If you haven’t encountered a digital photo frame recently, you may have some conflicting feelings. Partly, there was that magical moment of the first time you saw one (if you’re old enough to remember their absence) like something ripped straight from Harry Potter. The pictures can change and move!
On the other hand, when the novelty wore off, they looked tacky and clumsy, something to be delegated as gifts exclusively for tech-clumsy elderly. Fortunately, digital photo frames have come a long way, and people are taking more digital photos now than they ever have before.
Whether you’re more interested in its connectivity, ease-of-use, quality of the display, or other features, you’ll have plenty of decisions to make when delving into a quality digital frame. Let’s look at the best of what’s available now.
1. Nixplay Edge
Nixplay produces a wide range of quality digital frames, but the Nixplay Edge is the most well-rounded, consistent model. Where the Edge shines the most is its display. The screen emulates a matte-finish, keeping it from looking like you stood up your tablet with a slide slow playing. Instead, you get glare-free, sharp images. This also keeps you from having view-angle issues. Cheaper digital displays can lose contrast at wider angles away from dead-on viewing, but living up to its name, Edge looks great even edge-on. It's the best digital photo frame for wifi on any device. Including being a suitable photo frame for Iphone pictures.
There are inputs for an SD card or a USB, but like most modern digital frames (and all of the Nixplay models), connectivity goes far beyond that. After setting up an account and choosing your settings, you’ll be able to connect via Wi-Fi to your phone or computer. You can control what you display from there instead of working through the on-screen menus on the frame itself. From that site, you can connect to your online photos directly through Facebook, Google Photos, Instagram, Dropbox, or Flickr. You can sync these accounts and then simply send your favorite photos to the frame.
Other features include a simple menu to adjust transitions, where the frame draws its slideshows from, how long each image stays on the screen, and what the image does while on the screen, whether it will slide slowly to show the whole image or adjust in some other way like with black bars. There is an IR remote that can control the frame from a distance, but with the cloud access, this would probably be used more by guests wanting to scroll through your pictures. A motion sensor allows you to set the frame to turn on when someone’s present and save power when no one’s around. They don’t use a ton of power, but it’s still nice to have the option. You can set timers as well for more consistent on-off times. Which also makes it a great digital photo frame for the elderly.
The Edge is available in both a 4:3 8” model and a 16:9 13” model, each in high definition. When you’re getting basically the same item except for the size, you can see the emphasis is solely on that beautiful screen real estate. This is a little higher than the average modern digital frame, but the quality difference makes up for it.
Even though this is probably the best-looking frame available, there are still some small drawbacks. First, although the 13” wide angle display is definitely eye-pleasing, very few people edit their photos to exactly this aspect ratio, let alone set their digital cameras to shoot this way. The result is that you either have to crop your photos specifically for this frame, accept that they’re going to have that slow glide from bottom to top to see the rest of the frame, or settle for black bars on the sides of your screen. That movement can be distracting if it’s not a feature you’re interested in. Granted, any digital frame runs into the issue that it’s a fixed size designed to hold multiple images. If you’ve spent any time in a frame shop paying gobs of money to preserve an analog piece, you can understand why this is a tall order.
While the Nixplay Edge is probably the best all-around digital photo frame, and Nixplay makes other great frames too (the Seed is another excellent model), the market is broad enough that there are other standouts available as well. These frames could also be great choices.
Sungale takes the traditional approach, directly targeting older users who may have been attracted to earlier models of digital frames. Fortunately, this technique only lead to a highly usable and versatile connected frame. The Sungale Cloud allows multiple users to connect to a single frame—so relatives or friends can directly send new photos to their loved ones. It’s no surprise they’re marketing this as the perfect gift for grandparents.
But it’s not just a frame for old folks—the image is still crisp, saturated, and high-quality. There are simple touch screen controls and an interface that is easily navigable. With its connectivity, it leans a toward tablet computing, even allowing Netflix or video chatting, though most likely users’ already have other tools for these things.
Without the matte finish, however, the display is really glossy and that only could cause glare, but the Cloud’s touch screen functionality to lead to unsightly fingerprints right on top of your photos.
Still, it’s an impressive frame, and cheaper than the Nixplay Edge, running only close to tripple digits.
The Aura arose from the ashes of the static digital frame market from a few years ago to produce something far more unique and inventive than anything else available. While it has a beautiful screen (basically the same quality as the Retina display from Apple products) in an 8” x 10” format, it goes far beyond that with its connectivity tech.
It connects through an app on your phone to be able to easily upload photos. The magic lies in the “Smart Select” technology—smart enough to choose only high quality, blur-free photos (since anything may look great on a cell phone but awful when blown up). It also has facial recognition, so you could choose a family member or loved one to be the feature of the album, and photos of that person automatically are added together. Plus there are nudity filters in case you don’t want every photo added (because that would be awkward). Like the social appeal of the Sungale, the Aura can also have family members collaborate on albums with each other with the app. It even has motion-controlled swiping, so you can wave your hand to change photos.
It’s beautiful and super high-tech, but a little tricky to set up and still super expensive. But if you want the cutting edge and something truly advanced this is a great alternative.
Making the Decision
The obvious first thing to consider is the display. You’re putting this device up in your home, and we all want to avoid the past decade’s tacky photo frames. Consider the dimensions—will a wide-screen frame look good for your photos, or do you need something less stretched, more traditional? Next check the pixel resolution. Anything short of full HD won’t be flattering to your photos unless you get a rather small digital frame. Finally, look at its view-angle. This is not something you want to rely on a manufacturer to tell you—instead, find video reviews online to see for yourself what it looks like from wider angles. Like analog pictures, anything on display in your home will likely be seen from more than just straight-on.
Next, think of how you access your photos. Most frames will still allow the SD card or the flash drive, but see how they connect to your existing accounts. If you love one platform, make sure your frame connects to that easily. If your frame is a gift or for use across your family consider how easy sharing the account will be—if frames offer this kind of feature, it will usually be advertised right up front.
Finally, there are odds and ends that could make or break the frame for you that may require reading deeper into the specs. Check for frame mounting options—will it just sit at whatever angle the manufacturer specified or can it be adjusted or even hung on the fall? And then there’s the software to consider. Some frames allow a wide range of choices for how and how long an image stays or moves on screen—others are more limited.
Whichever you choose, so long as you go with a newer frame, you can be sure you’re getting something far above those antiquated hazy frames in your grandparents’ house and will be getting a nice way to display all the digital photos you take.