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.
What we’re looking for
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.
Best overall digital picture frame
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.
Best less-expensive digital picture frame
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).
Best digital picture frame that doesn’t need Wi-Fi
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.