Aura Walden 15″ WiFi-Connected Digital Photo Frame review – Free your digital photos

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REVIEW – Mobile phones have changed the communication landscape. For many, phones aren’t for talking anymore, they are just for texting and email. But there is one other thing that almost everyone does with a mobile phone – take photos. These photos sit in cell phone jail, resting, unseen, in the phone’s memory, and most likely in one or more cloud storage services. Hardly anyone prints photos anymore. Are all these photos destined just to become so much digital refuse, long forgotten?  Digital photo frames can help with that. With a simple interface and transfer methods, digital photo frames can free these lonely images from their digital dungeons, putting them on display for all to see. Aura makes several different types of frames and today, we’re going to take a look at the Aura Walden 15″ WiFi-connected digital photo frame and see if it can help bring your photos back from digital exile.

What is it?

The Aura Walden is a 15″ digital photo frame. It is WiFi-connected and uses Aura’s cloud storage to provide access to an unlimited number of photos on the frame. There are multiple ways to transfer photos to the frame including a mobile app, a web-based uploader, and email plus direct transfer from Google Photos and iCloud.

What’s included?

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  • Walden frame
  • Tabletop stand
  • Wall mounting hardware (hook and nails)
  • Power cord
  • User manual
  • Quick start guide

Tech specs

Click to expand

Frame dimensions: 15.7″ x 1.2″ x 12.7″
Weight: 3.64 lbs
Display: 15″ diagonal, dual orientation
Resolution: 1600 x 1200, 133 PPI
WiFi connectivity: 2.4 or 5 GHz broadcast-capable router
App Compatibility: Works with Apple (iOS14+) and Android (5.0+)
Capacity: Unlimited (cloud-based)
Mounting: Tabletop or wall mounted with included frame stand and mounting kit, portrait or landscape orientation supported

 

Design and features

The beauty of this digital photo frame is that it looks like a regular photo frame. Many digital frames have a high-tech look. The Walden frame goes old-school with a thin outside frame and a thick matte area, giving it a classic look.

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There are no controls, per se, on the frame. No button, no switches – nothing other than a thin, unmarked touch panel that rests under a removable sticker. There are two touch panels – one on the top of the frame in both the portrait and landscape orientation.

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All frame controls are handled via the free Aura app. The touch panel lets the viewer swipe left or right through the photos, remove an image from the automatic display, and turn off/on the frame. You can also display the photo date and location if that exists in the photo’s metadata.

The power cord plugs into the back of the frame.

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You can control the length of the cord by wrapping the excess cord into a space in the back of the frame.

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You can also see the stand installed in the landscape orientation. That triangle-shaped stand slides into the channel and is held in place by a rubber strip. You can see the portrait orientation strip on the right. The perforated area at the top is the speaker grill. In addition to displaying photos, the frame can play videos complete with audio.

Here is a closer look at the installed stand. This is how I plan to use the frame.

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You can hang the frame on a wall. There seems to be a natural place for the hanger, but upon closer examination, this isn’t the right place.

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Instead, you hang the frame from the opposite side.

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Assembly, Installation, Setup

Beyond installing the power cord, placing or hanging the frame, and plugging the cord into the wall, all other setup is done in the Aura app. Connecting to WiFi was easy. Once the frame is connected to your network, you can get other parameters set up and start loading photos.

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You can choose how photos will display if they aren’t sized exactly to fit in the frame.

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You also set up default behavior. I set the frame up for a 30-second random display.  You can set this from 15 seconds to 24 hours. You can display photos chronologically based on the metadata stored in the photo itself. Of course, if you have edited that photo, that metadata date may be incorrect but you can edit it in the app. I set a schedule to turn the frame on at 7:00 AM and off at 11:00 PM. You can set it to use the frame’s photo sensor to turn the frame on/off based on when the room is light/dark. The frame automatically adjusts brightness based on ambient lighting. To my eyes, the display’s brightness was perfect.

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One cool thing with this frame is that you can invite friends or family to supply photos.

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You must add the people as users, preventing random strangers from sending photos to your frame. If they set up an account and add the app, they can easily send photos and videos via the app. The app provides notifications when users add photos. The frame also comes with a default email address where registered users can submit photos to be added.

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Part of the setup also asked whether this was a frame for you or a gift. You can set up the frame with photos and then deliver it to a loved one, ready to go. This would be great for new parents as a means to be able to share photos of growing grandkids with distant grandparents. Someone will have to set the frame up on the recipient’s WiFi for the photos to display.

Performance

Let’s get to adding some photos and see how this frame does!

