Digital Picture Frame Vs. Photo Album (2023)

By Brian Nadel


For Mother’s Day, should you get your mom a photo album or a digital picture frame? Which is more enjoyable, and which is greener? We measure and find out.

Pros and Cons of Digital Photo Frames

  • Digital Picture Frame Vs. Photo Album
  • Pros and Cons of Physical Albums
  • Pros and Cons of Digital Photo Frames
  • Which Way to Go?
  • HP Smart WiFi Display
  • Eco Tips

Pros and Cons of Digital Photo Frames

Because it uses electronics to display images instead of paper, the digital picture frame can show off your photos in a variety of ways. But it can be expensive and uses electricity, so it is not particularly environmentally sensitive.

Most frames today feature an 8- or 10-inch screen that typically with 800 by 600 or 1,024 by 768 resolution. Frames are available at a wide range of prices, with the median at about $100. The highest-end frames store the images locally on flash memory chips, include a slot for a flash card, and have the option of connecting to a wireless network to pull images from web sites and services.

Digital Picture Frame Vs. Photo Album (1)

Most frames can do things that the static album can’t, such as show video clips and play music from an Internet radio station. In other words, digital frames, such as HP’s Smart WiFi Display (link to review) have evolved into multimedia viewers that can display a variety of media.

This extraordinary amount of flexibility leaves a physical album in the dust. On top of running photos in a particular order or shuffling the images at random, frames can show transitions between shots and can display several images at once.

But digital frames are second best when it comes to making sure that all images are correctly oriented. Be prepared to send some time rotating images with photo editing software, so that photos are right-side up.

Digital imaging is improving every day but even the best images are still second best in terms of detail, color balance and subtlety compared to a professionally printed shot (especially one captured on film). The gap becomes even wider when the images are shown on a small, low resolution picture frame display.

Digital Picture Frame Vs. Photo Album (2)

Then, there’s the power issue. While a paper photo album doesn’t use any power after it’s been created, a digital frame consumes a small amount of electricity every second that it’s plugged in. An 8-inch frame consumes 7 watts or 61.3 kilowatt hours of power over a year, according to our Kill-A-Watt testing over a short period of time. The cost to the consumer would be less than $7 a year, but the environmental cost would be the the equivalent of spewing 97.1 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere if the frame was powered on for a year.

Less expensive than a professionally printed album but more expensive than an album that you print yourself, a digital picture frame is a nice alternative because it can show thousands of images rather than several hundred. But, it uses much more energy than a paper album.

Pros of picture frame:

A good picture frame can show images in different ways, transitions and music, video, all in an attractive design that can fit into your décor.

Cons of picture frame:

Picture frames can be expensive, have a small screen and use power even when nobody’s looking.

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Digital Picture Frame Vs. Photo Album (3)

Brian Nadel

Brian Nadel is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in technology reporting and reviewing. He works out of the suburban New York City area and has covered topics from nuclear power plants and Wi-Fi routers to cars and tablets. The former editor-in-chief of Mobile Computing and Communications, Nadel is the recipient of the TransPacific Writing Award.




15 CommentsComment from the forums

  • cadder

    Are any of these frames battery powered? I would like to have one to carry to family events to pass around.


  • bri-guy

    I've seen the Philips 7ff1cmi, which has a rechargeable battery but I don't think that it lasts for than a few hours.



  • JohnnyLucky

    Girlfriend received a digital photo frame from her daughter last year. It was pre-loaded with photos of the grandchildren. First few days there was an initial wow factor. After that it just sat there turned off. I don't think my girlfriend has turned it on for an entire year.


  • bri-guy

    I can see that happening. I've had a frame running behind my desk for about a month, cycling through my photos and I kind of like glancing over to it every once in a while. I've been startled by some of the pictures that I haven't seen in decades. It's a nice time machine.


  • tomate2

    since you mentioned about not taking into account all the environmental impacts of making a photo album i guess who should talk about the environmental impacts of making a digital frame?? like the part of it being made by cheap labor outside of the us... the man work to keep digging up all those materials to START making a digital frame... or the bit extra electricity your using on the digital frame which comes from burning fossil fuels or flooding huge regions to build a dam... i guess you get the idea.. :D


  • bri-guy

    Not justt that, but all the oil and natural gas that goes into the plastics, glass and silicon. Then, there's what to do with it after its ten (hopefully more) year life span is over and it's time to chuck it. There are times I wish I were an economist to untangle these questions. While researching the story I asked several experts in photography, including those who specialize in green photography, and none could even start to answer the question.



