Best Digital Picture Frame of 2020
The Facebook Portal Mini 8" is a sleek looking smart display that works as a digital picture frame when other functions are not in use. The display can show pictures uploaded to the frame or from Facebook and Instagram. Photos taken on your smartphone look great on 8", with a 1280 X 800 touchscreen that offers 189 pixels per inch. In addition to being a great frame, its connectivity to other apps and a browser enhances its functionality. You can also connect to some music and video services. We enjoyed it as a kitchen assistant, showcasing various recipes in larger print and an easy to navigate presentation; this makes trying new recipes easier, and you can avoid taking out your phone with messy hands. It also has decent speakers that emphasize bass and provide acceptable mid-range sound quality. The Portal assistant can also play your favorites from some music services. It features Alexa, which can do most standard Alexa tasks, like track Amazon shipments or play Amazon Music. The Portal is great for video chats, thanks to its smart camera that can automatically zoom and pan as you move around the room. You can only contact people through Messenger.
Facebook has had security breaches in the past decade. Fortunately, there's a toggle switch that can cover the camera and shut off the microphone if you are uneasy about the thought of putting a camera in your home. However, that doesn't put all worries to rest, as every "Hey Portal" command is recorded and can be analyzed by Facebook to enhance speech recognition technology. This practice is now standard in the tech industry for almost any voice recognition service. A device of this nature holds a great deal of power and has its permissions to go with it. The total setup time took 17 minutes, in large part due to the number of conditions to accept and accounts to link. The Facebook Portal Mini 8" is a great picture frame that easily fits in tight spaces and has additional capabilities, like video calling and music streaming.
The Nix Lux 8" breaks the traditional black border and techy aesthetic found on many digital picture frames. The Lux is an appealing frame that is available in a wood or aluminum frame. Nix utilizes a flexible braided cable that doubles as the power port and a stand. The cable is malleable and supportive, which provides an adjustable viewing angle in landscape and portrait modes. The accelerometer is quick to flip the screen back and forth. We appreciated the settings layout, as it is easy to customize the display options. The 1024 x 768 XGA screen offers a PPI of 160 to provide surprisingly sharp imagery.
Instead of using Wi-Fi, this frame requires the use of a USB or SD card to show photos. Overall, it is easy to add a large assortment of photos from your computer (to a USB) for display. We find it takes noticeably more time to transfer photos from your phone to the computer — versus the USB. Moreover, this process can discourage some from making micro-adjustments to the slideshow type or adding a small number of photos to a pre-existing slideshow. This frame has a motion sensor, which can save energy by turning the screen off when the room is empty. In our distance testing, we had to be within three feet of the frame for it to wake up. All things considered, the NIX LUX is perfect for those who want the flexibility of a digital frame with the aesthetics of a traditional model — at a reasonable cost.
The Nixplay Digital Smart 10.1" Frame is a feature-rich frame that offers a sleep schedule, motion sensor, and app-based uploading. It can also be paired with an Amazon Alexa device, which allows you to control the frame via your voice. Like the LUX, this frame uses a flexible braided cable that offers plenty of stability as the frame stand. The viewing angle and orientation of the frame can be adjusted to best fit your home. The Nixplay was easy to hang on our wall; simply slide the removable casing of the back to reveal wall mounting walls. It comes with all hardware necessary to securely mount to your wall. Wherever you choose to place your frame, you'll enjoy crisp and clean photos from this 149 PPI display. Both professional and cell phone photos had impressive clarity from the middle of the road PPI. It's very easy to upload photos to the frame; the app has a clean interface that allows you to add, modify, and play specific playlists. You can add one or thirty photos in a matter of seconds.
We love the user experience derived from the enhanced and smart features. However, these luxuries come at a price. The Nixplay Smart Frame is on the more expensive side of the 10" smart frame spectrum. We also observed color shifting in the blues of the picture at certain angles; fortunately, the adjustable stand was able to manage this issue. The Nixplay Smart Frame is great for those seeking an option that offers great picture quality, easy uploads, and frame-like aesthetics.
