If you’re looking for the ultimate TV that doesn’t appear to be a TV, look no farther than Samsung’s The Frame.” It’s a quantum-dot LCD styled to appear as a wall-hung picture frame that displays art when you’re not watching video of some sort, and it looks amazingly convincing in that role.
Throw in custom-colored bezels, a library of 1,400 available works of art (20 are included in the purchase price), and even the most demanding home decorator should be pleased.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart TVs, where you'll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.
Design and specs
To better mimic a wall-hung picture, The Frame uses a rectangular replaceable bezel that juts out slightly beyond the 60Hz, 10-bit, 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) LCD panel. The back is completely flat, with a recess where the included, shallow-profile wall mount is attached. Yup, it fits flush against the wall, just like a picture frame.
If the stock bezel doesn’t appeal to your color sense or match your décor, white, pink, beige, brown, and yellow bezels that attach magnetically to the main chassis are available for $100 each.
As normal power and connection cables would sully the aesthetics, The Frame also features Samsung’s One Connect single-cable connection. This clear (except for the wire) cable connects to a breakout box that houses most of the electronics and all the ports. Given a suitably light-colored wall, the cable is hard to spot. It will stand out more against dark surfaces.
Obviously, a picture frame is useless without pictures, and Samsung supplies about 1,400 of those in its Art Store. Alas, it’s not all gratis. You get 20 free works of art, and a free three-month subscription to the store; after that, a subscription costs $5 per month. You can also purchase works you like for $20 each.
The Frame is currently available in 32-inch ($600), 43-inch ($1,000), 50-inch ($1,300), 55-inch ($1,500), 65-inch ($2,000), and 75-inch ($3,000) flavors. A Black Friday sale happening as of this writing discounts those prices.
Connectivity includes four HDMI ports (one of which supports ARC), two USB ports, ethernet, coaxial (for a TV antenna), digital optical (Toslink) audio output, and a 3.5mm RS232C jack for integration. 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are also provided, and the latter supports low-latency connections so you can use headphones and other speakers without undo lag.
Interface and remote
The remote is Samsung’s familiar One Remote, with its minimalist layout and controls. It’s very classy, and in this case, it’s white.
The Samsung Smart Hub user interface is one of the best in the industy, easy to use and to configure. That said, settings menus requires lots of drilling down, and you’re never returned to where you left off the last time you visited the Smart Hub. Then again, how often to you tweak settings?
There’s a large collection of apps, including all the biggies (Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and so on). It’s not as good as Android TV, but it’s very good.
The Frame delivers a very good picture. It’s everything it needs to be for its intended role and offers excellent viewing angles and screen conformity (there’s no cloudiness from coatings).
For movies and TV, however, it’s not up to what I’ve seen from Samsung’s most recent high-end entries. Yes, I’ve been spoiled. Put another way, it reminds me far more of the 2019 Q60R I reviewed this time last year than something like the Q80R or Q90R, let alone the superb 8K Q900R. Then again, those TVs will do no better displaying static art than The Frame, and wouldn’t look as good on your wall.
I’m guessing part of the reason The Frame’s image is not Samsung’s best is that the company doesn’t make its best TVs in smaller sizes. When this 43-inch was delivered, one of our front desk folks volunteered that they liked the size better than the massive sets we usually get in for review.
It does seem like the mammoth-sized TV market has become saturated, or perhaps viewers feel overwhelmed by them. We’re starting to see things like 49-inch OLEDs, and other smaller-sized high-end LCD drop in the market. I hope Samsung’s numbers push them in this direction as well.
Perhaps it’s not high-end in terms of brightness, or in the way it handles pans of complex images, but The Frame’s color is excellent due Samsung’s well-known quantum dot technology. Motion compensation was surprisingly good considering the TV has only a 60Hz refresh rate. There is enough peak brightness that the HDR effect will be noticeable with HDR material, it just wasn’t as spectacular as it can be with more contrast and brightness available.
Note that The Frame will sense ambient light while in Art Mode and adjust accordingly to give you the proper amount of brightness. Given normal lighting at any rate—if direct sunlight hits the sensor, all bets are off.
Pricey but worth it for the shape-conscious
The Frame is all about looking good on a wall displaying art, and it does that extremely well—far better than any other TV I’ve seen. For that, it’s a stellar product and very, very good overall TV.