I used this gadget for a year — and it transformed my living room

Close up image of Netgear Meural Canvas II displaying a painting
(Image credit: Future)

Imagine walking into your living room, and viewing masterful paintings from some of the greatest painters of all time. The Netgear Meural Canvas II digital art frame lets you do just that. It's been adorning my walls with works from Van Gogh, Picasso, Rembrandt and many other epic painters for a year now, and it still has me mesmerized. And it's completely transformed my living room. 

A year ago, I was sprucing up my house and wanted to deck out my living room. I was considering buying a painting or digital print that I'd have to frame, anything to introduce some color and life to the walls. That said, I know I am prone to getting bored easily (and I also take around half an hour to decide what to watch over the weekend), so I knew such a decision was not going to be easy.

After a month of procrastinating about purchasing some fine art, I decided to take the digital route and go with the Netgear Meural Canvas II, since it lets you pick a new painting every day. Admittedly, I wasn't sure about this either. I already had some concern over potential buyer's remorse: would I truly appreciate the art coming to my wall, or would it just gather dust?

Image of Netgear Meural Canvas II in a living room

(Image credit: Future)

The Netgear Meural Canvas II can be hung on the wall and has an extensive collection of digital art work to choose from. 

The 16 x 24-inch model costs $599, and the larger 19 x 29-inch variant bumps you up $100 more to $699 (Admittedly, I got a deal, as the smaller unit only cost $399 last year). And then there's a whole membership, because everything is a subscription service these days. While the first year is free, they'll charge you $8.95 per month ($69.95 per year) for access to the Meural's expansive library of more than 30,000 artworks. If you stop paying, you'll be limited to the art you can upload to it.

So what really made me stick with the digital frame and did it really turn me into an aesthete? Read on to find out. 

 What I like about the Netgear Meural Canvas II 

The Netgear Meural Canvas II is great because it just looks like a standard photo frame. I really liked that it has a white border and metal frame, which just go to highlight the paintings, and make it look fresh out of a museum. There's also a wooden frame option if you so prefer. 

It connects to the internet over Wi-Fi, and you switch the art with the accompanying Meural app that offers a whole search engine. You can filter by museums that the art appears in if you just visited a location and want to find a favorite, peruse the work of your favorite artist and, naturally, you can hunt by movement through categories such as abstract art, realism and modern art.

This way, I can feel like I'm transported to the Louvre in Paris or London’s Tate Modern Museum, and 'borrow' paintings I could have never imagined to have in my living room. Yes, these are mere images, and not the real deal, but this frame is not aimed at art collectors.

The Meural app also offers pop culture art with digital posters and moving images, which include assets from a partnership with Marvel. This way, you can switch from the MoMA to the MCU in a moment.

In addition, Meural provides accompanying information on each painting, including a biography of the artist and a short description on the painting itself. Its playlists of paintings makes discovery easy, and I've even created some of my own as well. It even lets me schedule the frame to switch to different works at different times of the day. In the evening, I like to have warm colors to go with the sunset that I can often see from my window.

The display makes the paintings look so close to reality that sometimes I forget this is a digital screen. As we mention in our Meural Canvas II review, its makes the art look "more elegant than a TV showing a photo." The display is a 920 x 1080p LCD with a matte finish that prevents glare. Brush strokes are visible, especially from up close, and the colors really pop. There is an ambient light sensor that adjusts the brightness automatically, giving the picture a natural feel.

True to being a digital frame, you can also upload your own pictures. I created a playlist of pictures I wanted to upload. The one issue I found here, though is that the aspect ratio can be a bit skewed at times. Still, the Meural Canvas II brings my own pictures to life. The Meural app also offers pop culture art with digital posters and moving images, which include assets from a partnership with Marvel. This way, you can switch from the MoMA to the MCU in a moment.

What I don’t like about the Netgear Meural Canvas II

The Meural is aesthetically pleasing for the most part. There is a power button, a dock for an SD card and a micro USB input tucked away neatly. My minor frustration comes from the power cable that sticks out and gives away the charm of being a true-to-like canvas. I have tried to conceal it with a white wire protector, but that only seems to clean it up a bit. 

Image of Netgear Meural Canvas II in a living room

Wire casing is needed for the power cable of the Netgear Meural Canvas II (Image credit: Future)

Another gripe I have with the Netgear Meural Canvas II is its gesture control interface. Since you're not supposed to touch the art at a museum, the Meural Canvas II has you swipe without touching, essentially moving your hand in front of the painting, like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. You move up from the bottom center of the canvas will bring up more information on the painting, and swiping right will bring up the menu. These gestures may be fun to use the first time, but I wasn't impressed thereafter. It's often slightly glitchy, and takes multiple swipes before the canvas actually responds. One year down the road — I control my Meural only with the app.

The other issue is that you're kinda stuck in one picture orientation at a time, unless you want to re-hang the Canvas II. Since the frame is hung vertically or horizontally, you pick and stick with one of those modes. That said, for $49, you can buy a swiveling mount that lets you easily rotate with little effort.

 Netgear Meural Canvas II: Bottom line 

I never intended to spend $399 on something to make my living room more visually dynamic. But one year after buying the Netgear Meural Canvas II, I am still as into it as when I unboxed it. It is a great addition to my living room and always draws the attention of guests who want to know more about the gadget. 

The realistic representation of artwork is impressive and if you have any interest in art, the depth of the library is strong enough to keep you occupied with learning and discovering. I wonder if Netgear has considered adding support for art acquired via NFTs (though you could just save the JPEG and claim you bought it).

Regardless, the Canvas II is one of the most beautiful ways of bringing art into your home without actually going through a dealer or learning how to paint. I learned a lot about Van Gogh’s style of work and even styles like pointillism. I'm curious if I could trick someone into thinking I have a Master's Degree in Fine Arts.

That said, Netgear Meural is not alone in its category. There is Amazon’s Echo Show 15 which is one of the best smart displays and costs much less at $249. You will not have access to artworks, but it serves as a speaker and is a smart display. Samsung’s The Frame TV is also an option, but is much more expensive at $1,999. It has a 4K resolution and many images and paintings that can be accessed in “Art” mode. 

Next: This $19 gadget automated my garage with no hassles.

Sanjana Prakash
News Editor

Sanjana loves all things tech. From the latest phones, to quirky gadgets and the best deals, she's in sync with it all. Based in Atlanta, she is the news editor at Tom's Guide. Previously, she produced India's top technology show for NDTV and has been a tech news reporter on TV. Outside work, you can find her on a tennis court or sipping her favorite latte in instagrammable coffee shops in the city. Her work has appeared on NDTV Gadgets 360 and CNBC.