The rise of smartphones has translated into an explosion of digital photography. According to one estimate, we take about 1.4 trillion photos per year, and that number is only expected to grow. But how many of these photos actually make it off our phones and DSLRs and onto a mantlepiece? Many—too many of them—will be lost forever in the ones and zeros of your digital archive, never to be seen again.
That’s where a digital frame can help. The best digital picture frames make it easy to rescue your treasured memories from the depths of your camera roll and show them off. With high-resolution screens and nifty features like WiFi upload, unlimited storage, cloud connectivity, bespoke apps, and even audio/video playback, today’s digital picture frames go far beyond a simple LCD screen with a USB port. They offer a level of versatility, convenience, and collaboration that’s simply not possible with printed photos, and while we’re still big fans of printing your work, there are a lot of good reasons why you might want to invest in an electronic picture frame in 2021.
- Best digital picture frame for most people: Dragon Touch
- Best high-resolution digital picture frame: Nixplay 9.7-inch Smart Photo Frame
- Best connected digital picture frame: Facebook Portal
- Best looking digital picture frame: Aura Mason
- Best large digital picture frame: Meural Canvas II
- Best small digital picture frame: Nixplay Nix
- Best cheap digital picture frame: Aluratek 7-inch Photo Frame
Features to consider when shopping for the best digital picture frame
Shopping for a digital picture frame can get confusing very fast. With so many features at a wide variety of price points, it can be difficult to tell what separates a $300 boutique frame from a cheap digital picture frame that offers only the essentials. However, there are some features you should watch out for. Once you’ve decided on a size, you need to keep an eye on resolution, storage options—both built-in and cloud storage—wireless connectivity, ease-of-use, design aesthetic, and bonus features like audio/video playback.
Here are five of the most important things you should consider when shopping for the best digital picture frame.
Ford the right combination of features for you
The quality of a digital picture frame is based on four main factors: size, resolution, storage, and wireless connectivity. The most expensive digital frames are also the largest, with the highest resolution, unlimited cloud storage, and WiFi built in; the most affordable are also the smallest, with middling resolution, and need to have a USB stick or SD card plugged in at all times. Basically, every option out there falls somewhere between these two extremes.
The best digital picture frame overall will strike the best balance of these features for most people. That typically means 10+ inches in size, at least 1280 by 800 resolution, plentiful built-in storage or a free cloud storage plan, and wireless connectivity so you can easily update the photos in the frame as often as you like.
Bonus features include video playback, audio capabilities with built-in speakers, extra features like calendar and clock modes, an easy-to-use app for collaborative sharing, and a price tag that won’t scare you away.
Best digital picture frame for most people: Dragon Touch
Versatile and Sleek
The Dragon Touch digital picture frame boasts great resolution, tons of storage, and lets you add photos to the frame in basically every way imaginable. Amazon
Available in two stylish colors, the Dragon Touch digital picture frame is a 10.1-inch, WiFi-enabled picture frame with a very respectable 1280 by 800 resolution and 16GB of onboard storage. Adding photos to the frame can be done via SD card, USB stick, over WiFi using the free smartphone app, or by emailing the photos to the frame’s own personal email address, and the 16:10 aspect ratio touchscreen allows you to quickly change settings or swipe through images as needed. Finally, the frame also supports 30-second clips, so you’re not limited to photos.
Prioritize resolution for the clearest picture
Most digital picture frames range from 720p resolution on up to about 1080p for larger, more expensive models. But if you want your memories to really pop off the screen, there’s no substitute for higher resolution.
The best image quality comes from the smallest frame that packs in the most pixels, allowing for the highest pixel density. It’s sort of like printing your photos at a higher “dots per inch” or DPI, and since most modern smartphones shoot at least 12-megapixel photos, there’s no risk that your pictures will start to look pixelated. To put smartphone camera resolution in perspective, even a 4K UHD screen translates to just 8.3-megapixels. In other words: there’s always room for a higher-quality digital picture frame.