  • wtlloyd

    Just in terms of volume of materials used, it's clear, to me at least, that if every household had an 8x10 digital photo frame, vrs every household owning a dedicated photo printer along with attendant ink cartridges, boxes of inkjet paper...the waste stream is continuous with a photo printer.
    The digital photo frame is clearly the way photo display is moving. Excitement over the IPad in Fine Art photography circles is over it's use as a portfolio. Recent industry pundit articles (Thomas Hogan) discussing "whither cameras" argue that the next development required to restart sales (the market is reaching saturation, and digicams are about to be made obsolete with improved camera phones) will be the communication (digital) between the photo making device and the storage and display devices.
    Finally, referring to professionally printed photos vrs digital photo frames is a false argument...Fine art printing, with color balancing, tonal corrections, localized adjustments, and color managed output, is hardly typical of what you get when you send your snapshots off to Costco or wherever...Better pictures result from becoming a better photographer, not whether output is displayed on paper or screen.


  • DianeJones

    I prefer a scapbook. A traditional photo album just doesn't have the same "wow" factor as flipping through pages of photos and memorabilia attractively displayed in a scapbook. I find that sitting a watching a digital photo frame for 15-30 minutes is very tedious.

    I am currently making a scrapbook for my son's graduation and have decided that when I finish that I will move on to doing other family albums so that I may enjoy the pictures instead of just packing them away in boxes. I do like the idea of a digital photo frame for a desk at work: I may check into that.

    You can get 4x6 prints of digital photos from CVS for 19 cents each. I upload them from my computer and pick them up in the store.


  • Another option is to put your photos in a photo book, a service offered online by many companies. They produce a hardback coffee table book with up to 84 pages holding up to 4 photos per page on photo paper.

    This uses no electricity and can be passed around for viewing unlike a digital frame. A portable DVD plater which is battery powered will usually display jpeg photos form a card or CD.


  • joneb

    Erm theres somethig wrong in this article. if a digital photoframe was used like a photoalbum it wouldnt be on all the time but only when used. If the proper comparison was made what then would be the difference. I agree for photos displayed constantly prints seem definitely more environmentally friendly. But then if you have a laptop or a netbook you dont need the photoframe do you?



Is it worth getting a digital photo frame? ›

So is a digital photo frame worth it? We think there are plenty of good reasons why you might want to consider one (or more). The image quality and ease of use make them far more compelling than they used to be. And if you have hundreds of photos you enjoy looking at, it's so much easier than printing them off.

Do people still use digital photo frames? ›

They were popular for a while but started to fall out of fashion as social media became a more integral outlet for sharing photos. However, some nice, artsy digital frames remain on the market and still work well. You should also consider one of the other, more versatile options we detail below.

How many pictures can you put on a digital photo frame? ›

How many photos can a digital photo frame hold? Most good-quality digital photo frames have 4-8GB of internal storage. This is enough for ~30,000 pictures. This is a rough estimate as not all pictures are of the same quality and size, and your digital frame might support higher resolution photos.

What is the best device for viewing photos? ›

Best Tablet for Viewing Pictures – Comparison Table
1Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
2Microsoft Surface Pro 7
3Samsung Galaxy Tab S7
4Apple Ipad Pro
3 more rows

What is the best size for a digital photo frame? ›

Digital photo frames use a 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio. 4:3 is the ideal aspect ratio for displaying photos taken with smartphones and cameras. If you want to display a good mix of photo and video memories, then 16:9 aspect ratio can be a good compromise for you.

Why are digital photo frames so expensive? ›

Digital photo frames have higher resolution

A quality digital photo frame costs more than most smart displays, and the big reason is that frames have higher-resolution screens, which translate to crisper images, and better colors and brightness.

Do I need Wi-Fi for a digital photo frame? ›

Most ways for sending pictures and other media to Wi-Fi digital picture frames need Wi-Fi at some point in the process. This is the case with most digital picture frames. The only way to put pictures on a Wi-Fi digital picture frame while being offline is via USB drives or SD card.

How many photos can 32GB hold? ›

How many photos can a 32GB SD card hold? Considering the same parameters as before, a 32GB SD card should be able to hold about 6,300 images shot on a smartphone with a 12MP camera. Similarly, on the GoPro, a 32GB SD card will be good for about 7,620 images.

Can you turn a TV into a digital picture frame? ›

Once you've uploaded a few photos, you can turn your TV into a digital photo frame. You can also share Streams with other Roku device owners. Once the Stream has been shared, other users will be able to add their own photos as well.

How do I transfer pictures from my phone to my digital photo frame? ›

How to Transfer Photos from Android to a Digital Picture Frame?
  1. Download the Pix-Star Snap Mobile App. Open the Play Store on your Android device (both tablets and phones are supported). ...
  2. Capture & Share Photos from Your Phone's Gallery. ...
  3. Add Your Pix-Star Frame's Unique Address. ...
  4. Start a Slideshow with Your New Photos.

