Tuesday, December 20, 2016

REVIEW: Meural Large Digital Frames–The Perfect Way To Display Your Family Photos

*** See my review for the new version 2.0 released in Nov 2017 ***

Meural Digital Canvas - Show famous art or your own
Meural Digital Canvas - Show famous art or your own

If you've ever shopped around for digital frames, it's easy to say that you've probably experienced how underwhelming the offerings can be. Generally the digital frames are small, with horrible resolution displays and they usually only allow you to upload your photos via USB or some very bad software.

Wouldn't it be great if you could upload your photos to a digital frame that was housed in a wooden frame with a matte that was suitable for display in a fine home, art gallery or luxury hotel?

Wouldn't it be great if you could not only upload your photos from your computer and have them automatically downloaded to your frame from anywhere in the world with an internet connection?

Wouldn't it be cool if you didn't see the same photos all day long, but could also see the work of others fine art paintings and photos?

Most digital frames suck, does this one?

When the folks from Meural contacted me about reviewing a frame that could do all of this, I was highly suspicious that the quality and user experience would be terrible. I'm a NEC Color Visionary and X-Rite Coloratti Pro with a history of working with display manufacturers. I’ve attended display technology conferences, so I know what good quality displays and accurate color look like.  As a result, I'm used to being underwhelmed and very disappointed by bargain displays that look terrible to my eyes.

I'm happy to report that when my frame arrived I was very pleased and my "geek with a new toy" smile hasn't left my face since it's arrival.

For starters they did a fantastic matte finish that avoids reflections without destroying image quality. They also did a good job of calibrating the color from the factor, so the images on the frame were on par with my calibrated NEC PA Series displays.

What I wasn't expecting is that the wood and matte that surrounds the frame is very well done and feels like something I'd get from a high end framing studio. I've spent $450+ on custom frames of this size, and while I wouldn't say that this frame is as good as some of the ones I've purchased - it's very close. Keep in mind though that those were traditional frames that just housed and protected one photo. This is a digital frame that looks great on the wall, even when it is off, and even better when it is displaying lots of my images and fine art.

Using my Meural Canvas

Canvas List
The Canvas List displays all of the canvases that you've registered

I've been using my frame for a couple weeks, and even though I typically wait longer to do a review - I love this product so much I felt compelled to write my review right away. Part of the reason for this is that it not only performed beautifully displaying my images and the art of others, it did so with zero noise and no noticeable heat. This is a HUGE advantage over using a smart TV or building your own PC to display images - both of which I've already done before myself.

Canvas Settings

When I first got my canvas and started using it, I was disappointed that the phone app and gesture based UI had no mechanism for editing important settings like slide duration and off hours. Fortunately all of these settings are easily accessible via the web site and included even more than I could imagine. Rather than spend a lot of time talking about them, here's a screen shot of the behind the scenes controls I have over my canvas:

Canvas Settings
Canvas Settings
Some images featured here are copyright their respective owners and used under license

In addition to being able to specify exactly what art collections are stored on my canvas, I can control when they are displayed as well as when the frame sleeps thanks to the handy timeline feature. If you’ve ever used other frames or tried to build your own, this is the key thing that the others fail to offer. This is the game changer feature that really sets this frame apart!

My family really loved how we could enjoy our family photos during meal times but then enjoy other art during the day so we didn't get bored seeing the same photos all day long.

Video Demo

*** Note this covers the original frame and UX – all has improved so I’ll be updating this in the near future ***

While recording a video of any video display is the best way to make a display look terrible, I decided it was important to show off some of the features of this frame. Please know that the image quality of this display is outstanding in real life – much like a high quality computer monitor, so don’t be misled by the video quality.

I also show the iOS and web apps that complement this device. It should be noted that while I demo the iOS app, there is also an Android version too.

Technical Specs

If you are a geek like me then you want more technical details about the display specs and the hardware, so I've created this link  for you to get that info including a video that shows how they are built.It's fun to watch so check it out!

The highlights are the 27” 1080p IPS Display with Anti-Glare Technology, 1920 x 1080 Full HD Resolution and 8GB of storage.


Yes, you can use your Smart TV (or device connected to your TV), your iPad, an old computer or a new fanless PC to have your own digital slideshow solution. What makes this product unique is that you get a fine art quality frame that just works without any heat or noise issues, and great software and stock that keeps things interesting.

It's nicely designed UI makes it simple to see the photos you want when you want them - including art made by others. The simplicity and quality of this all-in-one solution is what makes it unique. The performance of the 27" 16:19 aspect ratio calibrated color display is what makes it feel like a 23x13" print hanging on the wall.