Staying connected with our friends and family has become more important than ever. The Pix-Star 10" frame makes it easy to share pictures with the most important people in your life. This frame is associated with a specific user email; any photos sent to the specific @pixstar email go directly to the frame to await the owner's approval. This is great for parents, grandparents, and college students who want to share photos that they can proudly show on the frame. Photos are easily uploaded from your computer or smartphone with a simple email address. It also uses a slick phone app that works similarly to other smart frame apps, and it can upload thirty photos at a time. You can easily deny or delete pictures you do not want to display. We appreciate that this frame has eight GB of onboard memory, which should be plenty of storage to host many smartphone or DSLR photos.
This frame has many features found on other Wi-Fi-based frames and increases its price tag. Fortunately, it does them all quite well. As one of the higher-priced frames in our review, we would expect a higher resolution and PPI. Particularly during video playback, the videos lack color saturation and sharpness. The video quality is acceptable to quickly show off home videos but far from the best available. If you're looking for a frame that can help keep your family connected through easy photo sharing, this is a great option.
The Amazon Echo Show 8's sound and display quality are some of the best in its class. This smart display has a well-rounded sound profile with a solid bass presence and plenty of mid-range performance; this complements the video and music capabilities provided by Amazon Music and Prime Video. The smart display works like a picture frame when not used for other activities that require the screen, such as recipe instruction. It offers a 1280 x 800 screen with 189 PPI to display clear and beautiful photos. You can choose to stream photos from your Amazon Photos, stunning stock landscape photos, or upload the favorites from your smartphone via the Alexa app. For those already immersed in the budding amazon ecosystem, this device is a notable addition for use as a picture frame, with bonuses like its Alexa capabilities.
The Echo Show 8 is a stand out device that functions as a digital picture frame. However, its robust woofer and speaker system make it too bulky for a nightstand or small, sometimes crowded spaces; the Echo show 5 is perfect for this application. Given its added abilities, it can take noticeably more time than a standard frame before photos are up and running. There are 12 terms and conditions agreements that need to be accepted before you are fully set up. Bringing any device from a large company with a camera into your home is bound to draw pause as anti-trust issues surface. Fortunately, you can physically slide a shutter over the camera and turn off the microphone, which increases privacy. This device is perfect for individuals looking for something more than a traditional smart frame, and it's even better if you're already involved with the budding Amazon Ecosystem.
The Dragon Touch Digital Picture Frame is an aesthetic and pleasant addition to your home, and it looks and feels like a regular photo frame. The frame-like bezel and white borders make this a piece worthy of displaying whether the screen is on or off. The white borders also give each picture a framed and mounted look. This Wi-Fi-enabled frame is easy to add photos through Dragon's streamlined app, and the dashboard is simple and intuitive to navigate. Users can add up to nine photos, videos, or gifs at a time through the app when the phone and frame are connected to the same network.
The main downsides are the display quality and the frequent cleaning of the fingerprints left on the touchscreen. Based on its solid display specs of 1280 X 800 and PPI of 149, we had high hopes for image quality. Unfortunately, we were generally let down by pixilated images and stratified blues in the sky. If you elect to use the touchscreen often, expect the occasional finger smudge. All in all, the Dragon Touch is great for those looking for the versatility associated with digital frames but that desire traditional framing and mounting aesthetics.
The Nix Advanced 8" digital picture frame is one of our favorite non-Wi-Fi enabled frames based on its display quality and feature set. This frame offers sharp and clean photo playback on a 189 PPI screen. We found the settings menu easy to navigate, with many options to customize the frames playback. It has 21 different levels of brightness, which covers a wide array of lighting conditions. We were impressed with the overall picture quality, given its approachable price and compact package.
Our biggest gripe is its poor speaker quality, as we could barely hear any of the audio from our test video in a quiet room. If any commotion was happening nearby, we couldn't make out any of the audio. The video itself lacked a colorful and saturated presentation found on other models in our review. The Nix Advanced is a worthwhile option for office spaces, nightstands, or desks due to its compact sizes and excellent image quality.
