Nixplay claims that its Seed wifi frame is the most popular digital picture frame in its category sold in the USA. And that is probably right.
There are over 3,500 Amazon.com reviews on the Nixplay Seed with an average rating of four stars and over a thousand answered questions.
The current model came on the market in 2017, but the software has been updated regularly. So, this is a good time to take a closer look to decide if this might be the right WiFi photo frame for you or your family.
The slow start of digital picture frames
When digital picture frames were first introduced about fifteen years ago, they had a rocky start.
The entertainment value of a photo frame increases a lot, the more often you add new images to it. And the likelihood of you doing this often, rises exponentially with the ease of this updating process.
Taking out an SD card, connecting it to your computer and adding images to it is so much much more complicated than tapping a few buttons on your smartphone. I suspect that many non-WiFi photo frames in the past have ended up in a drawer a few weeks after Christmas (about 40% of digital frames are sold around Christmas).
But more recently, the general integration of wifi, the linking with Apple's or Google's photo services, a Cloud-based image management and of course the abundance of fresh images taken with mobile phones has turned digital picture frames deservedly into a trendy device category.
So let's take a look at the Nixplay Seed to see if it's fun to use and likely to avoid the fate of Christmas past.
This product review is based on my article "The ultimate 10 point checklist for buying a digital photo frame", where you can read in more detail about my evaluation approach.
My tests are unbiased. There are no financial or material donations to be disclosed. Nixplay has supplied me with a review unit for the duration of this test.
The Nixplay product range
When I first looked at Nixplay, I was a bit confused by their product range. There are so many digital photo frames to choose from.
But basically, their product assortment is divided into WiFi (Cloud based) and non-Wifi frames.
Four models of WiFi Cloud frames do away with memory sticks or cards - except for the older Nixplay Original model which still offers a USB and SD slot in addition to WiFi.
It is the Nixplay Iris, the Nixplay Seed Wave, The Nixplay Seed, and the Nixplay Original.
The images are uploaded to the Nixplay Cloud and then streamed to as many connected devices as you like.
And then there are the NIX Digital Frames that are not connected to the Cloud but have an SD and USB slot, the Nix Lux and the Nix Advance.
So I guess "play" means WiFi as Nixplay has it and Nix doesn't.
To learn more about the key features of the various Nixplay frames, have a look at my Product Recommendation section.
There are some top-rated reviews on Amazon that are over four years old where the software is said to be overly complicated. But Nixplay has evolved their interface over time, and it is very straightforward today without much distraction.
Design & Appearance
The Nixplay Seed is a well engineered photo frame.
The 8-inch version comes in black, mulberry, blue and mango, the 10, 10.1 and 13-inch versions only in black. The frame color is fixed; the frame elements are not interchangeable.
Although the frame is made of plastic it has a pleasant touch & feel. It seems to have some sort of stain "resistant" coating, so finger prints do not leave a visible trace.
It is quite slim with a depth of 9 mm. Like an Apple iMac it gets a bit thicker in the middle but you only really see the narrow sides. The back is grooved and has a subtle checks pattern.
Instead of a stand, the Nixplay Seed has a rigid woven power cord which acts as a stand that you can adjust in many ways in both portrait and landscape orientation.
I quite like this idea because it hides the normally ugly white power cord in a clever way and provides ample flexibility setting it up. Compared to a rigid stand, you can adjust the inclination as you best see fit.
I read some criticism on Amazon that it would not be ideal on some surfaces, but I have tried it in various ways and it worked just fine.
In the corner, there are two visible sensors, one for infrared and one for the motion sensor. I would have liked for these sensors to be hidden as they reduce the perception of a real image frame.
As I have learned that women have a better taste, I checked with my wife to see if she minds, and to my surprise, she was okay with it and quite liked the frame's look. A good sign!
There is no power LED or other disturbing light.
The Nixplay Seed comes in two different aspect ratios. The 8 and 10-inch models have an aspect ratio of 3:2, whereas the 10.1 and 13.3 models have 16:10.
I have written before about the importance of aspect ratio.
In a nutshell, the more you deviate from the original format in which the photos were taken, the more the image will have to be cropped if you want to avoid showing black bars on the sides ("pillarboxing").
A standard DSLR camera has a 3:2 aspect ratio, most smartphones 4:3. 16:9 is typically a video format, and unfortunately it has taken gotten so popular with display manufacturers that it has become challenging to find non-16:9 displays.
So it is refreshing to see that the Nixplay Seed still offers 3:2 although only up to 10 inch. 16:10 is also not too bad for DSLR photos. So be careful when you pick your desired aspect ratio.
As a photographer I would always get a 3:2 picture frame - as long as you can.
The display has a matte coating to reduce reflection, and I would certify that they have done a good job here. The Nixplay Seed uses an IPS display which provides excellent colors across all viewing angles.
The display has a resolution of 1280 x 800 px which results on a dots-per-inch value of almost 150 which makes images look very sharp.
The Seed is for placement on a surface only; there is no wall mount.
It's somewhat strange to talk about a digital frame as a computer, but that's what it is. Albeit a one-trick computer.
The system is noiseless and does not have any moving parts, except obviously for the adjustable wire stand.
It comes with b/g/n Wifi, that is the fast one. In your router, it will appear as something like "android-1b9bb43d4c9e6c2c".
