Want to make the most of those summer photos? Today's digital photo frames can link to online services like Google Photos, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and Dropbox and send and receive images via email and mobile apps.
And don't worry about setup. Some brands even offer a way to connect multiple frames from a single web app so non-technical users can be sent new photos automatically via email or Wi-Fi as easily as opening an envelope full of prints.
These frames come in a range of sizes and resolutions with varying capabilities, with prices depending on size and image quality. We evaluated 10 models, comparing image quality, ease of use, storage, social media integration and more.
Based on our tests, the best digital photo frame overall is the Pix-Star 15-inch Wi-Fi Cloud Digital Photo Frame. At $199.99, it's not cheap, but you get a big and clear display, handy email features and integration with all the major social networks.
The best value is the Nix Advance Digital Photo Frame 8 inch Widescreen ($79.99), which is compact enough to put on your nightstand and offers plenty of ways to customize photo playback along with a motion sensor.
The best digital photo frame overall
The best thing about the Pix-Star 15-inch Wi-Fi Cloud Digital Photo Frame is its stunning photo quality. With the 4:3 aspect ratio on a 1024 x 768-pixel screen, images look crisp, bright and clear. You can make adjustments to the LED backlit screen for brightness, hue and contrast depending on ambient lighting.
The Pix-Star has many smart extras: You can stream broadcasts from a number of international radio stations to play music over a slideshow, and there are many transitions available to customize image presentation. You can also set reminders, use the built-in calculator and play simple puzzles, Sodoku and other games.
This gadget lets you link up to 25 frames from a single account, where you can send and receive images and audio messages directly to and from connected frames. You can also view pictures from web albums, including Google Photos, Facebook, Flickr and Smugmug. The frame offers 4GB of onboard memory and supports USB thumb drives and SDHC/SDXC camera cards.
The trickiest part of setting up the Pix-Star was coordinating multiple frames. If you have more than one frame you can set up a special email address to sync photo collections with individual frames, but you can't see all your frames on one page. Setup seemed a bit slow, as the frame took its time to respond to a USB stick full of photos and videos. But, overall, the Pix-Star is the best digital photo frame you can buy.
The smartest digital frame
When it comes to easy operation with superlative large-screen slideshows and a stylish presentation, the Nixplay Original 15-inch WiFi Digital Photo Frame is among the best available. With a 1024 x 768 resolution and IPS display, images look vibrant and beautiful with a variety of slideshow styles. I found the native hue and saturation natural as opposed to punched up, but you can adjust the picture to your visual taste.
The web interface offers a customized management system that lets you easily drag-and-drop individual playlists to multiple Wi-Fi albums and manage and sync up to five separate frames from a single account. You can also access photos from Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Flickr and Google Photos, with secure upload to Nixplay's encrypted cloud storage.
Video playback for various formats is limited to 15 seconds at 720p; you can upload via the iOS app or play content from USB and SD/SDHC cards. You can also use the mobile app as a remote.
The frame's matte rubberized surface looks polished and sophisticated in any room, where you can set it on a table or mount it on the wall. It's also interoperable with Amazon Alexa, letting you play specific playlists from any Wi-Fi connected frame. Nixplay makes it intuitive to manage different frames online by letting you drag-and-drop photos.
Best digital photo frame value
As a compact frame for a desk or end table, the Nix Advance 8-inch Digital Photo Frame is a bright, colorful choice. Its traditional 4:3 aspect ratio, LED backlit display shows photos in realistic and appropriately saturated colors with crisp details. Skin tones look natural, and the frame shows deep blacks for black-and-white shots.
The motion sensor helps conserve energy so that you don't have to switch the unit off if the room is empty. It accepts both USB and SD/SDHC cards for displaying a single photo, rotating a slideshow, or 720p video.
