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
Nixplay Smart – Best Digital 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
Aura Carver – Best Design
The Aura Carver has a large, 10.1 inch display and 1,920 x 1,200 screen resolution, showing photos in crisp detail. If you usually view your pictures on your phone camera, you’ll enjoy seeing your best shots scaled up.
You can add an unlimited number of pictures and there are no subscription or storage fees. You can also invite friends or family members to send photos directly to your frame, in a simple and nearly instantaneous process. There’s unfortunately no option to automatically sync with social media accounts.
The Carver is a landscape format frame and portrait pictures will be displayed either centred with a black bar on either side, or ‘intelligently paired’ via an algorithm. The latter can be a bit hit and miss but it throws up some interesting combinations.
Our only reservation is security: you have to allow Aura access to your phone pictures and once sent to your frame, they’ll be stored on company servers.
Read our full Aura Carver review
Google Nest Hub Max – Best Smart Display
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
Amazon Echo Show 10 – Best for Alexa
It’s a lot more expensive than the 8-inch Echo Show smart display, which you’ll find below, but if you’re looking for a device to primarily use for photos then the Echo Show 10 largely justifies its cost with the larger display and the unusual ability of the screen to rotate to follow you around the room.
It sounds a bit gimmicky, but it means that in larger rooms or kitchens your photo display will always point your way, giving it a versatility that none of the other displays on this list can match.
Beyond showing off your snaps it’s obviously a useful feature for video calls too, as the camera can track you, and you can also use its ability to rotate to keep an eye on your room when you’re away, swiping the screen of your phone to turn the camera remotely.
Other than that, the experience is much like its predecessors and the smaller-screened versions, though audio has been improved substantially too. We’d be open to an even larger screen, but for most photos it’s big enough.
Read our full Amazon Echo Show 10 review
Amazon Echo Show 8 – Alexa for Less
The second generation of Amazon’s Echo Show 8 has been upgraded with improved audio and the ability to pan and zoom the camera during video calls (though not rotate the actual screen, as in the Show 10), but more importantly this model offers a great balance of features, screen size, and sound quality.
And at this price, you’ll be impressed by how much you get for your money. The 8in display is large enough to make the most of your holiday photos, and display quality is great.
Alexa is just as capable here as she is on the most expensive Echo Show 10, able to show the video feed from compatible cameras, show you lyrics for many songs from Amazon Music, and more.
Read our full Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen) review
Google Nest Hub – Best for the Bedroom
The second-generation version of the Google Nest Hub is a solid step forward from the original model with a few extra features.
From a photo display perspective things are essentially the same: a 7in HD touchscreen that can adjust its brightness and colour to suit ambient lighting. The Google Assistant is built in, along with Google Photos support to display your best shots.
Beyond photos, you get YouTube support to watch videos, and Thread support to make this a great smart home hub.
It also includes a new sleep tracking feature (using Google’s Soli radar, not a camera) and a light alarm function, making this a great option for a bedroom photo frame with smart support.
Read our full Google Nest Hub 2 review
Dragon Touch Classic 10 – Best for Basics
The Classic 10 is a decent, budget-friendly digital photo frame. It has 16GB of photo and video storage, which is apparently enough to hold 40,000 photos at 30KBs each.
You can upload photos via email or FTP. The screen also has a USB port and an SD slot, but photos can only be played, not uploaded, from these removable devices. Other people can also email pics straight to your frame, although the process could be faster and more user-friendly.
Also on the minus side, the screen resolution is only barely HD and the frame design is generic.
The big plus is that there are no subscription or storage fees associated with this frame and if you’re concerned about security, you can keep everything offline.
Read our full Dragon Touch Classic 10 review
Netgear Meural Canvas II – Best for Art
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
Eco4life 8in – Most Versatile
- Pros: Upload from SD card, USB, or app;Easy to use
- Cons: Slow uploads;Landscape only
The Eco4life 8in Wi-Fi Cloud Frame pretty much does what it says on the tin.
This is a basic Wi-Fi photo frame that gets points for versatility – you can upload photos from SD cards, USB, or an app – and for offering 6GB of free cloud storage. We also like the faux cherry wood finish.
The downside is that it’s a little clunky, with display oddities like refusing to rotate photos when the frame is in portrait mode. Transferring files to the frame from the app is also needlessly slow. Remember that you’ll also have to pay for cloud storage past the 6GB line.
For the most part the frames above are better buys, but at a good price the Eco4life won’t steer you wrong.
Read our full Eco4life 8” Wi-Fi Cloud Frame 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 newish product category kicked off by Amazon’s Echo Show: stationary displays that include a virtual assistant. The Echo Show displays include Amazon’s Alexa assistant, but you can also buy smart displays powered by the Google Assistant, now branded as Google Nest Hubs.
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…