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Lead image

A hands-on review of Meural Canvas

This digital frame makes fine art accessible and fun

Working for Crutchfield gets me access to all sorts of cool gear. But I’ve never been more stoked about trying out a new product than I was when I got my hands on a Meural Canvas. It’s a smart art frame with a 27" lifelike digital display, and it has seriously changed the way I experience art.

Getting content on your Canvas

Setup is fairly straightforward. You connect the Canvas to your Wi-Fi using the Meural mobile app. After that, you can control the Canvas using the app, a web browser, or gesture controls.

I use a combination of all three, and occasionally my voice, too. Gesture controls are ideal for reading a work's "art card." I like to use the app on my iPhone for uploading art or switching to a different playlist. If I'm really digging into settings or scrolling through my Meural feed, I prefer the larger scale view offered by the web interface on my laptop.

Meural Canvas.

When uploading your own photos, it’s super easy to change where and how you want them cropped.

What you get for free

Every Canvas includes access to a curated collection of 100 images from Meural's art library. The classical sampler features pieces like Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. There’s also a modern playlist with more contemporary works from artists like Hopper and Kandinsky. And you even get some “cinemagraphs” — works with motion elements. It’s a great start for any gallery wall.

Upload your own images

I love that the Canvas can also showcase my own art. I can’t do anything with paint and a canvas, but I’ve been an enthusiastic amateur photographer since I was a kid using a purple plastic 110 film camera. And when I graduated to my first SLR (a hand-me-down Minolta SR-T 101), I remember spending what felt like several eternities finishing a roll of film, waiting weeks while it was developed, and then finally deciding which shots — if any — were frame-worthy enough to enlarge and hang on the wall.

In these digital days, we can see our shots as we take them, but few ever actually make it on display. Well, that has certainly changed for me since I installed this thing. I’ve been having so much fun creating playlists of my favorite pet photos and posting my best vacation snaps (pretty much immediately after getting home). Whether I shot something on my phone or my Olympus PEN, I can see it enlarged on my wall in moments. It’s amazingly satisfying.

I even uploaded a GIF I made of some Fourth of July fireworks, but it ended up being a little too wobbly for my wall. I want to try my hand at some proper cinemagraphs, but I really need to spend some time experimenting with my tripod for that.

The Canvas also has a micro SD input on the back that can be used to store and display images in up to four playlists. Uploading over Wi-Fi has been so easy that I haven’t tried this, but I appreciate that it’s an option.

The annual subscription

I’d be remiss not to mention the annual membership because that’s where the Canvas really shines. For $69.95 a year, you get access to tens of thousands of works from around the world. You can search by artist or movement, subscribe to channels, and check out playlists based on color or theme. They have everything from ancient classics to contemporary creations from the last few months. You can also get recommendations based on what you already like — it feels a bit like Pandora for art.

It’s July 2019 as I’m writing this, and my Meural feed has had loads of content to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. They’ve had great historical pictures from the NASA archive, along with editorials by astronauts that include playlists of photos taken while they were in space. I can also view satellite shots of earth that look like a lot like abstract art. It’s really cool.

After spending some time with a trial subscription, I can already say that I will definitely pay to renew my membership when the time comes. Surfing the Meural app has led me to discover several artists whose work I really love but had somehow never seen before.

Meural canvas

I’ve really enjoyed being able to display an ever-changing mix of art that my husband and I can both enjoy.

How does it look?

First of all, the frame itself is solidly built. The modern “Leonora” version that I have is made of poplar, and it comes in black or white. It’s a perfect fit for the modern feel in my living room. 

And the art? I was worried it would just look like a computer screen on my wall, but it doesn’t. The matte screen has an anti-glare finish that's very convincing, especially during the day. It's almost too vivid at night, though, so I have it set to turn off when the room gets dark. And thanks to the built-in ambient light sensor, you can also choose to auto-adjust the screen's  brightness based on the amount of light in the room.

Most of the time, it looks like I have a really high-quality print on display. Sometimes it’s hard to tell it’s not an actual canvas. I’m looking at Sorolla’s Rocas de Jávea y el bote blanco right now, and the brushstrokes on Meural really seem to have depth and texture. It looks so much more lifelike than the flat version I’m comparing it to on my computer screen.

Art for days

I hung my Canvas while I was in the middle of reading David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. It was so satisfying to learn about a work of art and then be able to see it immediately on my Canvas. When the book mentioned that Harriet Beecher Stowe was awestruck by The Raft of the Medusa at the Louvre, I did a quick search in the Meural app and it was on my wall in no time at all. I was awestruck, too.

One tiny drawback

When I selected John Singer Sargent’s The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit to display after reading about it in the book, I was perplexed. McCullough mentioned four girls in the painting, but I could only see three. Weird. I looked it up, and discovered that the fourth daughter had been cropped.

