Samsung Misses the Mark with QLED TVs

Samsung introduced “Ambient Mode” features for the 2019 QLED smart TVs and a line called “The Frame”, which purportedly would enable the TVs to be used as large frames for digital art. Unfortunately the features do not meet users’ expectations, as can be seen from the many complaints and “feature requests” in Samsung’s online community and other forums. Some of these shortcomings appear to be the result of product strategy, while others are probably technical failures. Here’s a list of what you can’t do with the QLED TVs. (I have a 2019 65” QLED, so I’m able to relate my own experiences. For “The Frame” products, I’m relating what I have read.)

You can’t display your own photos as full-screen art on QLED

You can use the full screen size to display Samsung’s collection of curated art, in a feature called Artwork on QLED TVs. You can display your own picture(s), but only in a matted or framed format. My 65” model measures 56” x 31.5”. The mat/frame consumes 46% of the screen, leaving 54% for the picture (45.5” x 21”). The Mono 4K and Mono Mat modes allow you to change the appearance of the mat or frame, but does not let you shrink the wasted area.

This is a design choice driven by Samsung marketing, to distinguish the QLED line from The Frame line, not a technical limitation. Ambient Mode also offers a “board” layout, a collage of eight pictures. You can choose the placement; the app chooses the sizes. The collage uses all the screen real estate to show your eight smaller pictures, so clearly they have access to the whole screen. It seems that full-screen display is available as “Art Mode” on the “The Frame” line.

These limitations are not clearly disclosed in marketing literature or on the TV packaging. Advertising pictures of “Ambient Mode” always show full screen images, never the matted images. Announcements say things like “… Ambient Mode Transform(s) Living Rooms into a Gallery Space” and “We plan to expand content for Ambient Mode by collaborating with young, talented artists over the next several years to give our customers more meaningful ways to enjoy their QLED TVs.” Apparently Samsung does not think purchasers’ own content is as enjoyable.

Samsung wants you to display their pictures rather than yours, or purchase the more expensive “The Frame” product.

You can’t display more than one large photo unless you own a Samsung phone.

“You can also display your own photos or images by uploading them using the Samsung SmartThings app.” But if the app is running on an Apple phone or tablet, you can only upload one picture into the matted mode, one into the framed mode, and eight into the Board format.

“if you select multiple images, these will be displayed in a random order”. Even on their instructional pages, which most people would not look at until after purchase, they don’t tell you that you can only upload multiple pictures from Android’s Gallery or the Samsung Cloud (which they are currently migrating to Microsoft OneDrive). You can’t import pictures from a USB drive, either. A $100 digital picture frame has more functionality for photographers than this line of TVs does.

Samsung is willing to alienate purchasers of their TVs in order to promote their phones. Do they really think people are going to switch phones to manage their TVs?

You can’t manage Ambient Mode if the TV is using Ethernet

The Smart Things app can only see the TVs that are connected via WiFi. If you want the high speed and stability of a wired connection, you give up the ability to manage Ambient Mode from your phone or tablet. I’m using a modern mesh network (TP-Link’s Deco), and my TV is connected to the Deco access point by an Ethernet cable. So it’s on the same network as WiFi devices… but wired QLED TVs can’t be seen by Smart Things.

You can’t rely on QLED to switch from Ethernet to WiFi

When you switch from Ethernet to WiFi so you can update Ambient Mode, you have to at least power-cycle the TV, and I mean pull-out-the-plug, not just turn it off and on with the remote. Usually that fails, and you need to re-register the TV with your Samsung account, a multi-step process.

You can’t make a QLED look like a real picture frame

Unlike the “The Frame” line, the QLED manual states that you have to mount the TV four inches from the wall for ventilation.

Samsung markets the QLED as a home picture gallery, but they want you to buy the more expensive “The Frame” line.

But since you need to power-cycle the QLED TV any time you mess with Ambient Mode, you’ll need those four inches to reach the power plug anyway.

All these shortcomings add up to a poor user experience which I imagine causes most QLED owners to give up on Ambient Mode after struggling with it for several hours. The Ambient Mode limitations could be addressed by a software update.

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Roger Worden

IT Manager at Disneyland Resort. Independent 3D Designer/Printer. Amateur photographer and drone pilot. Former sailplane pilot. Progressive church treasurer.