use the On/Off function of the Remote).
Installing the Included Wooden Frame of the Digital Spectrum MF-801:
The instructions for installing the included wood frame were very clear. However, I would highly recommend that if this digital frame is intended to be given to a person with large hands and fingers, a frail, elderly person or someone with arthritis, the frame and a faceplate should be installed prior to gifting.
The main reason for this is that there is not a lot of room to pop in the 2 included thumbscrews and also to tighten them. I actually couldn’t find the thumbscrews when I first opened the package. Then I saw they were already in their proper holes, rather than in a plastic bag as shown in the Quick Start Guide.
Additionally, I would like to have had some way to fasten the remaining two corners of the frame mechanism to the wood frame. The digital frame certainly won’t fall out, but a closer look will show that the other 2 sides are not completely flat up against the screen. This may detract just a bit from the appearance of an otherwise very sturdy and well-constructed digital frame.
Style Flexibility with “Off-The-Shelf Photo Frames:
The frame mechanism of the Digital Spectrum MF-801 can be made to fit into almost any 8"x10" “off-the-shelf” photo frame, affording an extra degree of flexibility in style. The Manual suggests looking for a “frame mounting guide” on the website, but the information can actually be found in the included Quick Start Guide. (I could not find the frame mounting guide on the website). I personally like the look of the included frame and faceplates, but I was able to make an ordinary 8x10 frame work as well.
The opening between the Digital Spectrum MF-801 digital frame and a store-bought frame can be adjusted with either the included rubber piping to fill any gaps or with 2 adhesive tabs also included. (I assume the adhesive tabs would be used for a more permanent installation.)
Installing Magnetic Faceplates (Bezels) on the Digital Spectrum MF-801:
Installing and uninstalling the magnetic faceplates (black plastic and off-white matte board included) was a cinch. The magnetic clips on the frame grab the faceplates tightly. At first I was concerned about how one faceplate could be removed to change to the other if the little bezel remover was lost. The Manual suggested that a paper clip could be used. (I tried it and it worked fine).
There is also a plastic covering applied to the black plastic faceplate (for scratch protection) that should be removed carefully before applying the faceplate to the frame. (There will be a piece of tape showing exactly where to start pulling off the covering).
The chrome stand of the Digital Spectrum MF-801 is very well-made and adjustable for either a portrait or a landscape view. The stand itself also has a thumbscrew for further adjustments.
The keyhole type attachment helped in initially setting up the stand and adjusting it into either landscape or portrait view was easy. The stand should not be turned clockwise or more than six notches counter-clockwise, so as not to damage the casing.
I was at first confused about how to put the stand back to landscape orientation from portrait if it can’t be turned clockwise. I found the information was more clear in the Manual than it was in the Quick Start Guide.
The stand should not be turned clockwise, UNLESS it is to return to the landscape orientation from portrait. The important point to remember is not to turn it clockwise past the insertion point.
The Digital Spectrum MF-801 is also wall-mountable, if desired, and the necessary screw and anchor are included. Unfortunately, there is only one screw hole, making the landscape orientation the only option for hanging the frame.
IMAGE DISPLAY QUALITY
I have absolutely no complaints about the clarity of the image that can be viewed on the screen of the Digital Spectrum MF-801 digital frame!
Screen Resolution: The 800x600 resolution in the viewing area of approximately 5”x7” makes for an absolutely beautiful slideshow of images. The Digital Spectrum MF-801 definitely excels in this area.
Aspect Ratio: On-Screen Menu Controls, available from the Remote and also from the Joystick Button Control on the back of the frame, allow for pictures to be displayed in either a portrait or landscape orientation.
The orientation of the pictures in a slideshow can be adjusted to either landscape or portrait. The resulting change will apply to all the pictures in a slideshow. The option for changing the orientation of just one picture is only available when transferring pictures to the internal memory of the frame (512MB). In that case, the orientation of an individual picture can be changed and then copied, saved and stored internally as part of a slideshow on the frame.
Brightness, Contrast and Color: The brightness, contrast, tint and color can all be adjusted from the Remote or Joystick buttons through the On-Screen Menu Controls. Pressing the Menu button will stop the slideshow and the settings that are selected will apply to all the pictures in that slideshow. The settings option can also be accessed through the Settings Menu.
