I received my Monument photo archiving device recently. Having now had it around a week, I thought it might be useful to get out a few words about a device which could prove useful to many regular travellers.
The Monument markets itself as a complete photo storage solution and so when I first saw it as a sponsored post on Facebook months ago it caught my interest.
The device itself was in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign at the time and having funded one or two disappointing ‘innovations’ on the site before (I’m still waiting for BetterBack to correct my posture) I approached it with caution. Monument would, the developers claimed, not only allow me to store all of my photographs in one place but also automate the process AND organise my collection for me.
This sounded like just the sort of thing we needed. The last few years have seen both of our children born, a relocation to the Middle East followed by a move to China and countless holidays and adventures at home and overseas. All of the memories from these events were lying around forgotten on various old phones and iPads or hidden in drawers on old SD cards that were in various states of ill repair. A device that could pull all of this together for us AND organise it would be a God-send. I took out my credit card.
Like most things on Kickstarter, the initial backing is followed by a period of waiting and updating whilst the product is developed, tested and eventually distributed. From backing to receiving my device, about 10 months passed. This wasn’t helped by China Post who decided to extend my wait by keeping the device at customs and charging a tax bill that neither I, nor the people at Monument, expected. C’est la vie, the device had arrived.
Out of the box, the Monument is a good looking device. Slightly bigger than an Apple TV box, the majority of the plastic enclosure is left empty to accommodate storage for up to two external hard drives. The device itself has no in-built storage and so you can customise capacity based on needs and how much you’re willing to spend.
Set-up promised to be simple. Plug it in, download the app, upload photos. So that’s exactly what I did.
Once the device was plugged in and the app was downloaded on my iPad, the device prompted me to attach it to a TV or monitor for set-up using an HDMI cable. I returned to the box to grab the HDMI cable to do this but sadly one was not provided. Strange, given that the app says this is an essential piece of equipment for set-up.
Having interrupted the kids viewing of Paw Patrol to steal the HDMI cable from the back of our Mac Mini, I continued with the intial set-up. Having connected the device to my TV, the box informed me that a firmware update was required. Two files needed to be downloaded. The first was 3.2mb, the second 92mb. This is where I hit another bump in the road. The firmware download was slow. Really slow. I watched the bar for a while before giving up and turning the TV off to let it do its thing. 12 hours later, the firmware had been updated. (I should mention that during this period I performed numerous internet speed tests, all of which had my connection at around 90mb/s. Could it be that China have already blocked Monument on the mainland?)
Monument advertises a lot of amazing features. Automatic facial recognition, the ability to sync pictures automatically, a Timehop style ‘This day in history’ feature and, my personal favourite, a world map which geographically organises your photographs. This was what had me sold on the device. The world map in particular was what made me reach for my wallet.
Having finished the firmware update, the TV showed a generic ‘Monument’ screen saver and nothing else, but the app seemed ready to go so I selected some photographs from my iPad and uploaded them as a test batch. The upload, via Bluetooth, was quick and was followed by an ‘analysing photographs’ message before the pictures started to appear one by one on the app. Excellent. These pictures were now available on any device with the Monument app in Bluetooth range of the device.
Next I tried an old SD card that had been left forgotten in a camera for the last few years. Putting it into the SD card slot prompted a message on the app that asked if I’d like to upload the pictures and another 3000 pictures were on their way onto the device.
Once the pictures had been uploaded and analysed, I decided to try out the organisational features. To my knowledge there were now pictures from the UK, Kuwait, China, USA, Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia and lots more on the device. More than enough to make the world map feature a useful tool.
Here then is the major disappointment with Monument at the moment. The features just aren’t there. My world map shows zero locations. Zero faces have been recognised and short of knowing which camera was used to take the picture, there are no other ways of finding or organising pictures.
Looking into this further, it seems the device was shipped minus a lot of features with the promise that these would be added later through firmware and software updates. The developers website does have a calendar of when these will be rolled out but even features that have already been rolled out (including my eagerly anticipated world map) just don’t work on my device.
Currently it works very well as an alternative to storing pictures with a Cloud service and the ease with which you can transfer your pictures alone makes the Kickstarter price worthwhile. But I would be incredibly disappointed if the promised features didn’t appear sooner or later.
It’s nice to sit with my iPad scrolling through photographs from years ago that I had forgotten about and there’s a certain sense of satisfaction in having all of your pictures in one place. For that, I’m still pleased with my purchase.
I do wonder where the other features are though. Especially the ones that the developers say have already been rolled out.
- You want to transfer lots of photos onto a single device and can’t be bothered to do it yourself
- You want to access a photo collection from multiple devices
Don’t buy if:
- You want reliable extra features beyond simple photo storage
- You want to view pictures on your TV or monitor (promised but not currently available)
Edit: I took some extra photographs with my DSLR camera today and inserted the same SD card I had previously used into the device. Doing this, I discovered that the device proceeds to upload all 3000+ photographs again instead of just recognising the new ones.