There can be little-to-no denying that, aside from the sudden surprise resurgence in popularity of novelty digital photo printers over the past 12 months or so, many crisp, new technologies that were once at the fore of desirability have long since fallen by the wayside.
I speak, of course, of stuff such as the audio cassette, pneumatic tubes, Blackberry phones and, of course, horses. Each of these aforementioned innovations of their day have all been replaced by something slicker and more efficient - as is the eventual inevitable entropy of all tech. And such was the case with the high street-printed photograph.
Once the darling of snap-happy types who were content to wait two-weeks for prints of their photographic film to be returned, only to discover that most of their pics were blurred, obscured by thumbs or just generally naff, digital photography did for all of that and the once massively popular printed photograph died a savage death.
But it didn’t die alone. No, with the disappearance of the printed pic, the need to display photos on anything other than a smartphone screen also killed off, by association, the humble photo frame; after all, with nothing to stick in them, what purpose did they serve? None at all; now they were nothing but hollow frames of tragic disinterest.
However, the death knell for analogue photo frames also served to signal the birth of something – perhaps predictably – new: digital photo frames! Yep, despite being around since the 1990s, digital photo frames never really quite make it to the top of anyone’s Christmas list (or, indeed, top 10) due to the fact that they generally involved fiddly, easy to lose SD cards.
But in today’s wireless world, where Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are everywhere, now throwing any and all of your digital doodahs into a frame to enjoy full-scale without squinting for detail is child’s play itself.
So, bored of that big space on the wall where images of your world should be? Then just take a shufty at this lot…
Aura Frames Mason
Best for: display and design
Cutting to the chase, there are digital photo frames and there are digital photo frames. And this, the Mason, from acclaimed frame-maker Aura, is most definitely the latter.
Sculpted for pride of place display on tables, coffee tables occasional tables and, moving away from the naming of table types, mantlepieces alike, this freestanding digital photo frame is a work of aesthetic art in itself.
Available in either White Quartz or Graphite finishes, both design cues and reassuring weight elevate this above all others of its ilk instantly. And that’s before we even touch on the tech, which is ample and extremely easy to use.
Hook it up to the Wi-Fi and connect to the Aura smartphone (Android and iOS) app and you can simply tag and add photos and video (oh yes) from your phone to the frame’s unlimited (and free) online storage in seconds. What’s more, Aura’s smart tech automatically adjust images to fit the frame perfectly so that, once appearing on the super-sharp and bright 9-inch Full-HD (1600 x 1200) display, they’re nothing less than class-leading.
The aforementioned Aura app allows you to adjust image order (or leave on shuffle) and alter the on-screen time of each image in your slideshow, while the simple act of physically turning the Mason alters the orientation from landscape to portrait and/or vice-versa.
Adding in almost invisible touch controls along two sides of the frame (to suit each orientation), the Aura Frames Mason in terms of design, function and tech just screams quality, easily securing its position at the pinnacle of the digital photo frame pantheon.
Buy now £189.00, Aura
Nixplay 10.1-inch Touch Screen Smart Photo Frame
Best for: Keeping the whole clan in the picture
Close-knit family who, despite living epic distances away from each other, like to feel involved in each other’s day-to-day life via photos and videos? Well, other than piccies of cats and picking arguments with strangers, that’s what social media is for. But what if you wanted to share pics and vids securely with up to 10 sets of loved-ones without having to let those lurking in the shadows behind social media set-ups have access to your images? Welcome to Nixplay…
Offering an array of stylish digital photo frames, the options I’ve plumped for here is their 10.1-inch Touch Screen, mostly because it’s Nixplay’s newest offering and it also comes full-armed with techie treats. Standing at 10.1-inches high or, indeed, wide depending on whether you stand it vertically or horizontally, this is another app-driven option which allows you to upload countless images/videos to display at home and/or share with Nixplay frame-owning relatives anywhere in the world. Yes, although a monthly subscription charge is levied, with Nixplay you can instantly share new images with family across the globe with the push of a few virtual buttons. Pretty cool, eh? Just be careful to check what you’re uploading, otherwise you might kill Great Auntie Maud.
