In my 24 years as a publisher and 30 in the specialty AV business, no single product category has transformed the marketplace more than the flat TV. For many of us, it is hard to remember what a "big screen TV" looked like before the days of early plasmas and LCDs, but let me remind you: they were physically huge yet the screens themselves were relatively small as compared to what you can drag home from Costco for $500 or $600 these days. Consumers, far beyond the realm of our enthusiast bubble here at HomeTheaterReview.com, flocked to specialty retailers to consider spending big money on a plasma, and why not? You could literally hang one on a wall like a piece of art and that was a concept anyone could see the benefits of.
Since the introduction of the flat TV, we've seen billions upon billions of dollars invested into manufacturing thinner, bigger, and much better video display technologies. Which brings me to the Samsung Frame 2019 Edition (in various sizes, colors. and configurations).
This is a 4K Quantum Dot UHD/4K television that appeals to the higher end customer who wants a TV to look like art in every possible way, not just conceptually. Literally speaking, the Samsung Frame 2019 Edition comes in a form factor that mounts on the wall, not so much like a TV, but more like a Warhol or Picasso. The Frame comes with wooden border options in different colors and finishes that can be set as you like and changed over time with a little bit of effort. It can be mounted on an optional, three-pronged stand if you want your UHD TV to standout in the room as a design statement. The configuration options are bountiful with The Samsung Frame, but the real appeal of this display is that it hides the behind-the-scenes workings of your TV and in some rooms - specifically my living room - that is just an aesthetic game-changer.
An AV industry friend of mine back in Philadelphia recently texted me a photo of the local grocery store circular offering a coupon for a $399 65-inch LG LED 4K TV. If that deal appeals to you, this isn't your TV. The Samsung Frame comes in 43-, 55-, and 65-inch models, and are relatively expensive. While I own two current Samsung Frame products (55- and 65-inch) the subject of the review is the 2019 Edition 65-inch model, currently priced at $1,795. That price doesn't factor in the cost of installation, which we will get into more in a bit.
Another caveat is that if you're here for gamut plots and grayscale charts, this also likely isn't the TV for you. There are other expensive sets like Sony Master Series and LG OLEDs, Samsung's less design-oriented QLEDs and the like where such measurements make sense, as performance is everything. Here's the thing, though: while all of those TVs deliver AMG levels of performance, they just can't do a Mark Rothko impersonation while hanging on your wall, no matter what mounting hardware you buy. As such, I'll be focusing as much on The Frame as a design statement as I will be on its merits as a TV.
One thing you need to know about the Samsung Frame is that the most of the guts of the UHD TV are housed in Samsung's now-standard One Connect: a rectangular box about the size of one of today's super-slim UHD Blu-ray players. And that box needs to somehow be hidden in your wall if you want the slick look of a TV that hangs like a piece of art. Unless you're pretty handy, this is the work of a custom installer. My go-to firm, Simply Home Entertainment, installed a back-box behind the TV and coordinated with my electrician to have AC power installed between the studs. HDMI is run over CAT-7, thus that connection is easy. The front end of my system is via Crestron DM video switching, but any modern AV receiver could serve as a way less expensive option. I use Crestron so that all of my sources can be accessed in every system in my house, but that is a pricey way to go even if the overall cost of this level of integration has dropped by two thirds in the past 10 years. A $500 AV receiver could easily pull off these tricks in a single room system.
One unusual thing to consider is that you'll want to select the correct frame color for the display, but once you get everything hanged and the frame in place, you immediately understand why you paid four or five times more for a 65-inch UHD TV. The Samsung Frame looks absolutely killer on the wall. This is what we thought we were buying with generation-one plasma sets.
I wrote a lot about remote controls here at HomeTheaterReview.com in 2019. The Control4 Neeo was inspiration for much of that discussion, but even the stock, non-backlit DirecTV remote caught my attention. One thing the DirecTV remote does well is to have actual hard buttons or toggles if you will for volume and channel control4, which is super-useful. The very narrow, white, non-backlit Samsung has the same concept for volume and channel. The rest of the remote is very simplified. There is a voice activation button, which I never use because I don't like voice control of AV components (Millennials can tell me how crazy I am in the comments, but I don't really care). There is a power toggle, a home button, pause, and a few others. Most of what you use, though, is on the directional pad in the middle of the remote. At the very bottom, you see the outside influence on the remote, as there are hard buttons for Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. What will Samsung do when Apple comes calling? Or Disney? Oh, the politics of it all...
Despite what those three quick-access buttons may lead you to believe, the Frame actually has access to most of the streaming apps you might want to use. Much of my 4K viewing was done on Amazon Prime and or Netflix, but there are all sorts of other streaming options. Personally, I prefer a Roku external streamer from a performance angle to built-in streaming apps, but I am an extremist. I could see how 90 percent of lifestyle-oriented users will be just fine with the internal apps.
Internal (and External) Audio Performance
One thing to consider with a TV like the Frame is that you likely won't be using it in conjunction with a full-fledged component home theater system. Considering the form factor, though, the internal speaker solution is... well, it's acceptable. Honestly, any upgrade you make to the sound will be a huge improvement--even a soundbar without a subwoofer.
I am using Nakymatone invisible speakers above my Samsung Frame paired with Grey Sound in-ceiling subwoofers, both powered by the new Anthem MRX-8 distribution amp complete with Anthem Room Correction. The invisible speaker system pair with the Frame is like mating peanut butter with chocolate, and if you're really looking to do this TV justice, it's the sort of solution you want to consider.
Buying Art for The Frame
The Samsung Frame 2019 Edition doesn't just provide an art gallery look and feel in the physical domain; it actually offers you the option to buy artwork to display on your screen. For just under $5 per month, you can have access to an entire host of images that you put in regular rotation on your TV when you're not watching it. While I simply hate the recurring revenue model, where so many companies want to get their blood from you every month, I signed up for review purposes. Let me say this: the collection has many options, but not many that appealed to me. There are some free ones that you can use or you can upload your own images and make your Frame act like one of those rotating frame thingies you got your Gran for Christmas in 1999. That's the free way.
The more expensive way has you buck up by making an account and in my case connecting my PayPal account. From there, it gets even more complicated. During Thanksgiving, I sat with my mother who has a Masters in Fine Art to select images to rotate, but we encountered some really glitchy issues, in that the menus are provided by art collection. Once you are done with one of them, you revert back to the start of what is a pretty long list.
But things get worse in that some functions that you need to set the rotation are in the bottom of the on-screen menu, with other key functions at the top of the menus. This is just maddening, but I eventually got through it with a selection of about seven or eight images that we agreed to. What is cool is the idea that the TV can be left on as a painting of sorts, and it will power save when you aren't in the room but will snap back to life when you trigger its proximity sensors.
At first, I set the rotation too fast, but eventually had the art change on the hour. I have some really good photographer friends whom I am going to ask for images to upload to the set so I can cancel this recurring subscription ASAP, but it was worth playing with for a few months as part of the review. Simply put, Samsung needs much more access to 20th century art (think: Warhol, Lichtenstein, Picasso, etc.) to be worth the money. Much of the more modern art isn't blue chip enough, although there is more to choose from if you are into, say, abstract expressionist for example.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...