When is a TV not a TV? When it's a work of art.
Even better when it's both. As futuristic as it sounds, that is exactly the proposition Samsung is putting in front of consumers with its latest "Lifestyle TVs".
Best known among them are QLED models, The Frame and The Serif – and they are in the vanguard of changing perceptions of what a TV looks like, as well as what it does.
Take The Frame, for example. Samsung have added new models (32-, 50- and 75-inch) to a futuristic range which, when it is not being a TV, displays over 1200 works of art – some from renowned galleries like the V&A Museum, the Hermitage and New Zealand's own Te Papa, not to mention the world of striking photographic art from Lumas.
The Serif performs a similar art-based function – but while The Frame is usually wall-mounted, The Serif (designed by France's renowned Bouroullec brothers) is designed to be a free-standing work of art itself, able to be viewed aesthetically from 360 degrees – shaped like a giant letter I. That's why it's called Serif – after the font which uses characters decorated with strokes and features which give them a sense of elegance, as opposed to the plainer and less decorated 'sans serif' fonts.
Samsung's Group Marketing Manager, Adam McElroy, says The Frame and The Serif sprang from an unforeseen side effect of the trend to bigger and better TVs, often mounted on walls.
"What we discovered was that, as TVs grew larger, many people didn't have a problem but some found they were a little uncomfortable with a big screen dominating their living space when it wasn't switched on," he says.
"Some were putting them inside cabinets they could close if the TV wasn't on; others built sliding walls that closed them off. So, once our research identified that, we looked at how we might provide those people with a visual experience even when the TV was turned off."
That's where The Frame's "art mode" came into being – and why the TV is designed to look like a picture frame. When the TV is turned off, you can select which works of art will show on the screen all day. The choice enables users to access famous works of art or whatever catches their fancy or to match an artwork to their home decor.
McElroy installed a Frame TV at home only a few days ago: "I love the concept. It transforms what could have been a negative into something beautiful. The artworks and the photographs are tremendous, so you can have photographic art, abstract, Old Masters or contemporary art.
"It's also been fun watching the kids explore. They've tended to go mostly with photography or images of animals so far but it's also been great watching them decide which art they like."
The Serif is painted on a slightly different canvas. Designed to be free-standing – either on its own, flush on a flat surface like a table or cabinet top or on a special, minimalist stand – it is a TV which mirrors its surroundings.
What does that mean? The Serif makes use of Samsung's clever "ambient mode" in another exploration of a TV as a kind of artwork, appealing to some consumers not only because of its own design but also what it does to heighten the style of the home when it is not in use as a TV.
The Serif can scan its immediate surroundings and, when it goes into standby, displays a colour pattern to match the décor of the room it's in. It can also display running information in this mode – like weather, time and calendar/appointment details.
Both come with a wide variety of streaming apps including all those you would expect (Netflix, YouTube, Neon, Lightbox etc) as well as a few currently only available on Samsung TVs such as; Apple Music, Apple TV and Sky Sport Now.
The Serif can be operated by voice control and employs Samsung's Smart Things app which allows users to control other household appliances and functions by talking to the Serif (like lighting, heating and other devices like Samsung's smart fridges).
Another neat trick is the ability for both TVs to alter what is on the screen according to the light in the room. If it is a bright day, they automatically make the picture brighter for better viewing. If it's dark, they soften the image but heighten the detail for a better picture.
While we are talking TV, we'd better also dwell on TV's most sought-after function: picture quality. Both The Frame and The Serif are QLED sets, which means colours, brightness and contrast are engineered to produce far richer and wider viewing experiences. They are 4K sets which means better definition and clarity – more life-like images, most effective on big screens.
As far as price is concerned, they are not as expensive as you might think. The Frame 32-inch starts at $1299.95 with the 43-inch at $2499.95, the 50- and 55-inch at $3099.95 and $3699.95 respectively, the 65-inch at $4499.95 and the giant 75-inch at $6499.95. The Serif has three sizes, 43-, 49- and 55-inch, priced at $2299.95, $2899.95, and $3499.95 respectively.
The Serif comes in white only while The Frame has a range of attachable bezels available (sold separately) including white, black, brown and beige colours.
For more information on The Frame go to www.samsung.com/TheFrame
For more information on The Serif go to www.samsung.com/TheSerif