Remember when digital photo frames were a big thing? Back in the noughties, they were a massive fad for a while. Every mum got one for Christmas, and we’d wager every one ended up at the back of a cupboard. Especially the plasticky £30 ones with baffling proprietary software that never seemed to work — because of course you had to load the photos on manually since it was the pre-wifi days.
Well, we’re happy to report that digital photo frames have come a looooong way since then, and are now something you might actually want in your home. A company called Nixplay is making really pretty frames that are mega-easy to set up and work with things like Amazon Alexa and Google Photos.
We got an 8-inch frame in Peach Copper to try out, and we’re pretty besotted. Here’s our Nixplay Iris review.
The Nixplay Iris is just gorgeous. From the second it slips out of the luxe-looking box to the moment you view your first photo on it, it really embodies what tech should be: functional and beautiful. Not one or the other.
The Iris comes in three colours: Silver, Peach Copper and Burnished Bronze. We’re not massive fans of the silver version, especially because some of the Amazon views mention that the finish isn’t amazing on that one. But Burnished Bronze looks sumptuous, and our Peach Copper (*cough* rose gold) looks just like something you’d pick up at Anthropologie.
The back of the frame has a rubberised diamond texture, which is black on our model. Even though it’s just the back, it looks really classy, and we’d be quite happy putting it on a desk or somewhere that the other side was in plain view.
Also on the back is the flexible stand that the cable plugs into. This is really smart. The cable runs from the plug (which comes with various slide-on international faces, including a 3-pin UK one) to a jack, which plugs into the socket on the end of the stand. That means the frame stands up by itself whether it’s plugged in or not, and it also means the cable doesn’t get in the way when it is plugged in, because it’s directed away from the back of the frame by the stand.
Show off your snaps
Setting up the Iris is really easy. You get the app (of course), you make an account (annoying but necessary with pretty much everything, it seems) and you connect to the frame. Then you set it up on your wifi using the frame remote, which is a bit clunky — we’d have preferred to enter it on our phone and have it transmitted, but it’s only a problem once.
Once we were on the wifi, our frame took ages to update itself, but again, it’s only a problem once. After that, you’re ready to start adding photos (or videos, although that’s iOS only for now). You can make albums if you want to have different sets of photos on different days — by theme, perhaps — and it’s really easy to add pictures to them in the app or on the web interface.
In fact, you can add pictures so fast that we were able to activate Catception:
Nixplay frames work with popular services like Dropbox, Flickr, Facebook, Instagram… and Google Photos (which absolutely everybody should use, in our opinion: you can TEXT SEARCH your OWN PHOTOS without doing any tagging, whaaat) to automatically bring pictures in. You can choose things like ‘the last 1000 photos’, or a particular folder. We made a shared folder in Google Photos and invited our housemates to it, so everyone could easily add pics to the frame without even needing to install the app.
The Alexa functionality is somewhat less useful, but if you want the ability to assign a particular set of photos to a particular frame (they all link together if you have multiples) by voice, or check whether it’s connected or not, you can. You can give them all names, too.
Portraits, landscapes or both?
The 8-inch full HD screen (1024 x 768 IPS) of the Nixplay Iris is bright, colourful, and pin-sharp. It’s essentially a tablet in a frame.
Another nifty feature of the Nixplay Iris is that you can place it in portrait (upright) or landscape (sideways) orientation and it’ll automatically display photos the right way. If a picture is the wrong aspect ratio (or shape) for the screen, it just fills in the background with complementary blurred colours, the way TV news programmes do when they’re showing vertical smartphone videos from citizen journalists.
Photos change every ten seconds by default, but you can change that to anything up to an hour. The transitions between the photos are a bit ‘PowerPoint presentation’, but again, you can change all the settings to your liking in the app. You can turn on shuffle mode, captions, add a little clock in the corner, and — most useful — use the built-in light sensor to set the screen brightness. It’s off by default, so at first the screen will blare at full brightness in a cosy lamplit room — we definitely recommend changing that setting.
If you’re worried about wasted power, you can set schedules for your frame so it turns on and off at your preferred times. It’s easy enough to switch off manually with the included remote control if you prefer, though, or you can set it to switch on when it detects activity in the room (told you this was better than the digital photo frame you had in 2001).
We hadn’t felt the need for a digital photo frame for some years, but the Nixplay Iris has us totally converted. It’s beautiful, well-built and a total joy to use. We all take SO MANY digital photos that just live on our phones, unseen, and this makes them all worthwhile. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked past the frame and smiled because of the photo on the screen.
It’s a little bit of effort to get it set up in the first place (mostly the bit where you’re carefully choosing which pictures to display — we spent hours on this) but so worth it, and ours always gets admiring comments when people come to visit. In fact, any chance of some commission, Nixplay?! We reckon we’ve sold a few.
The main downside of the Iris is — you guessed it — the price. It’s £169.99 on Amazon UK. If that’s (understandably) a deal-breaker, Nixplay also sells a whole range of different sizes and specs of frame, including some that don’t use wifi. Still, if you can stretch to it (or convince someone to buy you one for Christmas), we’d say the Nixplay Iris is worth every penny. You can’t put a price on memories!