As I say, it comes with tech treats abounding, including a sizable LCD IPS touchscreen with a high-def resolution of 1280 x 800, an aspect ratio of 16:10, 400cd/m2 of brightness to help it shine in highly bright, reflective conditions, and contrast at 500:1 to keep darker elements rich in detail.
Working on Nixplay’s own OS7 and app-compatible with both Android and Apple phones, 10GB of cloud storage comes free with purchase of the frame, with paid upgrade available, and although it comes complete with a detachable stand, it can also be wall-mounted for full photo-viewing flexibility.
Available in Black or Wood frame finishes, if you want to share photos with your familiar folk in effortless style, the Nixplay 10.1-inch Touch Screen Smart Photo Frame is the pixel-perfect choice.
Buy now £139.99, Amazon
Amazon Alexa Show 15
Best for: the ultimate digital photo frame and more
Okay, okay, I know I’ve strayed quite some distance from the ‘purity’ of the digital photo frame somewhat, but there is no denying that, despite being an Alexa-powered smart display that can also control smart devices throughout the house, stream music and video, make video calls, plus allow unfettered access to the entire internet and all that that entails, but when not doing any of that, there can be no denying that the Alexa Show 15 is simply a stonkingly sized digital photo frame.
Equally at home mounted on the wall as it is propped upon a stand on a counter, the Alexa Show 15 can be utilised either horizontally or vertically, and offers up images and video on its – frankly – colossal 15.6-inch (on the vertical, obviously) display in glorious 1080p Full-HD resolution, eking out every nuance of any image that appears.
Featuring simple set-up over Wi-Fi, all you have to do is upload images to your Amazon Photos account and, from there, decide which pics you want adorning the display of your Alexa Show 15. Amazon Prime members get unlimited high-res image storage and 5GB for video, upgradable to 100GB for just £1.49 per month, so space galore for all your digital camera-caught memories to be stored prior to being splashed across that substantial smart screen.
If a Full-HD photo frame is what you desire, at a scale that allows those pics to be appreciated by anyone across rooms of beyond average proportions, and which also just so happens to be packed with more than a fair bit of smart tech as an added bonus, the Amazon Alexa Show 15 could have been created with you specifically in mind.
Buy now £240.00, Amazon
twelve south PowerPic Picture Frame Stand
Best for: desk-based photo following
Taking the idea of the digital photo frame in a completely different but quite ingenious direction now is the PowerPic Picture Frame Stand from a company by the name of twelve south, a small but potent tech accessory maker operating out of South Carolina and selling the world over.
With the PowerPic, 12-S – as I shall henceforth refer to them – took the idea of the digital photo frame and turned it on its head. You see, rather than sporting an expensive HD display this 5x7-inch New Zealand pine photo frame is… a 5x7-inch New Zealand pine photo frame with no display of its own in sight!
For what the 12-S does have is built-in Qi wireless charging, so rather than fannying about with separate apps and uploads, simply select your own phone’s image gallery, start a slideshow and pop it in the PowerPic – now you can enjoy a framed digital photo display and have your phone charge simultaneously.
Charging any Android or iPhone with Qi supported, when not in tandem play with your smartphone, you can simply stick an actual printed photo (if you have such an archaic thing) inside to let the twelve south PowerPic function as ye olde school analogue photo frame too. The stuff of madness? Maybe. The best-looking charging dock about? Without any doubt.
Buy now £60.00, Very
Best for: the interior design savvy
Ticking every box they can conceivably think of, the RWF-108 (available in both Rosegold or Blue finishes) from Kodak is the digital photo frame for those who want the moon on a stick when it comes to image-getting-on options.
A 10-incher with a rechargeable battery will let you stick it anywhere you want to see snaps but might not have a suitably close power socket. The Kodak also comes with 16GB of RAM built-in and 10GB of free cloud storage which you can upload to via Wi-Fi and the Kodak app, but – beyond that – it can also accept and play images and video stored both SD cards and USB sticks, giving you no excuse for having just the same 10 pics going round and round and round.
Featuring an HD 800 x 1280 IPS screen for deliciously crisp images and a tilting design that gives it an aesthetic edge, the Kodak’s talents don’t end at being a highly portable, flexible and presentable digital photo frame either.
No, also capable of doubling up as an alarm clock, calendar and able to warn about forthcoming weather, the Kodak RWF-108 is a dynamic digital photo frame for those who want the freedom to present their pics anywhere they go.
