When was the last time you actually printed one of your photos and had it framed? If you’re anything like us, it’s been years – which is why digital photo frames are becoming a popular way to put your smartphone snaps on show.
Some let you upload photos from the cloud, while others are simpler and use USB sticks or SD cards to move files over. Either way, they’re a great way to get your photos off Instagram and up on your walls.
Dedicated digital photo frames have since been joined by smart displays from Google and Amazon that show off your photos but do a lot more besides – here are the best of both.
Best digital photo frame reviews
1. Nixplay Smart Photo Frame
The 9.7in Smart Photo Frame is Nixplay’s best digital photo frame yet, finally pairing excellent display quality with software smarts.
No, it doesn’t do as much as a Google or Amazon smart display – and yes, it costs more than those despite that fact. But it’s simpler to use than either once you’ve got past initial setup, and on the 2K 9.7in model the display quality is unmatched for showing off your holiday snaps.
Just note that the larger models use lower resolution screens, so there will be a drop in quality as you move up sizes. The FHD 13.3in and 15.6in models should still make your photos look pretty good, but we’d steer clear of the lower resolution 10.1in variant – it’s cheaper, but you likely lose too much quality for that price.
Read our full Nixplay Smart Photo Frame review
2. Google Nest Hub Max
The Google Nest Hub Max is the best smart display we’ve tested to date.
It brings along a larger, more useful display as well as a camera which is far more useful than simply making video calls. It can recognise different users, be used as a security camera and supports gestures for playback.
Futhermore, the audio performance is excellent so well worth the upgrade if you want to listen to music. The JBL Link View has better audio but we prefer the Max as an all-round device.
Read our full Google Nest Hub Max review
3. Google Nest Hub
It might not be flawless but we feel Google’s Nest Hub (formerly Home Hub) with Google Assistant inside is an excellent option for a smart display so far. It’s an affordable price and the compact, stylish design will ensure it fits almost anywhere in your home.
There might not be a camera and audio quality isn’t the best but this is reflected in the price. What Nest Hub does have is an excellent screen on which Google Assistant can show as well as tell.
You might find it a little too small for some rooms, but it generally works very well for all manner of tasks including streaming music, watching video and simply providing useful information.
If you can afford it, get the much better Nest Hub Max.
Read our full Google Nest Hub review
4. Nixplay Seed Wave 13in Photo Frame (Wi-Fi)
The Nixplay Seed Wave offers a host of features that make it a fun and attractive gadget to show off to friends – but the integrated speakers add a premium to the price that may not make its £200/$200-plus RRP palatable to all.
There’s no denying the Seed Wave is smart, with cloud storage, Spotify control and even Alexa support if you’re in the US, and that’s ultimately what you pay for. Trimmings aside, if you’re interested in picture quality, you get a vibrant and crisp 13in display. We just wish it had a suaver border to make it look less chunky, and a prettier cable to keep it powered (there’s no battery support, unfortunately).
Read our full Nixplay Seed Wave 13in Photo Frame (Wi-Fi) review
5. Lenovo Smart Display
The Lenovo Smart Display is an impressive third-party Google smart display that’s probably a better option than the Google Home Hub for most users thanks to the choice of two larger displays (8in or 10in) and the inclusion of a camera for video calls – though it does cost a good chunk more than Google’s own offering, which holds it back slightly.
The larger screen is seriously welcome when looking up travel, reading recipes, or watching YouTube videos, and it’s also given Lenovo space to fit in a surprisingly solid speaker. It’s hardly world beating, but there’s plenty of bass and enough volume to fill the room, which is more than we expected from a device led by its screen.
Ultimately, the irritations here are mostly on Google’s side, and mostly software – so we hope they might improve over time anyway. Lack of support for the vertical orientation and the frustratingly stripped back touchscreen controls are undeniably annoying, and highlight the occasional failings of the voice controls.
Read our full Lenovo Smart Display review
6. Nix Advance 8-Inch Digital Photo Frame
The Nix Advance is a simple, no frills digital photo frame that does exactly what it sets out to do. It doesn’t have the best screen or the most complex features, but if you want a simple frame for your digital photos that’s dead easy to set up, it’s a very solid choice.
Read our full Nix Advance 8-Inch Digital Photo Frame review
7. Amazon Echo Show
It’s expensive, but the 2nd-gen Echo Show is a good upgrade on the original. If you want Alexa with a screen this is a good option. It lets you call other people with Alexa devices, look up stuff online and watch Amazon Prime video. Just remember that it needs to be plugged in, it’s not a tablet.
