aura digital photo frame set up at grandparents' house
Parenthood Grandparents Gift Ideas

Are Aura Frames the Perfect Grandparent Gift? My Full Review

By Amy Morrison
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I always loved the idea of a digital photo frame. It keeps your photos front and center without taking up a ton of space or leaving them tucked away on your phone or photo album (only to be pulled out when someone asks to ‘see the kid’). However, I always worry about how they will perform. Like, am I about to drop $300 on something I need to be a tech wiz at –or is it going to crap out in 6 months?

In this review I'm going to cover the set up to see how difficult it is, the pros and cons, common questions about the frame like fees, privacy, energy use, storage and customer service, unique uses for it then my final conclusion on whether I think the Aura frame is worth it.

For this review I got the Aura Carver in “gravel’.

Once I got the frame out of the box, I plugged in the power cord and followed the instructions to connect to the wi-fi network. The tech level was like ‘Does the code on the frame match your phone? vs. “Select LAN WPVPN code” kind of insanity that comes with some digital frames. So far so good.

I decided to take advantage of a family event where everyone was over at my house to fully set it up to get a feel for how easy it was for a variety of ages and tech levels to set up. I sent everyone an invitation link, they downloaded the app, then uploaded a bunch of their photos and videos.

The frame immediately started showing the photos that would slowly progress to the next photo (slideshow style) or you could swipe the photos along with the touch bar strip on the top.

We packed the frame up and plugged it in at my in-laws and the family has been uploading images ever since. My inlaws frickin' love it.

What are the Pros of the Aura Frame?

The biggest pro of digital photo frames in general is having an ongoing highlight reel of your favorite photos and videos. A picture truly does say a 1,000 words and it's an easy way to keep everyone connected. Here are the stand outs I found for the Aura frame.

  • It’s an easy setup. I am famous for not reading instructions. Not only do I want to see how easy it is for the average person to set up but I’m lazy.
  • The app is easy to use and understand. I tested the frame with people 16 years old to 78 years old and everyone understood how it worked and uploaded pictures from an Android device, iPhone, tablet and even Google photos.
  • The packaging is nice if you’re giving it as a gift. It’s also nice that you can set the frame up as a gift without opening the box so all a gift recipient has to do is plug it in and connect to wifi.
  • There is no subscription or fee other than the cost of the frame. (There is nothing I hate more than a subscription fee when I’ve already shelled out for the product.)
  • Both photos in portrait and landscape orientation can be displayed on it.
  • You can control any video playback sound by tapping the sensor strip on the top of the unit
  • The frame is tasteful and looks nice on a shelf
  • Each person you invite to the app can see, like and comment on the photos so it's a true group effort. I love that I can see (and love) what my nieces and nephew upload even though I don't have the frame.
  • The photos and videos look incredible. Even the most ho hum pictures look beautiful with the bright display and high resolution
aura frame box with gift qr code
Gift code to set up with frame without opening the box

What are the cons of Aura frame?

It is tricky to make anything tech related simple for everyone to use. Here are some of the cons I found. Some are with digital photo frames in general and some are specific to the Aura frame.

  • I sent the link to my family members which prompted them to download the app. When they open the app, it asks you to set up a frame vs. link back to the info. It led to some setup confusion, but it definitely wasn’t a major hurdle.
  • If the frame is in a very sunny spot I find the ambient light sensor works hard to adjust the light and I can’t imagine this is good for it.
  • You need WiFi for it to operate so it might not be a good fit for people who don’t have consistent access or grandparents who don’t have WiFi (and/or don’t trust it)
  • Ideally, people uploading picture to the frame need to use the app for the best experience so keep that in mind if you have a lot of flip phone users. You can upload photos from a desktop but it’s less seamless in my opinion.
  • It’s pricey. I feel like the $150 - $200 cost is justified but it’s not a ‘let’s try it” number for most people.
  • This might not work if you have so tricky family dynamics. If Aunt Jen insists on uploading 800 photos of her crusty eyed dog everyone can hide or delete the photos but she will know it. I mean, it might be glorious too.