How do you get pictures to fit on a digital photo frame? ›

Scale your pics to match the frame's resolution

To do this, open the picture on your computer in your image viewer. Right-click and choose the “resize” option from the list. Scaling the picture to match your frame's native resolution ensures that each picture doesn't use more storage space than necessary.

How do you save pictures on a digital photo frame? ›

Copy pictures from your computer to a flash drive and then from the drive to the picture frame. With a memory card, put the photos on the card first, and then insert the card into the frame. You can also transfer photos from a computer to a frame directly with a USB connection.

Can I use my iPad as a digital photo frame? ›

If you like having digital photo frames, you can turn your iPad into one using the Picture Frame feature. Apple's iOS for the iPad has some tablet-specific features. “Picture Frame” is one of them. The feature lets you showcase photos from your albums, effectively turning your iPad into a digital photo frame.

How do you tell what size a digital photo is? ›

On a PC, right-click on the file, select Properties from the menu and click on the Details tab in the Properties box. On a Mac, right-click (or hold down the Control key and click) the image thumbnail and choose Get Info.

How do I know the size of my digital photo? ›

Right-click on the image and then select "Properties." A window will appear with the image's details. Go to the "Details" tab to see the image's dimensions and resolution.

Which digital frame is easiest to use? ›

The Aura Mason combines attractive hardware and simple software to create a digital photo frame that is the easiest to set up and operate. We found the quality of its screen to be on a par with that of bigger, pricier frames, and the Mason was a clear improvement over many cheaper options.

How many photos can 8GB hold? ›

There are 1000 megabytes in a gigabyte, so this 8GB memory card could hold approximately 8x1000 photos = 8000 photos.

Can I use a Kindle Fire as a digital photo frame? ›

You can turn an Amazon fire HD or Kindle fire into a digital photo frame to electronically display a photo album for friends, family, kitchen, or the living room, you'll need to get a digital picture frame app.

What does a digital picture frame do? ›

Digital photo frames typically allow the display of pictures directly from a camera's memory card, and may provide internal memory storage. Some allow users to upload pictures to the frame's memory via a USB connection, or wirelessly via Bluetooth technology.

How much power does a digital frame use? ›

While a paper photo album doesn't use any power after it's been created, a digital frame consumes a small amount of electricity every second that it's plugged in. An 8-inch frame consumes 7 watts or 61.3 kilowatt hours of power over a year, according to our Kill-A-Watt testing over a short period of time.

How do digital photo frames work? ›

The most basic digital picture frames contain a certain amount of internal memory and a USB port. You simply connect the frame to a computer via USB and the frame shows up looking like a flash drive, and then drag and drop images to the frame until the memory is full.

Which digital frame is easiest to use? ›

The Aura Mason combines attractive hardware and simple software to create a digital photo frame that is the easiest to set up and operate. We found the quality of its screen to be on a par with that of bigger, pricier frames, and the Mason was a clear improvement over many cheaper options.

Do all digital frames require Wi-Fi? ›

Do digital frames need Wi-Fi? Some digital picture frames do require Wi-Fi, while others do not—just check the specifications of your product. Usually, frames that allow you to upload photos through a smartphone app or email will require Wi-Fi, while those that only use USB drives and SD cards will not.

How do you save pictures on a digital photo frame? ›

Copy pictures from your computer to a flash drive and then from the drive to the picture frame. With a memory card, put the photos on the card first, and then insert the card into the frame. You can also transfer photos from a computer to a frame directly with a USB connection.

How do you get pictures on a digital picture frame? ›

For Android devices: From the main menu (the page with the four icons), select the “Histo & Cam” option. This will open your frame's camera. Here you can capture a new photo (or select photos from your gallery).

How long does the battery last in a digital photo frame? ›

Most battery-powered digital photo frames have a battery life of 2-6 hours. Even at the upper limit, you're not getting a ton of battery power, so make sure the frame you choose has the best battery life possible. You also need to pay attention to the charging method.

Why does my digital photo frame keep turning off? ›

Frame Turns On and Off by Itself

Some digital photo frames have power-saving or power-efficiency features, where you can set the frame to turn on and off at certain times of the day. If you want to change these times, you'll have to access the frame's setting menu.

Do digital frames have to be plugged in? ›

Since the digital photo frame doesn't run on batteries, it needs to be plugged into an energy source at all times.

Can you send pictures to a digital frame? ›

You'll need Wi-Fi to upload photos using the Nixplay app or a web browser, or you can email photos to the frame's unique address or import them from Google Photos, Dropbox, Facebook, or Instagram. You can also upload video clips, and the frame has internal speakers for audio playback.

What is a digital photo album? ›

A digital photo album is a software application that allows the user to import image files from a digital camera, memory card, scanner, or computer hard disk to a central database.

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