Meural Canvas II Digital Display
- Ease of use
Meural has come a long way, but still a pricey option for a digital display.
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. The experience was out of this world and, as luck would have it, I got to see moving photographs in action. Inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, there were large-scale moving photographs. They were the ultimate “Live Photos.” And now, I have the opportunity to check out the Meural Canvas II, which can bring photos to life in your home or office, too.
The Meural Canvas II is a digital display that allows users to combine modern design and state-of-the-art technology into one device. With this display, users can show off photos, art, and NFTs easily with the help of the Meural app, which is available for Android and iOS devices. The app allows users to update their canvas throughout the day as well as adjust settings, create playlists, and share photos with other canvas users.
The canvas can be controlled through the connected app or through gesture controls on the display. The display is available in two sizes – 16 x 24 and 19 x 19 – and the frame has four different color options – black, white, dark wood, and light wood. A standard hanging mount is included with the display, but an optional swivel mount can be requested. There are other add-ons that users can order with the display such as a protective cover, cable cover, an extended warranty, or an art membership. The canvas comes with 42 preloaded images and access to 100 sampler images from Meural’s art library.
- Display: 21.5 inch (54.61 cm) 1080p AHVA LCD display with anti-glare technology. Optimized for art 1920 x 1080 full HD resolution
- Memory & storage: 2GB DDR3 RAM; 8GB storage
- Processors: 1.8 GHz Quad Core ARM Cortex-A17
- Sensors: Gesture detectors (for both vertical and horizontal orientations); Ambient light sensor; Power button sensor
- WiFi: WiFi 5 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz)
- Ports: Micro USB; SD card slot; Ethernet; DC Power Port
- Hanging Location: Drywall with access to power outlet
- What’s in the Box: Meural Canvas II, power adapter (8ft power cord), cleaning cloth, wall anchors (drywall), wall mount with liquid level, no-slip grip
The Meural Canvas II arrived in a retail-ready box. The front of the box features an image of the display and details about the product. Our canvas was shipped to us so it had an outer plain cardboard shipping box, too. The canvas is well-packaged on the inside of the box as it is surrounded by various foam pieces and all the accessories for the device are in a separate cardboard box. Despite the high-quality packaging, there was a little bit of damage to our unit out of the box.
The canvas is designed so that you can swap the frames out. It comes with a color you pre-select when you order it, but you do have the option to change the frame. There are two switches on the right side of the frame that unlock the main display from the frame. When I removed the foam from the canvas and attempted unlocking the switches, I noticed some wood flaked out of the top right-hand corner. When I pulled the canvas away from the frame, I could see that there was a chunk missing from the frame.
This small amount of damage actually prevents the display from locking into place on the frame properly. As a result, it can easily slip out of the frame. I don’t know if this is a defect from the factory or a result of it being a media sample unit, but either way, I would recommend a replacement frame if you find this is the case with your canvas out of the box.
Another observation I made was that the specs (as listed above) note a Micro USB port should be located on the side panel of the canvas alongside the SD card slot. At first, I did not see this Micro USB port. It was covered by a white piece of tape (as shown in the photo below). I’m not sure why it was covered with tape or even what the port’s intended use is since there isn’t much description about it. In addition to that, the specs on the website refer to the Ethernet port being located on the side panel as well. It is not. It is on the back with the DC power port.
While these aren’t deal breakers for me I think it is important to have accurate information provided for user evaluation. If I was looking at the specs of the device and ordered it based on the fact that the Ethernet port was located on the side and it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be too happy about that.
The display is powered by a DC power cable. It comes with a compatible power adapter with an 8-foot long cable attached. This should be long enough to stretch from any placement on a wall to a power outlet. The only downside to this is that a cable has to be hidden. I know it would likely be problematic, but it would have been really cool (and a little more magical) if the display was powered by a rechargeable battery. Then the display could be plugged in to charge and unplugged when it was fully powered. Again, this isn’t really a dealbreaker point for me, but it would have been nice since I’m kind of a stickler for cable management.
As you might assume from the images included, I didn’t mount this display on the wall due to the corner damage I mentioned. That said, I do really like the set-up that Netgear included for mounting hardware. There is a wall mount that has a built-in liquid level on it. You simply screw that into the wall and then slide the canvas onto the mount. It’s really very simple as far as mounting options go. Heavy-duty drywall anchors are even included.
