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Lifewire / Anton Galang
Attractive frame design
Excellent smart features
Convenient mobile app and website
Automatic brightness adjustments
Smallish 8-inch screen
Requires internet and account setup
Not the most stable stand
The Nixplay Iris is ideal if you're looking for a full-featured digital photo frame that integrates beautifully with both your décor and your cloud-based photo collection.
A photo frame should bring you joy, and the Nixplay Iris takes several different approaches to do just that. The first is in the refined design of the frame itself, followed by the impressive quality of its display. But it aims to go even further, adding on all the smart features that come with connecting it to your Wi-Fi network. The execution isn't perfect, but the Iris takes admirable strides toward what a modern frame should be. Even among our list of the best digital photo frames, it stands out as one that excels both inside and out.
At a time when most digital frames are built with a similar black border and a basic tablet-esque design, the Iris is a style-conscious breath of fresh air. The frame I tested rocked a "burnished bronze" finish on its wide metallic border, giving the frame some nice visual pop while staying understated enough to fit in just about anywhere in my home. I imagine the "peach copper" and "silver" variants look equally elegant.
With no ports or other controls on the frame, the only thing on the back is a stiff but flexible portion of power cable that the rest of the cord plugs into. This acts as an unconventional stand for the frame, fully adjustable to portrait or landscape orientation (the display auto-rotates to adjust) and essentially any angle of incline. The downside is less stability than the typical kickstand. Combined with a thick power cord that's durable but heavy and pulls at the frame if a lot of it dangles off your surface, you'll want the frame to be standing securely when you place it.
The Iris is a style-conscious breath of fresh air.
The power cord connects to a detachable power plug, and the Iris comes with two international adapters for users in the U.K. or the E.U. These won't be relevant for a lot of people, but it's a thoughtful premium inclusion.
Controlling the Iris and all its settings can be done via the Nixplay mobile app, which includes a virtual remote, but a physical remote is included as well. It's the same remote used by other Nixplay frames, so if you have multiple you can control them all with a single device—at the same time, confusingly, if they're close to each other. Overall, the remote works fine, but its square shape means frustration when you keep picking it up pointed the wrong way without realizing it.
The Iris doesn't support physical media like USB flash drives or SD cards, which can be a bummer if you already have stored files ready to load. But once you're set up with the web app, depending on your fluency with the software and the extent of your online photo collection, you may find it easier to load your pics from the cloud than to track down and plug in physical memory. With 6.18GB of internal storage available on the frame, there's enough for plenty of photos to cycle through, and it's easy to swap in fresh ones.
The Iris should be relatively painless to set up for people used to working with wireless products and online accounts, but there's no denying it's a more involved process than with offline photo frames. To start, an internet connection is mandatory. After plugging in the frame and a bit of load time, you'll have to enter your Wi-Fi network information using the remote. You also need a Nixplay account to access any of the company's smart frames. Only when you have an account created and paired with your Iris can you start loading pictures and using your picture frame. Everything you can do with the app makes it worthwhile, but the setup process does include a few barriers.
Going along with the visual appeal of the frame around it, the Iris's display itself is a pleasure to look at. Colors are vibrant and the picture is superb on its in-plane switching (IPS) panel, with wide viewing angles that let people enjoy it from anywhere in the room. The 8-inch diagonal screen is on the smaller end; visualize it slightly smaller than a 5x7-inch print. Its 1024x768 resolution also isn't the highest you'll find on a digital frame, but at its diminutive size you get enough pixels per inch for crisp, clear images.
A light sensor that can automatically adjust the display's brightness based on ambient lighting is a nice touch, one that's not found on all Nixplay frames. Other frames I tested came across slightly brighter in general than the Iris, but it's not something that's noticeable in isolation.
The Iris can also play video clips up to 15 seconds in length. The quality is decent enough, though combined with the quiet speakers that serve up the accompanying audio, video playback won't be a primary use for the frame.
With how usable and convenient the Iris's cloud-based features are, it's not unreasonable to think it could represent the future of picture frames. You upload photos to your cloud albums directly from your phone or computer, then arrange them into playlists that can be shared among any paired Nixplay frames (up to five frames with a free account and 10GB of cloud storage). You can even get photos from friends, or link your Google Photos account to create dynamic playlists of, say, your 1,000 most recent photos.
You can also pull photos from other social media accounts, but only using the desktop site and not the mobile app. I didn't realize these options existed until I started digging into the web version—it would've been nice to have them pointed out somewhere else earlier in the process.
You can also control the Iris from anywhere with an internet connection. That includes setting up stuff like the vast selection of slideshow transition options, a sleep/wake schedule, or the noise-based activity sensor with ten levels of sensitivity. It's also compatible with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, a feature not mentioned during setup but added as part of a recent software update. You can add Nixplay as an Alexa skill, but getting the voice commands to work is a bit cumbersome and may take some patience, practice, and customization.
Usually available between $150 and $180, the Iris costs significantly more than a regular offline digital frame, but is worth the cost if you're a fan of its aesthetics and array of modern features.
It’s worth the cost if you're a fan of its aesthetics and array of modern features.
Nixplay Seed Ultra: Sharing the same suite of Nixplay cloud frame features, a lot of distinction between the Iris and the Seed Ultra that we tested comes in terms of design. The large frame on the Iris makes it about the same total size, but the Seed Ultra has a thinner plain black border with a 10-inch screen—slightly pricier for a bigger, higher-res display within a less elegant frame. The Seed Ultra also has a motion sensor, but no automatic brightness sensor.
NIX Advance 10-Inch: We also tested the offline-only NIX Advance, which, compared to the Nixplay Iris, feels limited by its reliance on USB and SD card inputs. But if you're not interested in connecting your frame to the 'net, the NIX Advance is still an excellent back-to-basics digital photo frame with a larger 10-inch display and a smaller price tag.
A little extra appeal and a lot of smart functionality.
Even with a slightly smaller display, the Nixplay Iris steps up the digital photo frame game with its classy design on top of cloud features, shared playlists, social media integration, and controls from any PC or mobile device.