The market is constantly changing when it comes to consumer electronics. That change is motivated by the consumers' desire for technological advancement and innovation. We want 4K, HDR, OLED, Ambilight and 120hz - and it needs to come cheap and look pretty at the same time. Manufacturers are constantly following these trends, updating their product ranges periodically. That's the industry in broad strokes. However, every once in a while, something very special happens: a new type of product is introduced. Not as a response to a perceived need for technological advancement and development, but because someone, somewhere, had an original idea. Such is the birth of entirely new concepts - and we took a look at this particular origination.
We are of course talking about The Frame, by Samsung, a flat screen television that may at first sound rather ordinary, looking only at the specifications. Specs can be deceiving, however, and when looking at one of the product trailers - or indeed the television itself - it becomes obvious that something entirely different is at play.
So, what's so different about this particular television? Well, it's an above-average TV that comes in different sizes - 43, 55 or 65 inches - but those are rather mundane facts. It really isn't about what you get from turning the TV on, it's what you get from turning it off. With the single press of a button, the TV is shut off. However, instead of being turned into a black, passive box in the living room, the TV is transformed into a piece of artwork, a painting, or a photograph. The power usage is lowered by somewhere between 70 and 80 percent. You can customise the frames around the picture and the TV itself can detect the light-level of the room, ensuring that the brightness of the screen blends in naturally. Furthermore, The Frame includes a series of actual frames - allowing you to camouflage the TV as an actual painting on your wall, lying in wait until you reveal its true identity.
That may sound like what's commonly known as a gimmick; a rather shallow concept that does not meaningfully change the user experience. And sure, the idea is at least somewhat familiar (see Phillip's Ambilight-technology), but it cannot be stressed enough just how this technology fundamentally changes the television's role in whatever room it's placed in. With the surrounding frames and the mounting accessory that allows you to fit the TV closely to the wall, the illusion is complete - you've acquired a new painting for the living room. Just think about the many hours of the day - where your TV is turned off - and all the attention that it still calls upon itself. The Frame provides an elegant, aesthetically pleasing solution to this problem. It's one of those situations where you stop and wonder: why didn't anyone think of this before?
Included in the price, and we'll get to that, you get the TV (obviously), as well as a small cable box that needs to be inserted in order to even turn on the television. That may sound like a bit of work, but it's really there to save future hassle: the TV has no ports of any kind, they are all located in the box. Additionally, you get a cool transparent cable (5 meters) to better obscure the technological nature of The Frame. That way, you can hide video game consoles, AppleTV, Chromecast or whatever have you, far away from the actual "painting".
You also get a collection of more than 100 pieces of officially licensed artwork. You can choose freely between them or use your own personal pictures. This collection of artwork is periodically updated and it's possible to acquire even more through a subscription service. Samsung has made agreements with several artists, both alive and dead, allowing you to showcase the paintings of many different artists, without having to buy their lithographs. For example, the representatives of Asger Jorn's estate (a famous Danish painter) have provided a series of well-known works by the artist.
Naturally, The Frame doesn't only revolve around this particular concept. The TV is capable of everything the consumer can and should expect: LED, HDR, 4K (of course) as well additional dynamic contrast, UHD Dimming, and Dolby Digital Plus. The TV may not exactly be bleeding edge with regards to the newest technologies, but Samsung still provides all the ingredients needed in creating a sharp, crisp image. The additional tech that the manufacturer has been working on and improving for several years are of course present here, including exceptional light- and black-levels. Of course, the television doesn't provide the sharpness of an OLED-screen, but it's not far off.
However, as we made it clear from the beginning, The Frame is about something else other than simply being ahead of the technological arms race. Its design revolves around one concept, one central idea, and if that does not appeal to you, then you might baulk at the somewhat hefty price tag (which starts at around £1000 for the 43 inch screen). If you are on the lookout for a television that does more for your living room than, well, being a television, then The Frame may provide that sort revelation that you have been searching for.
The Frame is expensive, there is no way around that. But if you willing to try something a little different, then we fully believe it to be worth every penny.