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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
17.3” screen is large for a digital photo frame
Plenty of useful ports
Good looking display
Setup can be confusing
Some functions don’t work
Screen suffers from poor viewing angles
The Aluratek 17.3” Digital Photo Frame is a large, good looking display that is unfortunately crippled by buggy software and a steep asking price.
Many might say in this age of the artificially intelligent assistant that peers over your shoulder and listens to your conversations 24/7 that our machines could stand to be a little less intelligent. That’s where digital photo frames like the Aluratek 17.3” fit in with simple, useful, and unobtrusive features, but it’s ultimately a bit too dumbed down to justify the sticker shock.
There’s not much to say about this digital frame in terms of visual style—it’s really just a big tablet with thick black bezels. We did appreciate that it’s designed to look more like a photo frame with raised edges, but it doesn’t quite go far enough in this regard, and ends up stranded in an aesthetic no man’s land.
This is a fairly thick device, though not at all heavy, and it’s easy enough to hang from a wall in place of a traditional picture frame. You might have a hard time placing it due to the unfortunate shortness of its power cable, though—we had a hard time even finding an appropriate table on which to place it where the cord would reach an outlet. Even if you do have a good wall space with a handy outlet, you’re stuck with the cable dangling down below it.
The price is very difficult to justify for a screen that is relatively small and which offers a meager range of extra features.
In terms of ports, we were pleasantly surprised by what the Aluratek 17.3” has to offer. There are both USB and Micro-USB for file transfer, an SD card slot, and a 3.5” audio port. That’s more IO than you’ll find on some laptops, and it goes some way towards making up for some of the failings of this digital frame, though some of it (particularly that audio jack) seems a bit extraneous, and likely accounts for some of the price bloat.
These ports are located on the back, on a side-facing panel that allows you to have cables plugged in even when the frame is mounted on a wall. Unfortunately you will have to take the frame down to plug anything in, as the panel is quite deeply recessed behind the frame. The power button is also located on the rear, so you also have to take it down to power it on or off.
The Aluratek 17.3” comes equipped with 8GB of built-in memory, but keep in mind that over half of that is dedicated to the operating system. Still, 4GB should be plenty of room for photos, though if you plan on using the display for video and audio playback you will probably want to take advantage of the SD card slot for extra storage. There’s also the potential for viewing photos from cloud storage, but that function is riddled with issues.
We initially found the Aluratek 17.3” to be reasonably uncomplicated to set up, though this impression was soon proven inaccurate. The screen turns on and initializes the setup process as soon as it is plugged in, and we were immediately prompted to log into our Wi-Fi network. Next we needed to connect our mobile device (in this case a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Smartphone), though this step can be skipped if you are only going to connect to the frame from your computer or transfer files using an SD card.
As we discovered, it is very important to install the correct app by scanning the QR code in the directions or the settings menu of the frame. We initially searched for the app in Google Play, and installed one called Aluratek Smart Frame. After struggling with this app and its failure to pair with the frame, we went back to square one, scanned the QR code and downloaded the correct app which is called Aluratek Wi-Fi Frame, which worked immediately.
It’s also theoretically possible to share pictures to the frame from Facebook or Twitter, but we were unable to get this feature to work. The Facebook QR code link leads to a missing page, and the Twitter process involves sending a private message to an Aluratek Twitter profile with the number of your frame, which seems to do absolutely nothing.
In terms of mounting options, this frame includes two horizontal mounting brackets on the rear, but there’s no option for a vertical mount orientation. There’s also a screw-on stand to allow the frame to sit (horizontally) on a flat surface.
The screen is certainly the key feature in a digital photo frame, and the success or failure of the device hinges upon its quality. The Aluratek’s is uneven. We appreciated the rich, vibrant colors and excellent contrast with deep black tones, but you need to be looking at it straight on for a good viewing experience. From even a slightly oblique angle colors shift dramatically, and it becomes washed out or darkened depending on the angle of view. Additionally, we encountered banding issues in subtle gradients, such as blue sky.
The display also isn’t very bright, and is prone to glare and reflections. The fact that it’s a touchscreen causes further issue, as any operation of the display leaves smudges all over it, though fortunately, when displaying images or video any smudging is obscured.
From even a slightly oblique angle colors shift dramatically, and it becomes washed out or darkened depending on the angle of view.
On the plus side, the frame boasts a reasonable 1920 x 1080 resolution, which is good for this size of screen, especially when it’s intended to be viewed from a distance. We had to get within a few inches of it to see individual pixels.
For watching video, the Aluratek 17.3” is surprisingly competent, and could be used as a small television in a pinch, though it doesn’t have an HDMI port. We loaded a few shows onto a USB drive, and found that this digital frame provides a decent, if still flawed viewing experience. It really shines, though, with looped timelapse nature footage of landscapes.
To be clear, the Aluratek 17.3” is not terribly pleasant to listen to—its built in speakers leave much to be desired. They aren’t very loud, and audio is a bit flat and tinny, but it’s certainly not the worst performance from built-in speakers that we’ve ever heard.
There is a 3.5mm audio jack, so you could send audio from the device to external speakers, an attractive option if you paired a slideshow with subtle, ambient music or natural sounds.
The Aluratek 17.3” runs some strange, customized version of Android, minus a lot of the functionality and versatility typically associated with Android. You are locked down to what Aluratek has built in, and there is no way to install more apps or do anything outside the frame’s intended purpose. That said, most of what you want from a digital picture frame is included—a calendar, clock, weather app, and an alarm clock.
Unfortunately, the weather application appears to be nonfunctional. We could select a location, but the forecast always refused to load. The other apps work fine and offer varying degrees of features and customization options, but when the selection is so slight to begin with, losing even a single app is a significant downside.
Navigation can be a little weird, with multiple buttons sometimes displayed on screen that accomplish essentially the same tasks. Fortunately, everything is reasonably clear in its purpose, and navigation is quick and responsive.
Advertised integration with the mobile app and social media is not so great. As mentioned, we had a hard time simply connecting the app to the frame in the first place, and it didn’t get better from there. Sending content to the frame just doesn’t work; when we tried sending images and other content the app showed success, but nothing ever appeared at the other end on the frame. This is a shame, as wireless sharing of photos would be a useful feature, and it’s unfortunate that it seems to be yet another nonfunctional aspect of this frame.
The Aluratek 17.3” frame clocks in with an MSRP of $270. Even setting aside the frame’s numerous glaring issues, that price is very difficult to justify for a screen that is relatively small and which offers a meager range of extra features. Fortunately, it tends to range lower than that price on sale, but even for $50 or $60 less it’s still not a very good value proposition.
In many ways, digital photo frames don’t make much sense anymore, with smart TV’s offering bigger screens at a lower cost. A cheap, Roku equipped smart TV will offer much the same functionality as the Aluratek 17.3” in a screen twice its size, with better resolution, often for the same price or less.
A flawed and expensive digital photo frame.
As we tested the Aluratek 17.3” digital photo frame, the problems just kept piling up, and paired with a high asking price, it’s a difficult device to recommend. It functions well at basic tasks, and the screen isn’t too bad looking, but at this price point there are a bevy of other options that would serve as well or better.