Instacube: Review

Instacube - the wifi connected 'living canvas' for your Instagram and Facebook photos - launched on Kickstarter in 2012 and raised a mightily impressive $600,000.

Designed to live stream image content in real time from smart devices at full resolution, the rechargeable Li battery powered portable viewer should be the coolest digital photo frame you've ever seen... 

First off, I have to say it looks pretty good, especially in photographs (ironically...but we'll come to that); the design nods to the mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service are spot on and it's nicely packaged but beyond that, everything falls a little flat and - to be blunt - just plain disappoints.

The 600 x 600 screen resolution, whilst perfectly acceptable before the advent of retina and super AMOLED displays, is resolutely old school. Your lovely retro-tinged photos will have an additional veneer of unwanted grain. If only they'd gotten one thing absolutely spot on, this should have been it and everything else could be forgiven.

The capacitive touchscreen, which allows you to access all that lovely content via subscriptions to various feeds, lacks sensitivity; meaning repeated frustrated jabs in order to input the information required.

Navigating the menu is also a bit clunky: it's got some nice features (you can follow 'Users', look at photos you've 'Liked' and see 'Popular' images) but the lack of detailed instructions, means altering even basic things like switching # feeds is difficult to figure out. It should be intuitive. And why do you need to log on to your wireless network manually, every time you switch it on...?

Also - it's a small thing but seems a real oversight - the unit sits flat on a surface, meaning you have to be at 90 degrees to see the image, or have it raised up to see the screen properly. What does every picture frame with a stand and tablet with a decent case allow you to do ? View it at an angle...

The Instacube itself, although nicely finished, lacks physical weight and consequently feels less than solid. The buttons on the top of the unit that are used to access the menu system ('Power', 'Single/Tile' mode & 'Love' button), also feel a little spongey - possibly deliberately so - but just add to that feeling of a lack of refinement. Not good on a unit that will probably cost around £120-150 in the UK when it finally goes on sale.

I wanted to love this, I really did. Purely from a selfish perspective because on paper it's the perfect Fowndry product. Sadly, the reality is isn't - it's just okay. Still, Jamie likes it...




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