Netgear Meural was one of the first larger digital picture frames of the second coming of (much better quality) digital picture frames a few years ago.
I reviewed the larger wall-mounted Meural photo frame in 2020. Later in 2020 Netgear Meural also introduced a table-top version in a 15-inch size. It took a while until I could get my hands on a unit it it finally arrived in February 2021.
As always, I’ll share with you the good, the bad and the ugly without any bias. So, let’s get going.
My tests are unbiased. There are no financial donations to be disclosed. Netgear has supplied me with a review unit for the duration of this test.
The Meural is unusually large for a table-top picture frame. And that is something that I like a lot because photos are meant to have space to come to life. The bigger, the better.
It comes with a very solid silver stand that you just swipe down. There is little risk that your Meural will ever fall over.
The Meural 15 hardware
The display of the Meural has a diagonal of 15.6 inches with a 16:9 aspect ratio typically known as wide-screen.
Most mobile phone photos are 4:3 which results in a lot of cropping or pillar boxes, the black bars left and right of the images if set to be displayed in full.
But it would be unfair to blame the digital frame brands for a lack of 4:3 displays because they just don’t manufacture non-wide-screen above a certain size these days anymore.
Just like on the wall-mounted Meural frames, the display has an anti-glare coating and the patented TrueArt technology.
The IPS display looks gorgeous, no doubt about that. The viewing angles are excellent, the color do not change no matter from what angle to look at the frame.
The 1920 x 1080px resolution of the screen makes the image ultra-crisp and very pleasing to look at.
The frame has a local storage capacity of 1GB which is sufficient for around 2,400 photos. This may not be much but probably sufficient for 99% of us.
The frame is made of plastic with wood-colored inlays and it feels high value. I actually looks like a wooden frame painted in grey.
So as to the hardware the Meural 15 is pretty perfect. So what about the software and the highly acclaimed gesture controls? Can they keep up?
The Meural app
The first thing to do after unboxing your Meural frame is to download the app from the iOS or Android App Store. Open the app and scan the QR code on your frame.
The rest is straightforward. You can upload your own images from your mobile phone or try some of the free art samples. The Meural can also playback videos for up to fifteen seconds. The GUI is well designed. The frame settings are adjusted in “Canvas”. This is also where you can remote control your frame, should you be underwhelmed with the gesture controls.
What is a bit annoying is that the frame briefly turns black when you add or remove images. It would be nice if all this happened silently in the background. But it’s not a big deal.
The transition is a simple slide, smooth crossfading of images is not available.
The Meural 15 comes with an in-built gesture control. Unfortunately, it is a bag of hurt.
The basic functions are to move forwards and backwards as well as show information about the image. There are also a few additional features like Canvas and WiFi info.
But it just doesn’t work very reliably.
There are training videos on the internet on how to properly wave and gesture and there are tooltips showing you where to wave but if you need a training session for a simple thing like moving an image forward, then clearly the engineers haven’t done their homework.
Think of the simplicity of pinch and zoom on a smartphone. It just works. Now, think of the opposite.
The annoying gesture control doesn’t make the Meural 15 less attractive and I would humbly suggest to the product engineers, to either rethink or remove this functionality.
As an alternative to gesture control, just use the mobile app which allows you do to the same thing much much more reliably.
The Meural Art Library currently holds 30,000 paintings and other pieces of art. It is a paid subscription for $70 (€79) per year but there is also a monthly rate.
There is are a few sample playlists with a total of a hundred images for free but most of them are not.
You can also purchase access to specific playlists if you don’t want to take a subscription.
If you are interest in arts, get a subscription.
The Meural 15 is an intruiging frame. It’s size clearly differentiates it from the other table-models and it looks very classy.
Despite a few shortcomings, I can recommend this table-top picture frame because of its size, good looks and display quality.
(Photos: Netgear, Wolfgang Männel)
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