Viewing Angle: The Digital Spectrum MF-801 has a very impressive viewing angle. There was just a slight darkening of images viewed farther to the left or the right of the center of the frame but it was hardly noticeable because the images were so bright and clear.
Screen Backlighting Display: The TFT LCD display produces an excellent quality picture – sharp and clear.
Screen Surface: The screen has a diagonal measurement of 8.4” as specified and this translates to an actual viewing area of approximately 5”x7”. The screen surface is not glass so glare is not a problem with this frame.
METHODS OF CONNECTIVITY for the Digital Spectrum MF-801:
USB port to connect to devices such as thumb/flash drives, card readers and cameras.
miniUSB port to connect to PC for transfer of images to the internal memory.
Built in memory card reader.
Downloading images to the internal memory of the frame with the included USB cable worked with no hitch. However, when I installed a USB flashdrive directly onto the frame, it wasn’t as responsive and actually froze up once. The flashdrive also sticks out a bit from the back of the frame, detracting from the frame’s appearance.
I had no problem at all with the frame reading any of the supported memory cards I inserted. Since my preference is for memory cards anyway, this little glitch did not bother me at all (and may have had more to do with operator error than a malfunction of the frame!).
SUPPORTED FILE TYPES
Memory Card Formats:MMC (Multi Media Card, SD(Secure Digital Card), XD Picture Card and MS (Memory Stick).
Just a note for the large, elderly and arthritic again…It is not difficult to get a memory card into the built-in slot on the frame but because of the small area, it is a little more of a chore to get it out again. Luckily, memory cards come with fingernail slots at the bottom which can pretty much solve this problem.
Picture Formats:JPG, BMP (although I found only some of my BMP files would work).
Audio Files: WMA (Windows Media Files) and MP3
I found it very easy to set up an audio-accompanied slideshow with just a glance or two at the Manual. Once set up, you have only to press the Music button on the Remote and the slideshow with music begins. A word of caution...For a photo slideshow to play music, the photo and audio files must be on the SAME memory source. The same is true for video slideshows with music.
My preference is to take my favorite CDs (rather than downloading songs from the Internet) and convert them to MP3s to use as backgrounds for slideshows on my digital frames. (Programs for doing this can be found all over the Internet).
The specs for this frame state that WMA files are the only ones supported but the frame was able to read my MP3s very satisfactorily. The sound was better than I expected from a digital frame but a little on the “tinny side.” I found that if I lowered the volume (from the buttons on the Remote control), I could add a very pleasant musical background to my slideshows.
I was delighted to find that the video files from my camera could be displayed (audio and all) on the frame. Again, I found it very easy to set up a video slideshow.
After inserting a memory card with video files on it, use the back button on the remote to get back the main menu and choose "video files." From there choose the place where the files reside (internal memory, memory card, flash drive, etc.). Then just press the enter button and the video files you choose will be displayed.
PICTURE FUNCTIONS and ADVANCED FEATURES:
For a frame of this size and priced under $100, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of picture functions and advanced features that are available for the Digital Spectrum MF-801, all easily accessible from On-Screen Menu Controls or from the Settings menu.
A complimentary automatic slideshow is included in the internal memory of the Digital Spectrum MF-801 frame.
This slideshow will continue until another memory source such as a memory card or a flashdrive is inserted and then an automatic slideshow from that memory source will begin.
On-Screen Menu System:
This system can be accessed during any slideshow by pressing the Menu button on the Remote or on the Joystick assembly on the back of the frame. The slideshow will stop on a picture until the changes have been made.
The brightness, contrast, tint and color controls as well as the slideshow intervals (slow-10 seconds, normal-5 seconds, fast-3 seconds) and the 7 slideshow transitions will continue to be in effect until they are changed again through the On Screen Menu or by resetting to the frame defaults through the Settings Menu.
Rotate and Zoom/Pan:
The rotate and zoom/pan functions are only available for one picture at a time and will automatically reset back to the default setting when the slideshow is finished or starts again.
