Updated March 26, 2019
Hiding your TV has always been a challenge to pull off. The mechanics of dropping it from a ceiling, lifting an art piece or hiding it behind a mirror are complex before you even get to the wiring, sound and control. The result can be glorious but it’s one of the most challenging things we do. Samsung’s new digital art display, The Frame, brings a simpler solution to the home… and it looks really good.
Throw some digital art on a normal flat screen and you can call it art, but everyone else will call it a TV with a picture on it. The Frame on the other hand looks so realistic it’s almost bizarre. To start the image is extremely sharp and clean: 4K resolution, wide color gamut, 120hz refresh rate… but far less reflective than the average display. The bevel shading and slight tonal changes across the digital matte really help sell the illusion when in art mode. Hanging only 2 inches off the wall (with a thin black bezel that can also be customized with snap on frames in walnut, beige wood or white) it successfully pulls double duty as fully connected smart TV and digital art display.
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It does, however, require quite a bit of tuning.
Our of the box the image is way too dark. Don’t bother looking for picture settings on the TV itself. Go straight to the App and move the brightness up. Your levels will depend on the amount of ambient light in the room but we recommend somewhere in the top third of the spectrum. We found this level of brightness couples really well with darker images. Brighter images tend to look too reflective and give away the illusion. Your frame choice can be brighter to pop against the darker art work, but don’t go white.
When white balancing for the room you’re in, hold up a piece of white paper to define how white looks in that particular room’s lighting. You’d be surprised how off you can be when trying to eye ball it. From there when setting the color warmth, the top third of the spectrum looks the most realistic, but all the way up looks too yellow.
Here’s where things get tricky. Yes, The Frame is designed to be a flush-mountable display, but it also comes with a receiver that needs to connect to that display. This receiver houses the brains of the TV, as well as all the connections that would normally live on the back of the TV. A single proprietary cable called an Invisible Connection runs between them, and comes with two issues: a) It’s not invisible, and b) it only comes in 16 and 49 feet lengths. This requires both running the connection behind your wall and carefully considering the distance of your receiver’s (hopefully out of the way) location.
Once installed it’s fairly intuitive to control via the App. Our only complaint is the auto-off and on feature. While auto-off works well, the movement based auto-on feature is pretty spotty. If automated control is important to you we recommend tying it into a control system that can turn it on as you arrive home, and turn itself off as you go to bed.
Sound is the final installation hurdle. As TVs get thinner on board sound becomes less and less acceptable, and The Frame is no exception. The unique challenge here is that you’re trying to downplay the presence of technology, not add more electronics around your Frame. For a digital art display that can also make an impact in TV mode we recommend invisible speakers. The great benefit of recessing and thinly covering your speakers into your wall is that you can place them anywhere you want, since nobody can see them.
Overall we’re very impressed with Samsung’s approach to a digital art display. It’s the best of its kind, but it does call for a specialty installer if you really want to do it right.