TVs have come a long way since the days of the boxy CRT sets. But they all continue to look like a big blank canvas, especially when not in use. Like a seasoned painter who sees art everywhere, Samsung recognised the potential and has turned this blank canvas into a piece of art.
I’ve been living with The Frame TV 2021 edition for the past couple of weeks, and can confirm that it's well worth looking at, even when there’s nothing on. So, is it worth buying one? Well, read on.
Straight outta gallery
To say that The Frame looks like a painting – especially when in Art mode – is not an understatement. As the name suggests, this TV is supposed to be hung like a painting in your room, and it has been designed accordingly.
For one, the TV has uniform thickness and with the help of Samsung’s Slim Fit wall mount, it sits flush on the wall. All the connectivity options are in an external One Connect box that can be hidden easily anywhere. A thin, near-invisible fibre optic cable connects the TV and the box, routing power, network and sound and vision. It is not only aesthetic, but also really convenient as you won’t have to blindly probe the TV’s behinds searching for the ports.
Straight out of the box, the TV’s thin uniform bezels feel unintrusive, and scream for some customisation. Speaking of which, Samsung offers plastic bezels in different colours that magnetically snap onto the TV. While these are optional add-ons, it’s all but a written requirement when buying The Frame. Prices for the bezels start from ₹5,700 on Samsung’s website.
You get four pieces of bezels – two long ones for the top and bottom, and two shorter ones for the sides – in a separate. Installation is a breeze as they snap onto the TV easily, and when fitted properly, there are no gaps on the corners. You also get four pieces of plastic that you can use to lock the bezel into place on the back.
Once you select bezels that complement your home decor, and mount the TV on the wall, it really does look like a painting, and the bezels are built in a way that won’t distract you when watching TV.
Of course to really bring home that Jehangir Art Gallery vibe, you’ll need to display a Van Gogh or Rembrant on your wall. For that you can subscribe to Samsung’s Art Store, which at ₹299/month, costs as much as an OTT service. At that price you get access to over 1,000 works of art from old masters and new, and the collection keeps growing with Samsung routinely adding new works.
It might come across as a tad expensive, but without the artwork, you won’t be doing justice to The Frame. Alternatively, you can also upload your own photos (or masterpieces if you’re into it) using the SmartThings phone app.
The built-in Ambient Art Mode comes on the moment you switch off the TV or it goes into standby mode. The way it displays the art is close to how a painting would look and not like a wallpaper on a display. So it is not extremely bright, and the brightness adjusts to the room’s lighting. Similar to how Apple’s True Tone tech works, the light sensor on the TV matches the screen’s brightness to the room. You can also customise the paintings’ borders and add filters to suit your tastes.
The overall experience is what sets The Frame apart from traditional tellys, and makes the best use of an otherwise blank space. With bezels matching the walls, and a few works of art loaded on the TV, you can throw pretentious wine and cheese parties to discuss art with connoisseurs.
Being a lifestyle product, it would have been entirely possible for The Frame’s display performance to not match up to serious TVs. But that isn’t the case here, and the display is on par with other Samsung QLED products.
Images are deliciously colour-rich with a certain degree of vibrancy, high contrast HDR, and razor sharp details. It is perfect for displaying M. F. Husain’s Karbala, as well as watching Good Doctor. When streaming the medical drama, the telly comfortably manages the characters’ skin tones, the flurry of colours in the busy hospital, and the varied levels of lighting in an operating theatre.
Gaming via the PlayStation 4 Pro is also handled with ease, and engaging the Game Mode really enhances the overall experience. The Adaptive Picture intelligently adjusts the screen settings based on the content and ambient lighting conditions. We however found it to be a tad too aggressive, and opted for manually configuring the settings.
Samsung’s The Frame runs Tizen OS, and it feels a bit lethargic when compared to the UI on Google TV, Fire Stick or the Apple TV. You can control different aspects of the TV using the SmartThings app, which we found to be quite useful. You can also choose between Bixby, Alexa or Google Assistant to control the TV features using voice.
The Multi View mode comes handy when you want to watch two things at a time. It is also of great help when your wife complains about you spending too much time on the PlayStation. Now you can both be in the same room, and while you play your game, she can watch her favourite series. The telly is also able to send audio to two sources at a time – for example the soundbar and a pair of headphones.
Speaking of audio, the 40W speakers on board are loud enough for an average sized room. But they lack the bass that would otherwise add to the overall viewing experience. You would be better served connecting a soundbar to the HDMI eARC port for a wholesome experience.
Samsung’s The Frame 2021 is a unique telly. While rival brands are busy offering more pixels, latest display tech, and power, they are doing little to make use of the big blank screen when the TV is not in use. The Frame is good when watching TV, and great when not in use.
The customisable bezel options and the sheer number of artwork on offer will keep your TV looking new, and will give interior designers goosebumps. In this world of same looking widescreen televisions, The Frame comes across as a breath of fresh air.