Meural recently came to light when we published a highlight of what we thought to be a fantastic idea. Taking digital picture frames, which have been on the market for years, to a whole new level. Their 27-in IPS digital canvas frames allow you to take some of your favorite works of art, and display them on your wall. From Leonardo da Vinci to Van Gogh, and so much more more. Now, we have the pleasure of having one on-site to test out and discover how we really feel about them.
To begin, the digital frames feature a fantastic 27-inch IPS screen inside, that really brings what’s on screen to life with. It offers a fantastic 1080p resolution and can display images in both horizontal and vertical orientation. It can be hung on the wall or placed on a shelf (other piece of furniture), where it can lay back slightly and blend in with the decor.
As we have been testing the frame, we set the backlight to only 15%-20%, to both eliminate any possible eye strain, as well as give it less of a backlit appearance. This caused some of those who walked by to think that an actual painting or print was featured within the frame (not a monitor). The screen is matte in texture, so reflections are not much more of an issue that it would be to front-light a regular print. So when, we mimicked the effect of track lighting to give it a soft point of focus (spot light), it appeared to be decently close to the natural result. Of course, we still had 85% of the backlight to play with, so there is plenty of headroom to display just about anything you want, however you’d like it to appear.
Based on only seeing what the frame looked like in a low backlight setting, and treated as a regular frame, we already built a lot of liking towards the product. Of course, we still had a ways to go, given the retail price of things. Thankfully, it doesn’t just stop there.
The frame offers a suite of features and options that really help it shine. From motion control by waving your hands as you walk by, to a expansive app selection that covers iOS and Android devices, as well as any web browser using a computer.
Gesture control alone is pretty fancy, and quite accurate. The frame features two sensor locations, depending on if you are hanging/placing the frame horizontal or vertical. Both sensors are operable in either orientation, but they are meant to match their orientation for consistency in what each motion is controlling. In other words, it’s always best to use the sensor suited for the current orientation–which would be whichever one that is located at the bottom of the frame. As mentioned, the sensors are quite accurate, minimizing any kind of frustration while not tracking too far, so that simple passing bodies don’t trigger anything. Your hand has to waive, for the most part, within 6-inches or so from the frame.
By using gestures, you can change the image on the screen, access and switch to a different collection (playlist), open a small window at the bottom that gives a brief bio about the image being viewed, or control some of the options of the frame (such as basic Wi-Fi control, sleep mode and so forth).
For additional options, their mobile app supports both Android and iOS devices. From the app, you can view and control the playlists and images, read the same bio (“content”) information, as well as control certain options, such as resetting the brightness to best match the lighting in the room, changing the orientation setting, join the frame to your Wi-Fi network, view your free space, upload images from your device and more. The app is simple to use and covers most of your basic needs. There is a slight delay between changing the image on the screen in the app and it taking effect on the frame, but this is more than likely it give you a second to keep scrolling or change your mind before it actually changes (or, maybe it is just a delay within the connection).
If deeper control is needed, and we recommend every user take full advantage of this, their website leads to the online control panel via any web browser (called “my.meural”). Like the app, it will list all frames associated to your account. From here, you can do everything the app can accomplish, and so much more. You are able to dive deep into the configuration of your frame to fully set it up with, including the option of controlling a schedule where you can have it automatically go into sleep mode during certain times of the day (for example, we set ours to turn off between 12:00 AM and 7:00 AM to preserve energy).
From the site, you can browser their entire collection of artwork, with over 20,000 pictures to choose from. They can be broken down by playlist, artist, partnered collections and more. This is where you can find your most favorite classic pieces. You can mark the best as favorites and create your own playlists where you can organize them however you’d like. Most importantly, you can upload your own, using a user-friendly interface. You just want to make sure that the images you are uploading are fit to 1080×1920 or 1920×1080 depending on orientation, else the image may not display properly on the frame.
Like a wallpaper on your desktop, you can also control certain properties about how the image is displayed, like “as-is” (based on the size of the image itself), “Contain” (blow it up as big as the 1080p resolution will allow) and “Stretch” (which will zoom in until it fills the whole screen).
You can browse through the images in the above gallery to get a full idea of what their website has to offer in control of the frame. The only trouble we had to make note of in our tests, was the fact that it doesn’t ask for a confirmation when removing anything from the frame (ie, playlist, image, etc). You could accidently remove the wrong playlist, and there have been times we haven’t found the artist or work on the website to add back in again. They may find it useful to add a pop-up confirmation of sorts to make sure you don’t make the wrong move.
When uploading your own images via the site, you can organize everything neatly and separate them by orientation. These playlists will appear in both the app and on the frame when browsing around. While operating the frame, only the playlists for the current orientation of the frame will appear to select from (unless you disable this in the settings online, which isn’t recommended). Images can be as large as 20MB, so you shouldn’t run into any troubles with your image not working due to filesize.
The frame also supports videos, up to 200MB in size each. They offer native support for .mov, .mp4, .avi, and .mkv formats, covering all of the most standard formats between Apple and Windows users. This opens the usage of the frame to so many other useful situations where you can display unique artwork during events or a looping company or event logo.