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I tried loading a couple of photos from my phone. They loaded quickly and easily and were immediately available on the frame. You can choose automatic albums on your phone where new photos automatically get added to the frame. That’s a pretty cool feature if your phone is the primary vehicle for photo uploads.

I also tried using the email method to submit a photo. Right after sending the email, I got this response.

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Checking the app, I was immediately able to view and align the photo, But…email is persnickety and Gmail tends to resize photos to save space. This resulted in the following message when I aligned the photo in the app.

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I deleted that photo and resubmited it via the app where it arrived in higher resolution. That is an issue with email, not the frame.

We travel. A lot. I plan to use this frame to display travel photos. My travel photos are a combination of cell phone photos and actual digital camera photos. In addition, I edit all photos before publishing them in my travel blog. This means that uploading via the app won’t work for me. Lucky for me, Aura has a terrific web-based upload tool. You can click to add, drag and drop, or copy and paste to submit photos. It works extremely well. Over several days, I went back through the last six years’ photos and uploaded nearly 1,400 travel photos. This underscores one of the great things about this frame – unlimited storage. The frame itself stores nothing. Everything is maintained in Aura’s cloud and delivered to the frame on demand.

As soon as you upload the photos, they are available in the app. Larger photos (3-4MB) may take a little longer to be ready to display, but small photos (400KB or so) are available immediately. You can change the cropping with the “Position” icon and immediately force it to be displayed on the frame with the “Show Now’ icon. You can share the photo via text, email, or other sharing mechanisms on your phone with the “Share” icon. You can edit the date of the photo, but not the location.

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I don’t like Aura’s algorithm for automatically cropping photos.  Take this photo as an example.

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Initially, it looks like what I want. Portrait orientation and everything visible. But, when the photo was displayed on the frame, it cropped in on our faces. I went into the app and clicked the “Position” button. On the left, you see the automatic crop that was applied. On the right, you see the resized photo after I hit the “Fit” icon. The next time the photo was displayed on the frame, it appeared how I wanted it.

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I would rather see a default setting that lets me define whether I want to have the frame automatically crop or fit the photo as originally sized.

This is all great for digital photos, but what if you have old prints that you want to display on the frame? Aura thoughtfully added a scanning feature to the app. When you click to add photos, you can click the scan icon and use your phone’s camera to capture these photos. The app automatically identifies the corners, straightens the photo, and adjusts the exposure. They are added to a new album on your phone and added to the frame. With my other photos, I downsample them for my blog, so when I load them to the frame, they load essentially immediately. With this scanned photo, it took several hours before it was available. The online manual cautions that it could take time for larger photos to appear and that appears to be true. Still, it was easy to scan physical photos and add them to the frame.

When you view the photos on the frame, you can swipe on the touch bar to display the photo metadata. That’s great when your memory slips and you can’t remember where or when the photo was taken. Of course, that only works if the photo has that in its metadata. The app lets you add/change the date but doesn’t display or let you change the location.

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It shows the location if that data exists, the date of the photo, and who submitted it to the frame.

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One thing to be aware of is that this frame needs a constant WiFi connection to work. That isn’t necessarily a negative, but it is important to understand. The benefit is that you get unlimited photo storage, so that’s a good thing.

What I like about Aura Walden

  • Good looks
  • Excellent display
  • Multiple, easy ways to import photos
  • Unlimited cloud-based storage

What needs to be improved?

  • I wish the frame wouldn’t try to crop out the background in some photos – it forces me to review all the photos I added to be sure they display the way I want them to
  • You can edit the photo’s date in the app – it would be great to be able to edit the photo’s location in the app

Final thoughts

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I like the Walden frame from Aura. It has found a home near our travel wall. Now that I’ve uploaded our past travel photos, adding new photos from new trips will be quick and easy. The photos look great and it is a treat every time we walk by to see a memory from our travels. With so many memories, it is hard to remember where each photo was taken. I wish the app let me update the location for photos. That little quirk isn’t enough for me not to recommend this frame if you’re looking for a great-looking way to display your digital photos. With the extensive methods available for uploading photos, the Aura Walden frame makes it easy to display your photos or share them with loved ones. I’m excited about the potential to come home from our next trip and already have the trip’s photos displayed on the frame. If you’re looking to free your digital photos or share memories with loved ones over the miles, and the frame’s WiFi requirement works for you, the Aura Walden 15″ digital photo frame is certainly worth a look.

Price: $299
Where to buy: Aura; Amazon
Source: The sample of this product was provided for free by Aura. Aura did not have a final say on the review and did not preview the review before it was published.

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