In this guide, we’re taking a deep dive into Aura Wi-Fi photo frames! We’ll cover how they work, if they’re worth the high price tag, and what features are worth the money!
We’re also going to explain which features don’t work out so well, and whether or not they justify the Aura frame’s eye-watering high price. Finally, we’ll show you what the competition offers – and if they’re the better choice! Let’s dive in!
How Do Aura Wi-Fi Photo Frames Work?
Aura Wi-Fi photo frames are unique among the top frames as they don’t have internal storage, USB/SD card support, or video/audio playback. Despite these missing features, they’re still some of the most expensive high-end frames on the market, particularly in the 10-inch size range.
How do Aura Wi-Fi frames store and display photos without internal storage or USB/SD cards you might ask? Aura frames rely on a constant connection to the Aura cloud servers through Wi-Fi. Sadly, this comes with a host of issues.
Many Aura users complain that the Wi-Fi drops frequently. Unless you have a very stable, strong, and accessible Wi-Fi connection, you might also experience these drops. When Aura frames lose their connection with the cloud servers, you can’t stream your photos. The display will go black and a “no connection” popup will display.
Another closely related issue is that Aura’s Wi-Fi photo frames can’t work offline. Where competing frames like the Pix-Star offer extensive offline features and photo access, Aura offers none. You can’t view or manage your frame’s storage, start slideshows, or adjust most of the frame’s settings.
It’s a big deal for families and elderly users as managing several frames that need to constantly steam photos from a cloud source can be a nightmare. Since there is no remote configuration feature, troubleshooting issues while not in the same room is difficult.
Finally, bulk photo-sharing isn’t easy with Aura’s picture frames. with competing frames like the Pix-Star, you can load photos in bulk to a USB/SD card, insert them into the frame, and play slideshows directly (without copying anything to the frame’s internal storage first). This isn’t possible with Aura’s frames.
All photo-sharing needs to go through the mobile or web app. It’s slower and doesn’t give much control over creating albums, starting slideshows from specific files and folders, etc.
Why are Aura Wi-Fi Frames So Expensive?
When you buy Aura Wi-Fi photo frames, you’re mostly paying for aesthetics and a high-resolution display. These display panels cost a lot more to source and produce, leading to higher resale prices, and fewer features. It’s part of the reason why Aura frames don’t offer internal storage, video and audio support, and USB/SD card support.
The issue here is that the high-resolution display isn’t all that necessary. Yes, we’re used to the pixel-dense displays on our smartphones and premium laptops, but their day-to-day use is very different t the digital picture frame. Most of the time, you’ll view a digital frame from a couple of feet or meters away.
For example, wall-mounting a digital frame on the wall in the living room makes them easy to look at from across the room. Unless you closely inspect the display, you aren’t going to notice much of a difference. From a couple of feet away, a 1024×768 and a 2k display are going to look very similar on a 10-inch or a 15-inch digital frame.
Secondly, Aura’s 16:9 aspect ratio ruins much of the viewing experience. Most photos have to crop, zoom or distort to avoid showing black bars around the top/bottom/sides of the image. It’s why we prefer 4:3 aspect ratio digital frames like the Pix-Star. They display photos more naturally and match the aspect ratio in which most modern smartphones capture pictures.
Do Aura Wi-Fi Digital Frames Charge Monthly Fees?
Unlike some popular frames like Nixplay and Skylight, Aura does not charge monthly fees. Most of the best digital frames with Wi-Fi like Pix-Star and Dragon Touch don’t charge any recurring or hidden fees. These non-subscription-based digital frames offer fully unlocked feature sets and only require a once-off payment.
Wi-Fi digital frames like Nixplay and Skylight that charge monthly subscription fees lock several key features behind a paywall. These features include access to cloud storage, the mobile or web app, video, and audio support, remote access and control, etc.
We recommend avoiding Wi-Fi frames that charge monthly fees as they don’t offer great value for money. The upfront cost of digital Wi-Fi frames like Nixplay is often similar to or higher than non-subscription-based frames like the Pix-Star. When you calculate the cost of the subscription over the frame’s lifespan, Wi-Fi frames with recurring fees quickly become arguably the most expensive in their size range.
If you choose to skip paying the monthly subscription, you’ll find that the frame is no more functional than your average mid-range digital frame. You can often only send pictures through a single source, which is further limited to just a handful of photos in one go.