I expected to be underwhelmed, but I can't say enough about how much I love this frame. In fact, now that I have one I seriously want another one so I can dedicate one to landscape photos and another to portrait photos elsewhere in my house. I want one for my elderly parents house  too- that's how much I love this product!

If you've been underwhelmed or disappointed by digital frame offerings in the past, I'm pleased to say that the time has come to finally get one. This is the one I've been waiting for! Even if you don't own a camera - it's useful at displaying lots of great (and currently free) stock art available on the Meural web site, as well as digital art you purchase off  the web.


Where to order

Meural has discontinued all discount offers from partners, but  you can CLICK HERE to order.


If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this. I was also provided with a review version of this product.

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This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity


Unknown said...

Thanks Ron. This looks really interesting. Wanted to buy but any idea why they increased the price by $100? Is it a new generation/batch with improvements? Very limited review info on this except your blog.

Also, how does the resolution affect close distance viewing? I have a 27 inch NEC but the resolution is higher. Wish there were a local dealer.

ronmartblog.com said...

I'm not sure why they increased the price by $100, but my blog discount should help! As I mentioned in my review, this unit is a great value, and even at $100 more it's a lot cheaper than a do-it yourself solution.

If your 27" NEC is doing 1920x1080, then you can expect identical resolution performance. If it is doing 1920x1200 or higher, then naturally there will be less pixel density but even at an arms length away you should find the results to be excellent.

I'm a hard core videophile that looks at a 32" 4K UHD NEC everyday and I find myself extremely delighted with my Meural sitting in my living room. I'm loving the fact that I can enjoy so many of my photos, and unlike a print, it's not static so I can rotate through different collections of photos every hour of the day. The color calibration is very good, so I've been loving it!


Unknown said...

Thanks Ron for reminding me that I can adjust the resolution on my NEC to match that of Meural. Text looks pretty bad after that but photos are still looking very good. Your comments are convincing. Thanks for this, an many other reviews on your blog!

Chad Riddle said...

Ron, could you see this as a commercial use type of presentation tool, where during non use it's showing a default image, but then when desired, using gestures to present certain images and then going back to the default image? Is the gesture feature really that good/smooth?

ronmartblog.com said...

Hi Chad,

Yes, but if it were me I'd use the phone app to do this because it has very nice built-in support for easily uploading a temporary image or video, and the swipe on the phone is 99% reliable versus the gestures. Gestures on my unit is very hit or miss, but I had an early run unit. When I went to New York and saw the latest shipping models, it was much more reliable (about 95%). However, when I am dealing with clients I don't want to be waving at a screen like I'm fanning a fart away and hoping that I don't hit that time when it doesn't work. Presentation gremlins always cause the worse to happen, so I'd just upload and swipe from my phone with no fear.

I hope this helps!


Unknown said...

Hi, Ron

I'm trying to decide between the Lightbox version and the standard black frame. One reviewer strongly recommended the Lightbox version as the images seem to float. But the image seems smaller and I prefer a black frame to the white frame of the Lightbox version. Did you evaluate both? Which did you choose? It looks from the video that you have the standard version with blank fram.


--Steve Bayle

ronmartblog.com said...

I got the black frame and enjoy it. I've seen the others and it's still my favorite.

Unknown said...

Hi Ron, great review. Are you planning on comparing the Meural with the Electronic objects E02 by any chance?
Greeting from Amsterdam.

Unknown said...

hi ron, I just ordered 1 meural and 1 electronic objects E02 frame. Maybe we can work together to get a side by side review on your blog. I'm no expert on those kind of reviews so any help would be welcome :)

Toni said...

Hey Ron, can the wood frame be changed? I mean, do you think it is possible to add a different frame to an exiisting meural? I like the wood color, but the size of the Lightbox is too big for me.

ronmartblog.com said...

@Tony - No, but I think they will have some different offerings in the future.

That said, these Amish made frames are very good quality.

Unknown said...

Does the frame have to be plugged into the wall all the time. Or is that only to charge it up?

ronmartblog.com said...

It has to be plugged in all of the time.

Unknown said...

Any issues in the X # of months you've owned it? I'm very interested in purchasing sooner than later, but haven't seen much information on its long(er) term reliability.


ronmartblog.com said...

Hi Christian,

I've had mine turned on for about a year with it set to go black from 11:30 PM - 7:00 AM. I've had a to reboot it a few times to get the network part working again, but that seems to be fixed in the past month or so since they rolled out a software update.

The new app for the web and phone is WAY better than what I reviewed, so that's been good too.

I haven't had any performance issue and the color is still great. My family and guests have really enjoyed this frame. I've got 22 images from others and 46 of my own images rotating through it, and even my 18 & 15 year olds have commented on how much they like it - and they don't like much at their age!