The 2020 Samsung The Frame is not your typical 4K TV. In fact, there is no other TV like it on the market. When hung on the wall it doesn’t even look like a TV. It looks like art, and it will certainly turn heads. If you want a TV that blends into the decor of your room, then The Frame is it!
Getting The Frame to appear like wall art is only one part of the story. There is quite a lot to unpack. This review examines picture quality, mounting, hookup, functionality, usability, art mode, ambient mode, streaming options, voice features, design options, and more. When all is said and done, The Frame has a lot going for it, but like any piece of art — some people find it breathtaking, others bewildered. Similarly, The Frame had me in awe and perplexed.
The Frame is actually two products in one. It’s both a high-end digital picture frame and a LED-backlit QLED 4K HDR TV. And since it comes with a wall-mount (most other TVs don’t) buyer’s should realize they’re getting everything in the box, including some unique extra parts. To get a perfectly flush mount, the brains of the TV are housed in an external box, called the One Connect. Only a thin fiber-optic wire, called the “Invisible Connection”, connects between The Frame and the One Connect box. That means any ugly wiring to/from other components go into the One Connect, instead of the TV. Plus, the box doesn’t need line-of-sight to the remote and can be hidden anywhere within reach of the 5 meter (16 foot) “invisible” cable. For longer runs, Samsung offers a 15 meter “invisible” cable for $299.
If you’re upgrading from a TV more than a few years old, you certainly won’t be disappointed. The Frame is essentially Samsung’s Q70T 4K TV (65-inch, $1299 at Amazon) wrapped into a prettier design. Comparing picture quality alone, The Frame and the Q70T should be indistinguishable. Although it should be noted, the Q70T (and the Frame) is a mid-specification model in regards to picture quality that’s two steps down from Samsung’s top-of-the-line Q90T 4K TV (65-inch, $1,899 at Amazon) for 2020. Of the three models, The Frame still makes a compelling case. It’s sleek, jaw-dropping design, especially when mounted are the reason you’d want The Frame even though you pay a premium for design. There simply is no better priced alternative to achieve a no-gap wall-mountable TV at its price point.
The Frame is designed to be wall mounted. It also comes with a basic low profile stand that’s helpful to get the TV upright while preparing for mounting. The mounting kit includes two main parts: a wall plate that screws into the wall and TV plate that screws into the back of the TV. Once both are installed, two people can lift the TV into the interlocking position on the wall for a perfectly flush mount. Optionally, the mount allows for a few degrees of forward tilt. Just remember to connect the Invisible Connection cable to the back of the TV before mounting. It’s also a good idea to snap a photo of the serial number on the back of the TV. You’ll need it if there’s ever a warranty issue.
Once The Frame is mounted the Invisible Connection cable will hang down from the center of the TV, but it could be channeled into conduit within the wall. Oddly, the included “invisible” cable is not in-wall rated. However, it should be safe within in-wall conduit. To adhere to building code, Samsung offers an in-wall rated Invisible Connection cable for $299. For increased longevity don’t bend that cable.
Mounting the Frame is very simple, but somewhat limited. While other TV mounts provide 36-inches of width to attach to three studs, The Frame’s wall mount is only 20-inches wide, which limits mounting between two studs (normally 16-inches apart). That’s fine if your desired wall hanging position is between studs. However, in my case a stud was dead center of the room and the mount wasn’t wide enough to reach another stud. That left me only two screw holes in the middle to burrow into a stud. Smaller sized Frame TVs would probably hold. I didn’t want to risk hanging a 65–inch, 56 lbs TV based only on two screws. Drywall anchors are included for such cases, but I couldn’t get a tight fit with them. Purchasing heavy duty wall anchors would had been my next step had The Frame not been on loan from Samsung. Instead, the The Frame ended up on its low profile stand (also included).
When the Frame is first turned on, it greets you with a screen directing you to download the Samsung SmartThings App, create an account, and agree to a bunch of terms that nobody reads. Once the TV is connected to your home Wi-Fi, the SmartThings app on your smartphone should be able to locate the TV. Going forward you don’t need the SmartThings app, but it serves as a secondary remote and control center for automated tasks — not just for the TV, but other smart devices too. The initial setup took about 15 minutes including installation of software updates.
Once the initial setup completed, the Samsung Home Screen appears. It’s the central place to access everything from TV settings to streaming apps. Free live streaming TV channels are instantly accessible to start watching, including Bloomberg, CBSN, Cheddar, and hundreds more niche channels. It seems mostly the same channels found within the Pluto TV app, but Samsung makes it accessible and integrates it into its own app called Samsung TV Plus.
