Digital Photo Frames: The Next Generation of Connected Display

Digital Photo Frames: The Next Generation of Connected Display


Digital photo frames are so much more advanced compared to the old-school picture frame. They provide a library of photos consumers can peer through instead of a single iconic image.

The newest digital frames are high-tech connected devices, with Wi-Fi and the ability to receive and transfer images. Moreover, storage capacity continues to grow, and cloud-based support means more images can funnel in from a variety of sources. With the sheer volume of images shot on any given day, there’s no shortage of content.

In addition, digital frames now come in a selection of sizes and screen resolutions, along with varying levels of connectivity to give them better access to display photos. Not to mention price points. This group stands out of the crowd for those very reasons.

Pix-Star Wi-Fi Cloud

This 15-inch display from Pix-Star is fairly big for a digital frame, though resolution is limited to 1,024×768. Despite that, it’s a 4:3 ratio that’s bright, vibrant and crisp, partly thanks to the LED backlit design that makes it easier to see the images. It’s simple to adjust brightness or contrast, even with the built-in ambient sensor dimming things down when it gets darker.

The frame’s real pedigree, however, is the slew of connectivity and integration options. When on a Wi-Fi network, it pulls in images from about 20 services. These include both photo-based platforms like Flickr, SmugMug and Shutterfly, as well as cloud-based ones like Google Photos, Dropbox and OneDrive. Even social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are supported.

Pix-Star-15-inch digital photo frames
Pix-Star Wi-Fi Cloud

Key to photo acquisition is the frame’s e-mail address. With a dedicated address, people can e-mail photos over directly, populating the frame with new images in a convenient way that’s device agnostic. Pix-Star’s app (iOS and Android) also does the same, albeit without e-mail. It takes photos from a phone or tablet and transfers them to the frame as well.

In addition, within a home network, the frame ties into computers or network storage drives and pulls photos from there, too. Its 8GB of internal storage, coupled with the resolution it stores photos at, means it holds 30,000 images. Moreover, ports for USB thumb drives and SDHC/SDXC memory cards alleviate any issues related to storage space.

Furthermore, its ability to play video clips, show weather forecast information and also play web radio stations almost feel like thrown-in add-ons. $198.

Nixplay Seed Ultra

This 10-inch frame is not to be confused with the lower-resolution version from Nixplay that preceded it. The previous 10-inch Seed displays photos at 1,024×768 resolution, whereas this iteration is better at 2,048×1,536. That officially puts it in 2K territory with a higher pixel density for sharper images.

Also, an embedded Hu motion sensor detects movement to turn the frame on and off, so it doesn’t display images all of the time. When it doesn’t detect anything, the digital frame eventually goes into a sleep state, saving energy in the process. Equally interesting is the lack of a dedicated stand in the back. Nixplay designed the woven power cable to be firm enough to hold the frame upright, either in portrait or landscape orientation.

Nixplay-Seed-Ultra digital photo frames
Nixplay Seed Ultra

Moreover, there is some third-party integration, particularly from Google Photos, Flickr and Dropbox, along with Facebook and Instagram. The Nixplay app (iOS and Android) helps manage and populate the frame with photos and video, though the latter is limited to 15-second snippets.

In addition, it supports Amazon Alexa; users can add the Nixplay Skill to the app on their phone or tablet. That allows them to control certain functions by voice. One would be to open the frame from its sleep state or show a certain playlist of photos.

Nixplay doesn’t highlight it as much, but e-mail capability exists. The frame has its own dedicated address to enable people to send photos in directly. There are no USB or SD card ports, so populating it with images can only be done wirelessly. $219.99.

Photospring Wi-Fi

Photospring has two variants of its digital photo frame. The larger of the two is the 10-inch with a resolution of 1,280×800; it displays everything in a 16:9 aspect ratio. The 8-inch model shares the same resolution and aspect ratio, essentially making it a smaller version of its larger sibling.

Third-party integration, however, is limited to Google Photos and Flickr, acting as a virtual mirror for those two services. For example, any photos users add to either platform will appear on the digital frame. The same is true in reverse. Delete photos and they also disappear from the frame as well.

Photospring-Wi-Fi digital photo frames
Photospring Wi-Fi

Also, rather than use e-mail to send images over, Photospring suggests opening individual accounts and tying them to the frame. That way, all participants can contribute by sending photos from the iOS or Android app, or a web browser on a computer.

Furthermore, there is a built-in battery that allows the frame to run off its charging base for up to four hours. Storage is set at 16GB, which Photospring says is good for 15,000 photos or 40 minutes of video. 8-inch frame, $119.95; 10-inch, $159.95.

Aura Stardust

Oprah Winfrey seemed to like this particular digital photo frame as part of her favorite things of 2018. One of the reasons may be its clean lines and classic appearance. Moreover, the Aura frame has a 9.7-inch display with 2,048×1,536 resolution in a 4:3 aspect ratio, delivering crisp high-res images.

It doesn’t support e-mail or USB sticks, so loading up photos does require integration with certain platforms. Or using the mobile app on iOS and Android to do the job. Google Photos is one of the platforms, but others aren’t available. A constant Wi-Fi connection is necessary to keep the photos active, however, because the device relies on cloud storage entirely.

Aura Stardust

In addition, an ambient light sensor will automatically brighten and dim the display, while gesture-based controls can switch photos with a wave of the hand. Also, a swipe up can show information on where and when the photo was taken. Built-in face recognition also organizes photos of the same people for easier viewing. $299. It also comes in a slate model, $299, and walnut, $399.

Aluratek Wi-Fi Touch Screen

For something a little on the bigger side, this digital photo frame from Aluratek sports a 17.3-inch TFT touch display. It provides 1,920×1,080 resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio. While one of the bigger digital photo frames available, this one isn’t feature-laden, but it does keep things simple.

Aluratek Wi-Fi Touch Screen

Photo integration appears to only work with Facebook and Twitter but not any of the cloud or photo storage platforms. It does support USB drives and SD cards to pull in photos that way, expanding on the 8GB of internal space. Wi-Fi connectivity is a little bit hindered by the lack of wireless AC support, though it should be fine when reasonably close to the router.

Aluratek says it is wall-mountable and compatible with VESA mounts, but without any battery inside, it will need a constant source of power to work. In addition, it will display time, calendar and weather information, as well as act as a digital signage solution. $269.99.