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This simple, stylish digital picture frame has replaced social media in my life

The Mason Luxe digital photo frame from Aura Frames is a stylish way to fill your house with memories—and let friends and family share theirs, too.

This simple, stylish digital picture frame has replaced social media in my life
[Photo: courtesy Aura]

I’ve long lusted over Samsung’s gorgeous Frame TV, which doubles as a digital picture frame with access to more than 1,400 works of art. The prospect of having the entirety of public domain hanging in my living room is endlessly appealing. So when Aura Frames, a 10-year-old, New York-based company that makes easy-to-use, smart digital photo frames, asked to send me a sample of their Mason Luxe model, I thought it might be the next best thing. I never anticipated it’d be my favorite item in my kitchen.

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The Aura Mason Luxe is one of the brand’s five models; at $250, it’s the midpoint in their price range. (Aura frames start at $180 and go up to $400.) My only previous experience with a digital frame is one I bought for my grandmother more than a decade ago that eventually became a high(ish)-tech paperweight when SD cards turned into a hassle. But to call the Aura similar to that antiquated model is a disservice, as digital picture frames have evolved. The Mason Luxe model features a 2K, 9.7″ screen—giving you a 4:3 aspect ratio, allowing photos to appear as full-scale, crisp, and vibrant as they do on your phone screen. You can shuffle through images at your chosen cadence, control the frame view its touchpad or on an accompanying app, and easily add other members to your privacy settings, so they can directly upload or email photos to the queue.

[Photo: courtesy Aura]
We loaded our Mason Luxe with photos from vacations, celebrations, and funny moments that we’ve romanticized but wouldn’t typically get printed out and framed. You can add videos that are up to 30-seconds long. We’ve discovered how wonderful it is to eat dinner while our friends dance at a wedding behind us. (There’s a built-in speaker—along with the ability to turn off the raucous sound when the memory is better than the lubricated singing.) I scanned old, delicate photos from our families’ irreplaceable albums to our cycle. And I’d be lying if I said I don’t tear up sometimes when I walk in for a slice of toast to see my now-late grandmother (the one with the failed digital frame) waving “hello” from her nursing home.

We granted access to some family members, which was easy enough, but does require registration and privacy agreements on their end. Visiting my partner’s family in Ireland has been nearly impossible through the pandemic, and it’s been a small comfort to wake up to photos of his rapidly growing nephews and niece popping up in the frame. I ditched Facebook and Instagram a few years ago. The Aura frame has given me back the main value those platforms offered, without requiring me to sign away my life.

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[Photo: courtesy Aura]
There’s the unavoidable element of giving a device access to your photos. (It’s a picture frame. There’s no way around it.) Aura WiFi-enabled frames have unlimited storage because they store your encrypted files on an Amazon Web Services cloud database with two-factor authentication and AES-256. If I could speak confidently on either, I would, but all I know is that AES-256 is bank-level encryption, which seemed fine to me and my pictures of my cat, though parents of young children may want to dive further. Aura goes through their privacy policy in detail on the site, as well as how to limit the frame’s access to your camera roll when uploading through the iOS/Android apps.

Aura isn’t the only player in smart frame marketplace. San Francisco-based Skylight Frames‘ ads haunt my favorite podcasts ad nauseam. Their $160 frame has similar capabilities to the Aura Mason Luxe, but has a lower resolution, offers only one standard black frame, and requires a $39 annual fee for app and cloud access.

[Photo: courtesy Aura]
Aura won me over with the better resolution, more stylish frames, and designated order flow, which makes it easy to buy one for a less tech-savvy relative. It comes complete with preset Wifi access and a welcome message, so all someone has to do is plug in the unit. It’s a thoughtful, clever concept that makes a big difference. A little bit like the frame itself.

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