The great thing—the best thing, maybe—about the digital age is how it closes long distances. Your loved ones are never more than a couple of clicks away, even when they’re on the other side of the world. A smart frame like the Aura Carver digital photo frame will help keep you even closer to your friends and family.
What’s in the box of the Aura Carver?
There are many designs of Aura digital photo frames, but today, we’re focusing on the Aura Carver. The Carver is the brand’s base model: it’s sleek, it’s well-made, and it comes in very giftable packaging. At 10.1″ (diagonally), it’s available in Gravel (black) or Sea Salt (white) and displays images in 1280 x 800 resolution with a hidden speaker on the back.
The Carver comes with an instruction manual and a free-spinning braided power cord with included cable management options. And that’s it. That’s all you need! Its stand is built-in (it only sets up in landscape mode) and its functionality comes from a top touch bar.
What’s *on* the box of the Aura Carver?
Really, we should talk more about the box of the Carver. Normally, I only discuss what’s in the box; today, I’m making an exception.
Aura includes two very cool features on this box. The first is a glued-down sleeve, which means that your outer packaging is going to look pristine even if your box has been moved around a bunch. The second is a hidden QR code, which will let you and your friends or family upload photos to that specific Aura before it’s even been opened.
Isn’t that rad? You can pre-load your gift with hundreds of images and videos so it’s ready to go from the moment your recipient plugs it in. There are tons of products that are designed to be gifted, and dozens that I’ve reviewed as such, but I’ve never seen a company pull it off this well before. The Aura line was made to be gifted—and it shows.
What makes a digital photo frame special?
I’m going to start off with a bit of brutal honesty: From an aesthetic perspective, I don’t think that Wi-Fi photo frames are the be-and-end all. But they are good at what they’re supposed to do, and they’re a fantastically enriching product for most homes. I’ll explain.
Digital photo frames are like the photo equivalent of an eBook reader. They’re very cool, and very handy, but they’re different from the print version. An eBook reader like a Kindle or a Kobo allows you to read from your choice of tens of thousands of books without ever switching devices. They give you a freedom that paperbacks never will. You can pull out your eReader on a long plane ride and switch through five different books if you feel like it, and your carry-on will only weigh an extra two or three hundred grams. But if you only use an eReader, you’ll never get that warm, cozy feeling of stepping into your home library where you have a half-dozen brimming bookshelves lining your walls.
In the same way, a digital photo frame lets you view and update your photo collection with ease. You can view thousands of different photos on your Aura—far more than you’d realistically print each year. Those photos can be updated in real time, and the quality of each one will be pretty much flawless. But the Aura won’t cover your walls. It can’t create the welcoming feeling of a wall collage that leads up the staircase, or the natural aesthetic of a stained wood picture rail.
So why buy a digital photo frame like the Aura?
The magic of a Wi-Fi enabled digital photo frame like the Aura Carver, if you ask me, is exactly in the fact that these frames are different from wall art and other decor. They’re beautiful and polished, but they’re best when paired with other physical prints, too. Digital photo frames are an incredible addition—not replacement—to print photos.
You can put up paintings and prints to make your walls feel homey, for instance, then prop an Aura on your side table or nightstand so you can view new family photos every day. Or, you could use the Aura to select your favourite photos of the year, enlarging and printing only the ones you really love to create a dynamic photo collage in your family room. With the addition of an Aura, you get the best of both worlds: Decor prints and photos on your walls, plus a constantly-updated photo album in your digital frame.
The Aura Frames app
Depending on what digital photo frame you purchase (or when you purchased it), you may have a few different options for uploading photos. Those include Wi-Fi, USB flash drives, SD memory cards, or even a cable connecting your device to your computer. The ways that you can upload photos may even change over time with the same device, if the maker updates their companion app.
Aura uses the Aura Frames app. It’s pretty seamless: You set it up with your frame using a shared Wi-Fi connection, then upload as many photos or videos as you’d like. Aura gives users unlimited cloud storage space with no fee, which covers both the frame owner and anyone they invite to upload photos to it.
The physical frame and Frames app allow multi-user uploading with smart photo curation, skipping duplicates and blurry shots. Friends and family members can add their contributions to your frame’s photo rotation, then (and this part is cool) get updates on their Aura app when you “send some love” to a specific image. It’s easy to add additional members to share photos, and they don’t have to be on your home Wi-Fi to join.
