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Lifewire / Erika Rawes
Good screen quality
Alexa and Google Home compatible
Easy photo sharing
No touchscreen display (touch bar only)
The Aura Carver is a solid digital photo frame but it lacks some key features like a touchscreen, audio, and the ability to display in portrait orientation.
Aura Frames provided us with a review unit for one of our writers to test. Read on for their full take.
The best digital photo frames let you easily display your photos from a durable and intuitive device. With a companion app for easily uploading photos from your phone or social media, digital photo frames like the Aura Carver can serve as home decor or gifts for loved ones. However, with more and more smart displays like the Echo Show and Nest Hub offering photo display functionality as just a part of a much more comprehensive set of smart features, is the Aura Carver still worth it? I tested it for two weeks to find out, evaluating its design, setup, display quality, and software.
When I first saw the Aura Carver’s box, I was impressed. I’ve reviewed a lot of products, and rarely do I come across packaging that stops me in my tracks and makes me think to myself, “Wow, this is really nice.” The packaging makes the device look elegant and expensive.
With that said, when I opened the beautiful box, there were some issues with the frame’s design. While many photo frames like the Brookstone PhotoShare have a flat back that allows for mounting on a wall, the Aura Carver has a pyramid-shaped backing. While this means it doesn’t require a stand, it also means you can’t mount the frame, as there’s no keyhole mount and the frame’s pyramid backing is just too thick and bulky to even attempt to place on a wall.
The packaging makes the device look elegant and expensive, as if it would serve well as a professional or personal gift.
The Carver comes in white chalk or charcoal colors, and you can also opt for a charcoal frame with a white mat. Some other frames offer two or more mat colors in the box so you can change out the design, but the Aura Carver does not provide a second mat.
On the plus side, the Aura Carver frame looks attractive. I tested the chalk-white unit, and it’s certainly eye-catching. The white frame provides a bright pop, making the photo inside look brighter as well. The frame measures 10.6 inches wide, 7.5 inches tall, and 2.6 inches in depth. It has a braided power cord that makes it look less like an electronic device and more like a home product. It feels soft and tasteful, and the overall design is warm instead of feeling too techie.
Even though you may get more features with a smart display, the Aura Carver won’t make your living room or entryway look so cold with technology.
That’s perhaps one of the biggest benefits to choosing a digital frame like the Aura Carver over a smart display like the Echo Show 10. Even though you may get more features with a smart display, the Aura Carver won’t make your living room or entryway look so cold with technology. Instead, it’ll feel more like an actual photo frame.
On top of the Aura Carver, there’s a touch slider bar that you use to control the onboard menu and swipe the photos from one to the next. This touch bar is in lieu of a touchscreen. The bar is a neat feature that you won’t find in just any digital frame, and it’s inconspicuous enough that you don’t notice the slider from a distance. One major flaw, however, is that the Aura Carver is landscape-only orientation. You can’t rotate the device vertically and display in portrait mode.
To set up the frame, you’ll need to download the Aura app, which is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices running iOS 11 or later and Android devices running Android 5.0 or later. Once you have the app and you’ve created an account, plug in the Aura Carver.
After that, you can easily connect the frame to your Wi-Fi network (2.4GHz networks only) using an on-screen code. Once connected, you’re ready to add photos. You can also invite others to your frame so they can add photos as well. There’s no USB or SD card expansion, but you have unlimited cloud storage in the Aura network.
The Aura Carver has a 10.1-inch display with WUXGA 1920 x 1200 resolution. It’s not a touchscreen, so you won’t have to worry about finger smudges on the glass, but you also won’t be able to control the onboard controls as seamlessly. The Touch Bar on top is what you use to navigate the menu, which doesn’t feel as intuitive as a touchscreen.
One major downside to the Carver is that it doesn’t have speakers, so you can’t play background music or audio in videos.
The frame has an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust brightness, and the screen is vivid and bright overall, but photos still tend to be sharper in dim lighting than in daylight. This is somewhat reminiscent of what you’d get with a traditional non-digital photo frame. Glare isn’t too bad, and you can see details like wrinkles on clothing and individual hairs.
One major downside to the Carver is that it doesn’t have speakers, so you can’t play background music or audio in videos. You can play Live Photos you take with an Apple mobile device, which allows for about three seconds of movement, but you cannot play actual videos.
There’s also a feature called intelligent pairing, where the app will place two portrait orientation pictures side-by-side to fit the landscape screen. It’s supposed to use AI to find similar pictures that go together, but it felt as though the AI just paired pictures with similar dates, locations, and album names, rather than photos with similar content or substance.
The Touch Bar on top is what you use to navigate the menu, which doesn’t feel as intuitive as a touchscreen.
For instance, it paired a picture of my daughter next to a screenshot of an elephant in a pair of photos, although the only relationship between the two photos was the time, date stamp, and the fact that the same individual had shared those photos with me. When I disable the intelligent pairing feature, the portrait pictures have a border on each side that takes away from the aesthetic.
The frame doesn’t use its own email address like many other digital frames like the DragonTouch Wi-Fi Frame. The Aura app lets you add photos from your photo library, Google Photos, your browser, and you can invite family and friends to share photos to your frame by sending a quick link straight from the app. The app isn’t complex by any means, but it provides what you need to control the frame’s features.
The frame’s onboard menu is extremely basic, and you perform almost all of the customization in the app. The Aura Carver is compatible with Alexa and Google Home, so you can use voice commands to say things like, “Alexa, ask Aura when this photo was taken” or “Alexa, ask Aura to show a photo from Colorado.” I found this to be a neat feature, as I could ask the frame to show pictures from our vacation to guests using a voice command.
The Aura Carver’s $199 price is just too high, especially considering its lack of a touchscreen, lack of audio, and most importantly, landscape-only orientation. That’s not to say this frame doesn’t have something to offer, as it looks nice in a home, and it’s exceptionally easy to use for those who aren’t as techie. But, with other digital frames and smart displays offering more for less, the price is steep.
The similarly-priced Brookstone PhotoShare also has a 10.1-inch option, but it includes a keyhole mount, a built-in speaker, two different mats, USB and SD storage, and the ability to rotate between portrait and landscape orientations. On the other hand, the Aura Carver is a digital frame that feels more like a regular photo frame. For those who want more options, go with the Brookstone PhotoShare. If you want more of a hands-off experience, you might like the Aura Carver.
A beautiful Wi-Fi frame, but it lacks many of the features you can get with rivals.
The Aura Carver is a stylish digital photo frame in gorgeous packaging that many people will appreciate as a gift. However, as a tech device, it doesn’t have the feature set or tech chops to compete with many other digital frames and smart displays in this price range.
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