In the age of digital cameras, printed photos are becoming less and less common, as we're more likely to show them off on Instagram than trek to a print shop to get them framed.
That's inevitable, but also a bit of a shame - even some of your best photos can be left to gather digital dust, stuck on an SD card or your phone's storage, never to see the light of day again unless someone decides to scroll way back on your social media profile.
That's why the last few years have seen the growth of a new, and slightly anachronistic, piece of tech: the digital photo frame. These are small electronic displays that can play photos, and often videos, cycling through your albums or sitting static on one photo, so that you can treasure (and show off) your favourite photos just like you used to.
Digital photo frame buying advice
As with any tech, not all digital photo frames are created equal, and there's a bit of variation in what features you can expect. Here's what to look out for.
Cloud storage vs. physical media
The first thing to check is how the frame accesses and stores photos. Older or cheaper frames tend to rely on physical storage, with ports for USB sticks or SD cards, which it plays the photos from. Make sure to check if the frame has its own internal storage to transfer the photos to, or if you'll need to leave the USB stick or SD card connected to access your images.
More recent frames often have Wi-Fi support, which means they can access images directly from the cloud. That might mean emailing photos directly to your frame, or (more conveniently) linking your account up to your Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Google Photos, or similar to play images directly from those accounts.
If you're already adding your photos to social media or cloud storage accounts anyway, this means you can add them to your photo frame at the same time, making it pretty painless to keep it updated with your latest snaps. Just make sure that you don't accidentally send something to the frame that you'd rather keep private...
The best digital photo frames will include an activity sensor, which detects (usually using a microphone) whether anyone is in the room, only turning on when there's someone around, which is a great way of saving power. Just bear in mind that if you have pets roaming the house, they may be enough to trigger the sensor, turning the frame on unnecessarily.
The other option is to set a sleep timer, telling your frame to automatically turn off and on at certain times of day - off when you go to bed or leave for the office, on for when you wake up or come home at the end of the day.
Most good frames should include both options, allowing you to combine them to really make sure the frame is only on when you want it to be.
One last note: set your expectations accordingly when it comes to display quality. Even though they're essentially just screens with photo storage, screen quality remains frustratingly low across the digital photo frame industry.
Look out for screens that are HD (as some still aren't that) but don't expect Full HD, let alone 4K - meaning that these screens will typically be markedly lower resolution than your phone's, and in turn lower resolution than your photos.
Still, for most people that won't be a problem, and the displays tend to be bright and crisp enough to make photos look good, with decent viewing angles so you can enjoy photos from across the room. It just might frustrate serious photographers hoping to see their photos at their absolute best.
Best digital photo frame reviews 2018
1. Nixplay Iris
- Reviewed on: 14 March 2018
The Nixplay Iris is an attractive digital frame, and the cloud support makes it easy to save your photos from digital dust-gathering. The only downsides are the rather steep price and the slightly low resolution display, but for the moment those are both fairly typical for the cloud photo frame marketplace.
Read our Nixplay Iris review.
- Reviewed on: 14 March 2018
The Nix Advance is a simple, no frills digital photo frame that does exactly what it sets out to do. It doesn’t have the best screen or the most complex features, but if you want a simple frame for your digital photos that’s dead easy to set up, it’s a very solid choice.
- Reviewed on: 16 April 2018
The Pix-Star FotoConnect XD gets the job done, but it's definitely less slick and modern than some of its rivals. Arguably its big selling point is the support for both physical media and cloud platforms - ideal if you have photos stored in multiple locations - but if you only need one of those or the other, there's probably a better (and better value) alternative elsewhere.
Read our Pix-Star FotoConnect XD review.