You may know the Royal brand from typewriters and paper shredders, but you probably didn't realize the company is now making digital photo frames. Yes, Royal's serving up several "budget" models, including the PF80, which sports an 8-inch screen (measured diagonally) and can be had online for less than $130.
Like a lot of digital photo frames, the Royal PF80's two-tone, silver-and-black frame is significantly bigger than the display itself. Technically, this model measures 11.0 wide by 8.5 high by 2.1 inches deep, but the display's real dimensions are approximately 6.5 inches wide by 5 inches tall. A support arm around back swivels to allow you to set the stand vertically, as well as horizontally. And on the bottom of the frame, you'll find a threaded hole for a tripod-like stand (not included). Unlike the less expensive Royal PF56, this frame is wall-mountable, with two key-hole slots on either side of the back of the frame. You'd think that wall-mounting the frame would muffle any sounds emitted by what appear to be two built-in speakers on the back of the frame, but the frame doesn't actually offer any audio capabilities. A 12-volt AC adapter powers the unit.
The PF80's outer, silver-colored frame is removable. We assume this means you can swap in another frame, but it's unclear whether any frames will be available as optional accessories, and no extra frames shipped in the box. The one accessory the frame does include is a credit-card sized remote, which allows you to control the display from across the room.
While the interface is not at all slick, we found it easy enough to find our images (JPEG only) and video files (AVI only) on the various memory cards we inserted (the frame accepts SM/SD/MS/MMC/xD and CF cards). A couple of caveats: If you've shot high resolution photos (read: 4 megapixels or higher), the frame takes longer to load each photo as file sizes increase, though this becomes less of an issue if you're interested in leaving the frame in slideshow mode, which inserts delays between "slides" anyway. More importantly, we had trouble getting AVI video clips shot with a Canon digital camera to playback on the frame. However, an AVI short film we downloaded from the Internet played fine--sans sound.
Beyond that slideshow mode, the frame offers a few other basic features, including the ability to delete, rotate, and zoom-in on photos in the display, as well adjust brightness, contrast, and color saturation settings. As for image quality, it was slightly better than what we expected, but even with its alleged 800-by-600 pixel resolution, it simply didn't offer the sharpness and detail that a more pricey frame such as the Philips Digital Photo Display 7FF1 does. That said, the image is passable, and it does help to view photos when standing a few feet back from the frame.
In the end, the Royal PF80 Digital Picture Album can't escape its budget-buy roots or make us say it's a great deal--even though you can get it for a little more than $100 online. The potential is here for something more intriguing, but to get to the next level, Royal really needed to add sound. Combine audio, the frame's ability to playback AVI files (certain ones anyway), and the included remote, and you'd have a mini movie display as well as a photo viewer. So it goes. At least Royal's given of a glimpse of what the future holds for the nascent digital-frame category.