In 2020, Samsung introduced the fourth generation of the television/digital picture frame hybrid called The Frame.
Given that The Frame has received annual updates since 2017 and is today available in six different sizes, it should be safe to assume that it has turned out to be a successful product line for Samsung.
In this article, I will talk about some things that you may want to know about The Frame as a digital picture frame and that you might not find in the usual product reviews.
I will not do a glamorous unboxing or setup video here or talk about all the technical features. You can find them easily in plenty of other articles or directly on the Samsung website.
But there are a number of important things which you should know before buying The Frame.
My tests are unbiased. There are no financial or material donations to be disclosed. I was able to use my neighbour’s The Frame as Samsung couldn’t provide me a review model.
What is Samsung’s The Frame?
In a nutshell, The Frame is a television disguised as a picture frame.
It can be mounted flat onto a wall, has a wood-style bezel and no visible lights or operating panels that would reveal its true nature as a television.
You can use it as a regular television, display your own photos or enjoy museum-like art with a subscription service.
So instead of being a black rectangle on the wall when you are not using the television, it will become a gallery of artwork or a photo frame.
It can even become almost a part of the wall itself like a magic wand using the background as an image! I guess it does takes a few attempts to make it look like the photo below but even Harry Potter had to learn the tricks of the trade!
When it comes to photos and art size matters
No other manufacturer can match the sheer display size of Samsung’s The Frame range.
In comparison: Netgear Meural’s largest frame is 27 inches which looks tiny compared to even the smallest Samsung model.
It does come at a price. While the 32-inch model is relatively affordable at around $600, the largest model will set you back a few thousand dollars. That why I jokingly called it in the Digital Frame Finder “For Rich People”.
What you wish you had known before the purchase
Samsung’s The Frame series is no doubt a stunning concept.
I have long said that a TV makes a lousy digital picture frame because (1) a TV still looks like a TV even when you display still images, (2) the height is optimized for sitting not for standing, (3) and there is a constant effort needed to switch the TV back to digital picture frame mode instead of convenient maintenance-free operation.
But I have to admit that over the years, Samsung has improved their concept and The Frame is indeed great for digital photos or artworks.
The black box needs to go somewhere
One thing that you need to know is that The Frame is not just the frame but also a black box (“One Connect“) that you need to put somewhere. The box is rarely shown in ads. Samsung doesn’t even show it on their website.
The box contains the TV electronics and is connected to the frame with a small transparent but still visible cable (“One Wire”). The wire contains both power and the signal. The box measures around 39 x 13 x 7 cm. (15.4 x 5.1 x 2.8 in)
So if you have a gallery with only white walls and not much furniture, you will have to think hard about where to put the black box.
“One Wire” is not in-wall rated, so you can’t just make take a wall groove cutting machine and bury the cable in the wall. From what I have been reading, it needs to run through a proper conduit and you can’t bend it sharply. And both ends of the cable are very big.
The standard cable that comes with the frame is 16 feet long. You cannot extend it but you can buy a longer one for $300.
The older models didn’t have power coming from the box and the cable was in-wall rated. The new one is not.
You can make your own bezels
You can easily swap out the bezels. In earlier models they were made of wood, now it’s just plastic but it still looks high value.
You can make a bezel yourself but you will have to find a way how to keep them fastened (e.g. velcro), as the original bezels work with small magnets to hold them tight.
(Almost) no-gap wall mount
The Samsung comes with a wall mount that will keep the frame/TV very close to the wall. It’s not entirely “no gap” but it comes very close. You can tilt the wall mount up to 5 degrees.
Obviously you can also put it on a solid tripod in a larger room.
The aspect ratio is 16:9
Samsung’s The Frame, like virtually all screens larger than 27 inches, comes with an aspect ratio of 16:9. This means that, if you want to avoid black bars left and right (pillar boxing) you will have to accept a certain degree of cropping.
If you are a DSLR photographer your aspect ratio is 3:2. This means that about 15% needs to be cut from the image. In many cases, this may not matter much, in others you may be missing important image areas.
Most artworks were also not painted on a widescreen canvas, so inherently, something will be lost.
You may want to take this into account when you take photos. Just leave a bit more space around the edges.
No screen burn-in
Some of us may remember the burn-in effect resulting in shadow images on your screen when an image was displayed constantly in the same spot, like e.g. a TV station logo.
There is no risk that this can happen with The Frame, the QLED displays are not prone to this behavior.
The power consumption of a large screen is considerably higher
In this article I have compared the electricity costs in various countries based on the screen size.
Obviously a large screen needs almost proportionally more power.
Samsung has integrated a power-saving feature which reduces power usage by 30 to 40% when the TV is off. Still, you are easily looking at 100W and more when the picture frame/art mode is on.
Voice control may be limited
The Frame is compatible with Bixby (Samsung’s Alexa), Google Voice Assistant, and Alexa. However, only Bixby (which most of us probably don’t use) offers many commands. Alexa and Google Assistant are limited to a few commands. But then again, you probably won’t need so many voice commands for your frame anyway.
No videos and own photos must have the right format
One thing you may know already is that you cannot upload videos.
What you may not know is that photos must be edited in a 16:9 aspect ratio, which translates in a pixel size of 3840 x 2160 px to allow you add to choose mats and color. This may change in the future with software updates.
Alternatively you have twenty art images that come for free with the frame and you can subscribe to a Samsung art service to receive more.
If you want to start your own collection of free art, have a look at my article “The 3 ultimate sources for legally downloading classical art and how to best present it on your digital picture frame“.
The display quality is absolutely stunning
Samsung is one of the leading display manufacturers in the world, and they typically build them with a very high-quality standard.
This is also true for The Frame which offers an outstanding display from all angles. You won’t find anything to complain about. It’s just great.
Nothing beats Samsung’s The Frame as an exclusive and very large digital picture frame. If you have the means, you may not even want to also use it as television but optimize the viewing experience and hang it up in the best location for photos and art.
With sizes ranging from 32 to 75 inches there is something for every taste and wallet.