As one might expect, an app download is required in order for the Meural system to work. And, because Meural is owned by Netgear, a Netgear account (free to sign up) is required as well. Set up of the canvas is easy as long as you follow the on-screen prompts. Users have to grant certain access permissions to the app in order for the setup to work from start to finish, but as long as it can connect to your WiFi network, you shouldn’t have many issues.
The canvas can be controlled through on-screen gestures or through the app. Please note though – it is not a touch screen display. The gestures are picked up by vertical and horizontal sensors. They are sensitive to movement, but I have to admit that I found the controls in the app to be more accurate and reliable than the gesture controls.
Since I just visited theme parks last week, the first thing I wanted to see on the screen was a photo I took of Cinderella’s castle at night. I took the photo on my iPhone 12 Pro. I used the wide-angle lens on the phone and it captured the image as a JPG file. It was a 12MP image and the file size is 1.5MB with the dimensions of 4032 x 3024. I want to call those specs out because the iPhone image loaded directly from the iPhone looked really good on the display.
As I mentioned, the castle image was taken at night and had a lot of black in it. The black looked really crisp and it made the color that was in the photo pop out really well. The second image I uploaded was of a landmark in EPCOT. This image was taken in the afternoon when the sun was at its peak. Again, this photo was a 12MP image and measured 3024 x 4032 (taken vertically). This image, however, was 4.1MB in size. I was impressed with how well the Canvas showcased the lighter tones in the photo (the included image really doesn’t do the Canvas justice).
Loading images onto the canvas is a pretty straightforward process. You simply tap the upload option in the app and then select if you are going to grab a photo from your library, take a new photo through your camera, or link an album. For me, I was uploading images I captured directly from my library. This process took a little bit of time – well, more than I expected it to. A single image from my iPhone took 10-15 seconds to upload. When it came to uploading the Async sample album, which was 26 images, the process took around two minutes.
In the information provided in the app and the description on the website, I could not find a guide for formatting files for use on the Meural. This is something that would be really helpful – especially for people looking to display high-resolution art. As a digital layout specialist, I take pride in ensuring my creations are as high-quality as possible for their intended output. I hate to see pixelated images when I know they didn’t start that way. So, even though part of the allure of this device is being able to upload directly from your smartphone, it would be nice to have some sort of guidelines to follow for users that want them.
I was able to find a list of compatible file formats on B&H Photo, a distributor of the Meural Canvas II. According to their specs, the display is compatible with the following file formats: JPG, JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF, MOV, and MP4 (MPEG H.265). This means users should be able to play HD video with little issue. The Meural does only have 2GB of RAM built-in so I wouldn’t expect fast-moving video to play well and I definitely wouldn’t think that a full-feature movie would work, but smaller video clips should function well. There are no speakers built-in as this is only a visual-based display.
With this in mind, I uploaded a short video. It was only 18 seconds in length and was a simple recording of a single object slowly turning. The clip took several minutes to load to the canvas and actually failed on the first upload attempt. This video was taken in a dark room but was captured as a 4K video at 24fps. On the iPhone, the video quality is good. The image is clear and you can see the motion easily and it plays through smoothly. There is a point where some lighting effect happens in the room (it’s meant to simulate lightning) and on the Meural it blanks out the entire screen rather than playing as lightning. The iPhone doesn’t show it that way.
I didn’t expect the video to be perfect, but considering that it’s a 4K video file playing on a 1080HD display, I figured the quality would be better than what it showed. It was almost like the original file was a low-resolution file that the display was attempted to up-res and that processing was causing the video quality to degrade.
In addition to native video files, there is also an option in the app to “Upload Live Photos as Video.” I selected this item thinking that would mean Live Photos from my iPhone would upload and play successfully. I attempted to upload a Live Photo and it was a static image. That was somewhat disappointing given the ‘magic’ of Live Photos. Maybe there is a setting I’m missing, but again, there are a lot of options in the app that aren’t explained well and I really think this system would benefit from a guide or knowledge base that describes all the features.
When I first heard about the original Meural Canvas in 2015, I was thrilled that a digital display like that was going to be available to consumers. Technology has evolved a lot since then and so has the canvas, but I still see some room for improvement. The display is gorgeous and if you have the right files to upload to it, the Meural can be an exquisite centerpiece in your home or office. Given its price point though (starts at $499), one must consider if this display is the best option for their use. I do think there is merit in investing in the Meural, but only if you are seeking to display high-quality art.