Buy now £170.00, Amazon
twelve south PowerPic Mod
Best for: fans of photo-viewing minimalism
Another neat offering from the South Carolina collective that is twelve south, what we have in the barely-there-at-all PowerPod Mod is a wholly minimalist digital photo frame that is so thoroughly minimalist in being a digital photo frame that it doesn’t even have a frame.
Yes, like its larger sibling, the Mod is, in essence, a wireless smartphone charger stand, but it is one that, thanks to its stunning, transparent Lucite ‘frame’ displays your smartphone and the images slideshowing on its display off to an absolute T.
Android and Apple compatible, the frameless design means that even those who choose to struggle around with smartphones the size of some TVs will still be able to employ the Mod’s ample charging and display charms.
Stunningly stylish and able to show-off your snaps free from any fuss, what more do you need to know?
Buy now £55.00, Very
Clarity 7-inch Digital Picture Frame
Best for: plug and play photo framing
No Wi-Fi? No problem! I mean, even those who live in caves on tiny islands on the very outskirts of the UK should have a right to digital photo displays, right? Well, taking us right back to the very origins of the digital photo frame, but with a far keener eye for styling and added extras, the 7-inch Clarity is a stand- or wall-mountable option that relies on nowt but your USB- or SD-stored files to display up to 30,000 photos in one, almost endless slideshow, plus any additional videos or, indeed, music files.
With a pixel resolution of 1024 x 600, your prized pics are going to look Sunday-suit sharp, while the included remote let’s you flick and shuffle through your stuff, perhaps skipping over images of exes you keep forgetting to delete.
Also, if used bed- or deskside, the Clarity includes a headphone jack for personal late-night listening and, even if you do live in a cave on a tiny island on the very outskirts of the UK, there’s even an in-built calendar you can flick to, so you never miss the arrival of the next boat of essential supplies, the right time of year to plant potatoes or, indeed, the correct moon under which to erect a wicker man.
Solidly built and good-looking to boot, if all you want is pixel-perfect pics without having to bother with Wi-Fi or associated apps, then the Clarity is the clearest way to achieve it. I guess it was all in the name…
Buy now £45.00, OnBuy
Amazon Echo Show 5
Best for: bedside snap shows with all the bells and whistles
Wandering, perhaps, off the strict ‘digital photo frame’ path once more like a shopping trolley with one wonky wheel, if it is a high-res bedside image exhibition you desire, yet you find the twelve south options too minimalist and the other options I’ve recommended here just a little on the large side, then welcome to the smart snap-showing world of the Amazon Echo Show 5.
The 2nd generation of said Show gives you Alexa on-hand to see to all your internet and smart-device operating needs, yes it lets you view video and stream music, make video calls and ask of it the eternal questions such as: “Alexa, what’s the weather forecast?”, and, depending on who you work for, “Alexa, what defines a ‘party’?”, however, in its purest form, the Amazon Echo Show 5 is a 5.5-inch, 960 x 480 resolution, digital photo display.
Linked to your Wi-Fi, you can use the Amazon Photo app on your phone or via your PC to upload and organise all your images and videos to play back on the Echo Show 5’s screen, soothing you to sleep at night or ready to brighten your morning/afternoon when you awaken again, perhaps aroused by an Alexa-set alarm.
A small but perfectly formed digital photo show-er that comes packed with smart features to keep tech-heads more than happy, the Amazon Echo Show 5 is a true bedside buddy.
Buy now £75.00, Amazon
The remit for this review round-up was quite simply ‘Best Digital Photo Frames’, and although there is really no grey area about that, I may have gone somewhat off-piste with one or two of my inclusions, this I admit. But in my defence, every exactingly selected item featured is at its heart a digital photo frame, despite the angle it approaches that job from.
However, when it comes to picking a photo frame favourite with that task first and foremost in mind, you really cannot beat the Aura Frames Mason. Creatively conceived, incredibly tactile and beautiful to behold – that’s before you even power it up. Once your pics are uploaded to the app and appear automatically on that stunning detailed Full HD display, even if you had no interest in digital photo frames before, one glance at the picture-perfect Aura Mason will turn your head, open your eyes and change your mind.