Aura Carver full review
The Carver is Aura’s largest ever frame, with a display size of 10.1 inches. It’s simply and attractively designed to look like a traditional photo frame, with a wide bevelled surround and no visible controls. It's available in Charcoal or Chalk White, which is the colour we've reviewed.
On the top of the frame is an unobtrusive button that allows you to switch it off, swipe forward or back, delete the photo currently displayed or get info on the date it was taken and sender.
But best of all is the 1,920 x 1,200 screen resolution, which displays your photos crisply and in stunning detail. I hadn’t seen many of the photos I sent to the frame on anything other than my phone screen and they looked absolutely phenomenal on the Carver.
If you enjoy taking pictures, the Carver will be an excellent showcase for them.
Set up and functionality
The Carver is easy to set up. Start off by downloading the free-to-use app, available for both Apple and Android users. You'll need iOS 11+ or iPadOS 13+ or Android OS 5.0 or higher.
Plug in your frame, make an account via the app and link the two using the frame’s unique number code. Once the two are linked, you can start sending photos to your frame. Aura offers free, unlimited cloud storage.
Your frame will need access to your Wi-Fi and a Bluetooth connection with your phone. That means it needs to be in good range of your router to receive pictures. During set-up, at a time when my internet connection was a bit patchy, I found that I had to relocate to a spot near the router to get everything working.
But once set up, I was able to move the frame into another room with no issues. When the router connection was weak, problems did recur, although unplugging it and plugging it back in sorted it out every time.
That’s another point: the Carver has to be plugged in. It doesn’t have a charging option. But that does at least mean you don’t need to worry about battery life.
Sending photos to the frame was a simple process – once I knew what I was doing. At first, however, there was a frustrating learning curve. To add photos, you give the frame access to the pics on your phone (more on this later) and then choose them individually.
But after the photos are added, there’s a second stage by which you then select them from the pictures available to the frame to display. Failing to spot this second stage, I got caught in an annoying loop of clicking and trying to add, not knowing why they weren’t uploading.
The next step is inviting other people to send photos direct to your frame. Your invitee downloads the app and makes an account and can simply drag and drop pictures to share. It's an incredibly easy and nearly instantaneous process.
Sharing photos in this way is one of the best reasons to get an Aura Carver frame. In fact, there’s a set up option that allows you to prepare the frame as a gift, pre-loading photos for someone else to enjoy. It’s a brilliant way to take the sting out of the gift for the less tech-savvy.
I’m not person who typically decorates every surface with an army of framed photos. But this year has been an odd one and being able to display a series of sunny holiday snaps, plus pics of much-missed friends and family, was really enjoyable.
The app is well designed and simple to use. You can add pictures from your own photo albums and curate pictures sent by your friends.
It’s also where you go to adjust the settings on the Carver, for example the slideshow timing. You can opt to display each picture for a period between 15 seconds and four hours (in regular increments). And although the Carver does not support videos, it can show live images, although you can choose to set them as static images if you prefer.
You can also use your phone as a remote, repositioning the current picture, sharing or hiding it.
The Carver has two modes for turning off and on. It can either respond to the light level in the room (via a near-invisible sensor, which means it save power by stopping its display when you switch out the light and leave the room) or you can set it to a schedule.
Display and ‘intelligent pairing’
The Carver is a landscape mode frame and it can’t be rotated. When it’s displaying a landscape photo, it will fill the entire screen. When it’s displaying a picture in portrait mode, there are two options. Either your photo comes up in the middle of the screen, with a black bar on either side, or you can switch on the ‘Intelligent Pairing’ function. Google Nest Hub uses a similar system: an algorithm determines two pictures to display side by side.
Intelligent pairing gives mixed results. Sometimes, the pictures are juxtaposed to great effect, bringing out shared themes, colours or shapes. At other times, there's no discernible link between the two, or they clash jarringly.
I'd say that, in my sample size of 400 photos, most of the time, it's more effective than random pairings. But it's fascinating to see which pictures are paired and surprisingly easy to keep watching the display, wondering what'll appear next.
The only things missing are a way to categorise photos (being able to curate albums would be welcome) and the option to automatically upload from social media accounts.
The only issue with the Aura Carver is the security. You may have concerns about giving the company access to your photos and having them stored on Aura's servers.
Historically, users have had to grant access to all photos on their phone, which is a bit off-putting. But if you have iOS 14 or later, you can grant the frame access only to the photos you select. Android users do not have this option. However, you can choose instead to upload pictures via Google Photos Integration or Aura's own web uploader.
But once you've uploaded pictures, they'll be stored remotely on Aura's servers and if you want to remove them, you can only do so by contacting Aura Customer Care. You can find out more about photo access and privacy on the Aura site.
Bear in mind that anyone you invite to share pictures will also be able to see the photos on your frame.
Pricing and availability
The Aura Carver is available in the UK (£188.65), the US ($199) and Europe (€207.52) from Amazon. Additionally, if you're in the US, you can buy direct from Aura. The Carver isn't cheap by any means, but once you have it, there are no subscription fees or storage costs.
The Aura combines an incredible display, which will make your pictures look wonderful, with a stylish, minimalist frame. Looks-wise, it has it all. It's also extremely easy to use, with shared pictures popping up almost instantly.
Our only reservation is the security issue, as once uploaded, you're relying on Aura to keep your pictures safe.
To see which digital photo frames we rated most highly, have a look at our round-up of the best digital photo frames we've reviewed.
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