Audio is decent and the screen is a good size but unless you really want the visual element or ability to call other Shows, you’d be better off with the Echo or the Echo Plus. And if you do want a screen but a more affordable price, look to the Echo Show 5.
Read our full Amazon Echo Show (2nd-gen) review
8. Netgear Meural Canvas II
The Meural Canvas II is a little different to the other frames on this list. It’s larger, with a choice between 21.5in and 27in displays, and is correspondingly more expensive.
If you buy the frame on its own you can use it to display your own photos or choose from a small selection of free artworks, but for $8.95 per month you can access more than 30,000 other paintings and photographs to show off from your wall.
The problem is that between the high price of the frame and the ongoing subscription you’ll have to pay a lot and keep on paying – which would be more forgivable if it weren’t for intermittent Wi-Fi problems and some dodgy gesture controls.
If you can afford the price then the software frustrations are worth putting up with, but for most of us that will be harder to justify.
Read our full Netgear Meural Canvas II review
Digital photo frame buying advice
As with any tech, not all digital photo frames are created equal, and there’s a bit of variation in what features you can expect. Here’s what to look out for.
Cloud storage vs. physical media
The first thing to check is how the frame accesses and stores photos. Older or cheaper frames tend to rely on physical storage, with ports for USB sticks or SD cards, which it plays the photos from. Make sure to check if the frame has its own internal storage to transfer the photos to, or if you’ll need to leave the USB stick or SD card connected to access your images.
More recent frames often have Wi-Fi support, which means they can access images directly from the cloud. That might mean emailing photos directly to your frame, or (more conveniently) linking your account up to your Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Google Photos, or similar to play images directly from those accounts. You’ll also want to check if you can manage those services through a dedicated smartphone app, or if you’re limited to a web interface or the frame itself.
If you’re already adding your photos to social media or cloud storage accounts anyway, this means you can add them to your photo frame at the same time, making it pretty painless to keep it updated with your latest snaps. Just make sure that you don’t accidentally send something to the frame that you’d rather keep private…
The best digital photo frames will include an activity sensor, which detects (usually using a microphone) whether anyone is in the room, only turning on when there’s someone around, which is a great way of saving power. Just bear in mind that if you have pets roaming the house, they may be enough to trigger the sensor, turning the frame on unnecessarily.
The other option is to set a sleep timer, telling your frame to automatically turn off and on at certain times of day – off when you go to bed or leave for the office, on for when you wake up or come home at the end of the day.
Most good frames should include both options, allowing you to combine them to really make sure the frame is only on when you want it to be.
One last note: set your expectations accordingly when it comes to display quality. Even though they’re essentially just screens with photo storage, screen quality is only slowly becoming a priority across the digital photo frame market.
Look out for screens that are at least Full HD (as some still aren’t that) and even better 2K, though don’t expect to see 4K yet. Note that the lower resolution screens will typically have fewer pixels than your phone, and in turn lower resolution than your photos were taken at.
Still, for most people that won’t be a problem, and the displays tend to be bright and crisp enough to make photos look good, with decent viewing angles so you can enjoy photos from across the room. It just might frustrate serious photographers hoping to see their photos at their absolute best.
Smart displays are a new product category kicked off by Amazon’s Echo Show: stationary displays that include a virtual assistant. The Echo Show includes Amazon’s Alexa assistant, but you can also buy smart displays powered by the Google Assistant.
We’ve made the decision to include some of these smart displays in this chart because they include support for displaying slideshows of photographs, along with a whole lot of functionality besides, such as watching YouTube, listening to music, looking up travel instructions, or just asking Amazon or Google for information about various things.
Smart displays are currently about the same price as many dedicated digital photo frames, which might make them a no-brainer given they have so much extra functionality. There are a couple of downsides to be aware of though. First up, they can be a little more confusing to navigate, and lack the ultra-simplicity of some of the offline digital frames.
Secondly, they’re tied to specific digital photo services: Google Photos for Google Assistant displays, and Amazon Photos for Echo displays. If you already use one of these (or are happy to start) then they’re fantastic, but if you just want to use photos from a USB stick, or display images from other services such as Flickr or Instagram, then some of the dedicated photo frames in our round-up may be better suited.
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