Mother’s Day Surprise – Digital Foci Pocket Album review

IMG_0109Still searching for that special Mother’s Day gift? For a long time I have wanted to get my wife a picture viewer small enough to carry to take with her. All of our pictures are digital, and we only have family pictures taken once yearly. She needs something for all those in-between pictures, so she can show off our little one.

For those in the same situation, let’s take a look at the Digital Foci Pocket Album. This keychain weighs in at just over an ounce, sports a 1.5 inch color LCD screen and 8MB of onboard memory. The Pocket Album also comes with its own special software to manipulate photos and transfer them to the keychain.

The hardware

With a unit this small, there is no room for a lot of buttons. The Pocket Album has 3 simple buttons on the back: a Menu/Enter button and Up/Down buttons. The buttons are on the back of the unit towards the bottom and are pretty easy to manipulate, even with my big fingers.

The menu is easy to read and well laid out. You can change a lot of things for such a simple unit. There is a clock, Auto/Manual Slide Show, Contrast Control, and an Auto On/Off setting. The clock also has display properties so that you can set whether or not to show it and how to display it if you choose to show it. The Auto On/Off setting is a feature where you can tell the unit to turn on and then back off at set times.

The Pocket Album has an internal battery that recharges using either the provided USB/AC adapter or via a USB port on a computer. It takes 2 hours to fully charge and actually lasts between 8 1/2 and 9 hours on a full charge. The charging method is a little funky. When you plug the keychain in, it doesn’t just start charging like you would expect. It asks you if you want to USB charge, or USB transfer. Why can’t it charge while it’s transferring? Everything else that I have does. It’s a simple thing, but one that seemed odd to me.

IMG_0103 The picture on the keychain is nice. You can’t honestly expect a lot out of a 1.5 inch screen. The picture is clear and you can tell what you are looking at. If you are looking for something that will show great detail, you have to look for a larger unit. The Pocket Album has a good picture for the size screen that it has.

The software

Remember how I said the charging method was a little funky? So is the software. The software and drivers come on a mini-CD. That’s not the bizarre part. There is no installer. The program is a single file executable and cannot run off the CD. A novice user is forced to figure out how to copy the executable from the CD to the computer. Then, if they want to keep things clean, they have to learn how to create a shortcut for the program.

I’ve been doing this a long time. I know that it would take a few extra seconds to set up something as simple as a self-extracting zip file on the disk that will create the shortcuts and place the executable where it won’t get accidentally deleted. Especially since the file can’t be run off the CD. This just seems like a very odd choice for Digital Foci.

Update – Digital Foci now has an updated version (1.2) of the software available on their website. This new version creates a folder and sets up shortcuts like you would expect.

IMG_0107Another oddity; every time you use the software, the keychain must be plugged into the computer. What if I want to manipulate my images while I am on a plane or in a car? If it can identify the keychain every time it’s run, it could identify the keychain the first time its run to activate the software. I can’t figure out the need to have it attached every single time. Theft shouldn’t be a big deal, there are many other free softwares out there that do much the same thing as this software.

Beyond all the abnormal eccentricities that make up the initial issues with the software, this is still a good software package. It’s very light and doesn’t bog down your computer. It’s intuitive. Cropping and rotating images is very simple. The limited menus are well laid out and easy to find what you need.

The best feature of the software is the resizing feature. When you copy images to your device, the software automatically resizes them to fit on the Pocket Album. With only 8MB of onboard memory, it’s important to maximize what you can fit on it. My camera takes images that are about 8MB each. It wouldn’t make sense for me to use something with that quality for display in a 1.5 inch screen.

The support

IMG_0112When I first installed the software, my Windows Vista laptop didn’t recognize the hardware. I followed all the suggestions on but still had no luck. I was forced to resort to technical support. Initially, tech support was worthless. Their first 2 email replies were copies right out of the user manual. When I finally got someone on the phone (at their request via email), they solved my problem in minutes. It was really quite painless.

The wrap-up

There are a few minor issues to work out for the next release of their software, but that shouldn’t take away from a decent product. Don’t expect the Pocket Album to knock you off your rocker. It’s a good device, but not outstanding. If you have a mom or wife who likes digital toys and takes digital pictures the Digital Foci Pocket Album is worth the $29.99 pricetag. It’s very light, small, and easy to use.

Rating: ★★★★☆