The MRQ 14 Inch digital picture frame offers excellent photo and video quality, displaying pictures at 1280 x 800 and videos in full HD 1920 x 1080. The display provided vibrant colors and a crisp presentation of our test photos and was one of our top ranking frames for image quality. Its higher video resolution and quality of playback was above average. The thin black bezel minimizes the footprint to increase its overall versatility. It also increases the viewable screen size in a smaller footprint, which our review team appreciated.
The included remote is intuitive but offers a narrow range of responsive functionality. The remote must be pointed within the 11 to 1 o'clock direction toward the frame in order to register. Occasionally, we found ourselves pressing the same button multiple times before getting a response. The frame offers numerous ports for an SD card, 3.5mm audio jack, and USB drive. The USB and SD card slots can support products up to 32 gigabytes of memory. While this is plenty to store images from cell phones, it may fill up quickly if you are loading many professional images, which can be hundreds of megabytes each. This option is ideal for those that want a larger frame that offers great image quality and stands out in spacious areas.
The NAPATEK 10 Inch is a decent quality frame in a nice looking package. It has a large 10" display, which makes viewing photos easy from a distance. It offers four different slideshow modes and ten different transitions, which personalizes the experience. It offers all of the now-standard features of digital frames, such as a calendar, clock, and video streaming. The remote is clearly labeled, which helps you complete your desired action.
We were disappointed by the display quality, which boasted impressive display stats of 1920 x 1080 resolution and 220 PPI. Even high-quality professional photos appeared pixelated and lacked the sharpness of the original file. This frame offers multiple display options; when utilized, the transition between photos has some lag time. Similar to when your computer's processor is overloaded with tasks. Large image files accentuated this. Overall, this is a great option for those looking to primarily display cell phone quality imagery or those looking for a reasonably priced gift idea.
The Aluratek 7 Inch is one of the more affordable digital picture frames in our review. Its simplistic approach helps keep the price low and maintain a user-friendly experience. It doesn't come with a remote, speakers, or video playback. Simply plug in the power adaptor and a USB drive, and the photos will automatically start in a slideshow mode.
Naturally, its lower price comes with a reduced resolution that struggled to present white backgrounds and bright colors without blowing out the image. This was the lowest ranking frame in our image quality metric. The images were generally pixelated, and the color accuracy and quality were marginal. Despite this, it is a solid frame for budget-minded individuals who want the ease of having their pictures displayed in their home — without the hassle of printing and framing individual images.
Why You Should Trust Us
Isaac Laredo has reviewed a great deal of home and outdoor products for the GearLab. He enjoys decorating his home with high-quality framed pictures taken by friends and family, some of whom are professional photographers. Like many, he tries to avoid the high prices associated with printing photos through professional printers. His attention to detail, experience in product testing, and knowledge of consumer needs allow us to provide you with reliable, needs-based recommendations to help you find the ideal digital picture frame.
Our elaborate review process began with extended periods of research. We then purchased 10 of the best frames found on the market, putting them through a series of head to head tests. Our team evaluated each frame in the following metrics: image quality, photo upload, features, and ease of setup. We drew on our background of scientific research methods to design strategic tests to provide information for our recommendations.
Analysis and Test Results
What are your needs and wants in a digital picture frame? The best frame for you will depend on your answer. We developed four mutually exclusive and weighted categories to score the performance of each frame. Each metric has specific tests designed to pinpoint the critical differences between them all.
It seems that every year, TVs, computers, phones, and digital picture frames are outfitted to higher resolutions and titled with new abbreviations. The market trend from HD (1980 x 1080) to 8K (7860 x 4320) highlights the growing demand for high-quality imagery. To assess image quality, we set each frame to display the same four images. Each photo was unique and strategically picked to include various color tones, subjects, and camera types. We lined up each frame side by side and placed the same photo on each screen. Then we had a panel of judges pour over each photo to rank the image quality on a 1-10 scale, from best to worst. We conducted this process for each of the four photos. Then we re-examined each model's specs, such as resolution and screen size, using the two to calculate pixels per square inch.
