Nixplay Smart Photo Frame is great at home, better as a gift

The Nixplay Smart Photo Frame is the latest and smartest digital photo frame from the company that claims to be the most popular brand in the US, with over 2 million units sold.

It’s smart because it can be updated in a bunch of different ways: manually, with the smartphone app; by voice, with Alexa or Google Assistant; and automatically, by linking it to Google Photos…

You can also link it to Dropbox, Facebook, or Instagram using the web interface.

So it’s really easy to ensure it’s always displaying your choice of photos, whether it’s your own frame you’re controlling or one you’ve gifted to a family member. The most obvious use would be to gift one to grandparents in order to regularly update their frame with photos of their grandchildren.

Nixplay Smart Photo Frame look and feel

The frame is available in four different sizes, at prices ranging from $140.40 to $279.99.

  • 9.7 inch
  • 10.1 inch
  • 13.3 inch
  • 15.6 inch

I tested the 15.6-inch model.

There are different finishes available in different sizes. There is, for example, a wood-effect one in the 10.1-inch, but if you want the 15.6-inch version, then you can have it in any color and material you like as long as it’s black plastic.

It’s a matt finish, and very unobtrusive, so it wouldn’t look out of place in most decors.

At the bottom-left-hand corner are two sensor windows that are slightly more obtrusive than I’d wish. One is for the included remote control, the other is a motion sensor, automatically starting the slideshow when it senses people approaching it.

It’s both desk and wall mountable. There’s an included stand for desk/table mounting, and there’s a hidden wall-mounting frame behind a slide-off panel. A third option is to attach it to a VESA 75 mount — the wall mount is compatible.

Wall mount

Screen quality

The display is a 1920×1080 IPS LCD display with a 16:9 aspect ratio. It’s obviously not the latest tech in terms of either resolution or display type, but it is typical for photo frames, and IPS LCD is the same that Apple uses for its non-OLED iPhones. I personally found the quality perfectly acceptable at normal photo-frame viewing distances.

The frame automatically adjusts to portrait or landscape positioning, and uses YouTube-style “frosted” color-matched edges for anything that doesn’t fill the full width of the frame.

Setup

When you first power up the frame, it will ask you for your WiFi network and password, play a short intro video, and then display a QR code for the app. Open the Camera app, point it at the QR code, and it selects the Nixplay app in the App Store.

Open this and you’re prompted to register and then pair your frame. When you press the pair button in the app, the frame is automatically detected. The serial number is pre-filled, and you’re prompted to name the frame, say where it’s located, and confirm your time zone.

Recommended settings changes

Recommended setting changes

I changed several of the default settings:

  • Show/Hide: I switched off sender name and notifications for new contents
  • Settings: Set transitions to “Fit to screen — cross fade”
  • Settings: Changed transition time (photo display time) from 10 seconds to 5 seconds
  • Settings: Motion sensor on, 10 minutes

Nixplay Smart Photo Frame app

Creating and uploading albums

Once you’ve allowed the app access, you can create albums. There are, however, two frustrations here. First, you can’t just select entire Photos app albums in one go: You have to re-create them in the Nixplay app. Second, you are limited to 100 photos per album.

Once you’ve done this, the photos upload to the frame. Another UI frustration is that there is no automatic progress indicator in the app, just a message reading “Content uploading… ” If you exit the album in the app, and come back into it, then you can see the photos that have uploaded so far, together with a photo count, but this doesn’t update unless you exit and re-enter. You do, however, get an indicator on the frame itself.

Google Photos album

There is support for automatically uploading the frame with photos from your Google Photos account. Since I use the Google Photos app to automatically sync my iPhone photos to my account, that means it’s effectively the same as having a feed from my iCloud photos.

Hit the New Playlist option and then select Google Photos. You need to login to your Google account, and can then either select one of the Google-assigned categories or just your Most Recent 1,000 Photos. Once you do this, the photos will sync and become an available playlist.

While it’s syncing, you get a download countdown in the top-right of the frame.

Nixplay Smart Photo Frame countdown

The problem I found with the last thousand photos is that I have a lot of junk in my photostream, like screengrabs. For this to be a truly useful playlist, you would need to do regular pruning.

Conclusions

Nixplay Smart Photo Frame pricing and conclusions

Given most 9to5Mac readers will likely already own an iPad, the smaller frames don’t make much sense for use yourself: You could use your iPad as a smart frame when not using it for other things. It may, however, make sense for family members, given the ease with which you can remotely update their photos.

Pricing is comparable to dumb photo frames, which typically require you to copy photos onto an SD card or USB key. For me, the Nixplay Smart Photo Frame is a far more convenient option if you use your iPhone as your primary camera, and still more convenient, even if you don’t. For photos taken with my Sony a6400 or DSLRs, I just add processed photos to the Photos app on the Mac, and they are then available on the iPhone.

As an indication, I’ve owned the same size dumb photo frame for about two years, and I think in that time I’ve updated the photos on it twice. What I mostly want are my travel photos, but the hassle factor is still a barrier to more regular updating.

One thing I like about easy updating is if you have friends round who are interested in a particular trip or activity, you can quickly load it up with a relevant playlist.

Of course, there will be those who see no point in a digital photo frame these days. It’s easy to view photos on an iPad or Mac, but personally I like to have a wall-mounted frame that displays them in the background. That means I see photos when passing, or in the room, that I might not bother to proactively look through on one of my Apple devices.

But for me, the biggest selling point is the ability to gift one to relatives, and then automatically update their photos remotely — photos of grandchildren being the key selling point here. That’s going to be a gift worth way more than the purchase price.

The Nixplay Smart Photo Frame retails for between $140.40 and $279.99 on the company’s own website, or less on Amazon.

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