Best for widescreen viewing
If you seek a widescreen photo frame where you can forget about the complexities of Wi-Fi setup, web control and email, the Nix Advance 10-inch photo frame has your number. This reasonably priced unit boasts a 1280 x 800, 16:10 display where you can plug in the included USB stick or your own SD/SDHC camera card with hundreds of photos and swap them out at will.
While it supports only 720p video, it's not a big loss on a 10-inch screen. A remote control lets you adjust the screen's brightness, choose slideshow transitions, and set up date, time and calendar widgets. Another perk: The motion sensor turns off the screen when the room is empty.
A good compact choice
The Nix Advance 8-inch Digital Photo Frame Widescreen, with its 1280 x 800 16:10 display, is for those who seek a desk or table frame that delivers the ultimate widescreen viewing. The image quality is superb — colors are natural but fully saturated for viewing both photos and videos from a USB stick or SD/SDHC camera cards, with a variety of creative slideshow transitions. Skin tones look natural, and the frame shows deep blacks for black and white shots.
A motion sensor shuts down the autoplay when the room is empty, and you can set the timer to turn the unit on or off at designated intervals. A remote control gives you access to all navigation through the menus for timing, slideshow details and screen adjustments. Nice extras like a clock and calendar make the frame more useful. Video playback is limited to 15 seconds and is optimal at 720p.
Best midsize connected frame
Image quality for the Pix-Star 10.4-inch Wi-Fi backlit LED Cloud Digital Photo Frame is impressive, featuring a 4:3 aspect ratio and large, bright display with optional adjustments for hue, saturation and contrast. It's got that square look with a presentable matte black plastic frame that's designed to perch on a table — there's no option to hang it.
While the resolution is lower than some other models of its size, the aspect ratio compensates by filling the entire frame with your image. A smart-fill option stretches images or you can opt to show photos as a collage with four to five images per screen with many transition options.
Like the 15-inch Wi-Fi model, the 10-inch Pix-Star offers internet radio, playing your own music, reminders, games and a calculator. All HD video will automatically be downsized. The 10-inch Pix-Star links to Facebook, Flickr, Smugmug and other social media and receives updated weather for a selection of countries and cities.
The trickiest part of setting up the Pix-Star is coordinating multiple frames. If you have multiple frames you can set up a special address to sync photo collections. While I was able to sync online photo collections, and email photos and audio messages to the frames, I could see only one frame at a time via the web app.
Best midsize widescreen connected frame
Nixplay Seed’s 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 display, with its wide 16:10 aspect ratio, is a pleasure to behold. Images show up beautifully saturated with many ways to create slideshows. It's small enough to fit on a desk or an end table and its stiff cord is adjustable so you can place it in a comfortable position anywhere. An attractive matte-rubber frame looks great in any room where its built-in motion sensor automatically switches on when you're in the room.
The Seed lets you manage all your photos and multiple frames from a single account. Upload photos from your computer or mobile device or access photos from Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox and Flickr or Google Photos. You can create specific photo playlists for each frame, or connect iOS or Android mobile apps with the frame. You can also email images directly and give friends and family access.
The Seed also works with Alexa-enabled devices for displaying playlists and checking connectivity. I found the software set up a bit fiddly at first with different kinds of albums and playlists, depending on where you derive your photos, but it was easy to manage multiple albums, playlists and frames via drag and drop. You can also share photos and videos directly from the iOS mobile app, though not with Android as of yet.
Great for non-technical users
The Skylight frame operates on a simple concept: Its main feature is to display images shot with a smartphone or tablet and instantly beam them to the Skylight frame of a non-technical loved one. Skylight is targeted to older generations who don't want to mess with tech. As a touch screen, it differs from many of the frames in its class. The frame relies entirely on email to download the images onto the frame, where it will then work without an internet connection.
While the frame does have a USB slot, it is not functional at the moment and there is no SD card slot. There are no adjustments for brightness or choices of how to fill the frame if the photo is not the right size. You can use smartphone-like gestures to enlarge images, but the frame won't automatically resize images.