Don’t be alarmed if the TV picture quality looks sub optimal when you first start watching. The problem is the default Standard color mode that is way too bright, over saturates colors and makes skin blotchy. Once switching to the Movie color setting, picture quality drastically improved. There’s even more advanced color settings to tweak in the menu, but I think most people would be just fine with Movie mode regardless of the content displayed.
One of the stand-out features of The Frame is Dual LED backlighting. While many budget LCD TVs have a single edge-lit backlight, Samsung uses two. Each is set to a different color temperature in which Samsung claims improves color and contrast. Although this technology may improve some scenes, it’s still a step-down from direct full array backlighting found in Samsung’s premium models.
Issues that affect many LCD TVs don’t escape The Frame. Brightness drops off dramatically at off angle viewing. Anyone seated beyond 30-degrees to the left or right will notice a washed out picture. The screen is highly reflective and can pickup a good amount of glare from nearby windows, especially at off-angles. Also, too much sunlight won’t be friendly to picture quality either. Yet despite the issues, I was still able to watch football games during the day just fine as long as I was seated straight on.
Overall picture quality is respectable. I wasn’t blown away, but I suspect most people would be! Black levels struggled a bit on some of the darker scenes from Disney’s Mandalorian, but not to the point any casual observer would be displeased. Colors in movie mode have a nice cinematic warmth to them, and the screen is not obnoxiously bright. Scenes with fast moving motion held together without any noticeable pixelation or distracting trailing blur. I’d also recommend turning off Eco and Intelligence features, as they both seemed to hurt picture quality more than help. Once I got settings dialed in, I truly enjoyed watching for hours. Despite some early apprehensions, The Frame was growing on me with time.
The Frame comes with an ergonomic white remote that’s slightly curved. It feels nice in your hand and most of the buttons are intuitive. However, the volume up/down initially had me stumped, because you don’t actually press them down, you nudge it up from bottom. I don’t recall encountering such behavior in another remote. Luckily it was easy to get used to. There aren’t many buttons on the remote, and it’s mainly designed for navigating the menu and loading apps. In that respect it’s easy to use. Also, there’s a voice button for speaking commands. Alexa and Google Assistant voice services are compatible. Samsung’s Bixby too.
I was able to connect my Amazon Echo to The Frame fairly easily. Then I tried asking Alexa what seemed logical to me. After much trial and error (comical error), the most I could successfully get Alexa to do was power on/off the TV or change the volume. With multi-step commands, Alexa wouldn’t have a clue. There are key phrases to memorize that would have helped, but I never remembered which order to say things. Perhaps others may have better luck trying Google Assistant or Samsung’s Bixby. Regardless, the better use case for voice is built into the remote. Just hold down the microphone button and speak. For example, “Play most popular videos on YouTube” or “Start Netflix” worked. But it only works when the TV is already on, whereas the other voice services can work hands-free via wake word (such as Alexa) when the TV is off.
The Frame comes pre-loaded with many popular apps like YouTube, Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video. You just need to login with your account credentials. For others, you have to manually install from the TV’s “app store”, where I added HBO MAX, CBS All Access and Showtime. Alternatively, you can stream videos from Apple devices via AirPlay 2. However, The Frame doesn’t include Chromecast, which would have been a nice-to-have feature. I believe Android users can still mirror their smartphone screen to get similar functionality, but I was only able to test AirPlay from a MacBook Pro (2012), iPad Pro (2018), iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro. All worked, except a picture-in-picture feature called Multi-view would sometimes load the AirPlay stream into a split screen along with whatever was previous playing. Multi-view is a feature that allows you to watch two programs at once. But for me it just kept getting in the way when I didn’t expect it, and I couldn’t find a way to disable it. Others may like the option of watching two things at once.
Having never reviewed or owned a Samsung TV, the on-screen menu system took some getting used to. Again, it’s another default settings issue. All the streaming apps are tucked behind an app icon that’s four clicks away and not even visible on the home screen. The default path to YouTube took a frustrating 7 clicks. Then one day I discovered the “Favorites” feature. Once you Favorite (heart) your preferred apps, they’ll stay on your home screen menu bar (next to Samsung TV Plus) where they’re just a click or two away. What an improvement. If only I had found this feature a month earlier.
One final thing on usability. You’ll want to dig into the settings menu under “General -> Smart Features” and enable “Auto run last app” to keep things where you left off. Otherwise, you’ll end up having Samsung’s TV Plus app load all too often as the default.