You see, the Canvas has a 16:9 aspect ratio, and most art doesn’t. I started wondering just what I was missing after that. And while most of the art I selected didn’t seem to have major players cropped out, I still wish that the app would give me the option to see the whole painting. It would be even cooler if it allowed me to choose what part of a work gets displayed on the Meural like I can with my own uploaded photos.

Fill mode
Fill mode

Sometimes adjusting the Fill Mode can help you see parts of the original image that would otherwise be cropped.

More settings

You can choose how long to display each work from hours to minutes to seconds. I have it set to move to a new piece every five minutes, though I’ll occasionally use the option to “freeze” the current image when I want to linger on one work of art I’m really digging in the moment.

Display settings
Light sensitivity settings
Playlist settings

It's easy to tweak settings using either the web browser or the mobile app.

Gesture controls

I'll admit that using the gesture controls took a little getting used to. But it's really easy once you get the hang of it. I frequently cross the room to swipe up and read each piece's “art card” detailing the history of the work and the artist. I've probably already learned half a semester's worth of art history. Gesturing left and right near the bottom of the frame lets me scroll through the playlist.

Art card

Each image has an informative "art card" — just like you'd find in a museum!

Alexa integration

If you have a device with Amazon Alexa voice control, you can use it to turn the Canvas on and off, scroll forward and back in the playlist, and adjust the screen’s brightness. Truth be told, this was a struggle at first. I had some initial problems linking the Alexa skill with my Meural account. Apparently, this is a common issue, and Netgear support was very helpful in resolving it.

Using Alexa with Meural Canvas.

Alexa sometimes struggles to understand the word "Meural" so it's helpful to rename your Canvas within the Alexa app. I called mine "Art."

Mounting notes

The Meural Canvas comes with a hanging bracket that allows you to mount it horizontally or vertically. But if you want to change it up regularly, I recommend picking up the swivel mount. That's how I have mine mounted.

Swivel mount

The swivel mount makes it easy to rotate the attached Canvas whenever you get the urge to go from portrait to landscape mode.

While Meural includes wall anchors with either mounting option, I strongly suggest making sure at least one of your screws is in a stud, especially if you will be rotating your Canvas a lot.

The 8-foot power cord on the Meural Canvas is fairly unobtrusive, but hiding it definitely makes for a cleaner look. The cord is rated for in-wall use, but if you don't want to cut holes in your wall, you can easily disguise it with a paintable cable cover like I did to keep your home gallery looking super-streamlined.

Final thoughts

I love it. Yes, it’s a bit of a splurge, but the detail of the display, the ease of use, and the opportunity to discover new art all the time make it a pretty worthwhile one. Even my husband — who is not a huge fan of all the technology I bring home — has enjoyed the rotating gallery in our living room. I was delighted to find him swiping up to see the “art card” of a work on display — more than once!

Canvas II

As I was finishing up this article, Meural released the Canvas II. This new frame has a streamlined look that comes in four colors — black, white, dark wood, and light wood. But what's even more exciting to me is that it comes in two sizes, including a smaller 21.5" version with a lower price point that will make it accessible to more people. The larger 16" x 24" option has the same 27" display size as its predecessor.

Want to know more?

If you’re still curious about the Meural Canvas and what it can (or can’t) do, feel free to leave me a question or a comment below. Our friendly and knowledgeable Advisors are also happy to help. Contact us today.

Dogs love the Meural Canvas, too!
  • Di B from DBQ

    Posted on 3/30/2022

    Thank you. I learned a lot. Well written with a lot of details explained that are very helpful.

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 4/8/2022

    Thanks so much, Di!
  • Joanne Abramson from Fort Bragg

    Posted on 11/30/2020

    Thank you for including your wish list for the Meural Canvas. We bought our 27-inch white canvas in Dec. 2019 and were the first to leave a customer review. If I can add to your list, I would love to see the 4GB storage to be increased significantly. I used up the storage six weeks after arrival. The only way I can add more artwork or photos is to delete something I have already downloaded. I have bought many artworks from Netgear, and I LOVE the motion art and the new videos that they have, especially the new Sharecare videos, which are outstanding. Adding these required a long conversation with Netgear's tech support and a hard restart to wipe out everything on the canvas and start over (my playlists are saved, but not loaded on the canvas). We would LOVE to continue buying artwork and videos, but I also LOVE having our vacation photos (remember those?). We even considered buying a second Canvas to increase our storage, but the space is shared between two canvases. The Canvas is a game-changer, we love it, just wish Netgear would add significantly more storage. Considering the price, and that they are selling art, this is a logical evolution.

  • Susan L. Knopf from Silverthorne

    Posted on 8/20/2020

    Hi Emily: Awesome review! We are renovating and we can hide the cord in the wall. But I'm not sure how that would work since there is an adapter at the end of the cord. Can you describe that?My electrician is going to want clear tech specs.

