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OhGizmo Review: eStarling 2.0 Unboxing And First Impressions (Part 1)

By Evan Ackerman

It may have taken several months, but eStarling (through Thinkgeek.com) has finally gotten around to replacing their slightly ugly, frequently unreliable, and just generally inadequate version 1.0 frames, of which I was a disappointed owner. If you haven’t heard of the eStarling frame, in a nutshell it’s a digital picture frame that connects to your wireless network and will download pictures by itself, from an email address or RSS feed. I was full of excitement when I unpacked my first eStarling frame, and now, well, let’s call it apprehension tempered by cautious optimism. Here we go…

eStarling 2.0

Read on, after the jump.

First impressions: according to the box, there’s another ugly logo on the front of the frame. We were promised NO LOGOS. What the heck? Fortunately, the logo on the frame on the box isn’t actually present on the frame itself. Phew. The finish on the bezel is a nice glossy black, much less plasticky looking than the 1.0. The box contains the frame, a power adapter, a stand, and a USB cable. Thinkgeek thoughtfully included a UPS postage sticker for returning the old frame. And, thank heavens, there’s no giant ugly wifi antenna.

eStarling 2.0

Boy that’s shiny, and a real fingerprint magnet. Oh well, the whole point of this thing is that nobody has to touch it once it’s set up. Setting up the last one took me 6 hours of phone calls, emails, banging my head against the wall, banging the frame against the wall, and prayer (and I was one of the lucky ones, in that my frame did work eventually). Let’s see how it goes this time around.

I power up the frame, and plug it into my laptop with the USB cable. Windows recognizes it as a storage drive… Looks like it’s got about 120mb of onboard memory. Not great, but not bad. Following prompts appearing on the frame, I look for the installation software on the CD, realize that no CD was actually included (?), and download the software from the eStarling website and run it. It immediately picks up my home wireless network, that’s a good sign! For what it’s worth, my internal WiFi card can’t see my network (since the router is upstairs), so things are looking good as far as WiFi range and connectivity goes. I have 128 bit WEP encryption on, so I enter my key into the software, and click the setup button. And wait…

[...An hour goes by...]

No #@^% Internet connection! I have tried a rather impractical number of WEP settings, WPA settings, and unsecured settings on both my router and the frame. I have run the setup program any number of times. It’s possible (I guess) that it’s my network here, since it can be a bit sketchy at times, but at the moment it’s completely unsecured (and my computer and two others connect just fine). Beyond that, the frame has frozen during setup at least once. Scratch that, looks like twice now.

eStarling 2.0

Sigh. I so very much want this thing to do what it’s supposed to. But so far, it’s not looking good. Tomorrow I’ll try it on a different network and see if that makes a difference (my networkmates I’m sure want to lynch me by now for messing up their Internet), but regardless, I feel like the frame should be able to connect to anything my computer can connect to, especially an open, unsecured network.

In summary, so far: the look is much improved, as is the wireless range. I’m remaining open to the possibility that my home network is somehow incompatible. Last time I had problems, eStarling was actually very helpful, so I’m not dreading tech support (if it comes to that). Props also to Thinkgeek.com, who have been apologetic and accommodating from first to last. Stay tuned for Part 2, where this thing either works or it doesn’t and I ask permission to creatively destroy it.








  • http://www.wirelesspictureframe.com Sam Costello

    Hmm. Too bad to hear that the new eStarling is having these problems. I’ve read about the same connection issues you mention on other sites – looks like it could be widespread. If folks are interested in what eStarling’s been thinking about the problems with their first frame and how they hoped to fix it in the second, I did an interview with their Exec VP a little while back: http://www.wirelesspictureframe.com/2007/05/08/interview-with-andrew-caffey-executive-vice-president-pf-digital/

  • http://blog.garrettvonk.com Garrett Vonk

    I want to know why they *insist* on making their screens with a widescreen aspect ratio. I’d bet 97% of all amateur (family, etc.) photos are shot in either 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratio. I’m just not going to buy a product for displaying my photos 24 hours a day that is shaped like 0% of my photos.

  • http://subaru-jump.pasqualesusedcars.info/club-car-management-team.htm Myron

    Interesting…

  • az

    Your review is identical to my current setup process. Why it is so difficult to connect to a wifi network, I have no idea.