Finally, the Art
All of this being said and I haven’t even mentioned the art. The art is the best part! It’s the reason to buy the TV in the first place. 20 free art images are included to try out, and it works with any digital print you can find — even your own photos. When using your own images, the main thing to remember is to crop to 3840×2160 resolution to natively fill the screen. Art aficionados and less tech-savvy users will appreciate the convenience of Samsung’s $4.99/monthly art subscription to access over 1,200 pieces of artwork from the likes of the Royal Collection Trust, Magnum Photos, Artspace and more. Samsung also sells individual digital prints for $19.99.
Once you find art to your liking, you can apply a matte style and matte color to achieve a realistic picture frame look. Once set, the art can appear manually or automated. The manual method loads the previously selected art upon pressing the power (art) button on the remote. If the TV is off, double clicking power loads art. If the TV is on, a single power press loads art. A long (hold) power press turns the TV all the way on for watching TV or all the way off. Somewhat confusing to write, but easy to pick up on as the Art Mode resides in a middle state between off and on. For automation, return to the SmartThings app to customize the display of art, such as at specific times of day or other triggers. Lastly, motion and light sensors act can be activated in the menu to turn off the TV completely when nobody is around.
In addition to Art mode, there’s Ambient mode which plays music corresponding with a various full screen still or moving images. It’s somewhat like a fancy screensaver, but with more options. It’s also found in other Samsung TVs, and because of Art mode I found little use for it.
The Frame’s black bezel comes standard, but a white, beige or brown bezel can be purchased for an additional $199. The optional bezels come in pieces that snap into place around the TV, covering up the black frame. In lieu of wall mounting, Samsung offers a three-legged Studio Stand for $299. Lastly, if you need an Invisible Connection cable longer than the 5 meter (16.4′) one that’s included, Samsung makes a 15 meter (49.2′) cable that’s $299.
There isn’t much that competes against The Frame for the price. Other no-gap wall-mountable 2020 TVs include LG’s Wallpaper OLED 4K TVs ($3999 at Buydig) and LG’s GX Gallery Design OLED 4K TVs (65-inch, $2599 at Amazon). Sony’s A8H OLED 4K TV with mount (65-inch, $2146 at Amazon is another strong contender that’s super-thin, but can’t be mounted as flush to the wall as The Frame. All cost a lot more, and the main reason to buy them is if money is no object and picture quality is of greater importance than appearance.
The 2020 Samsung The Frame 65-inch is a good 4K TV with a stellar design. Art mode and its unique picture frame style are the main reasons to buy this TV. It’s not perfect out of the box, but with a few tweaks you’ll have a television that will not only impress, but will fool people that it’s even a TV at all. Simply amazing!
Pros Cons Gorgeous design
Voice control – Google, Alexa, Bixby
Dual LED backlighting
SmartThings app control/automation
Optional bezels in different colors
AirPlay 2 – mirroring from Apple Devices
Invisible Connection cable
Easy to hang
Off-angle viewing loses contrast
TV picture good, but not highest quality
Default settings not ideal
Remote takes getting used to
Hanging could require extra parts
One connect Box / cable sound sync issues
Lots of menus
Invisible cable not in-wall rated
Replaceable parts can be expensive
No Dolby Vision
No HDMI 2.1
Learn more about Samsung The Frame 65-inch at the Samsung.com product page, model QN65LS03TAFXZA. Available in 32″, 43″, 50″, 55″, 65″ and 75″ screen sizes. All models do not have the same specifications.
- Models 55″, 65″, 75″ have same specs:
- Models 43″ and 50″ have lower specs:
- Excludes FreeSync for gaming
- Doesn’t support 4K@120Hz (HDMI Port 4)
- Have Motion Rate 120 instead of 240.
- Have worse Wide Viewing Angle
- Have 20-watt speakers instead of 40-watt
- Model 32″ has even lower specs:
- 1080p HD, not 4K
- Uses different One Connect, only 2 HDMI inputs (not 4)
- Black remote, not white
- Has protruding Samsung logo
- Different stand
As of December 1, 2020 at Samsung.com:
- QN32LS03TBFXZA 2020 The Frame 32-inch – $479.99
- QN43LS03TAFXZA 2020 The Frame 43-inch – $999.99
- QN50LS03TAFXZA 2020 The Frame 50-inch – $1199.99
- QN55LS03TAFXZA 2020 The Frame 55-inch – $1399.99
- QN65LS03TAFXZA 2020 The Frame 65-inch – $1899.99
- QN75LS03TAFXZA 2020 The Frame 75-inch – $2199.99