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 12/2/2020

    Hi Susan. Meural's cord is not rated for in-wall use, sadly. If you really want it hidden, your best bet might be installing a power relocation kit. Good luck, and big apologies for overlooking this comment for so long!

  • Brian Kessler from St. Petersburg

    Posted on 6/6/2020

    I would like to display a few short videos (5 - 7 seconds long) on my Meural. Those videos were taken with, and reside in, my iPhone. Is it possible to transfer them directly to my Meural? If so, how? Thank you for your advice!

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 12/2/2020

    Brian, I'm so sorry for missing this comment. I suspect you've figured it out by now, but just in case: you can add movies from your iPhone using the "upload" button in the Meural app. If you aren't seeing your photos/videos there, you might need to adjust the privacy permissions for your phone (especially after that last iOS update). Thanks for the comment and good luck!
  • John Gomez

    Posted on 5/1/2020

    Hi I recently just tot a meural canvas. I was wondering if their is away for a laptop to connect the device to a laptop instead of a phone. Thank you!

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 5/17/2020

    Hi John! Congrats on the new Meural. You should be able to control it from your laptop, no problem. Just navigate to the My Meural page in a browser. Then either log into an existing account or create a new one. From there you can add a new Canvas or control one that is already linked to your account. Please get in touch if you have any more questions!
  • Brooke from NYC

    Posted on 12/30/2019

    Great review Emily! I would like to have several Meural Canvas frames around my home. How many Meural frames does the app/web interface support? Do you have to have multiple memberships or does one membership per household suffice? Thank you!

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 1/7/2020

    Thanks Brooke! Those are great questions. Someday I hope to add another Canvas to my house, as well. And I'm pleased to report that a paid membership can be shared on up to two Canvases in your home. I've also checked with Netgear, and they've confirmed that the app/web interface can support an unlimited number of Canveses. Feel free to get back in touch if you have any more questions!
  • deb from Bal Harbour

    Posted on 12/12/2019

    can I upload my videos and Gif's to my frame?

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 12/13/2019

    Great question Deb! I did a little testing this morning to confirm a few things before I answered. The good news: I was able to upload both videos (.mov) and GIFs to my Meural Canvas. The bad news: I had to use the web interface as I couldn't get it to work using the mobile app. I'm going to check with Netgear/Meural support to see if that's normal or if it's an issue specific to me and my devices. I hope that helps! Feel free to get in touch again if you have any more questions!
  • Karen Graton McClaflin from Sacramento

    Posted on 11/25/2019

    Does this frame have the capability for others to add photos to it remotely? Many frames explicitly describe this feature, but I can't find it for this one. It says it has WiFi capability, but could my daughter send a photo to the frame via the app?

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 11/27/2019

    Thanks for the question, Karen!

    If you want to share your Meural's login details with your daughter, it will be easy for her to send a photo to the frame via the app or the web interface. She can do this from wherever she is — no need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. I tested it yesterday to be sure. I sent a piece to my Canvas while I was at work, and it was on display when I got home.

    That said, your Meural login credentials are actually your Netgear details, too. So I wouldn't suggest sharing your password, especially if you have other Netgear devices. She can always text or email photos, and you can add them yourself. Or you can create a shared family album on another platform — Google Photos, for example — and then you can just download your favorites to add to your Canvas.

    I hope that helps! If you have any more questions, feel free to get back in touch.

  • from St. Paul

    Posted on 10/28/2019

    Hello! Thanks for the review. It helped a lot. I see that the Canvas II is now out. Have you checked it out?

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 10/29/2019

    I'm so glad it helped! I haven't actually gotten my hands on the Canvas II yet, but I did a lot of research when I wrote our product pages for it. I love that they are offering more size and color options! I'm seriously considering picking up a smaller one for my library.

    Thanks for the note! (And thanks for reminding me that I wanted to update this article to include some information on the Canvas II!)

  • John Porter from lees Summit

    Posted on 10/17/2019

    The pictures that are loaded on the frame will they remain there or go away if you don't subscribe to the yearly fee.?

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 10/17/2019

    Hi John!

    If you don't want to pay for a yearly subscription, you can upload your own art to the Canvas. I love displaying my photos on there (especially when I use filters that make them look like paintings).

    You also have access to the sampler playlists for free. And beyond that, you can purchase individual pieces from the Meural collection. I've done this once already, and I'll probably grab a few more, especially if I ever decide to cancel my membership (purchases are massively discounted when you have an annual membership).

    If/when I cancel my membership, I'll keep my own art, the sampler images, and any images I've purchased. The playlists I've made with art from the membership collection will be removed from my Canvas.

    Thanks for the question!

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