  • http://hyundai-hc20401.homeromeo.info/honda-of-statesville.htm Thanasios

    Interesting…

  • http://www.digivista.com.au/ Digital Photo Frames

    Yes !! I agree with Garrett – I think the widely available 7 inch LCD is the most popular solely because its the cheapest and most mass produced from china – which is where these products are ultimately sourced from. The 4:3 aspect 8 inch models and also 10.4 inch models out there are infinitely more practical than these 7 inch widescreen 16:9 products…

  • Alistair

    I had corresponded with them just before Christmas last year and mentioned that I would be interested if they took the Logo off. However, seeing the debacle that surrounded the sub-par hardware and thought behind the product, I am glad I didn’t get involved. But I am curious – your article twice mentioned a Part 2, but I can’t find it. Does this mean you didn’t get it working?

  • Simon Lancaster

    I just bought one of the eStarling 2.0 frames and it worked like a charm. it didn’t detect my network right away but as soon as I connected it to my PC with the software I was able to set up my wifi network (and it had all the security options: WEP, WPA, etc…). After that I just emailed a batch of photos to the frame and within 5 minutes they were being displayed! Excellent product!

  • James

    Hmmm, bought the first one for my parents for christmas. Had the bad experience everyone has, but then Thinkgeek had it replaced with the ‘updated’ version. I was not able to help my non-geek parents set it up, so I was happy to have my 64 year old mother call me to say it was easy to do. They set up the frame on a wall 50 ft from the wifi, and they absolutely LOVE it. My brother and I, who live 1000s of miles from our parents, email pictures on a weekly basis. They love, so I suppose that is all that matters.

  • Anonymous

    Note that v2.0 frames came out 05/07, anything prior to this is not a v2.0 frame.

  • http://nickpaivaportfolio.blogspot.com IKARUS

    WOW is this thing a piece of SHIT!! I got my frame in 2 weeks after I ordered it, that was mostly UPS’s fault, however thanks to eStarling’s lack of customer care they did NOTHING to find out where my frame was when UPS told me they had no clue where it was.

    Here is my overall take of my nightmare with eStarling.

    If I could describe the overall build quality of the frame I would ask one to first construct a similar frame from popsical sticks and wood glue. When you are finished you will most likely end up with a product with better quality than the toy plastic rickety eStarling frame!

    My frame arrived and looked as if one of eStarling’s employees left it to their 6 year old to explore, or a monkey, either way the frame was completely ripped off the monitor unit!! HOW does that even make it through any sort of quality control? I’ll tell you how, there is none!!

    Surprisingly the frame turned on, despite my elevated blood pressure and sudden urge to throw it through a wall, I wanted to see how it worked software wise.

    I connected my frame to my PC via USB, frame recognized it was attached to a PC, so far so good. I download the third party software that is required to even get the frame to run wirelessly. Go figure the software didn’t run thanks to bad programming, I tried this on 3 PCs, when I called eStarling to ask WTF the deal was, they said “thats not our issue, its the company that wrote the software and they are working on it”, THUS rendering the whole reason why I bought this big heaping pile of dog shit completely moot!!.

    Way to go eStarling.

    PS I sent the frame in last Monday (Jan 7th) second day air. It is now Jan 15th and I still don’t have my money back. THEY ARE QUICK!!!!

  • Eric

    Well being a sucker for cool features I did fall for the eStarling 2.0 8″ frame…

    Got the box overnight, no probs, apprehension kicked in due to some of the funky reviews this thing has gotten…

    Opened the box, hooked it up, filled in the blanks, and 15 min after opening the box I had photo’s from friends popping up on the screen.

    Tried a random RSS feed from a friends Flickr collection… And although this took 3 tries before I got the right rss feed type it worked like a dream after that, a little slow on the download for those (had to wait 8min before 1st pic showed up).

    Tested the e-mail message function, works

    Tested the frame to e-mail function, works (be it a slightly pointless function from my perspective)

    So now I’m kinda surprised what the problems where. So I reset the whole thing, take it to a friends house and try to screw it all up… Couldn’t manage it… No matter how backwards I follow the instructions this thing seems to just, well, work…

    So I guess that eStarling and co has managed to work through any probs that existed.

    Couple of feature requests:
    Network ID, in the list on the router it just shows up as a MAC address (which is on a sticker on the back in there defence)
    On the site it should display who e-mailed which picture (it’s guess work right now, to great amusement of my friends)
    An off button, you can only either pull the plug or use the time on/off setting.