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First Look: Samsung Music Frame

It’s a picture frame! It’s a speaker! No, it’s… a speaker frame. Since Samsung first showed off its new Music Frame at CES, we’ve been jonesing to spend time in front of it to see whether it will knock our socks off or offer a gentle kiss of sound on the cheek. After checking out Samsung’s latest TVs, we were granted a short audience in front of two of these square 13-inch frames sporting surprisingly strong speaker systems in the back. While we were certainly impressed by its sound volume and quality, it’s clear that the $399 Music Frame is just the first iteration of what will hopefully become a more fleshed-out product, given time.

If your first thought was this is a smart frame that can show pictures from your phone gallery and blast beets from your favorite Spotify playlist, get that idea out of your head. This analog picture frame is attached to a speaker that can link to Samsung’s or other brands’ smart home systems. You can preorder the Music Frame now, but you should understand exactly what you’re getting before you jump for it. If you want a plus-sized smart frame from Samsung, the company already has you covered with the 2024 refresh of The Frame TV.

What is Samsung’s Music Frame?

The Music Frame is a speaker disguised as an old-school picture frame. You put your favorite artwork or photo behind the front panel, then connect it to your TV or phone to start listening. Even though it connects over Bluetooth 5.2 and WiFi, you’ll need to use Samsung’s own IoT brand SmartThings connection and Q Symphony to access the full Dolby Atmos quality. It also requires a wired power connection, so unless you can hide the cord, you won’t be tricking anybody into hearing the spooky sound coming from the walls. The cable is white by default, so at least it won’t look too odd snaking down from your bookshelf, so long as you don’t want to go about drilling holes in your wall to conceal any unsightly cables.

You can pop out the photos rather easily, which is good because it’s the only other reason you would buy this disguised speaker. It will also act as a SmartThings hub for those who really need it. You should be able to use it with Google Assistant, Alexa, and, of course, Samsung’s Bixby. Samsung says it should connect Chromecast, AirPlay, and Tidal Hi-Fi for playing your audio, but we’ll have to test it out ourselves to see just how well it works with different setups.

But how does it sound? From what I could tell in a very limited demo, the Music Frame was surprisingly loud and clear. There are six speakers and two woofers on the back, so the sound is about on par with a fair-quality soundbar, and when you combine it with another Music Frame and soundbar, you can get the same sound quality at all parts of the small square room we were allowed to test it in. I’d be most curious to test its bass properties, as even at its loudest, we couldn’t hear any real woosh from Camila Cabello’s Havana.

The 2024 “Frame” is For Those Who Want a TV With a More Artsy Bent

Photo: Artem Golub / Gizmodo

While hanging out in Samsung’s secret lair, the company showed off its new version of its TV frame along with the Music Frame. If you were searching around for a Samsung-brand smart picture frame, this is closer to what you want (though you’ll have to make sure you’re okay with sizes 43 inches and up). It’s still being dubbed “The Frame,” which we see as a rather confusing and somewhat pretentious monicker for what’s still essentially a full QLED, 4K screen, but that doesn’t mean it does have a strong picture quality. Of course, you’ll have to pay a pretty penny for that display. The Frame starts at 43 inches for $1,000 and goes all the way up to $3,000 for a 75-inch version.

The big advantage of the new Frame versus the older versions is that the modern thin TV supports a dynamic refresh rate for models above 50 inches, which reduces it down to 60 Hz when enabled in Art Mode. Samsung still has the art subscription service, which you’ll need to pay for separately, but now the company will start offering users a taste of art for free. The company said it will rotate 20 pieces of art each month for you to display on your Frame, which is a nice change of pace even if you still will have to pay Samsung a tithe to select your favorites.

Still, the Frame bears some of Samsung’s best highlights from its QLED lineup and a matte display that didn’t show much glare from surrounding lights. We spent even less time with the Frame compared to the Music Frame, but this TV refresh is still a more fleshed-out product overall than the speaker, with the choice of different color bezels and sizes. It’s an example of where the Music Frame could eventually go.

How Does the Music Frame and TV Frame Connect to Your Smart Home?

Image for article titled First Look: Samsung Music Frame

Photo: Angel Fajardo / Gizmodo

If you have a supporting TV, the Music Frame connects through Q Symphony to share audio among Samsung devices. The Q Symphony system essentially synchronizes audio from a TV and soundbar at the same time. You should be able to have a soundbar playing the sound from your TV, plus up to two Music Frames on the far walls if you want a low-key surround sound environment. Unfortunately, Q Symphony only supports up to two devices connected to a single Samsung TV. This could be a Samsung-brand soundbar plus a Music Frame or two Music Frames at once. While you can go into the TV options to tell it where your frame is positioned, it’s a rather large constraint for those thinking they could beef up their sound setup with more hidden speakers.

Beyond all that, the Music Frame certainly feels like a first-gen product. There will be only one size available to start. The frame itself is 12.9 by 12.9 inches, and it sticks out 1.7 inches from the wall. This first iteration supports an 8- by 8-inch picture or artwork, so you might need to consider breaking out the scissors to fit your family portrait inside. Though Samsung is advertising that you can swap out the bezels for different color options, there’s also one shade to start with, which is black. You can hang it from the wall or prop it up on its own stand to let it hang out among the rest of your nicknacks and photo collections. There are a few buttons on the side to control it and a small LED light to let you know the frame is active.

But for $399, it’s still going to be a hard sell. You obviously won’t buy the Music Frame just for a nice speaker to hold your eight-by-eight photo, as you can nab both things for far less than Samsung’s version put together. The limited sizing and wired power requirement also limit where you can have it in your home, so we’re hoping that we’ll see it in time.

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