This is a warning post to stay away from eStarling, company and products. Like many geeks, I preorder the eStarling WiFi Photo Frame from thinkgeek. This was the perfect gift, a frame that updates photos from your flickr account ensuring the grandparents always have fresh photos of the kids. Units were supposed to ship early December and thinkgeek said "if you need this before Christmas, preorder and we'll get it to you - if not we can't guarantee anything." Thinkgeek is a trusted source by geeks, so I took heed. The frames arrived very late, so late thinkgeek upgraded everyone's shipping to overnight or next day for free.
On Thursday 12th December, 2006 - a date which will live in infamy - thousands of eStarling frames arrived B.O.D. (bricked on delivery).
Mine wouldn't connect to the PC. The software reported a "No Disk" error, which you had to click cancel 20+ times to close. I went to the eStarling forums and found already over 100 posts of problems. I posted mine (it wasn't listed) and a helpful geek replied back it needed to create a system folder on the eStarling internal flash drive. I had a system file, not folder, so I deleted it and power cycled the unit several times. No good, the file kept coming back. I couldn't create a directory named system either. I then deleted the file, scandisked and defraged the drive - finally I could create the folder. The configuration software worked with only clicking the "no disk" error once.
Then I found out the frame must be 4-6 feet from the WiFi hub, and is 802.11b only. This is bad for many geeks, as you would normally disable "b" on a faster "g" router because one "b" device will drop the speed of all devices connected. I also learned the unit is only configured by the eStarling website, and this is the only way photos can be loaded to the frame. Last, if the unit cannot connect to the eStarling site, it cannot operate. (It has slots for every type of camera flash memory, but even the require access to the site).
Reading the forums, there were issues by everyone. eStarling's product images left out the, in one customer's words, "phallic rubber antennae sticking out the back." It runs a craptastic 480x234 resolution - painful on it's 7" 16x9 screen. Oh, 16x9... photos are 4x3, so everything gets a black bar. The documentation included is a worthless quarter sheet telling you to insert the CD and visit the site. It runs *very* hot. It claims Google Picasa and Webshots support (on the front of the box even) and supports neither. It will only work with gMail - if you use another email service forget the "email photo to frame" feature. People that did get it to read Flickr RSS feeds found it downloads one photo about every 30 minutes. It changes photos at a seizure causing 1-2 times per second.
So what has eStarling done? They deleted the forums, and left a message to email or call a voice mail number for support; they will get back to you after the holidays. They have also taken to astroturfing blogs. Sorry eStarling, this is 2006 and we have the Internet. Gizmodo already has an honest review posted. Your customers (like me) have blogs and will use them. And we can do things like
I've already requested an RMA with Thinkgeek, a site that pays for shipping on returns of defective products. It's good to see some companies take customer service seriously.
Update 12/26/2006: eStarling is claiming all the problems are related to bad power supplies, and claim they are shipping replacements. Forums are still offline, and I fail to see how the power supply will fix the need to go through their website for all configuration. As an aside, this FAQ entry tell you there is no Picasa support, but this page claims there is - also check out the reason 480x234 is high quality but know that 4:3 standard photos can only use 312x234.
Thinkgeek still lists the product, but is listed both as "in stock" and "unavailable for order." For reference, here is the "before and after" image of the product (before and after it shipped):
The astroturf blog has an "update" post... funny how it was picture perfect a few days ago.
I've been dugg!
Thank you for being honest about eStarling. I am also one of the victims of eStarling, and their only retailer, ThinkGeek. I will never again be a customer of either.
Thinkgeek indicated they are going to charge me shipping to return it...am I missing something?
I selected "defective" product when filling out the RMA form, and the left the shipping option at default. When you get an email from customer service, reply to them asking about the shipping and see what they say.
Thinkgeek has been very good to me in the past, but I can't blame you Vishal for not trusting them in the future. I will be curious to see if the product remains on their site after the holidays and the RMA department has a list showing the return rates of the eStarling frame.
Mike - I'm so glad that I am not the only FRUSTERATED person. I bought 2 eStarlings and now I am returning 2 eStarlings. What a piece of @#!&!!!
I have three of these turkeys, and just gave them to the 'rents before seeing all the bad reviews on the net. We also got one for ourselves and still can't get it to connect. Merry Christmas from eStarling!