For reference, Pix-Star’s Wi-Fi digital frames offer all of these “locked” features. They don’t charge any extra or hidden fees, yet offer advanced features like free-for-life cloud storage, remote control and access, a mobile/web app, importing photos from social media, and much more.
Should you buy the Aura Wi-Fi Digital Photo Frame in 2022!
In the following two sections, we’re going to dive into a couple of reasons why you should – and shouldn’t – buy the Aura Wi-Fi digital photo frame. It’s worth noting right off the bat that Aura frames are some of the most popular on the market, along with other top frames like the Pix-Star, Skylight and Nixplay (subscription-based), and Dragon Touch.
Aura’s Wi-Fi frames are built around offering a high-resolution display. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of losing features like internal storage and USB/SD card support – all to keep the frame’s price competitive.
There’s a lot more to consider when buying a Wi-Fi digital picture frame, not just the display resolution. It’s a common misconception as we’re so used to high-resolution displays on our smartphones, computers, and smart TVs. Let’s start with two reasons why you should consider buying the Aura Wi-Fi digital picture frame!
2 Reasons to Buy Aura Wi-Fi Photo Frames
Here are two factors that give the Aura frame a unique edge. Bear in mind that you need to balance this out with the negatives. We never recommend buying a digital Wi-Fi picture frame just because of one of their benefits. You need to consider the important pros and cons to paint a more accurate overall picture. Let’s dive in!
Aura sells a couple of different digital frames, with the 3 most popular being the Aura Carver, Mason, and Smith. Aura’s display resolution for each of its frames is either full HD (1920×1200 with a 16:10 aspect ratio and 10.1-inch display) or 2K (2048×1536 with a 9.7-inch display).
This high-resolution display is quite a bit more than most other premium popular digital frames (usually around 1024×768). That being said, it’s a very costly – and debatable – addition to their lineup. From across the room on a 10-inch display, full HD and 2K aren’t going to be noticeably better than a 1024×768.
Aura’s Wi-Fi picture frames have a great aesthetic design. They look quite similar to what you’d expect a standard non-wooden digital frame to look like. It’s worth noting that there’s a bit of giving and take at play here. Their frame design and aesthetic are rather “busy” and can be distracting.
By contrast, competing frames like the Pix-Star have a more neutral frame design. While it may not be visually appealing, it’s very immersive – pairing well with the frame’s natural 4:3 aspect ratio and highly customizable slideshows. Pix-Star also sells a larger 15-inch frame; whereas all of Aura’s frames fall into the ~10-inch category.
6 Reasons to Avoid Aura Wi-Fi Photo Frames
Now let’s take a look at the ways Aura’s Wi-Fi photo frames fall short of the mark. We’re going to show you what competing frames offer in each category so you can better gauge how well your money is spent. Let’s get started!
All photos are steamed from the cloud
This might seem like a modern “smart” feature at face value. Simply turn on your frame and it will sync and display them directly from the cloud. Unfortunately, this is a big disadvantage for digital frames. It significantly limits how you share photos with your frame. It also makes transferring photos in bulk a slow and frustrating process.
For example, let’s say you take most of your pictures on a DSLR. You’d need to remove its SD card, load them to your computer or phone, and sync them to the Aura cloud through their mobile and web app. Photos from DSLRs tend to have large file sizes. It slows down syncing and loading times and quickly fills up cloud storage space (though Aura does claim to offer unlimited space).
If you’re doing this with a large number of photos, there isn’t any way to create custom folders or remotely manage this cloud storage. When you start slideshows from your Aura frame, you’ll have to play slideshows and cycle through them manually.
For reference, Pix-Star frames let you load up to 250 photos to several frames at the same time through the mobile app. They also let you load pictures in bulk through web albums via the web interface, even by USB/SD card. We’ll dive into Pix-Star’s USB/SD card support in the next section.
No internal storage or USB/SD card support
Aura’s Wi-Fi digital frames take a big hit by not offering internal storage or USB/SD card support. You can only use their mobile app and web app to load photos to the frame (though the web app doesn’t offer a very intuitive interface). Both Nixplay and Skylight frames fail to offer USB/SD card support; Skylight’s frames don’t have internal storage either.
By contrast, Pix-Star’s frames offer extensive USB/SD card support and 8GB of internal storage. While 8GB may not seem like much, it’s greatly enhanced by their USB/SD card plug-and-play feature. Here you can insert a USB/SD card (Pix-Star don’t limit their maximum capacity) and play slideshows directly on the frame. No need to copy anything to Pix-Star’s internal storage. You get essentially unlimited storage space for your photos, videos, and audio files.