The downside is that high-resolution picture frames—which are pretty rare to start with—will cost more. The upside is that they will typically include all the extra features you’d expect once you’re spending $200 on the best digital frame you can find.
Best high-resolution digital picture frame: Nixplay 9.7-inch Smart Photo Frame
If you want the clearest possible picture, the Nixplay 2K Smart Photo Frame offers more pixels than just about anything else on the market. Amazon
The Nixplay 2K Smart Photo Frame is one of the highest resolution options on the market. With a 2046 by 1536 display at a size of just 9.7 inches, it’s got pixel density for days and comes with a bunch of extra features that make it a breeze to use. Beyond the high resolution, you get 8GB of built-in storage, 10GB of free cloud storage, and an easy-to-use app that lets you update photos over WiFi or by simply emailing pictures to your frame. You do have to create a free Nixplay account, and there are upgrade options for more storage, but you don’t have to pay a subscription fee to make the most of this picture frame.
Use your digital picture frame to stay connected
Given the price of the best digital picture frames, you may reasonably ask yourself “why not buy a smart display instead?” It’s a good question, and the answer isn’t straightforward.
A Google Nest Hub, Amazon Echo Show, or Facebook Portal will all work as a digital picture frame, but they often look like a small computer and frequently lack some of the convenient photo-specific features of dedicated electronic picture frames. It’s a game of trade-offs. Pro: you get a full-blown smart display with lots more functionality than you get out of your typical electronic picture frame. Con: they’re not designed to be used primarily as digital picture frames, and often look oversize on a mantle or end table.
In an ideal world, we would find a smart display that walked this line: looking like a digital picture frame when not in use, but allowing you to stay connected more like a computer.
Best connected digital picture frame: Facebook Portal
The Most Connected Frame
If your goal is to connect more often with friends and family, the Facebook Portal is a dynamite combination of digital picture frame and video chat device. Amazon
The Facebook Portal and Facebook Portal Mini are a great mix of the features described above. The primary purpose of this digital frame is to keep you connected to friends and family, with a built-in camera for video chats through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp and convenient display functions like clock and weather. But when you’re not using it to video chat, it’s perfect for use as a digital picture frame with unlimited storage, just as long as you don’t mind keeping your favorite photos on Facebook.
Pick a style you’ll love
If you go to an arts and crafts store, you’ll find hundreds of photo frames to choose from in a wide variety of styles. You could spend hours mulling over your options before you find a frame design that you’re content to hang on the wall or set on your mantle for years to come. Don’t put any less thought into purchasing the right digital picture frame.
While most electronics are designed to be functional first and aesthetically pleasing second, the best digital picture frame will feature an elegant design that doesn’t clutter your space or clash with your design sense. In the end, you’re purchasing a piece of furniture that is meant to be looked at often—the sleeker and well-designed it is the better. When it comes to design, personal preference varies widely. But the best-looking digital picture frames should be easy to confuse with a traditional frame. Otherwise, you may as well purchase a smart display instead (see above).
Best looking digital picture frame: Aura Mason
The Aura Mason is one of the most beautiful digital picture frames on the market, featuring a traditional frame design that will look at home on any mantle. Best Buy
The 9.7-inch Aura Mason digital frame, available in “graphite” or “white quartz,” places a major emphasis on aesthetics. The design of the frame itself is quite beautiful, and it uses a relatively high resolution 1600 by 1200 pixel screen with a traditional 4:3 aspect ratio. This comes packaged with unlimited storage over the cloud with no hidden fees or subscriptions, built-in WiFi, a brightness sensor that automatically adjusts the frame to ambient lighting, and an interactive “Touch Bar” on top that lets you swipe through images without smudging the screen.
Choose the right size for your photos and your home
Just like traditional picture frames, the digital variety comes in a wide variety of sizes and aspect ratios. Most will fall into either the 10-inch category and the 15-inch category, with a smattering of sizes in between. But what if you need something that’s bigger (or smaller) to better suit your living space?