Do you need a subscription with Aura Frames?

There are no additional costs, fees, or monthly subscriptions for the Aura frame. The Aura app is also free to download. I always worry that companies will be free at first but they spring a “oh hey, we’re going to charge you a subscription now” but Aura has been around since 2012 so I feel like they would have done it by now if they were going to do it. (I hope they don’t.)

aura frame sensor strip
use the top sensor strip to advance the photos

Is Aura picture frame safe?

In short, any photos you upload can only be viewed by the select group of people that you specifically invite, ensuring your content remains secure and confidential.

The photos are kept on Aura’s server, so I guess in theory, they could be hacked, but there isn’t much incentive to get in there (no credit card information, etc.), so it’s unlikely that anyone is going to want to get in there. You can also delete users if you have relatives who won’t stop uploading pictures of their dinner.

Personally, I  trust it more than Instagram, Facebook or any Google or Amazon product (I know you can hear me, Bezos!!) but I think it all comes down to your level of comfort.

back of aura digital photo frame
back of the frame with power cord

Do Aura Frames use a lot of electricity?

The Aura frame uses 10 watts when it’s awake and 2 watts when its’ asleep. Just to give you an idea of what that means, a clock radio uses 10 watts and an aquarium pump uses about 20 watts so we’re not talking about a lot of energy suck.

How many photos can an Aura frame hold?

You can have an unlimited number of photos on the frame because nothing is stored on the actual frame and everything works over WiFi with free, unlimited storage. This is also helpful if something happens to the frame (damaged, broken, stolen) because your photos aren’t sitting on the frame itself.

How's the Customer Service?

My frame was easy to set up and worked perfectly so I can’t speak to returns or set up concerns, however, I did have a question.

I share the same name as another family member so I wanted to change my name on the app so we could tell who uploaded what. I reached out to customer service and they said it could take 2 - 3 days for a reply.

They got back to me the next day with a clear solution which I feel is pretty fast for a non-paid service. (For the record, you change it by changing your profile name vs. changing it in the members section. Also, I can change my name to "Favorite Daughter" but I can't change my family member's name to "Dummy".)

Creative Uses for the Aura Frame

Originally I thought this frame would make a fantastic gift for grandparent (it does), but I think there are many cool ways you could use this frame.

  • Give it as a wedding or baby shower gift and have all the guests download the app and upload pictures from the event.
  • Use it as a gallery for your kids' artwork and creations so you aren't trying to figure out where to display 8 zillion hand print paintings
  • Use it to send messages on a special day like your kids holding as sign that reads "Happy Birthday, Nana!" or announcing any achievement.
  • Give it as a gift with a preloaded pregnancy announcement photo (I love this idea so much so please do it.)
  • Scan a ton of old family photos that have been tucked away somewhere then preload it on the Aura frame for the gift recipient.
aura digital frame with baby picture

Overall Impression of the Aura Frame

Originally, I wanted to test this frame because I thought it would be a good gift for new grandparents. However, I quickly realized it would work for many stages in life whether it’s a large family who live far from each other, older kids who you want to stay connected to, or parent who want a fun way to display their children’s artwork without having to hold onto a pile of paper.

It’s definitely a great gift for a wedding, holiday like Christmas, new parents, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, etc. because people generally love photos but hate the pain of gathering them all up in one spot. (This includes me.)

It’s not cheap but I think the quality and ease of use justify the price tag. It has a lot of applications and it’s fun way to keep cherished photos front and center rather than tucked away in a book or drawer. I’d recommend them.

You can find Aura frames on the Aura site and at Amazon and Target.

If you're on the hunt for a great gift for a grandmother, also check out Best Gifts for a New Grandma (or Grandma-To-Be!) for more ideas.

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