Photo: Courtesy of the retailer.
Like a shot and a chaser, a digital picture frame is the perfect complement to your digital camera or your smartphone’s camera roll. With so many photos on our phones, on hard drives, or in the cloud, it only makes sense to want a way to display them without having to print them out. A digital frame can rescue photos from the camera-roll graveyard, where they may only be seen and remembered when you frantically scroll through looking for something else. To find the best digital picture frame for you, read on to find out what to look for and which frames we recommend.
Best overall | Best less-expensive | Best that doesn’t need Wi-Fi | Best touchscreen | Best large | Best for pet photos | Best smart display
Uploading, connectivity, and storage: Some digital picture frames have built-in storage, where photos are saved locally on the frame or accessed from a MicroSD card that you insert into the frame, and which you can expand using a larger MicroSD card or cloud storage. Others are exclusively cloud-based, and require you to upload photos through an app, or you can email photos to the specific frame using a unique email address and those images will be uploaded directly. Many digital frames require an internet connection to receive photos, so if you are buying a gift for someone who doesn’t have access to the internet at home, you’ll want to choose one that is usable without Wi-Fi. On the flip side, if you want to be able to add photos straight from your phone via an app, or to remotely add photos to a frame you’ve given as a gift, you’ll want one with a good app for uploading new images, or a frame that can pull from a specific Dropbox folder or photo album in your camera roll. And if you want to display photos that were not originally digital — whether they were taken recently or years ago, some frames offer scanning options within their dedicated apps that make it easier to upload vintage photos and other printed photos, or even, for example, a child’s artwork, if you happen to have a young Picasso (or simply an enthusiastic crafter) on your hands.
Screen size and resolution: Though some brands offer smaller digital frames, the most common screen size is around nine or 10 inches. You can also find larger frames that measure around 15 inches (so larger than the screen of a 13-inch laptop) if you want to display your photos in a larger space. For screen resolution, look for 720p or higher; anything lower and your photos may look grainy or blurry due to less pixels. Resolution measures pixels per inch (PPI), and the fewer pixels per inch, the grainier the image. We’ve listed both the resolution and the diagonal screen measurement for each frame below; the device itself will be larger once you account for the frame around the screen.
Design and photo orientation: Style-wise, digital picture frames trend toward minimal and simple; you won’t find any golden rococo options on the market. We looked for attractive frames that could match a variety of décor styles, with clean lines in classic colors or simple decorative bezels. You should also think about the photos you want to display relative to how the frame will sit on a desk or shelf or hang on a wall; some frames only stand vertically, making them ideal for photos in a vertical portrait orientation, some only stand horizontally, making them ideal for photos in a horizontal landscape mode, and some can stand either vertically or horizontally. Unless you only plan to upload photos in only one mode, the best frames will be able to adequately handle a mix of portrait and landscape photos no matter the frame’s physical orientation in your home.
Settings and features: Many frames are controlled using a dedicated app that allows you to manage when and how photos are displayed. Some frames also offer video playback and sound, or are compatible with Apple’s Live Photos. Frames that have motion sensors or light sensors will allow the screen to go to sleep and wake up when someone passes by the frame or the lights are turned on in a room. Some frames also have touch controls that let you swipe between photos or change settings without accessing an app.
9-inch screen | 1200p resolution | Unlimited cloud storage; no built-in storage, USB port, or MicroSD slot | Wi-Fi required | Video: yes | Sound: yes | Landscape or portrait
The stylish, freestanding Aura Mason doesn’t have any built-in storage, but you can upload unlimited photos to the frame using its dedicated app, linking the frame to a Google Photos or Apple iCloud account, sending photos to the frame’s unique email address, or you can go online and add them using Aura’s web uploader. Within the app, there is also a scanning feature to add printed photos or artwork to your frame. Because the frame requires Wi-Fi and uses cloud storage, having the app allows you to upload photos remotely, and you can invite multiple people to add photos to the same frame, turning it into a potluck of photos from family and friends (there are even social features in the app, including comments and likes). It also supports video and Apple Live Photos and has a built-in speaker for sound. The frame itself is attractive and minimalist with a sculptural ridged design, and it’s available in two colors, graphite or white quartz.