Imagine an artist at a conventional offering sketches and prints, looking to display as much of their work as they can. However, all they are offered is a 6-foot table and whatever will fit behind it. This is perfect, because all they will need is a meural digital canvas, and they are ready to go. Or, a company wants a looping video of their logo at the entrance to their general session or panel, during an event. Slap one of these to a stand and place it outside the door, and they are ready to go.
So from business to consumer, these frames have a lot of potential. You can display your favorite historical artists, your favorite comic artists, your own sketches and art, random art you find online and so forth. Like I said, the options, are endless. It will even support animated .GIF files, which there are plenty to choose from in their collection alone, from artists like Bill Domonkos.
The frame features 8GB of onboard memory. 4GB out of the 8GB are dedicated to firmware and updates, leaving only 4GB for you to play with images and video, but we didn’t find any problems with this as you can still fit hundreds if not thousands of images within that bit of space. If you still feel as though you could use more, the back of the frame offers a USB port as well as an SD card slot. You can only add up to 4 playlists to your frame using this method (which is a bit odd), but they do not limit the amount of images that can be within each playlist and it will play them right off of the drive/card. An ini file needs to be created that helps tell the frame about the playlists and their folders. Meural gives you the full instructions here on how to accomplish this. The process is quite simple.
The frame is a bit heavy, weighing in at above 20lbs. So if you do plan on hanging it, you will definitely want to catch a stud if you can. You don’t want this amazing product falling off your wall. It also looks great sitting on a piece of furniture somewhere. This is what we choose to do for the header image at the top of the story, making for a good shoot.
Meural has a selection of three frames to choose from. You have the option of black or white colored frame with a white letterbox between the frame and the screen as well as their new lightbox edition, with a raised letterbox layer that is backlit for added effect. The latter of the three options is around $100 more than the other two, so the effect depends on how badly you really want it. The one we have been testing is the black-frame option, which has proved to look great no matter where we place or hang it.
Inside the box, there is a simple instructional setup guide that walks you through setting it up and getting a leveled hang if you are placing it on the wall. There is a power cable (obviously), so you do have to keep in mind that you have to factor that into wherever you are placing it. Luckily for us, we have recessed plugs throughout our demo rooms we test everything in. However, not all homes or offices offer this types of outlets, which means you may have a cable running down your wall to the nearest outlet. In these situations, it may be good to invest into wire molding, which will help mask the cable and blend things in a little while possibly adding two-tone effect that could possible add to the character of the room vs stand out as an eye sore.
In the event that you simply rest it against something instead of hanging it, then you can easily just run it down behind whatever it is resting upon (ie, shelving, stand, etc). The cable plugs into the rear of the frame, so the connector at least will be out of site. The power brick portion of the cable is a little bulky, black and built into the edison plug portion, so it will be noticeable at the outlet. It would work best is something is sitting in front of the outlet to help mask this with.
Power consumption is also on the low, as we could get no higher than around 23 watts of usage out of it, and that was at 100% brightness. At the 15%-20% brightness range, we were getting around 12.6 watts. While it is in sleep mode, it is spending around just 1.5 watts. So on average, having the frame on is like have one or two standard LED bulbs burning, which doesn’t have much effect on your bill. It should be somewhere around $1 or less per month, at 12 hours of use per day, depending on the brightness level you prefer.
Meural does plan to bring additional features in the future, such as support for external speakers via USB (in case you have audio with a loaded video). As creative as their minds are, I am sure they will come up with all sorts of ways of making it even better. If we wind up holding onto the frame on-site, I am sure there will be additional mentions to come as new things develop, as everyone has absolutely loved it so far.
No longer are you limited by the space on your walls. With meural’s digital canvas frames, you can bring as many works of art to your walls as you could possible as for. Decorate an entire hallway with a row frames, or simply keep one in the most noticeable sweet spot in the house, reserved for only for your favorite pieces. From home, to office, to special events. These frames can be used in so many ways. We have spent a heavy amount of time testing the frame against all sorts of images, including many of our own and others we have randomly found online by searching Google Images. The gesture control never seems to let you down, and you can let anyone you want, have access to the app to control it with. Now, if only it could be automated to your mood or each person’s character as they walk into the room. With geo-location, that shouldn’t be hard at all, and I’m sure they have thought about it by now (as a possible future enhancement). We did think it was a little pricey, as it runs around $595. This can be a little much since you can buy a 4K monitor or TV for less at this size. Thankfully, the product is pretty impressive and as the software enhances through time, it really does know how to pull on your want to buy one (or more).
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*Average price is based on the time this article was published
- 27” 1080p IPS Display with Anti-Glare Technology
- 1920 x 1080 Full HD Resolution
- 300 cd/m2 Brightness
- 1.8 GHz Quad Core ARM Cortex-A17
- 1GB DDR3 RAM
- 8GB Storage
- 802.11 b/g/n WiFi + Bluetooth
- Standard Frame Dimensions – 29”x 18”x 1.5”
- Includes Cord and Power Adapter
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.