Meural WiFi Photo Frame: smart art you can personalize

A clever canvas that is much more than a photo frame

Netgear Meural WiFi Photo Frame
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With its clever matt-finish frame, the Netgear Meural Canvas II was more than a digital photo frame: it was a canvas for display high-end works of art (delivered by subscription) in a realistic way. High prices and high subscription costs meant that it wasn’t for everyone though.

With the Netgear Meural WiFi Photo Frame, the company is back with a smaller, cheaper display ($299).

It retains the same quality display technology, and you can still go for a subscription if you want professional artwork, but this model is really built to show off your own photo collection.

Read on to find out if the Meural WiFi Photo Frame is for you...

Meural WiFi Photo Frame: smart art you can personalize

Meural WiFi Photo Frame: Design and Specs

Like all photo frames, the Meural WiFi Photo Frame is basically a 15.6-inch screen with a nicer-looking surround.

In this case, you get a grey surround with a wood-effect veneer running around the outside. It’s interesting enough to make the product look like a high-end photo frame, but not too in your face.

Once again, Netgear has gone for a Full HD resolution using an IPS LCD panel. That might not sound like huge amounts of resolution, but the idea here is to present images in a natural way, using anti-glare technology to make the screen viewable under all lighting conditions.

Meural WiFi Photo Frame: smart art you can personalize

Internally, there’s a quad-core 1.8GHz ARM processor and 8GB of storage, with 4GB available for storing photos. That doesn’t sound like a huge amount but some clever management via the app means that 4GB isn’t the limit it might sound like.

While the original Canvas was built to be wall-mounted, the Photo Frame is designed to be that bit more flexible. At the back, there’s a fold-out stand that lets you use landscape or portrait orientations.

If you do want to put the frame on the wall, there’s a mount in the box and an L-shaped bracket at the back of the Photo Frame.

Thanks to that bracket, you can take the display off of the wall and change it between portrait and landscape orientations easily. The rotating wall mount for the Canvas is slightly nicer, but this is a relatively expensive upgrade, so the more simple hanger here is nice to have.

Meural WiFi Photo Frame: smart art you can personalize

You need only run power to the screen, via the adaptor provided in the box. Then, once powered on, you can use the app to connect the Meural WiFi Photo Frame to your home network, so you can start to stream photos to it.

Netgear Meural WiFi Photo Frame: App and Features

Your Photo Frame is controlled via the Meural app, which gives you everything you need to manage your photos and device. To view photos, you first of all need to get them online into your cloud storage.

Everyone gets 2GB of storage, but take out a membership, which gets you access to thousands of bits of artwork (more on this later) and you get 20GB of cloud storage.

There are multiple ways of getting images online. First, you can upload images from your phone or directly from your PC if you use my.meural.com.

Secondly, you can link an Album from your phone directly, so that any new images added to it are automatically uploaded to your Meural. That’s particularly handy for things like family photos, as you can create an ever-evolving list of photos.

Meural WiFi Photo Frame: smart art you can personalize

Images are resized and formatted to fit the display, so you won’t eat into your storage space as fast as you think.

Once you have photos, you can either play an album or photo to your Canvas, or you can create a Playlist, which lets you mix photos from multiple playlists. And, you can pull in professional works of art, too.

Photos are uploaded to the Photo Frame while there’s free memory, so you can typically store three or four playlists locally.

If you switch and add another playlist, some images have to be removed from local memory and stored in the cloud. It’s all seamless, though, and that 4GB of storage feels like it goes a long way.

Plus, if your internet goes down, the Photo Frame can keep on displaying any images in its memory, so you won’t ever have to stare at a blank screen or, worse, an error message.

As with the Canvas, a Meural membership ($69.99 a year) gets you access to thousands of images, ranging from famous works of art to brand-new photos.

And, you can expand the choice by buying additional packs of premium content. It’s clever, the range is impressive, but the prices are quite high.

Here, unlike with the Canvas, a subscription doesn’t feel like a requirement, as you’re much more likely to be showing off your own images.

Meural WiFi Photo Frame: smart art you can personalize

Via the app, you can skip through your photos, but you can also control a lot about how they’re displayed. You can set not to show photos in the wrong orientation, so you’ll get different photos depending on which way around your Photo Frame is stood.

You can schedule when playlists should be displayed, letting you switch and have different photo playlists at different times of day.

And, you can set how images should be scaled to fit the 16:9 display. Power saving lets you shut the screen down at night and when the ambient light isn’t bright enough.

Meural WiFi Photo Frame: smart art you can personalize

The display draws just 20W when turned on (the same as a couple of bright LED bulbs), so it won’t cost much to run over a year, particularly if you have it shut down at night.

If you prefer, there’s an Amazon Alexa Skill (but no Google Assistant support) that lets you skip photos, and turn the display on or off.

As with the Canvas, the Photo Frame has gesture controls. The idea is that you swipe your hand at the right part of the frame, and you can move between photos, view more information (particularly useful on professional artwork, as you get a full description), and navigate through the menu.

Once again, it’s very hit and miss as to whether or not the frame decides to respond to movement. I’ve spent many a time in front of the Photo Frame waving my hands like a madman only for nothing to happen.

Meural WiFi Photo Frame: smart art you can personalize

Netgear Meural WiFi Photo Frame: Performance

While much of the competition simply shoves a basic display into a frame, the Photo Frame uses Meural’s anti-glare technology, which is hugely impressive. Stick this display in bright sunlight and you can still see it clearly.

More importantly, the finish gives the screen a better look. Rather than the Photo Frame looking like a TV, the anti-glare finish gives images the look as though they’re printed on high-end photo paper.

In fact, if the power cable is tucked out of the way, I’d bet money that most people wouldn’t know that this was a screen.

If you’ve got a decent camera (or even quality smartphone shots), then they look incredible. Rich colors and plenty of detail make the Netgear Meural WiFi Photo Frame arguably better than even expensive photo prints.

With this model, viewing angles aren’t quite as good as with the Canvas. Go off centre too far, particularly when the frame is in portrait mode, and the on-screen image gets noticeable darker. You can work around the issue by carefully placing the screen, but the Canvas is that little bit better.

The screen technology also isn’t ideal for video, so if you want to show off home videos, a rival product, such as a Nixplay photo frame may be a better option.


Meural WiFi Photo Frame
Smaller, cheaper and more flexible than the Canvas, the Netgear Meural WiFi Photo Frame is a great way to show off your digital photos, freeing them from your smartphone and computer. Image quality is amazing, making your images look as though they’re printed on high-quality paper. However, the Photo Frame is still relatively expensive for a digital photo frame, so it’s best suited to those that have a decent camera and some quality shots to show off.
PROS
  • Excellent image quality
  • Can be viewed under any lighting condition
  • Flexible placement options
CONS
  • Quite tight viewing angles
  • Relatively expensive
  • Motion controls are rubbish

TAGGED    smart home

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