Samsung The Frame
For about as long as flat-panel TVs have dominated our living rooms it seems like we’ve been trying to disguise them. So, to see if Samsung’s The Frame lives up to the promise of a TV hiding a screen in plain sight, we tested it for a few weeks.
At its core, the Frame is a 4K display with a 40 Hz motion rate and 120 Hz refresh rate; the latter helps smooth out what you’re watching. The image is bright, defined with good color and contrast—this isn’t a case where a kitschy gimmick is masking lesser technology. Wrapped around the TV is a magnetic bezel that accepts different metal “frames,” in four parts, that snap onto the TV with magnets (the TV ships with black, and you can get faux wood grain in walnut, a vaguely Scandinavian-like birch, or white for an extra $200 or $250, depending on the TV’s size). The roughly two-inch thick frame, in conjunction with the included no-gap mount, means the TV hugs the wall nearly as tightly as a piece of framed art. The TV ships with legs that will rest on furniture, but let’s face it—if you get this, you’ll want it on the wall where it would actually replicate installed art.
While the frame on the TV helps execute its look, what really allows it to hang tight to the wall is Samsung’s One Connect box. Instead of a freeway of wires exiting the back of the TV, Samsung puts all the unsightly connections in its One Connect box, a separate black rectangle (borrowed from Samsung’s QLEDs) that has a power port, AUX output, common interface, optical, Ethernet, four HDMI 2.0, and the port that links the box to the TV. From the One Connect, a thin, translucent cable that looks like an old-school lamp cord connects to the TV (the only other connection is the TV’s power cord) and you can keep the connections off to the side in or on a piece of furniture. News flash: It’s really helpful to not have all of the ports you need access to smashed between the back of the TV and the wall. If you plan to hang the TV on the wall without seeing any wires, it’s worth noting the two cords connecting the One Connect to the Frame TV aren’t rated to be buried in a wall, but Samsung says they’re working on a solution for that soon.
What sets this TV apart is its Art Mode feature, which allows you to select from about 100 stock paintings, prints, photos, and digital art that displays on the screen when the TV is off (you can get a $5 monthly subscription for a constantly updated gallery to pick from or, of course, upload your own). A motion sensor detects when someone’s in the room so the Art Mode shuts off when no one is there. Samsung says when the art is displayed, the Frame is consuming about as much power as a typical cable box. You can control all of this, and options like art work matting, with the remote or an app. The remote and TV were smart enough to control our non-Samsung brand soundbar right out of the box without any complicated syncing.
We found the Art Mode worked well from across the room, but you’ll want to keep it out of direct sunlight where the glare ruins the illusion. Would it survive a up close scrutiny for oil on canvas? Maybe not, but on a wall mixed in with other framed pieces it certainly hides itself when you’re not watching TV. The Art Mode aside, this is a solid looking TV, though a bit pricey for the tech packed in. — Sal Vaglica, Senior Editor
[$1,200 to $2,500; samsung.com]
Samsung The Frame