NixVue Digital Album
(New v2.0 firmware update New features include: added brightness and contrast control; ability to use the Digital Album as a card reader for CompactFlash, SmartMedia, SD/MMC cards and Sony Memory Stick; support for viewing and printing JPEG, BMP and TIFF files; and lots of photo inkjet printer profiles.)
Nixvue System's Digital Album is a small, portable, battery-operated device that lets you store, display and print your digital camera images. This pocket-sized wonder contains a 10- or 20-Gigabyte hard drive with more than enough space to store tens of thousands of high-resolution camera images. The Digital Album is available in the U.S. for $499 (10GB) or $599 (20GB) from JOBO Fototechnic, Inc.
You no longer have to invest a small fortune in flash memory cards or buy an expensive laptop just to be able take your camera on an extended vacation or professional assignment. All you need is one memory card and a Digital Album. Now you can shoot all your pictures in high resolution mode - all of the time!
The versatile Digital Album doesn't need to be stuck away in the closet after the vacation is over. Leave it hooked up to the TV and put on a slideshow of your favorite digital images whenever friends stop by. Many people will be able to store their entire digital library on the massive 10GB (or 20GB) hard drive. Take it with you for use as a visual presentation tool for business meetings--just be ready to tell everyone where you bought it as I'm sure they'll want one too.
The Digital Album is compatible with all popular storage devices; CompactFlash Type I or II, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, Secure Digital / MultiMediaCards or IBM Microdrives. All you need is the appropriate PCMCIA adapter, a CompactFlash Type I adapter is included. It can be used with digicams from the consumer-priced models all the way up to the professional cameras like the Canon D30, Fuji S1, Nikon D1 and even the Kodak DCS series.
The Digital Album is completely portable thanks to a small but powerful rechargeable lithium battery with enough power for about 30 downloads from a 16MB flash card. The battery is automatically recharged when the DA is placed in its docking cradle.
Click here for information about a new high capacity battery for NIXVUE Digital Albumfrom NewSun Ltd.
Connecting to Host PC
On the back of the cradle is a high-speed USB port to connect to the host PC. This is used for transfering files to/from the Digital Album's hard drive to the computer.
When the DA is connected to the computer its internal hard drive appears as another removeable drive. You can copy or read image files to or from it using the utilities that you're already familiar with, no special programs are needed.
USB drivers are supplied for Windows 98, 2000 and Me as well as Mac OS 9.1 users.
Connecting to a TV
The RCA composite jack lets you connect the DA to a television set, the video out signal is selectable for NTSC or PAL standards. Playback on the TV is controlled by the included infrared remote control. You can run an automated slide show of any folder of images or manually control the viewing sequence.
Note that although you can copy all image formats from your flash memory cards, the DA will only let you view JPG files on the television. It ignores other formats such as TIF, BMP or proprietary raw files.
When the DA is docked, access to the files is via an on-screen menu system that will be very familiar to Windows users. Commands are input via the remote control with pull-down menus for File, Edit, View, Options or Help. File menu selections for Delete, Rename, Search, New Folder, Print and Print Setup. It should be noted that the DA's operating system fully supports long file names, no "8.3" limited or truncated filenames (i.e. christm~.jpg vs christmas_party_1999.jpg).
If you'd rather browse thorugh your files in a visual manner then use the Thumbnail Mode instead of the default Text Mode. As you'd expect, the images will be displayed as small thumbnail pictures and directories appear as yellow folder icons. An Optimize option allows you to create the thumbnail files and facilitates quick viewing of images onscreen.
Transfering Files from Flash Cards
The main function of the Digital Album is to act as a portable storage unit for digital camera images. Transfering images from flash cards to the DA is as simple as putting the card in the PCMCIA slot, selecting the COPY option and pressing a button. The process is quick and automatic.
The animated frame above shows the screens on the DA's monochrome LCD display during an average COPY and VERIFY operation. The data LCD is a 96 x 64 pixel, high-contrast, backlit display that measures 3.5 x 2.5 cm.
The progress of the COPY operation is indicated by five "box" icons that fill-in to let you know its status. After the COPY process is finished you are prompted to erase the card. It's better to use the VERIFY option first to insure that the files were properly copied with no errors. You can also check the free DISK SPACE at any time.
The Digital Album has a standard parallel port (DB15) connector on the back of the docking cradle that lets you connect directly to a photo-quality printer. Currently supported are the Epson Stylus Photo 750, 790, 870, 890, 1270, 1280 and 1290 printers. Also supported is the HP 950, 960, 970, 990, 1000, 1115, 1215, 1218, 1220 and 1315 photo printers in the version 2.0 firmware and that more printer drivers will be made available on their website in the future.
Using the on-screen menu you pull down the File menu and there is both a Print and Print Setup option just like those found in Windows. You can change the size of the paper and set printer options before printing.
Included is a nice padded carrying case with belt loops and a shoulder strap. The Digital Album is small enough to fit in your pants pocket but it's probably safer stored in the carrying case.
Download the NixVue User Manual(English .pdf format)
Steve's ConclusionThe Digital Album is a high-tech blending of other products that we have reviewed, such as the Digital Wallet and the Iomega FotoShow. It incorporates the best features of these devices without their shortcomings and the ability to output to a printer. The Digital Wallet is also battery-operated but has no video or printer output capabilities. The FotoShow requires AC power (although I think now they offer a 12v power cord) and is limited to removeable 100MB or 250MB ZIP disks as its storage media. The now discontinued Clik! Drive is battery-operated but severely limited by 40MB removeable media and an inability to work with any flash media with a capacity greater than 32MB.
The design of the DA requires that the battery also be small, but it packs enough power for a good number of file transfers in the field. For the average user this will not be a problem unless you have to spend an extended period of time away from an AC power source. Other than that I was thrilled with the overall size and performance of the unit. It operated flawlessly with every type of removeable media we use in digital cameras today and only requires the appropriate PCMCIA adapter for each. A CompactFlash (Type I) adapter is included in the package so many users will not need to purchase anything additional to begin using the DA as soon as the battery is charged. The battery is a lithium type and holds its charge better in storage than a NiMH type which is prone to self-discharge.
I've lost count of the emails that I have received from people looking for a device like this to take on vacation with them. Even though you could buy a considerable amount of flash memory cards for $499 what would you do with them once the vacation was over? The DA with its 10 or 20-gigabyte drive lets you carry your entire collection of digital images around with you in your pocket and easily display them on most television sets. You no longer have to decide which pictures are important enough to be shot in high resolution mode due to storage limitations. Shoot them all in the highest resolution setting and then offload them to the Digital Album and shoot some more!
The actual operation couldn't be simpler -- Take the flash card out of the camera, slip it into the PCMCIA adapter, put the adapter into the DA, turn it on, select COPY, press a button and away you go. All of the storage devices that I used transferred 60+ megabytes of data in under two minutes and that same amount of data transfers even faster from the DA to your host computer via USB. There will always be the argument that a laptop computer is a better portable storage alternative. Granted it is nice for the editing and viewing aspect but, a laptop computer doesn't fit in your pocket or hang from your belt.
The Digital Album is available now here in the states from JOBO Fototechnic, Inc.. They will have both the 10GB and 20GB models.