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When you and your loved ones feel worlds apart, looking at a lovely picture or two can help you feel a little closer. With so many photos on our phones, hard drives, or in the cloud, printing them all out isn’t practical (and there’s never enough room to display them all on your wall, anyway). A digital frame can fix that: Prop one up on your desk or mantel, plug it in, install an app, and you can have a stream of photos or videos from your camera roll playing throughout the day. Many frames will even let your family or friends send pictures directly to your frame, so you can get surprises like a picture of your niece going to the zoo for the first time. To find the best digital frame for you, I spoke with Strategist editors and writers who love their digital frames, as well as tested a couple more specialized frames, like those with smart displays and cellular-connected models. Style-wise, digital picture frames trend toward minimal and simple; you won’t find any gilt 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.
Read on to find out what to look for and which frames we recommend.
What we’re looking for
Photo sharing method
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 a child’s artwork, if you happen to have a young Picasso (or simply an enthusiastic crafter) on your hands. In any case, if you plan on having friends or family send you photos to show on your frame, you’ll want one that’s easy enough for them to send to without being an inconvenience.
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 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 (though those frames may require a subscription to their cloud service, which usually costs about $5 per month).
Screen size and resolution
Some brands offer smaller digital frames, but the most common screen size is around nine or ten inches. You can also find larger frames that measure around 15 inches 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 fewer pixels. Resolution measures pixels per inch (PPI), and the fewer pixels per inch, the grainier the image (this is especially important when gifting a frame and considering someone else’s vision). 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.
Most of us take photos in both landscape and portrait orientations, so, the best frames will be able to adequately handle a mix of both no matter the frame’s physical orientation in your home.
Video and sound
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 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.
Best overall digital picture frame
Photo sharing method: Unlimited cloud storage | Storage: No on-board storage | Screen size and resolution: 9 inch screen, 1200p resolution | Photo orientation: Landscape or portrait | Video and sound: Yes
The Aura Mason comes recommended by several Strategist writers and editors who not only have it in their own homes but have gifted it to loved ones. The stylish, freestanding frame offers the best balance of features and ease of use, so even less tech-savvy folks can still get the hang of it. The Aura Mason doesn’t have any built-in storage, but you can upload unlimited photos to the frame using its dedicated app, link the frame to a Google Photos or Apple iCloud account, send photos to the frame’s unique email address, or use Aura’s web uploader. When synced with iCloud Photos or Google Photos, you can sync entire albums, so all you have to do is add select shots to that album, rather than syncing directly within Aura’s app. Sam Daly, a deals editor at the Strategist, uses an older Aura frame, but says the app is still her favorite part of the experience: “After vacations, birthdays, and evenings out, it’s become a ritual to hop on the Aura app, select my faves, and immediately see my loved ones’ smiling faces displayed.”
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 (something no other frame we tested offered) 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.
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 display 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 it with photos so that all your recipient has to do is plug in the frame and connect it to their Wi-Fi.
Lauren Ragan, director of ad operations at Vox Media, gifted a Mason to her in-laws, and says the simplicity and convenience is a huge plus. “It’s funny because they’re the opposite of tech-savvy. They still used paper maps until a few years ago, but they figured the frame out right away,” she says. “It also holds a ton of pictures. When we went for Christmas we saw so many pictures on it that we had forgotten we even sent.”
Best (less-expensive) digital picture frame
Photo sharing method: Unlimited cloud storage | Storage: No on-board storage | Screen size and resolution: 10.1 inch screen; 1200p resolution | Photo orientation: Landscape | Video and sound: Yes
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). The larger screen isn’t an issue; images still look sharp and bright on the Carver Luxe, according to Stephen Galamb, a software engineer at Vox Media, who owns one and has gifted a few to family members “It’s a fantastic solution for far flung families,” he says. “My sister is out in Seattle and my parents and my family are in New Jersey. My sister had her first baby and was able to send pics of him out here without a problem.”
The Carver Luxe is available in two colors, gravel and sea salt. As with the Mason, it’s very simple to preload it 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 have their own smartphone). Jen Trolio, a senior editor at The Strategist, 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.”
Best digital picture frame that doesn’t need Wi-Fi
Photo sharing method: USB port and SD slot | Storage: No on-board storage | Screen size and resolution: 10.1 inch screen; 1080p resolution | Photo orientation: Landscape | Video and sound: Yes
The Atatat is a budget-friendly digital frame that is best suited for someone who doesn’t have easy access to an internet connection, or just prefers to not have another connected device. 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. Photos can only be displayed in landscape orientation. It comes with a simple stand to prop it up on a desk or shelf, or it can be mounted on a wall.
Do note that its 1080p resolution is a bit lower than most those you can get from Aura, but it’s higher than a few others we recommend.
