September 15, 2019
I've always loved art, but like many others, I've also started to get tired of looking at the same art I've had on my walls for the last 10+ years. A few years ago, the Depict digital art canvas came out, which was the new market leader in digital frames. Unfortunately, after only a few years in business, they dissolved, and customers were left with a digital frame locked being their proprietary software, unable to be used.
Fast forward to now, and the biggest player in the space right now is a company called Meural. After talking with one of their representatives, and voicing my hesitation around the product based on the Depict, they agreed to send one over so I could review the product myself, and assured me they are in a safer position after being acquired by the tech giant Netgear.
Their product is what you would expect out of a digital art frame, but with a few extra bonuses that put it ahead of the competition. First, they offer their own proprietary blend of hardware and software that renders the image as lifelike as possible, and after using it for the last month I can see what they mean.
The image itself has a beautiful range of colors, and depending on the artwork you're viewing, some of it almost appears to pop right off of the screen. I was expecting the image to fade considerably when viewing it on an angle, but it holds up extremely well, even at extreme viewing angles thanks to the IPS panel.
The frame itself comes in two different designs; the Winslow (which is what I have) is made of American Walnut, and has a slightly larger frame compared to their basic white design called the Leonora. Both are nice, but I liked the contrast of the dark walnut compared to the white matte interior. The Winslow Canvas I have measures 20 by 50" by 1.6" which is currently sitting perfectly on the shelving unit in my office.
Another interesting and well thought out detail of the Meural Canvas is that you can orient it vertically, or horizontally depending on your limitations or preference in the room. It'll automatically only display artwork that matches that orientation, so you don't have to worry about things getting cropped out of whack. They also ship a rotating mount that allows the Canvas to easily be rotated, which I think is pretty important, otherwise, you're limited to the artwork in whatever orientation you set it up in. Until I get the wall mount up, I’m using the supplied rubber pad to keep it from moving around on my shelf.
I also like the implementation of the gesture-based controls located at the bottom of the frame. Waving your hand to the left or right of the canvas will go to the next or previous image, and swiping up from the bottom will reveal more detail about the painting including the artist, date, and a description. The swipe up gesture is particularly useful, as I'm often wanting to learn more about the new paintings that pop up on the screen.
To curate art, you can either use their website or use the native apps for both iOS and Android. The apps themselves are really nice, and they do a great job of curating art in individual playlists, or by artist and style. There is a TON to pick from, so I've been defaulting to their playlists every week for the most part. If you do find someone you like on the site or apps, you just click the send to canvas button and it's shot over to the canvas a few seconds later.
Since I didn't want this thing on 24/7, I've got my Canvas set to turn on in the morning, and then off again at night so it doesn't use any unnecessary power. They also have a schedule on the site, which allows you to customize which playlists you'd like to display throughout the day, but I've been letting it run randomly for the most part.
The Meural does come with around 100 free pieces of artwork, and you're able to upload your own onto the 8GB of included memory, but subscribing to their membership program ($6/mo) allows you to get access to 30,000+ different pieces of art. I can't see myself owning the product without the paid membership because of the limitation of the quantity of the free art, so I'd factor that into your purchasing decision.
The construction of the Meural is also something to take note of. It has some substantial weight, and you can see the aluminum backing is well secured, and allows to load artwork directly via USB.
I'm seeing some feedback online about the lack of 4k resolution (which is a fair point), but at a normal viewing distance, seeing pixels is really a non-issue.
All in all, I'm pretty happy with this product. My favorite part is are the museum specific playlists, which means I can re-live some of the art I saw in person on my recent vacation to London, Paris and Barcelona. If you're looking for a digital canvas in 2019, I personally think the Meural Canvas is the clear winner.