When the frame orientation is changed to either landscape or portrait, the setting will remain until reset through the On-Screen Menu Controls or the Settings Menu on the remote.
The remote control is well-constructed and is responsive and easy to navigate. One really nice feature not found in a lot of frames is that the remote control can be stored magnetically on the back of the frame. There is a magnetic strip on the back of the remote that conveniently attaches to a magnetic spot on the back of the frame.
The range of the remote is surprisingly long (although of course, you must be in front and pointing at the sensor at the top of the faceplate). I was still able to operate the frame with the remote from one end of a 12’ room to the other.
After pressing the On button on the Remote, there is an approximate three to four second delay until the Digital Spectrum logo appears on the screen and the frame starts reading the memory source.
The frame can be turned on and off from the Remote but you must remember to switch the button on the back of the frame to On first in order to enable this feature.
From the Settings menu, one can make changes to the slideshow transition and interval, the image size displayed, audio and video repeat functions, picture copy type, date and time settings, auto power on and off, adjust the LCD color, change the language for the menus, change the frame orientation to landscape or portrait and reset all settings to default.
Recognition of Files and Folders:
The capability of the Digital Spectrum MF-801 frame to recognize files and folders is a great feature. Just highlight a folder and the thumbnail images contained in that folder will be shown moving from right to left at the bottom of the screen. This feature allows the user to go directly to a particular folder to start the slideshow, rather than going through thousands of photos first.
Delete and Copy Images:
It is also possible to delete an image or copy an image to the internal memory from an external source directly from the frame. This means that no PC connection is needed.
One feature that I particularly like is the Picture Copy Type feature available on the File Menu. Pictures from cameras with high resolution can sometimes be very large. It is not necessary to have such high density to display on this frame. When the Resize option is chosen, the pictures sent to the internal memory will be resized to the frame’s specifications. This usually results in reducing the image storage or storing more images in internal memory.
The display size of images from external storage devices can also be set to Original or Optimal pictures. I found that the pictures were displayed slightly better when I chose Optimal.
Auto Power On and Off and On-Screen Language Choices:
Auto Power On and Off is available as well as changing the language for On Screen Menus from English to French or Spanish.
The use of the Joystick button control is something that is indeed intuitive as the Manual states but I found that I personally like the Remote better. I don’t think the Joystick buttons would be an easy option for units hung on the wall. On the other hand, since the Joystick buttons are larger, this could be a welcome option for anyone with hand or finger problems.
Calendar/Clock with Slideshow:
The calendar/clock with slideshow can be a welcome addition to any digital frame and the Digital Spectrum MF-801 has both. By combining two products in one, the value of both is increased. The date and time, an On/Off control for music with the calendar and an auto power On and Off setting are all programmable on this frame.
There is only an option for a digital, not an analog clock display above the calendar. The slideshow, with or without music, plays on the right side of the clock/calendar in a reduced size.
I wish the manufacturer had included an easier way to reset the date and time, since the settings (which involve a lot of button action) are lost when the frame is powered off. Nonetheless, the clock/calendar feature is a nice add-on.
I found it is necessary to scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click on the large light area (that looks like another advertisement and does not look clickable) and then I was redirected to the main
Digital Spectrum website.
This is actually where I found the information about all the Digital Spectrum frames, wireless and non-wireless, and I had no problem registering my Digital Spectrum MF-801 digital frame.
The display itself is very sharp and clear and the included frame and faceplates are very pleasing to the eye and well-constructed, as is the adjustable chrome stand.
Very little technical ability is required to begin using the frame’s advanced features and once they are learned, they become quite intuitive.
This frame would make an excellent gift that could easily be personalized.
If the frame was just being used for its photo slideshow display features, I would have to highly recommend it simply for the quality of the picture, the ease of use and its very pleasing style.
But the Digital Spectrum MF-801 has a surprising number of advanced features, including audio and video options. My feeling is that once a slideshow with background music is experienced, it may be difficult to ever be satisfied again by simply viewing images transitioning on a screen!
Whether you purchase this frame for your own personal use or as a gift, I think you will be very satisfied with its features, performance and price.
Please click on the following link to find the Digital Spectrum MF-801 at Amazon.com.
Digital Spectrum MF-801