Our comparative image testing revealed the 1280 x 800 resolution and 189 PPI display of the Facebook Portal 8" and Amazon Echo Show 8" reigned supreme. Both offered the sharpest image with impressive color accuracy and a wide viewing angle. These frames were followed up by the Nix Advance 8", which boasts a 1280 x 800 resolution and 189 PPI that provides excellent image quality from cell phone images and professional photos.
Another notable display is the Nixplay Smart 10.1" frame, which offers the same 1280 x 800 resolution, spread out across its larger display. This reduces its pixel per inch value to a noteworthy 149. This frame stood out with rich and clear landscape photos. The MRQ 14" frame maintains great image quality from all distances thanks to its wide display and is supported by its acceptable PPI value of 157.
As we have come to expect, specs do not tell the entire story. A few displays that offer high resolutions and PPI values, like the Napatek 10, ranked lower in our comparative testing. Despite its 1920 x 1080 and 220 PPI specs, our test photos appeared pixilated and less desirable than other frames.
Digital picture frames make it easy to show off photos from recent vacations, adventures, and important life events. Some frames are easier to upload photos to than others. The best style for you depends on how frequently you expect to change your slideshows. Some frames utilize Wi-Fi and an app that is perfect for those who want to make frequent and small adjustments.
In contrast, others use a USB drive or SD card to show the uploaded photos. This is great if you would like to set a slideshow and revisit it once and a while. We uploaded the same 125 photos to each picture frame to assess the upload process of each frame. We even made small adjustments to our slideshows to evaluate micro-adjustability.
We found Wi-Fi enabled frames were the quickest to upload our 125 photos. Granted, the speed of this process depends on the starting place of the photos you want to upload. In our case, we were uploading photos from our phone, which is likely a common scenario for individuals who use their phone as their primary camera. Each app was able to access our camera roll and add photos directly to the frame. The process for each was similar, but the functionality and interfaces were quite distinct.
The Dragon Touch, Pix-Star, and Nixplay applications had minimalist and streamlined apps that were easy to navigate and stay on track. The Dragon Touch app (called OurPhoto) has one page filled with clearly labeled action-based menu options. From here, you can access your library or take on the spot photos and videos. Because the frame utilizes an email, you can upload photos from anywhere, and you don't have to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network to add photos. The main limitation of this app is you can only upload nine photos at a time.
The Nixplay app offers more connectivity (within the app) to your frames and the external world. You can connect with friends or purchase discounted prints. The app also allows you to change the frame setting and create custom themed playlists if you want to switch it up for a particular occasion. The playlists provide nice organization potential for those who like to have contextually consistent imagery. We enjoyed that you can add up to thirty photos per upload.
The Pix-Star frame can accept new photos through in-app uploads or its user decided email. The true .com address makes it easy for friends and family to send photos to your inbox directly from their email address. The inbox allows you to accept or deny photos, which avoids any unwanted images in your slideshow. A well-designed remote allows this process to take place on the frame with a little extra hassle. Individuals can send up to thirty pictures at a time.
The Alexa app for the Echo Show offers five main tabs and is designed for all Alexa devices. If you have multiple Amazon devices, this app is a great management tool. Due to its lack of specificity, we found the app crowded, and the photo upload tool was buried in the settings. Fortunately, you can also add photos to Amazon Photo through the tool or Alexa app, and dictate "Alexa, display my Amazon Photos."
The Portal app stands out for its user-friendly nature and upload options; it only has two tabs titled "Photos" and "Your Portal". The photo tab's main function is to create Portal albums that can be displayed; you can also manage existing Facebook albums that you wish to be cast on the frame. The "Your Portal" tab can initiate video calls or cast photos to the smart display without loading the file onto the device's built-in memory.
Apps are specific to Wi-Fi enabled (and generally higher cost) frames. The simple loading of files to a hard memory option is a classic way to display those fond memories. For this metric, each frame (that uses an external memory system) is similar to its counterpart. Each has a USB and SD port. The process can take a good bit of time if you primarily take pictures with your phone, as you have to transfer and download the file to your computer and then move it to the USB drive or SD card. We found this process has too much friction for most users and does not encourage making small additions to your slideshow. If you want to set your slideshow and only occasionally update it, this system is perfect for you. Simply plug the external memory in, and most frames will start automatically playing. Frames that use an external memory system are the NAPATEK, MRQ, NIX LUX, Aluratek 7 Inch LCD, and NIX Advance 8 Inch USB.
