The 100 best digital picture frames on amazon
The 100 best digital picture frames on amazon
The 100 best digital picture frames on amazon
The 100 best digital picture frames on amazon

Which dig­i­tal pic­ture frame should you choose as a present for your fam­i­ly Christ­mas 2019?

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Google search requests for "dig­i­tal pic­ture frames" typ­i­cal­ly increase ten­fold around the end of the year.

This means two things: A dig­i­tal pho­to frame is as a great Christ­mas (or Chanukkah, New Years, etc.) gift, but since there are over a hun­dred dif­fer­ent ones on Amazon.com alone, find­ing the one that is best for you is not an easy task.

In this arti­cle, I will make it easy for you to pick the right pic­ture frame to give as a present to your fam­i­ly, your par­ents or grand­par­ents, or your­self!

For each group, I will short­ly sum­ma­rize the key cri­te­ria from my expe­ri­ence and rec­om­mend a few care­ful­ly select­ed prod­ucts to buy.

You can, of course, read through my very detailed arti­cle "The ulti­mate 10-Point check­list for buy­ing a dig­i­tal pic­ture frame" but if you just want a sum­ma­ry buyer's guide, read on.

Guess what this is

Which pho­to frame should I give to my par­ents or grand­par­ents?

I would argue that the key pur­chas­ing cri­te­ria for this group is ease of use unless, of course, your par­ents are super IT savvy.

This includes:

  • what the tech­ni­cal infra­struc­ture in terms of WiFi is like in your par­ents' home
  • how long it takes to set up the pho­to frame ini­tial­ly
  • how eas­i­ly can images be added or delet­ed by your par­ents local­ly and by your­self remote­ly (assum­ing you live in a dif­fer­ent loca­tion)
  • how you can remote­ly con­trol the pic­ture frame set­tings

The first ques­tion that you need to ask is, do your (grand-)parents have a wifi con­nec­tion at home?

The avail­able inter­net speed is some­what less crit­i­cal, but it must be a reli­able and per­ma­nent con­nec­tion and not just a hotspot mobile phone net­work.

Par­ents with­out WiFi

If your par­ents do not have a WiFi net­work at home, there is no point in get­ting a WiFi-enabled pic­ture frame. One of the cheap­er mod­els that have a USB or an SD card slot are per­fect­ly fine.

Mind you, with these kinds of frames, you will have to send updat­ed USB sticks or SD cards to your fam­i­ly reg­u­lar­ly because noth­ing is more annoy­ing than see­ing the same old images on your pho­to frame with­out any recent updates.

If you don't want your Christ­mas present to end up in a cup­board a few weeks lat­er, this is an ongo­ing oblig­a­tion that comes with it.

As insert­ing a small SD card into the back of a pic­ture frame can be tricky for the elder­ly, using a USB stick might be more acces­si­ble as it is big­ger and less frag­ile.

Typ­i­cal­ly, there is only min­i­mal set­up effort with non-WiFi frames and lit­tle that can go wrong.

Giv­ing mem­o­ries

These are my rec­om­men­da­tions for USB/SD card frames with­out Wifi. The dif­fer­ence between the fol­low­ing mod­els is in screen size only:

The NIX Advance 10 Inch Dig­i­tal Pho­to Frame comes with a high res­o­lu­tion 16:10 IPS dis­play and a motion sen­sor which turns off the frame when there is nobody in the room. It has USB and SD card slots and remote con­trol.

The NIX Advance 15-Inch Dig­i­tal Pho­to Frame is basi­cal­ly the same mod­el, just in 15 inch­es.

And if you want it even big­ger, then the NIX Advance 17-Inch Widescreen Dig­i­tal Pho­to Frame X17B is the mod­el to go for. This mod­el comes with a wide 16:9 screen.

The selec­tion of non-wifi frames is some­what lim­it­ed these days as the tech­nol­o­gy tends to migrate towards the Cloud.

There are many cheap "Chi­na" frames out there, but I would rec­om­mend that you stick to a lead­ing brand like, e.g. Nix­play if you want a decent dis­play and well-designed soft­ware.

Par­ents with WiFi

If your par­ents' house does have WiFi, you're in luck because you have a lot more options.

Not only can you pro­vide IT sup­port remote­ly (pro­vid­ed the frame is still con­nect­ed to the WiFi net­work!), but even more impor­tant, you can update the images either direct­ly from your mobile phone or in a desk­top brows­er.

From per­son­al expe­ri­ence, I can guar­an­tee you that your par­ents will quick­ly notice new pho­tos and men­tion them to you on the phone.

I would also rec­om­mend that you stick to frames that can be put on a shelf rather than mount­ed on a wall as the han­dling is just eas­i­er.

The thing to watch out when choos­ing a wifi frame is to check the aspect ratio of the screen. Many frames will have 16:9 which is more a movie for­mat than a reg­u­lar pho­to for­mat.

Most mobile phone images are shot in 4:3, and show­ing them on a 16:9 screen will either lead to black bars left and right (let­ter- or pil­lar box­ing) or if you choose the full-screen mode, a heav­i­ly cropped image where 25% of the con­tent will be cut off.

Luck­i­ly, there are also 16:10 frames that pro­vide a bet­ter view­ing expe­ri­ence.

If you like videos, make sure your frame has that fea­ture. Some frames will lim­it video play­back to 15 sec­onds.

The mar­ket leader in this space is again Nix­play, and by choos­ing a prod­uct from them, you get a mod­ern soft­ware inter­face com­bined with the rel­a­tive ease of set­up. Also, their prod­ucts are well thought through with a lot of atten­tion to lit­tle details that make life eas­i­er.

