Published 2019-01-15 - 2:30 pm
- Size / type: 55 ”4K UHD TV
- Resolution: 3840×2160 (4K Ultra HD)
- Operating system: Samsung Tizen
- Inputs: 4 HDMI / 3 USB
- Outputs: Optical digital audio output
- HDR: HDR10
- Other: One Connect junction box
- Web: Samsung.com
Most of us have a laid back attitude when it comes to painting a picture about ourselves. As long as it is turned on, we can barely take our eyes off it. But when it is turned off, it appears most of all that is “black hole” on the wall, and rarely contributes anything positive to the decor. This is exactly what the TV producers intend to do about it!
The idea of turning the TV into a painting is not new, but Samsung is probably the manufacturer that has succeeded best so far. Their concept The Frame was launched with a bang in 2017, complete with its own art gallery and all. The ability to display still images in standby, and vary the look with different frames, seems to have gone straight home with interior-conscious northerners. The updated 2018 model takes the concept further with a few, but important improvements.
The “new” version of Samsung The Frame UE55LS03, like its predecessor, is a fairly ordinary LCD screen on the inside. The difference lies in the external details: Samsung has been extra careful with the proportions, so that the TV can imitate a picture on the wall. This means, among other things, that the TV is relatively thick, but completely flat – just like a real picture frame.
Two small feet are included for bench placement. But there is no doubt that The Frame will be hung on the wall. Samsung’s “No Gap Wall Mount” comes in the box, and allows the TV to be hung close to the wall.
All connections are made in an external connection box, the so-called “One Connect”, whereupon a simple signal cable is pulled up to the TV. And here an important change has taken place since the 2017 model of The Frame: While its predecessor needed a separate power cable, you now send both power and signal through the same cable, all the way from the box to the TV. This makes it easier to get a discreet installation.
The icing on the cake, however, are the replaceable frame covers. These are what make The Frame look like a real picture. They are hooked to the outside using magnets, and are available in white, brown-stained, black or light wood imitation. The feeling of quality is good, but the surface itself is made of vinyl / plastic – we could easily imagine a variant with real wood veneer.
However, the framework is not free. The Frame comes WITHOUT frames in the box, and must therefore be ordered as an option – unless the supplier has a promotion. The standard version gets bored quickly – it is a fixed variant in gray plastic, which is only intended to function as a contact surface for the various frame covers.
Ease of use and features
The Frame uses the same smart platform as other Samsung TVs, and that’s only positive. The user interface is fast and intuitive right from the start. Samsung has created a separate “Smart setup” app you can download, which takes you step by step through the various settings, connects to external devices, and connects the TV to various services you may subscribe to.
The selection of applications is best in class, with apps such as Netflix, HBO, Canal Digital and Amazon easily accessible from the start menu. Brand new apps like Dplay and Viafree can also be downloaded from the app gallery. You can organize the menu bar as you wish, with shortcuts to the most watched Netflix shows.
It is noticeable that the TV has become even a little faster than the previous generation, especially in that it responds faster to commands, and can “zap” faster between different apps.
The white remote control is small and elegant, with quick buttons for the most important functions. It can also be programmed to control other devices (TV tuner, etc.), so you can put the other remote controls in the drawer.
Art Mode: Digitalt art gallery
When you turn off the TV, the picture function in The Frame comes to life, and you can decide for yourself what kind of art you want to show on the wall, with or without a “mat” in different colors. Samsung has previously added a rich and varied archive with different motifs. More exclusive works by well-known artists and photographers are also available for a fee, through the art store Art Store. But many will probably prefer the opportunity to post their own photos, whether it is of the family, the car, the dog – or a collage with everyone together. This is easily done via Samsung’s Smart View app. New on the 2018 model is that you can now also create a rotating image carousel, and thus display selected images in a loop. Samsung has also added several setting options, including the ability to fine-tune color temperature and brightness of the displayed image.
The 2017 model of The Frame was a TV with excellent picture quality. Although we were obviously dealing with a relatively ordinary LCD TV, it did most things right, with good sharpness, great color reproduction, even light distribution and plenty of contrast. This is extra important, not least because the TV will also pass as a picture on the wall much of the time.
The first impression of the 2018 model is that there have been no particularly major changes since the last time. The light distribution is just like on its predecessor, impressively even. There are no signs of bright spots or irregularities in the backlight. The black level is also good for LCD to be. Even in a dark room, there is very little “stray light” to be detected from the LED lighting.
Thus, one can nicely watch both movies and TV series without being bothered by bumps in the picture. The color reproduction is great and nuanced, especially if you choose the movie mode, which is the most neutral variant.
Still, we take care to miss a little more speed in the image reproduction. Challenging footage such as the Netflix series Altered Carbon in HDR quality, not to mention The Grand Tour at Amazon Prime, undoubtedly lacks a bit of glow and spark compared to the very best TVs in the price range. Although the Samsung screen has a usable black level, it has no form of local dimming. Thus, it loses some depth in the darkest parts, especially when we compare with OLED screens such as the LG OLED55C8. The intensity in bright areas can also not be compared with the best LCD screens, including Samsung’s own QLED top model.
Samsung’s flagship models have received several technical upgrades this year: including a new image panel with Quantum Dot color filter and powerful direct LED backlight, which really works wonders for contrast. However, The Frame has to do without any of these, and is thus somewhat overshadowed by the 55-inch QE55Q9FN, which actually costs about the same as a 55 ”version of The Frame! Here you have to live without frames and a photo gallery, but in return you get Samsung’s own “Ambient Mode” as a background. If image quality is the first priority, there is no doubt that the top model is a better choice.
The 2018 model of The Frame has got noticeably better sound than its predecessor. While grandpa sounded slim and stuffy, it is easy to hear that the newcomer has gained more power, dynamism and not least fuller bass. Both music, film and speech get a better foundation and clarity. The built-in sound system is of course no substitute for a full-blooded soundboard, but it’s good to know that it works well for normal use.
Samsung’s The Frame is undoubtedly one of the coolest TVs you can put on the wall at home. The beautiful design with wooden frames means that the TV slides easily into the surroundings, and you can view everything from professional works of art to your own flash shots on the screen. Just like its predecessor, few can compete with Samsung’s smart and room-friendly design. On the other hand, there are more people who can keep up with the image quality. The Frame is a relatively ordinary LCD TV on the inside, without the latest innovations on the picture front. This is exactly what Samsung seems to have realized: Ahead of the CES show in Las Vegas, they announced the next generation of The Frame, which will have full-blooded “QLED” technology on board! The Frame “3.0” is coming this spring.