Strategist senior editor Jen Trolio, who purchased several of Aura’s less-expensive Carver frames for herself and family members before testing other models from the brand, including the Mason, says that “what I love most about my own Aura frame is that it means I regularly see some of the thousands of photos that would otherwise be squirreled away in my and my family’s iPhone photo libraries.” The Mason can be displayed in landscape or portrait orientation; its nine-inch screen has a 4:3 aspect ratio that is perfectly proportioned for smartphone camera photos, and the frame will automatically adjust photos when you rotate it from one orientation to the other. There is a discreet touch bar on the edge of the frame that lets you swipe through photos and videos. The frame also has an ambient sensor that can adjust the brightness of the frame or let it go to sleep depending on the light level in the surrounding area. And if you’re planning to give the frame as a gift, Aura makes it super-simple to preload the frame with photos so that all your recipient has to do is plug in the frame and connect it to their Wi-Fi.
10.1-inch screen | 1200p resolution | Unlimited cloud storage; no built-in storage, USB port, or MicroSD slot | Wi-Fi required | Video: yes | Sound: yes | Landscape
The Aura Carver Luxe’s specs, design, and functionality are similar to those of the Aura Mason, for about $20 less; the main differences are that the Carver has a slightly larger screen, a 16:10 aspect ratio (compared to the Mason’s 4:3, which better accommodates photos taken with a smartphone camera), and can only be displayed in the landscape orientation (an “intelligent pairing” feature can match up related vertical shots to display them side-by-side). It’s well designed and available in two colors, gravel and sea salt. Trolio has gifted the Carver to multiple family members, and called it the best thing she bought last year, noting that “now that there are so many frames in my extended family, we can all add photos to one another’s frames, too — it’s almost like having a private mini social network that is blissfully Zuckerberg free.” As with the Mason, it’s very simple to preload the Carver Luxe with photos so that all your gift recipient has to do is plug it in and connect it to Wi-Fi (this is easiest to do if they their own smartphone).
10-inch screen | 1080p resolution | USB port and SD slot; no built-in storage or cloud storage | No Wi-Fi needed | Video: yes | Sound: yes | Landscape
The Atatat is a budget-friendly digital frame that is best suited for someone who doesn’t have easy access to an internet connection. You display photos or videos on the frame using an USB stick or MicroSD card; there is no built-in storage, and you can’t upload photos via email or online. (Atatat does sell a Wi-Fi-enabled version, if that is your preference.) One Amazon reviewer who uses the Atatat to display her children’s drawings after loading them onto a MicroSD card notes that “operating this digital photo frame is easy.” Instead of touch controls or a touchscreen, the Atatat has a remote control for accessing the settings and photos; there are also physical buttons on the back of the frame with the same functions — including specifying how long each image is displayed and adjusting the brightness of the screen. Numerous reviewers have praised the remote, which makes it easy to browse photos from a distance. You can also add music to accompany your images. The frame has an internal speaker and a headphone jack. It can be displayed in landscape orientation only, with a simple stand to prop it up on a desk or shelf, or it can be mounted on a wall.
10-inch screen | 720p resolution | 8GB built-in storage plus 10GB cloud storage, expandable to 50GB cloud storage with paid subscription; no USB port or MicroSD slot | Wi-Fi required to upload photos | Video: yes | Sound: yes | Landscape or portrait
Touchscreen capabilities help this 10-inch Nixplay frame stand out. You can flip the frame from landscape to portrait mode and easily swipe between your favorite photos or adjust the settings right on the screen. You’ll need Wi-Fi to upload photos using the Nixplay app or a web browser, or you can email photos to the frame’s unique address or import them from Google Photos, Dropbox, Facebook, or Instagram. You can also upload video clips, and the frame has internal speakers for audio playback. The frame has 8GB of internal storage plus 10GB of cloud storage; you can upgrade to 50GB of cloud storage by subscribing to the Nixplay Plus service for $50 annually or $15 quarterly. Membership also extends the frame’s warranty and allows you to upload longer videos. Though Wi-Fi is required to upload photos (there’s no USB port of MicroSD slot), the Nixplay will still display photos that have been uploaded even if it loses an internet connection. One Amazon reviewer commented, “it is a perfect gift for someone who is not good with electronics. Not only does the app allow you to add and remove photos,” they explain, “but it also controls all the settings, sleep times, brightness, volume, and anything else.” As with our top-pick Aura frames, you can invite multiple people to add photos to the Nixplay. It comes in black, white, steel, or “wood effect,” and can be freestanding or mounted on the wall. A smart sensor wakes the frame up when you’re in the room and puts it to sleep when no motion is detected.