The Carver is easy to move around, too. You’ll need to re-pair your Wi-Fi in a new location, but when you move it from room to room, it automatically reconnects to the cloud without a hitch.
Who the Aura Carver is best for
Digital photo frames are a great addition for any family, but there are three cases that I think they’re absolutely perfect for. All three of them hit really close to home for me, so let’s talk about them in more detail.
The first case where I think an Aura digital picture frame would be perfect is for a parent that travels a lot. My dad travelled constantly for work when we were kids, and while he’s incredibly talented and passionate about what he does, I know he hated being away from us for so long. (I know this literally: we’ve talked about it at length, now that I’m all grown up.)
It’s easier to connect with travelling loved ones today, with smartphones and FaceTime and video chat. But when we were kids in the 90s, it was tougher. The Aura Carver can be updated in real time by multiple accounts—that part is key—meaning that a travelling parent or spouse can now land in each destination with new photos of what their loved ones did that day. They can pop their digital photo frame up on their hotel night table or office desk or the kitchen countertop of their home abroad and call home to say, “hey, I saw that the kids went on a field trip to learn how to curl today. Want to tell me all about it?”
Spouses, partners, and families at home
The second case is very close to the first. Digital photo frames are a great way to keep track of your loved ones when you’re the one back at home. They’re awesome for families, spouses, and long-distance partners.
We used to get big photo dumps when my dad returned home, but they were so far removed from when each photo was taken. Yes, it was awesome and exciting to see where dad had been, from Bali to Sydney to Costa Rica, once he got home. But it would have been so cool to see those photos each day as he added them to the Aura Frames app. It would have helped us feel close to him as he travelled, as well as given us something to talk to him about when he called before bed.
(Although: writing this review did make me text my dad to talk to him about how much we missed him as kids. Maybe Aura’s helping us bridge the distance in time, too.)
Tap the Carver’s touch bar twice to send love to the person who uploaded a photo. (You’ll see this in real time through a stream of hearts that bubble along your frame!)
Older family members
The third and final case that I think Aura’s Wi-Fi photo frames would be amazing for is in cases like my grandma: older family members who have a tough time connecting digitally to the rest of the family. With the Aura Frames app, multiple family members can upload photos via the internet. You don’t have to be in the house to edit the photo library. So, all five of my grandma’s kids in their five different cities could upload new photos to her Aura, showing her how her kids, grandkids, and grandpets are doing every day, and how much we all miss her.
My grandma had a series of strokes from 2017 to 2020 and lives in a care home now. She used to be able to call and Skype with her kids and grandkids whenever she felt lonely, but she can’t reach out to us anymore. Instead, we rely on Wi-Fi enabled devices so that we can call her every day. I can’t recommend Wi-Fi enabled smart devices enough to every family who has someone living in assisted living or a nursing home. Whether you’re adding family photos and “I love you grandma!” finger paintings to your Aura or dropping in with a device like the Amazon Echo Show, digital devices can play such an enriching, key role in staying close to your loved ones who may not be able to call home on their own anymore.
My experience with the Aura Carver
I really liked using the Aura Carver and think it would make a great gift. It’s a beautiful frame with a satisfying, textured finish that’s easy to set up and use.
Aura gives you a lot of control with its frames, but it knows when to leave things up to the user, too. You and all of your connected members are able to upload an unlimited number of photos and videos and Aura will hold them in your private cloud account for free. The frame automatically sets its timing, photo order, photo matching, backgrounds, speaker volume, and more, but you can go in and customize those things if you want them set up differently.
Videos autoplay silently, turning on volume only if you tap the frame’s touch bar, which I think is a particularly nice touch. Another thing that felt really seamless is the fact that the frame automatically goes to black when in a dark room—I hadn’t even thought about the fact that it was on my bedside table until I woke up the next morning. It slept through the night with me, then turned back on silently when its brightness wouldn’t be a disruption.
The Carver is a great gift for a loved one in a different city or a constant traveller. It’s also an excellent excellent purchase for individuals and families who love capturing and viewing their special moments at home, work, or abroad.
Shop the Aura Carver online at bestbuy.ca today.