Digital picture frames employ different feature sets to enhance the value to the consumer. Features can also create a price gap between two displays of the same resolution and screen size. Depending on your needs and wants, some features that may increase the price, such as speaker quality, or touchscreen, may be worth it to you. We evaluated the functionality of each feature with hands-on use and directly compared it to the others in our fleet.
Some frames include a motion sensor, which saves electricity by turning the frame off when no movement is detected. To evaluate this feature, we set up each frame side by side and let the screens time out. Then we moved toward the frames and recorded the distance at which the sensor picked us up. We played the same tracks and videos to assess the sound quality and had our testing panel rank the frames accordingly.
The Portal and Echo Show offered the richest feature sets, which makes these devices stand out. Both offered video calling, good speakers, video streaming, and access to other applications. The added functionality makes both frames a worthy addition to your kitchen or bedroom and will allow you to display stunning photos — with features you'll want to use.
The Portal has a smart camera that can automatically pan and zoom to keep you in the frame during video calls. This feature is effective; the subject could walk to about 150 degrees relative to the camera before exiting the frame. This makes it a great option for making video calls to anybody in your messenger contact list. Its interface is also easier to navigate or access a browser than the Echo Show.
The Echo has a strong woofer, which provides a good quality base and a solid range. The sound quality of this model was by far the best in our fleet. Aside from these two frames, we were disappointed by the speaker quality found on most contenders. In certain frames, we could barely hear any audio, even at a close distance. In these cases, the speakers added little to no value to our experience. The best sound quality from a strictly digital picture frame came from the Dragon Touch. However, we would still seek supplemental audio from a small portable speaker.
The Nixplay, Nix, Pix-Star, MRQ have motion sensors, which means they automatically go to sleep when no movement is detected. Each one offers numerous time scale options before going into sleep mode. The MRQ and Pixstar frames had a max distance of six and seven feet, respectively. The Nix and Nixplay frames only awoke when we were within three feet. On certain occasions, we had to wave our hand in front of the sensor.
The Dragon Touch lacks a motion sensor but prompts you to set a sleep schedule during set up. It also utilizes a touchscreen (instead of a remote) to navigate the settings menu, which is convenient but results in a dirty screen. Most frames included a remote, and the functionality varied with each one. Both the Pix-Star and NAPATEK were our favorite remotes thanks to their intuitive interface and degree of response.
Ease of Setup
Compared to the traditional print, mount, and frame process, digital picture frames provide a noticeably faster way for showing off pictures in your home. It's important that frames are easy to set up, as this achieves the product category's convenience-based value proposition. We timed how long it took to set up each frame. We also moved each one around, which allowed us to evaluate aesthetic versatility and the difficulty of set up.
Generally, frames that didn't have a Wi-Fi connection were incredibly quick to set up — after photos were uploaded onto an external memory device. Frames like the Aluratek and NAPATEK scored highly in this metric due to their plug and play style.
Every frame had a stable stand for setting up on a flat surface, but our favorite was the flexible braided cable found on the NIX LUX 8". Its malleable nature allowed for customizable viewing angles and quick micro-adjustments. The Nixplay Smart 10.1 has the same braided cord system but with a detachable back piece with wall-mounting holes. Other frames like the Dragon Touch and NAPATEK can be easily mounted on walls.
Due to added connectivity, the Portal and Echo took the longest to fully set up. To unlock their full potential, we had to sign in to different accounts and accept numerous terms and conditions. The Echo Show had us accept 12 different terms and conditions during the setup process.
We understand it can be overwhelming to find the best product that fits your needs, especially in the crowded digital picture frame market. We hope our comparisons and detailed analysis have allowed you to compare various models and choose the best one for your needs and budget.
— Isaac Laredo