A premium plan for $39 per year lets you play video up to 100MB at 1080p and access stored photos online as well as add text captions. Web and mobile apps let you view, download and share photos. Yes, the controls are limited, but that is its main selling point.
A pretty good budget pick
There's not much to the Aluratek 8 inch Digital Photo Frame except extreme simplicity. The unit has no touch screen, no built-in memory and no remote control. The 800 x 600 TFT LCD screen resolution offers some basic adjustments for positioning images on screen, how long each image lingers and the screen brightness. You can plug in SD camera cards (up to 32GB) or a USB stick.
The navigational controls are on the back of the unit and each command registers with a toy-like click, but you must put your hands on the frame to change controls. Strangely, you can't change any of the controls unless all SD cards and USB drives are removed from the unit.
The unit features a generic plastic frame that comes with a screw-in plastic stand, but there is no hole for wall hanging. Normal- size USB drives stick out of the frame's side. You can choose from 11 transition styles and display photos from three seconds to an hour.
A decent pick for video playback
This 4:3 ratio, 8-inch photo frame has a lot going for it, including a relatively high-resolution screen of 1024 x 768 and a wide 175-degree viewing angle. Its motion sensor saves energy when there's no one in the room. The unit supports both SD camera cards and USB sticks up to 32GB and runs on a generic operating system via a remote control with manual controls on the back.
It's a very basic frame and does the trick for most purposes and even plays HD video in 720p and 1080p quite nicely. However, the image quality regarding color, saturation and contrast is just so-so compared with other 8-inch frames.
Digital Photo Frame Buying Tips: What to Look For
Image quality: The image you see on your frame is this device's raison d'être. Look for high resolution (at least 1024 x 768), vivid colors and sharp details. You should be able to adjust dedicated photo frames for brightness, contrast, saturation and hue. Frame software lets you rotate images or play them in a certain order or in a collage format with up to a dozen transition effects to wow viewers. Watch out for frames that are too bright, have muted colors, low contrast and soft images.
Aspect ratio: Photo frames generally come in two major aspect ratios: 4:3 or 16:9 widescreen. Most frames let you adjust photos to fill the frame if your photo's aspect ratio differs from the frame, though sometimes that method distorts or cuts off parts of images. The standard aspect ratio is a good fit for most images and videos shot with digital cameras. Widescreen-aspect ratios are especially advantageous for viewing panoramas and landscapes.
Ease of use: Non-connected frames are the easiest to use because you don't have to punch in long, complex passwords or hassle with finicky networks. These frames instead offer slots for camera cards or USB thumb drives to load up to 32GB of images, videos and music directly on your frame. Connected frames offer considerably more flexibility in sourcing and swapping out images from social media photo sites. Frames that offer touch screens do not come with remote controls. While a touch screen may be easier to navigate than a cranky remote control, you still have to wipe fingerprints from the screen.
Storage: Some digital photo frames feature onboard memory, letting you download and install images and videos directly onto the frame’s internal memory. Others have no internal memory and rely on either streaming or USB thumb drives and camera SD/SDHC cards to store and play images. If you must use a camera card or a USB stick, be sure that the frame's body adequately keeps them out of sight.
Motion sensor and timer: A motion sensor is practically a must. Digital photo frames do not need to waste energy by playing all day long if no one is in the room to view them. Most frames with a motion detector also have a timer that lets you automatically set on and off times for the frame.
Social media: Connected photo frames open up a range of photo sources. Some frames link directly with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Google Photos to play specific images and albums from the web or download them to the frame. With online access comes security concerns. Make sure your wireless frame sends information via an encrypted pipeline and transmits and receives images over a protected network — like your home network.
Mobile app and email integration: You can manage many connected frames via a web app for single or multiple frames or send and receive images and videos via email or a proprietary mobile app.
Extras: Many frames offer calendar, clock, reminders, games, calculators, weather app widgets and speaker ports.
Credit: Tom's Guide