It sort of works - it pulled 3 photos down from Flickr over the course of an hour. It crashes if you leave it on for a couple of hours, and won't start up again unless you leave it off for a few more hours.
Also, the design is kind of messed up in that it depends on their servers. Their marketing materials lead you to believe the machine is capable of going out and getting photos from an arbitrary RSS feed. In reality you have to use their service, which appears to be free but also quite unreliable. A better version would go directly to the rss feeds rather than requiring their service as a middleman.
Wait for version 3.0 on this one.
I've read this saga with interest. (Fortunately, I didn't buy one.) Sorry to hear of your disappointment with this toy, but congrats on having been Dugg.
I ordered one of these frames as well. When I ordered, the picture showed the antenna and logo so I am not sure how long ago this other picture was up on the site. I only recall seeing the antennaless one in concept art on from monthes ago. I guess estarling just gave them concept images instead of production images. I had a number of issues trying to get it configured. Mostly it was because I run MAC filtering on my wireless instead of WEP. I called to return the frame and they let me know there was a new power adaptor that is supposed to correct some of the issues. I will give it a benefit of the doubt and wait for the the replacement. I feel bad for estarling. I think they really wanted to make this product great but just came under fire to get it out by christmas. Alot of things other companies do. Nothing ever seems to work well on first production run. Its a great production in theory, I just hope the bugs get worked out.
Just got my RMA. Does eStarling think they can just change things up (box photo vs. ThinkGeek photo vs. Actual product) and nobody will notice?
Even without the technical problems, that is fraud. And what marketing genius thought they should plaster their own logo on the front of the frame. When you have a remarkable product, you wouldn't need to do more than add a little hint of who you are (e.g. Apple) because people will ask.
I blogged on this frame as well
eStarling claimed that I should use a power adapter with 6V/2.0A or 9V/2.0A to fix the power adapter problem (I am visiting my parents and I cannot wait for their adapter to arrive.)
First of all, the 9V claim is dubious, and in fact it may be dangerous for the frame. I tried this configuration on my frame and the hue of the colors changed drastically.
However, even after putting a new power adapter, the problems are still not solved. The WiFi range is still the pathetic 5ft, the device does not fetch anymore the Flickr feeds, and the device hangs at random times. I still believe it is a problem of the *USB port* power, not a problem with the power adapter. Who knows though...
Not a device that I feel comfortable leaving to my parents.
Just return it and wait for eStarling to get the product in beta. Right now it feels more like a product in alpha version. Promising, but still under development.
this product its the worst, the support team is the worst, i think this guys at estarling are crying now. they never answer. dont buy this piece of crap.
What a horribly disappointing purchase this was. I really hope the new frame they send (2.0) will be better.
The main problem I had was that it wasn't detecting new pictures I was uploading to my on-line eStarling photo manager. It detected a couple, and then just cycled through those. I unplugged it a few times, and it finally seems to be working for now. It still hasn't picked up my RSS feed, although it hasn't been an hour yet.
Anyway, I'll write here again once I get the new frame.
I just got my new frame today. I looks nice. no label on the front, the wifi is hidden, only a few months short of christmas in May ... However I can not get the dam thing to configure my wi-fi settings. the 24x7 support email does not even send an ack. I opened a ticket and no 24x7 response yet. FYI, I see that they are using a new url www.seaframe.com registered through godaddy and I have seen mention of PF digital. Perhaps the whole thing is run by another company now. I don't know. The new frame still says eStarling(tm) when it boots up. Bottom line, this product sucks, it is the worst product that I have ever purchased from thinkgeek , and I will be returning the new and the old units now. Great idea, suck company and product.
Interesting Dena - I went and looked and ThinkGeek is selling a "2.0" version of the frame. Still looks like you have to use their web service to configure the frame (now www.seeframe.com) and they didn't fix the resolution so without cropping your photos won't "fit" the frame. It also looks like they are starting to go under the name PF Digital more than eStarling.
I don't care what name they call themselves, I won't trust this company again.
I'm glad you wrote this blog. I hope other people considering this piece of trash find it and read it. This company eStarling needs to be shut down. The product does not work as advertised, plain and simple.
I bought one for my mom for xmas. I am very technical and I can tell you it simply doesnt work reliably. There is no way it can be used as promised.
Its too late for me to return it but hopefully I can prevent others from making a similar mistake.
Too bad too because the idea is great and the frame looks alright, it just doesnt work. Low quality software and hardware.