Digital frames are small, but the best models can be surprisingly complex with a long list of tech features and specs. Here’s everything to look for when shopping for your next digital picture frame.
How your digital frame stores photos is arguably the most important consideration. There are three methods for storage: Cloud-based, onboard (using a built-in storage system), or via an external device that you plug into the frame, such as a USB drive or memory card. The best digital frames offer some combination of all three.
Cloud-based is ideal for anyone who plans to connect their digital frame to the web. It allows the most flexibility, including being able to upload photos via a smartphone app, sharing your pictures with trusted friends in an online “photo pool,” or even being able to send photos to the frame’s dedicated email address.
Onboard storage and external device storage can both be good backups to cloud storage or work on their own for anyone who’d rather not connect their digital frame to the cloud. Non-web-connected digital frames are also ideal for non-tech-savvy family members without home internet access.
Screen Quality, Size, and Resolution
Because most digital frames use the same display technology as modern TVs, shopping for them is similar in many ways. In general, you’ll want a minimum screen resolution of 720p. Anything less will likely cause your photos to look blurry or muddled. The right frame size (measured diagonally in inches) is ultimately a matter of personal preference and how much room you have to set up your frame. Decent compact frames are roughly 8 inches. Most digital frames are in the 9- to 10-inch range, and the largest digital frames can measure as wide as 17 inches. Anything larger, and you’re essentially just shopping for a new television.
Frame Design and Photo Orientation
Most digital frame makers keep things simple with basic designs that work with just about any decor. Some allow for orientation vertically or horizontally, but not both. This can affect how your photos display and look onscreen. Depending on where you’ll be setting up your frame (on a desktop, a photo wall, above your fireplace, etc.), consider getting a model that works in either orientation to maximize versatility.
At the very least, every digital frame displays still photographs. Some also support short videos (usually up to 15-30 seconds max) and audio to add some background flavor to your slideshows. The best models can even display other formats like Apple Live Photos. One thing worth noting is that cheaper frames may not allow you to mix photos and video in the same slideshow, meaning you’ll need to pick which type of slideshow you want to display. More premium frames will show every format in a single, seamless slideshow.
Like the best TVs, the most premium digital photo frames offer plenty of other features, too. Some offer a touchscreen display that makes it easier to set everything up, adjust the frame’s options, and navigate your slideshows. Auto-brightness and auto-on/off are other features that change the frame’s display based on ambient light and motion (for example, turning the frame on when it senses someone in the room). Lastly, the best digital frames also include a scanning function baked into the smartphone app, allowing you to digitize printed photos by scanning and uploading them directly to the frame.