There are many cheap prod­ucts avail­able on eBay or Ama­zon, but typ­i­cal­ly, the soft­ware is a mess, and your folks will end up not using the frame. As always, those are then the most expen­sive prod­ucts in the end.

My rec­om­mend­ed 10 inch frame is the Nix­play Seed 10.1 Inch Dig­i­tal Wi-Fi Pho­to Frame W10B Black which has a 16:10 IPS Dis­play (IPS means that you can see the screen very well from the side).

The Nix­play Seed comes in many sizes

The images are stored in the Cloud and streamed to your pic­ture frame. This means that there is no USB stick or SD card, but you can push new pho­tos from your phone via the Nix­play App for iOS and Android or from your desk­top to any con­nect­ed frame.

It comes with 10GB online stor­age, which is prob­a­bly more than you will ever need.

I have writ­ten a detailed review on this frame. If you need help with set­up, please check here.

The same frame but larg­er is the Nix­play Seed 13 Inch Dig­i­tal Wi-Fi Pho­to Frame W13B Black.

These mod­els are also avail­able with dif­fer­ent screen aspect ratios. I rec­om­mend a 4:3 or a 16:10 ver­sion.

You can find the full Nix­play range on Ama­zon.

Nix­play does not spon­sor me, but in the mid-range, they offer excel­lent qual­i­ty and smart soft­ware.

Depend­ing on the tech­ni­cal lit­er­a­cy of your (grand-)parents, it may make sense to con­fig­ure the frame before you give it to them. Only the WiFi con­nec­tion will then have to be entered local­ly.

Treat your­self with a great pic­ture frame

What about giv­ing your­self a great present?

If you want a "nor­mal" pho­to frame, the wifi mod­els, as men­tioned ear­li­er, are a good choice.

But if you are look­ing for some­thing a bit more exclu­sive, and if you like great pho­tos, then I can rec­om­mend three wall-moun­t­ed prod­ucts that you should look at.

The FRAMEN Play­er

The first one is the FRAMEN Play­er, a 21.5'' screen avail­able in black or white. I have reviewed both the FRAMEN hard­ware and the FRAMEN soft­ware and it's a great pho­to frame with a fine soft­ware app.

The Meur­al Can­vas II is prob­a­bly the most beau­ti­ful­ly craft­ed frame, and it comes with an option­al art sub­scrip­tion that allows you to show not only your own images but also those of the great mas­ters. The frame is made of wood, and there is a motion sen­sor, ges­ture con­trol, and a mobile app for iOS and Android.

The frame is avail­able in 21.5 inch­es and 27 inch­es. The 27 inch­es ver­sion does not come with an increase in res­o­lu­tion, it remains at 1920 x 1080, which isn't exact­ly state of the art. Maybe they have a 4K ver­sion in the works. That would do the beau­ty of this frame jus­tice.

The most expen­sive but also largest frame is Samsung's The Frame which is basi­cal­ly a TV dis­guised as a pho­to frame. Or vice ver­sa depends on what is more essen­tial for you.

It comes in a rather impres­sive size of up to 65 inch­es and has some cool fea­tures like an elec­tron­ic Passep­a­rtout. The OLED 4K dis­play is prob­a­bly the best that you can get today.

Samsung's The Frame

I have seen The Frame sev­er­al times in action but haven't had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to review it myself thor­ough­ly. I read in a forum that there appear to be some issues with the soft­ware and unwant­ed adver­tis­ing, but I would expect them to fix any bugs.

The Sam­sung The Frame has an addi­tion­al hard­ware com­po­nent (basi­cal­ly the TV receiv­er) which is sep­a­rate from the frame itself. There­fore, I rec­om­mend check­ing before buy­ing if you have the addi­tion­al space to accom­mo­date it.

There is one down­side to all of these three frames.

While it's great to see your pho­tos on large dis­play rang­ing from 21.5 inch­es (FRAMEN Play­er), 21.5 and 27 inch­es (Meur­al Can­vas II) to a max­i­mum of 65 inch­es (Sam­sung The Frame), they have one issue in com­mon: The aspect ratio of their screens is 16:9 which is not ide­al for us pho­tog­ra­phers.

But I guess most peo­ple won't even notice when a part of the pho­to is being cut off and there isn't much of a choice left as dis­play man­u­fac­tur­ers just don't seem to make 16:10 aspect ratio for larg­er screens any­more.

The do-it-your­­self option

When we were grow­ing up, the stan­dard diplo­mat­ic response to our ques­tion of what my par­ents want­ed for Christ­mas was always "some­thing that we had made with our own hands."

If that is what you want to do, you have come to the right place.

If you want to build some­thing unique, or if you don't want to spend a lot of mon­ey, you can recy­cle an old dis­play from a bro­ken lap­top, add a $35 Rasp­berry Pi mini-com­put­er and use free, open-source soft­ware to bring it to life.

Made by your­self

To get you going on your jour­ney, I rec­om­mend read­ing "How I built a dig­i­tal pic­ture frame with a Rasp­berry Pi" and "How to con­fig­ure the soft­ware for your dig­i­tal pic­ture frame in 60 min­utes". Once you have fin­ished read­ing that, there is much more in "DIY chap­ter".

What­ev­er choice you will make, you will not regret the mag­ic that a dig­i­tal pic­ture frame can unfold and the joy that it brings to the faces of your fam­i­ly, friends, and your­self.

It's a gift that keeps on giv­ing - every day.

(Pho­tos: Nix­play, FRAMEN, Sam­sung and Unsplash)