You may have seen my other articles reviewing Aura frames. The one thing they all have in common is that they look really great. The Aura Sawyer frame is no different.
I had tested the Aura Mason and the Aura Carver last year and the Aura Smith recently. The Aura Sawyer photo frame was the one that I hadn’t yet looked at.
So let’s open the elegant Tiffany-colored box!
My tests are unbiased. There are no financial donations to be disclosed. Aura has supplied me with a review unit for this test.
The Aura brand
Aura is a San Francisco/New York-based company that started selling digital picture frames in 2016. Their USP is the use of a very elegant design and coupled with a simple to use software.
They currently (February 2021) offer four different models, the Aura Mason, Carver, Sawyer, and Smith.
Aura is currently only shipping in the US. They either sell direct or through selected retailers, like Amazon. However, I expect them to come to other countries in the near future.
Unboxing an Aura frame is always a pleasure because it looks and feels very elegant. In the box, you’ll find the photo frame, a proprietary but neatly designed power supply with a braided white cable, and a stand that attaches to the back of the frame like a MagSafe adapter to your iPhone 12. And yes, a manual. Which you don’t really need because the setup is straightforward.
The Sawyer hardware
The Aura Sawyer that I reviewed had a white frame with some special coating that made it look like ivory. Or, if I may quote Aura’s copyrighters, “undertones of champagne and rose shimmer across the surface of the metallic Mica frame, accentuated by its satin finish.” Yes, that is probably over the top, but it looks very nice, although the base material is still plastic.
The same frame is also available in dark grey which Aura calls “Shale in a deep midnight blue”.
The stand can be attached in both portrait and landscape mode, and, of course, the image rotates automatically as it is customary with modern photo frames.
One thing that I really liked about the Sawyer design was the almost invisible ambient light sensor. This sensor’s job is to turn the frame dark when the lights go out. Oftentimes, these sensors are quite ugly and rather large. Sometimes you will even find proximity sensors that are even larger and uglier. But on the Sawyer, it’s really hard to spot, and that is good.
The 9.7-inches display (same size as the Aura Smith) has a crisp resolution of 2048 x 1536px which translates to 264 dots-per-inch (dpi) which is great. The viewing angles are excellent, the colors do not wash out but retain the same quality as if you are stand right in front of it. This is a key feature of high-quality frames.
The overall size of the frame is 10.5 x 8.75 inches (27 x 22 cm).
The Aura Sawyer features an interactive touch bar (or two to be exact, one for portrait and one for landscape mode), enabling you to change photos, view details, and send a heart as a positive feedback to the person who sent you this picture.
I am not sure yet what to make of the touch bar but it is nice to see some innovation in the digital picture frame space and the “heart” feedback is quite clever.
The Aura software
Aura’s Software is simple but well designed.
When you get your Aura frame, download the Aura Frames app from the iOS or Android app store. Set up a new frame, enter the number that is displayed on the frame and you are connected.
Photos are added via your mobile phone app.
The remote control section allows you to crop, or change the orientation of a photo. You can also see on your phone which photo is currently being shown on the frame even though it may be playing on the other end of the world.
Aura gives you the option to invite people to your frame. This means that your guests can send pictures directly to your frame. And you can even give feedback by tapping on the touch bar, which will send a symbol of appreciation back to the sender.
Aura allows you to upload an unlimited number of images and does not charge a monthly fee as a few other manufacturers do. You can upload images from your phone through the Aura web uploader, Apple iCloud, or Google Photos. You can also invite friends & family to send you images straight to the frame.
You can also connect either an Amazon Alexa or a Google Assistant to the Sawyer and remote control it. I have not yet tried or found a use case for this myself, but apparently, there is a demand for this kind of integration.
I am missing in the Aura software to randomize the sequence of the images and select smooth crossfading as a transition effect. I guess they might add these features in a future software update.
What I like about the Aura frames, in general, is the Gift setup feature. It allows you to add photos to the frame without opening the packaging. So, if you want to give the frame to your parents, you can preload hundreds of images, and the frame pretty much works out of the box when unwrapped.
The Aura Sawyer picture frame comes with an outstanding high-resolution display that is a joy to watch. Its design is elegant and minimalistic and blends nicely into a stylish living room because it doesn’t look like a digital frame at all.
(Photos: Wolfgang Männel)
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