Samsung’s The Frame TV is a television by day and an art piece by night

Have you ever looked at the TV that’s hanging on your wall, or standing on your cabinet, or even the one chilling on the floor, and wondered: “Gee, if only it could also double as a painting.”

No? Me neither. But Samsung has, and this is their latest concoction in the television space. It’s called The Frame TV and yes, although that’s a very peculiar name, there is a reason for that.

The idea behind The Frame TV is to give your television a purpose even when you don’t want to watch anything. Samsung says that this TV is designed to beautify your living space and “live in harmony with the homeowner’s interior decor”. They also say that it’s a “statement piece likening the home to an upscale art gallery”.

Right. Sure, the only thing that separates your living room from the Louvre is a television.

In a nutshell, though, what Samsung has actually done is create a TV that also has an “always on” setting called Art Mode. Like a normal smart TV, you can watch shows on it (it runs on Tizen), stream media and do all your television-ing.

However, when you “switch it off”, the TV then goes into Art Mode in which it can display a whole bunch of artworks from various artists (some free, some requiring a monthly subscription) in a style that makes the TV look like a framed painting. You can also use it to display personal family photos or your own smug mug if you so desire.

The Frame TV does this by employing two different sensors and what looks like a very muted display setting (low contrast, low brightness) to achieve the inanimate-painting look. It’s equipped with both an ambient light sensor and a motion sensor. The ambient light sensor detects how bright your room is and adjusts the TV’s backlight to match its surroundings so your “TV painting” doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. The motion sensor, on the other hand, is there to sense if anyone’s in the room and will switch the TV completely off if the room is empty.

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Does it work? Well, at the launch, I got to experience The Frame TV in two very different settings. The first was on the launch floor in a brightly lit room where they had three televisions on display in Art Mode and from a distance, things looked pretty realistic — much to my surprise. I was definitely impressed with how realistic they made it look.

When I went into the demo “room” setting, however, where they had the TV mounted to the wall of your typical poorly lit bedroom, the illusion quickly faded away. The TV stuck out a little too much like a sore thumb and even in Art Mode had some issues with light bleeding in from the edges. The ambient light sensor was super wonky and was far from responsive. When we switched off the lights to see how well the TV adapted to the sudden change in brightness, I was disappointed to see that it didn’t do very well.

Granted, this could be because it was a “demo unit” but it also could be that the TV just doesn’t work that well in poorly lit settings. I’d encourage you to take a look at it for yourself before judging because I’m leaning a little more towards the latter.

You will also break the whole “art piece” illusion if you don’t tuck the connection cable into your wall or behind your wallpaper. Although Samsung says it’s an “Invisible Connection”, it really isn’t. It’s a really thin wire — which is impressive considering the resolution it’s pushing — but it isn’t nearly transparent enough to be invisible. I was told it’s the same cable they use on their QLED TVs so if you have one of those, you will know what I’m talking about.

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As a television itself, The Frame TV isn’t super impressive either. It does come in crisp 4K UHD resolution on both the 55″ and 65″ models but the TV uses an LED LCD panel which means it falls short when you compare it to something like an OLED or even Samsung’s own QLED panels. I’d even say that The Frame TV doesn’t even come close to the stunning QLEDs in terms of image quality.

But then again, The Frame TV isn’t designed to be the new flagship. They’re actually quite a lot cheaper than the QLED televisions so there’s that. THe 55″ model will retail for RM9,999 while the 65″ model will go on sale for RM14,999. Both TVs will go on sale from the 15th of August 2017 onward.

If you’re worried about mounting options, each The Frame TV will come with both a TV stand as well as Samsung’s No Gap Wall Mount. Should the black frame not be authentic enough for you, Samsung is also offering wooden frames in three flavours — Walnut, Beige wood and White — that snap magnetically on to the frame of your television. These retail at RM599 each for the 55″ model and RM699 each for the 65″ model.

For more info on this, check out The Frame TV on Samsung’s website.