15-inch screen | 768p resolution | 8GB of built-in storage plus unlimited cloud storage; USB port and MicroSD slot | Wi-Fi enabled but not required | Video: yes | Sound: yes | Landscape
The Pix-Star has a massive 15-inch screen. It’s about the size of a laptop screen and noticeably larger than the other frames on this list. The Pix-Star also has a motion sensor, 8GB of built-in storage, and a MicroSD slot and USB port for adding photos, or you can upload photos over Wi-Fi via the Pix-Star app, email, or the brand’s website. Unlimited cloud storage is included, and you have the option to link the frame to Google Photos, Dropbox, Instagram, and more. Because there are multiple ways to upload photos and because the Pix-Star has both internal storage and cloud storage, it straddles the line between online and offline usage. If you want to gift the Pix-Star to someone who doesn’t have easy access to Wi-Fi you can easily add more photos by plugging in a USB stick, or if your recipient does have Wi-Fi, you can remotely add photos whenever you like. The frame supports video playback and audio playback and has a few extra features like a time and weather display, and built-in web radio stations that can add a soundtrack to your photos. It can be freestanding or wall-mounted.
10.1-inch screen | 1200p resolution | Unlimited cloud storage; no built-in storage or MicroSD slot | Wi-Fi required | Video: Yes | Sound: Yes | Landscape
The freestanding, landscape-only Aura Buddy frame is extremely similar to the Aura Carver Luxe. You still upload photos via the app, online, or through email and you still have unlimited online cloud storage. Like the Carver Luxe, the Buddy has a 10.1-inch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio. But Aura has designed the Buddy as a showcase for pet photos by offering it in a neutral “biscuit” color and displaying “likes” as paw prints instead of the hearts seen on Aura’s other frames. It still has a touch bar, an ambient light sensor that can adjust brightness, and video and audio support.
7-inch screen | 600p resolution | Cloud storage; no built-in storage, USB port, or MicroSD slot | Wi-Fi required | Video: yes (but not in photo slideshow mode) | Sound: yes | Landscape
The ultracompact, freestanding Google Nest Hub isn’t marketed exclusively as a digital picture frame because it’s technically a smart display and a smart-home control center, but Dan Seifert, deputy editor of the Verge, believes that if the device did nothing but display photos it would still be well worth the cost. It’s “not the largest, most expensive, best sounding, or flashiest smart display you can buy, but it might just be the best one for most people,” he writes in his official review. The Hub has a seven-inch display and comprehensive controls that can be accessed via touchscreen or voice. It also has an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts its brightness and color temperature. But its greatest asset, says Seifert, is its “gorgeous” display that is “lovely to look at, never too bright, with pleasing saturation and colors.” He notes that “Unlike the crappy digital photo frames that were popular a decade ago,” it “actually does justice to your images.” Predictably, it’s easiest to link the Hub to a Google Photos account. And because it’s also a smart hub, you can use it watch videos from YouTube, check the weather, set timers, pull up your calendar, or control lights or other connected devices in your home. Jennifer Pattison Tuohy, smart home reviewer at the Verge, is also a fan. “There are many digital picture frames out there,” she writes in her guide to using the Hub to display photos, “but what sets Google’s apart is the auto-adjustment feature that makes your digital pictures look like a printed image in a frame rather than a digital image on a computer screen.”
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