Aura frames are the Mercedes-Benz among digital picture frames. They don’t come cheap but they feature the best materials, most extravagant designs, and superb displays.
I had tested the Aura Mason and the Aura Carver last year but always wanted to see the Maybach in their product setup: The Aura Smith. An inconspicuous name for an exclusive stainless-steel design housing a super high-resolution 2048 x 1536px almost 10-inches display.
So let’s take a look!
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, the Aura Smith manual came in many other languages than English, so I expect them to come to other countries shortly.
When you compare the Aura Smith frame’s packaging with the other models in the Aura lineup, it is immediately clear that the Smith frame is something special, Aura’s flagship model, as they say.
I have long suspected that Aura poached the packaging designer from Apple Inc because unboxing the Smith frame is pure pleasure.
Don’t get me wrong: You will probably get rid of the packaging material fairly quickly, although it is a very nice box. But good packaging shows general attention to detail to the product that tends to stretch to the product and software quality.
And hey, isn’t it nice to start with a good first impression?
The Smith hardware
In contrast to all other frames that I looked at, the Aura Smith frame has a massive mat surrounding the 9.7-inches display. The mat looks like it was designed by the New York’s Museum of Modern Art, in the words of Aura, “a feat of industrial design and technology that looks like a piece of fine jewelry in its detailed construction and timeless design”.
That’s quite a mouthful but it does indeed look very nice. It’s made a steel as compared to the usual plastic frames and does feature a very intricate design.
It’s available in black onyx and platinum rose and can be setup in portrait or landscape orientation.
The 9.7-inches display has a crisp resolution of 2048 x 1536px which translates to 264 dots-per-inch (dpi) which is a good as it gets. 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 a high-quality frames.
There is exactly one hole in the back of the frame for the power supply and a fixture for the magnetic stand which is also made of solid metal.
The overall size of the frame is 11.8 x 9.8 inches (30 x 25cm).
The Aura Smith comes with an invisible ambient light sensor which automatically adjusts the display brightness.
It also 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 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 but you can also use the Aura web uploader, Apple iCloud, or Google Photos.
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.
I am missing in the Aura software to randomize the images’ sequence and select smooth crossfading as a transition effect. Dear Aura product development team: If you are reading this, these two features can’t be hard to add with a software update. It would make a great frame even better!
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 Smith picture frame’s extravagant design may not be the model you would choose for your grandparents. Still, it is a looker if you appreciate good design and want something different from the average pleasure plastic models on the market.
The software is straight forward and easy to work with and you can invite friends & family to send you photos remotely.
(Photos: Wolfgang Männel)
- My review of the Aura Sawyer picture frame with its tack sharp display and stylish look
- If you are looking for a digital frame for your wedding photos, you might like the beautiful white Aura Carver
- The Aura Mason digital picture frame with the Gift Setup feature to upload images even before the box is opened
- My review of Nixplay’s first WiFi touchscreen photo frame