The Seed does not have any SD slots or USB connectors, but that's what WiFi is for.
It does have two speakers for video playback, but the quality is that of a small speaker in a picture frame.
If you want large speakers, have a look at the Nixplay Seed Wave.
Photo Management Approach
The Nixplay Seed is Cloud-based, which means that all images are stored on Nixplay servers first and then streamed to the picture frame.
You can do this either via your smartphone app (for iOS and Android) or through the browser on your PC or laptop.
Both the Nixplay mobile and desktop app are very easy to use. There is even a special tablet-sized app available.
I tend to prefer the desktop app because if you have a folder of images, you can upload them in one go. Maybe I am old-fashioned, but this works a lot faster for me than doing it on my phone.
Most people will probably do the initial image upload in the browser app and casually add images via the smartphone over time.
You can allow friends & family to add images to your playlist by sending them a link but will also get a personal Nixplay email to which you can send images.
You can also link your Nixplay account to Google Photos, Instagram, Dropbox, Facebook, and Flickr.
Videos are allowed up to a duration of 15 seconds.
Overall, the image management implementation of Nixplay is simple, fast and leaves little to be desired.
Image viewing options
Nixplay has done a very nice job with image transitions, often a weak point of picture frames. There are eight different ways of displaying your photos including
- Fit to screen where the image is shown uncropped and the resulting bars (if the iaspect ratio of the image is unlike the aspect ratio of the frame) have a color that is present in the image.
- Fill screen - photos are stretched so that you won't see any black bars.
- Pan - slightly moves the image
- Pan & zoom - Moving and zooming
- Tiles - show four photos as the same time and rotate the images individually
- Snapshot - every image has a small white frame around it and they are stacked like if you were looking through a number of photos.
You can also specify playback of only the latest 100, 200, 500 or 1000 images.
The transition time can be set to anything between 5 seconds and one hour.
You can have a clock displayed and even an image caption that you entered when the photos were added to a playlist.
With all these types of displaying your images, you can choose hard cuts (jump cut), crossfades, circles, wipe, slice, reveal, push, fold, and pixelate. In the beginning, it is probably easiest to set it to the random mode and then determine your favorite transition type.
You may have read about me favoring crossfading transitions because it reduces disturbance by sudden brightness changes to a minimum.
You can define individual playlists that you can populate manually. There is some smart playlist in the sense that you can choose only to display the most recent images.
General frame control & operation
You can set up the frame in either portrait or landscape position, and the frame will automatically change orientation much like you are used to on mobile devices these days.
The Nixplay Seed comes with a well designed remote control (that looks and feels like the back of the frame) but you can equally control it with your mobile device or on your computer.
I am not sure how "grandma compatible" the remote control is. But since you can control the frame via the internet, the kids could always help - provided the frame is plugged in and connected to the wifi.
If you unplug the frame, it reconnects automatically to the wifi network and resumes operation.
But the initial setup requires a bit of patience although Nixplay makes it as easy as possible. But this is probably not a picture frame that you can send to a non-technical person and expect him or her to set it up.
But once it is set up, it requires no real maintenance. Unfortunately, you cannot set up everything and ship the frame to be ready to go because the local WiFi cannot be pre-programmed.
If you want to save yourself some manual reading and frustration, check out my videos on how to get started using a mobile device or a computer. They are less than five minutes long and will get you going in no time.
I measured energy consumption of 6 Watts, which is as expected for a frame of this screen size.
The motion sensor can reduce this even more, but I am not a fan of having to walk in front of a frame to turn it on. But anyway, you can turn the sensor off if you don't like it.
Besides, the photo frame can be timer controlled.
Instead of having a thin white cable dangling out of the frame, the Nixplay designers have put some serious thoughts into one of the most annoying features of picture frames, the cabling.
The black thick cable doubles as a fully adjustable stand and thereby cleverly hides the cable. This is much better solved than other solutions that I have seen. Bravo, Nixplay!
Although I haven't seen official market data to back it up, judging from the online distribution presence and their own claims, Nixplay is probably the global number one digital picture frame brand by unit numbers for residential use.
Founded by Mark Palfreeman, the company has been around for over ten years and has sold a million frames. The frames are competitively priced and well designed, come with cleverly thought through apps and a cloud service.
Should Nixplay be forced to stop operations one day, your frame would become expensive junk (it will still work, but you can't add new photos). But let's face it, that is the case with all cloud-based services. However, I believe that the advantages far outweigh any theoretical risks, so this is not an issue over which you should lose any sleep.
Pricing and subscription services
When you buy the Nixplay Seed, you can use the Nixplay cloud service free of charge up to a capacity of 10 GB pictures. That corresponds to about 8,000 pictures and should be more than enough. If you need more, you can subscribe to Nixplay Plus, but I fail to see the need ever arising.
If you are looking for a good looking wifi photo frame to put on a desk, the Nixplay Seed is a very good choice. The hardware is cleverly designed, the cable well hidden in plain sight, and the software mature and powerful. I am not surprised that this is the # 1 photo frame in this category.
The fact that you can remotely add images to frames at your parents' or grandparents' place makes this a great device for sharing your lives among the entire family.
(Photos: Nixplay and own images)