The main issue Aura has by not offering any USB/SD card support or internal storage is that they can’t work without Wi-Fi. Not only that, but they need a very good Wi-Fi connection to avoid drops in connectivity. Many users complain that their Aura frame frequently drops its connection – leaving them with a blank screen and no access to their photos.
No video and audio support
Video and audio support are not the most important features of a digital “picture” frame, but they do go a long way to boost immersion and sharing special moments. Almost all Wi-Fi digital frames place limits on video and audio support – and only a handful of the best digital frames let you play audio and video.
Aura Wi-Fi digital photo frames don’t support video or audio playback. Additionally, they don’t have internal storage or USB/SD card support, and streaming this content live from the cloud is beyond the capabilities of the digital frame.
Pix-Star arguably offers the most robust video and audio support. You can play 2-minute video clips and audio messages on their frames, include videos in slideshows, and even connect to external speakers/headphones. Send videos and audio to Pix-Star’s frames via the mobile app or directly via USB/SD card.
No photo albums or file explorer
Aura’s Wi-Fi frames don’t have an internal file explorer. This means you can’t browse through your photos to create folders, move files around, etc. If you have several thousand photos on your frame, you won’t be able to start slideshows from specific sources and/or folders. You have far less control over what you see. It can be tricky for elderly users to get used to this setup, and most of your favorite pictures will get lost in the mass.
Pix-Star frames have a great file explorer that lets you view all sources, files, and folders. You can even browse through photos stored on an external USB/SD card to start slideshows. Moving files between folders and creating new folders is quick and easy.
Pix-Star’s remote configuration feature ties in well here. You can remotely access and control up to 25 Pix-Star frames using the web interface. Here, start slideshows, adjust their settings, manage cloud storage, change slideshow sources, import photos as web albums from social media, and more.
Smart features are gimmicky
Smart features like the photo pairing feature only work about 50% of the time. Other features like the motion sensor and smart fill don’t work nearly as effectively as you’d expect. While these aren’t the most important feature, they’re broadly advertised as one of Aura’s key selling points. You don’t have a wide selection of slideshow controls either, so the viewing experience is rather limited.
With Pix-Star’s frames, you don’t need to worry much about these smart features. First of all, they’re not nearly as necessary thanks to Pix-Star’s 4:3 aspect ratio. Photos cover the whole display more easily and don’t require cropping or editing nearly as often as Aura’s 16:9 and 16:10 displays. Pix-Star also has a unique collage feature that lets you view 4 or 5 photos in an attractive collage in slideshows.
Difficult setup and not elderly friendly
Aura doesn’t have the best reputation for being quick and simple to set up and use – particularly for elderly users and families. The mobile app and web interface aren’t easy to get started with. Additionally, without a remote configuration feature, you need to be in the same room as the frame to change settings, start slideshows, and manage storage.
Competing Wi-Fi digital frames like the Pix-Star offer extensive remote configuration support and an easy setup process. It takes just a couple of moments to connect to Wi-Fi. Once you’ve registered the Pix-Star frame on the web interface, Pix-Star easily handles the rest. You’ll have access to the cloud, automatic backups, web albums (photo albums imported from social media, photo-sharing sites, and even your computer), and much more.
Pix-Star’s mobile app (Pix-Star Snap) is more versatile and doesn’t require you to set up an account to use. You simply need to add any Pix-Star frame via its unique email address (only needs to be done once), and Pix-Star handles the rest. When you consider that Pix-Star’s frames are significantly more affordable than Aura’s frames, it’s easy to see why they’re one of the most popular on the market!
Is the Aura Wi-Fi photo frame worth it?
While there’s an element of subjectivity here, Aura’s digital frames probably aren’t the best value for money. They’re missing too many key features like remote configuration, web albums, USB/SD card support, internal storage, and offline functionality. Slideshows are very limited and you can’t manually create folders or albums to play customized slideshows from.
For families and elderly users, Aura’s frames struggle to compete with Pix-Star’s frames – despite charging a whole lot more. They also don’t offer larger digital frame sizes as Pix-Star does with their 15-inch Wi-Fi digital picture frame.
We suggest saving some money and getting a frame like the Pix-Star. You’ll get better value for money, and a digital frame that’s better equipped to handle the nuanced needs of the modern home and family!