Best touchscreen digital picture frame
Photo sharing method: 10 GB cloud storage (expandable to 50 GB with paid subscription) | Storage: 8 GB on-board storage | Screen size and resolution: 10 inch screen; 720p resolution | Photo orientation: Landscape or portrait | Video and sound: Yes
Touchscreen capabilities help this ten-inch Nixplay frame stand out. It allows you to do things like pause slideshows, toggle settings, and even “like” photos that spark joy, all without having to grab a remote or use your phone. 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 upgrades the frame’s warranty to a lifetime (the free warranty is only one year) and allows you to upload longer videos. That’s not as good a deal as Aura’s unlimited cloud storage, but the NixPlay has more options for syncing photos.
Though Wi-Fi is required to upload photos (there’s no USB port or MicroSD slot), the Nixplay will still display photos that have been uploaded even if it loses an internet connection. 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, if you’re worried about your electric bill.
Best large-screen digital picture frame
Photo sharing method: Unlimited cloud storage; USB port and microSD slot | Storage: 8 GB of on-board storage | Screen size and resolution: 15 inch screen; 768p resolution | Photo orientation: Landscape | Video and sound: Yes
The Pix-Star has a massive 15-inch screen, which is I about the size of a laptop display and noticeably larger than the other frames on this list. Like the Nixplay, the Pix-Star also has a motion sensor, 8GB of built-in storage, and a MicroSD slot and USB port for adding photos. You can upload photos over Wi-Fi via the Pix-Star app, email, or the brand’s website. As with Aura’s frames, 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.
Best digital photo frame for pet photos
Photo sharing method: Unlimited cloud storage | Storage: No on-board storage | Screen size and resolution: 10.1 inch screen; 1200p resolution | Photo orientation: Landscape | Video and sound: Yes
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.
As with Aura’s other frames, there’s no on-board storage, so you do need an internet connection to sync photos and videos. If you’re planning on just syncing an album from your cloud storage app of choice, that won’t be a problem, but keep it in mind if you’re gifting it to a fellow pet lover who doesn’t have Wi-Fi.
Best smart display photo frame
Photo sharing method: Cloud storage | Storage: No on-board storage for photos | Screen size and resolution: 7 inch screen; 600p resolution | Photo orientation: Landscape | Video and sound: Yes
If you have limited space in your home for an extra gadget, you can double up with a digital picture frame and smart home speaker all-in-one. 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.” In my experience, that tracks; photos look excellent on the Nest Hub’s display, and its syncing process makes it easy to put your favorite photos front and center with little fuss.
Predictably, it’s easiest to link the Hub to a Google Photos account, though you may need to pay for additional storage in Google Drive to make room for all your photos. And because it’s also a smart hub, you can use it to 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.”
In addition to its impressive capabilities as a picture frame, its speaker sounds great for jamming to a playlist while you cook dinner or kick back and relax. It won’t compete with a more audio-focused smart device like Apple’s HomePod or Amazon’s Echo Studio, but if you want a speaker that can show all your favorite photos while you listen to your favorite playlist, the Nest Hub can’t be beat.
Best cellular-network frame
Photo sharing method: Unlimited cloud storage | Storage: Not listed | Screen size and resolution: 10 inch screen; 800p resolution | Photo orientation: Landscape | Video and sound: No
For the non-tech-savvy loved one out there who doesn’t have access to Wi-Fi, Familink’s 4G-powered photo frame is a good way to still feed photos into someone’s home without having to be there. The Familink comes with three months of 4G service, free of charge, and after that it’s about $7 per month. It does support Wi-Fi, so you don’t have to pay for the 4G service, but if you or your recipient has access to Wi-Fi, another similarly-priced frame with a higher resolution may be a better option. Familink also limits uploads over 4G to 10 photos per day, so if you’re sending a ton of photos, that’s another reason to connect it over Wi-Fi, which allows for unlimited uploads.
Photos look great on its 800p display, despite being lower than some other frames we recommend. In my testing, even from a distance of around 10 feet, I could easily see the photos of my friends and family I’d uploaded and recognize everything in the picture.
Setup is dead simple, too: Plug the frame in, scan a QR code in the company’s app, and you’re good to send photos to the frame within the app or via email. It’s a bit more manual than connecting to an existing photo library or dropping in a microSD card, but it also provides a more curated feed of images for the recipient and lets them easily add their own photos without much fuss.
It’s not without its caveats, though: It does require some form of a connection for the initial photo transfer, and its landscape-only kickstand only props out at one angle. Additionally, it doesn’t support video or audio playback, so it’s strictly for viewing photos. It only comes in one light wood finish, though in addition to the ten-inch version, there’s also a smaller seven-inch model if you’re limited on space.
• Dan Seifert, Verge deputy editor
• Jen Trolio, Strategist senior editor
• Jennifer Pattison Tuohy, Verge smart-home reviewer
• Sam Daly, deals editor at The Strategist
• Stephen Galamb, software engineer at Vox Media
• Lauren Ragan, director of ad operations at Vox Media
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