I have long coveted the magnificent Samsung TV frame, which doubles as a digital photo frame with access to over 1,400 artworks. The prospect of having the entire Public Domain hanging in my living room is endlessly appealing. So when Aura Framesa 10-year-old New York-based company that makes smart, easy-to-use digital picture frames, asked me to send me a sample of their Luxury Mason model, I thought that might be the next best thing. I never thought this would be my favorite item in my kitchen.
The Aura Mason Luxury is one of five models of the brand; at $250, it’s the middle of their price range. (Aura Frames starting at $180 and going up to $400.) My only previous experience with a digital frame is the one I bought for my grandmother over ten years ago that eventually became a paperweight of high tech when SD cards turned into a hassle. But calling the Aura similar to this outdated model is a disservice, as digital photo frames have evolved. The Mason Luxe model features a 9.7-inch 2K display, giving you a 4:3 aspect ratio, allowing photos to appear large, crisp and vibrant just like on your phone screen . You can browse images at your preferred frame rate, control the frame’s display on its touchpad or an associated app, and easily add other members to your privacy settings, so they can directly download or send photos by e-mail in the queue.
We loaded our Luxury Mason featuring photos of vacations, celebrations, and fun times that we’ve romanticized but wouldn’t usually get printed and framed. You can add videos up to 30 seconds long. We discovered how wonderful it is to have dinner while our friends are dancing at a wedding behind us. (There’s a built-in speaker, as well as the ability to turn off the raspy sound when memory is better than lubricated singing.) I scanned old delicate photos from our families’ irreplaceable albums at our cycle. And I’d be lying if I said I don’t cry sometimes when I walk in for a slice of toast to see my now deceased grandmother (the one with the failing digital frame) waving from her nursing home.
We granted access to some family members, which was quite easy, but requires registration and confidentiality agreements on their end. Visiting my partner’s family in Ireland has been nearly impossible during the pandemic, and it has been a small comfort to wake up to photos of his rapidly growing nephews and niece appearing in the frame. I gave up Facebook and Instagram a few years ago. The Aura framework gave me back the core value these rigs provided, without forcing me to give up my life.
Aura isn’t the only player in the smart frames market. Based in San Francisco Skylight frames‘Ads haunt my favorite podcasts to the point of nausea. Their $160 frame has abilities similar to those of Aura Mason Luxurybut has a lower resolution, offers only one standard black bezel, and requires a $39 annual fee for app and cloud access.
Aura won me over with better resolution, sleeker bezels, and a designated order flow, making it easier to buy a device for a less tech-savvy parent. It comes with preset Wi-Fi access and a welcome message, so all anyone has to do is plug in the device. It’s a thoughtful and intelligent concept that makes a big difference. Much like the frame itself.
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