Your options are necessarily limited, but there are much larger and even smaller photo frames than the sizes mentioned above. The smallest you’ll see will be somewhere between 7 and 8 inches across, while the largest digital picture frames can double as wall hangings to display art. There’s even a Samsung TV called The Frame, for anyone who wants a whopping 75-inch “digital picture frame” hanging on their wall between Netflix sessions.
That last option is obviously overkill for most people, but if you’re looking for a larger or smaller digital picture frame than the “standard” sizes, we’ve got you covered.
Best large digital picture frame: Meural Canvas II
For Art Lovers
If you need a huge picture frame for displaying both photos and art, the Meural Canvas II is unbeatable. Amazon
The Meural Canvas II is one of the most beautiful and largest digital picture frames on the market. It comes in two sizes—16 by 24 and 19 by 29 inches—with four different frame color options and a 1080p anti-glare IPS display. Given its size and aesthetic sensibility, it’s meant to be hung on a wall where it can display your photos or act as a digital art frame. To that end, you can buy the frame as-is, or pair it with a monthly subscription that gives you access to a library of over 30,000 artworks to display.
Best small digital picture frame: Nixplay Nix
Small Yet Mighty
Given its small size and price tag, the Nixplay Nix is the perfect digital picture frame for your bedside table or any other small space. Amazon
Featuring an 8-inch, 1280 by 800 pixel IPS display and a classic frame design, the Nixplay Nix punches well above its $60 price tag. The Nix is limited to displaying photos from a USB stick or SD card, hence the low price, but it still boasts some convenient features that you don’t typically find at this price point. Features like motion detectors that let it turn off when not in use, a convenient stand that easily switches from portrait to landscape orientation, and a remote that lets you browse through photos and video clips and attaches magnetically to the back of the frame when not in use.
Best digital picture frame on a budget: What you can get for under $35
With so many digital picture frames with so many different features to choose from, some people just want the bare minimum at a rock bottom price. The good news is, if you’re not bothered by lower resolution, a smaller size, or the lack of built-in storage and WiFi, you can find the best digital picture frame for you at a very low price indeed.
Best cheap digital picture frame: Aluratek 7-inch Photo Frame
Budget Photo Frame
The Aluratek 7-inch is a no-frills picture frame with convenient plug-and-play functionality and an easy price tag. Amazon
The Aluratek Photo Frame is a basic LCD picture frame with a USB port, an SD card slot, and an auto slideshow mode that will start shuffling through whatever photos are on your storage media the second you plug it in. With a resolution of just 800 by 600, it won’t be winning any awards, but the simple wooden frame design, convenient control buttons, and minimalist screw-in stand make it the clear choice if you’re looking for the best digital picture frame under $35.
FAQ: people also ask
What resolution do I want in a digital photo frame?
The best resolution will depend on the size of your frame. The smaller the frame, the lower the resolution you can get away with before the image starts to look pixelated. Unless you’re shopping for a budget picture frame, we’d recommend a digital picture frame with at least 1280 by 800 resolution.
What is the biggest size digital photo frame?
That depends on your definition of “digital picture frame.” The largest screen that’s also meant to display photos and art is Samsung’s The Frame television at up to 75 inches. However, typical digital picture frames max out around 15.6 inches on the diagonal, with even larger frames available for a premium (see the “best large picture frame” section above).
Can you send pictures to a digital frame?
Most mid-to-high end digital picture frames allow you to send pictures to your frame over WiFi or by using a dedicated app. Several also feature cloud storage options, with and without a paid subscription, and a few will assign your frame a dedicated email address so that you can literally email pictures to your digital picture frame and watch them show up a few minutes later.
A final word on shopping for the best digital picture frame
While the digital picture frame market is flooded with low-cost, low-quality options that turn some people off from the whole idea, there are some really fantastic electronic frames out there that would make the perfect gift for a friend or loved one. As long as you know what to look for and follow our recommendations, you can find the best digital picture frame—a product that will inspire you to rescue some of your most treasured memories from the depths of your smartphone’s camera roll, and rediscover the joy of putting your photos on display.