Samsung is certainly skilled in product design and marketing. At CES 2022, the Freestyle Portable Projector created quite a splash. It’s little! A large image is created! It’ll be a hit with all your pals.
The Freestyle’s design is distinctive, but that’s about all it has going for it. Many of the other portable projectors I’ve evaluated have cost much less and have additional features like built-in speakers and streaming. The Freestyle produces an attractive image, sounds excellent, and manages streaming better than many portables, which is a plus. However, for hundreds less, you could get a great portable projector with a built-in battery, like the Anker Nebula Mars II Pro, or spend about the same on an excellent home theater projector that outperforms the Freestyle in every aspect. The Samsung brand and a stylish design are the only selling points of the Freestyle.
What’s in the can?
|Lens shift||None (Sort of)|
|Lamp life (Normal mode)||20,000 hours|
The Freestyle is really smaller than it seems in photographs. To be honest, I thought it would be around the size of a coffee can, but it’s more like a hybrid between a soda and coffee can. It features 1080p resolution, which is rather unusual in the portable projector market, and is smaller than the Anker Mars II Pro. Even an HDR signal can be accepted, but it is to be assumed that the device’s limited dynamic range and color gamut will prevent it from being used effectively.
Although you can always make the projected picture larger or smaller by physically moving the projector closer or further to the screen or wall, the Freestyle lacks zoom or lens shift, unlike other portables. Laser lighting, which we generally applaud, is used on the Freestyle. It is rated at 550 lumens and 20,000 hours of use. I measured 197 lumens, which is roughly in line with this projector class. The Anker Mars II Pro generates 337 watts, for comparison.
Lack of a built-in battery is the biggest miss at this pricing. Although a powerful USB battery pack with a 50-watt output is required, you may technically connect it to one. Batteries are built into projectors that are less expensive than the Freestyle.
Samsung offers a wide variety of add-ons for its projectors, such as different colored “skins,” a water-resistant carrying case, a matching base with a battery, and even a “socket adaptor” that allows you to screw the projector into a light bulb mount for power. Except for the $60 case, everything else is now listed as “coming soon” on Samsung’s site.
Pivoting Projection Pros and Problems
The Freestyle’s base allows the entire body to be rotated so that the picture may be projected higher on the wall or even onto the ceiling. The projector will then keystone adjust itself automatically, guaranteeing a perfectly square image.
A good idea with terrible execution is the pivoting design. The Freestyle generally remains in place at a 45-degree angle or greater. If the angle drops below 45 degrees, it almost always becomes horizontal. I couldn’t spot a method to add more friction to the hinges or tighten them. Even though you could probably squeeze something under the body to hold it at the appropriate angle, I’m surprised by such a cheap execution of a crucial function on a device of this price. Though it is helpful to tie the power cord to the legs, this seems like an odd need for a device that should function with any cable and not call for a little, easily misplaced plastic clip.
The Freestyle performs admirably even when positioned at an odd angle to the wall or screen, as it was intended to do. It has the ability to detect its orientation automatically and render a square on the screen. The Samsung projector does this auto-keystone adjustment more rapidly and accurately than most other projectors. The autofocus feature is built in and does a decent job, although I found that adjusting the focus manually in the menu helped a little. I’d want a button on the remote if only I could make it concentrate.
If you project at an angle, a brilliant quadrilateral will surround your material, and any light that leaks out from the edges will create a halo. Since the rectangular DLP chip cannot “switch off” unused pixels, it always projects some light onto your screen, even if just a fraction of the chip is being used to make a rectangle image. It’s possible that the optics are to blame for the halo effect, but it’s not a big deal, as smaller projectors frequently exhibit this phenomenon.
The Freestyle lacks a full-size HDMI input because Samsung doesn’t think you’ll want to connect it to anything else. There is just a tiny HDMI port, and no adaptor is provided for it. Inexpensive as they may be, such adapters really need to be included with a projector of this caliber.
With Wi-Fi and Samsung’s usual smart TV applications, the Freestyle is a great option. The Freestyle’s user interface will seem quite similar to anyone who has used a Samsung TV in the past several years. Compared to most portable projectors, which frequently have terrible streaming app implementation, the Freestyle excels in this area. The projector can be operated with voice commands owing to the built-in Bixby and Alexa, and you can access Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO GO, and more.
A 5-watt speaker produces “360 sound” when it comes to audio. To put it another way, it spreads outward from the Freestyle’s cylindrical body. The sound is balanced and richer than that of the speakers in the vast majority of portable projectors.
Picture Quality Comparisons
I compared the Freestyle to the Anker Nebula Mars II Pro and the AAXA P6X, two of my favorite portable projectors, for this comparison. It seems strange to me, too, yet all three are designed for the same market and function in essentially the same way. To see both at once on my 1.0-gain screen, I used a Monoprice 1×4 distribution amplifier to link them together.
Before I get started, I just want to point out how visually distinct these three projectors are despite their same size and function. That seems like it would have a clear correlation to cost, but it doesn’t.
First, I’d want to talk on the contrast. Of course, the AAXA shines the brightest of all. When compared to my Samsung, I found that its brightness was more than twice as high. In comparison to the Samsung, which is like a practically empty Bic lighter, the AAXA is like a flamethrower, and the Anker falls somewhere in the center. The projector’s light output determines not just the image’s brightness but also its maximum size. A larger image may be made with a brighter projector while yet feeling comfortable. The Samsung’s picture would have to be roughly 50% smaller to produce an image as brilliant as the AAXA.
As a result of the much closer performance, the contrast ratio is less of a concern here. This is because I highly doubt anyone is conducting any serious viewing on a small portable device. While the AAXA has worse contrast and looks more washed out, the Anker and Samsung are almost identical and have similar measurements (362:1 for the Samsung and 354:1 for the Anker). None of them are really impressive, but that’s to be expected from portables.
Samsung hits it out of the (albeit modest) park with color. It appears that Samsung’s expertise in television was a major inspiration for the Freestyle. Color accuracy in Movie image mode is superb, surpassing that of many full-size projectors I’ve tried, and color temperature is likewise more precise than in the other two. Because producing true colors and maintaining a consistent color temperature both reduces light output, these features likely work together to reduce the Freestyle’s total brightness. It’s just somewhat brighter and yet dimmer than the others in the less precise Dynamic setting.
It’s not hard to understand why the Freestyle is more detailed than the AAXA or the Anker, which both max out at 720p. I’m not sure whether a portable projector truly needs 1080p, and since there’s a price to be paid for everything, maybe a 720p DLP with a stronger light source would have been a better compromise.
In other words, what does this mean? Light output and battery life are the projector’s lone selling points, as I noted in my AAXA review. This does not produce a pleasing visual. But the Anker can. Even if the Samsung is superior in terms of precision and detail, the Anker’s design is impressive in its own right. There’s a good reason why, ever since we evaluated it, it’s been our go-to portable projector. In addition, it includes a built-in battery and is much more powerful. Plus, it’s 40% less expensive.
Final Words: Despite the fact that the BenQ HT2050A is a $150 cheaper projector, I did not directly compare the Freestyle to it. This is like contrasting a Ferrari with a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. Although the Freestyle is generally more portable than the BenQ, it is still significantly larger and requires an outlet to operate. The BenQ is capable of producing a picture that is far improved since it has a contrast ratio of 2,094:1, a brightness of approximately 1,600 lumens, and a wide variety of other improvements. I just bring it up in case the Freestyle is being considered for use in a home theater system. The BenQ is less expensive, more effective, and just somewhat less user-friendly than its competitors.
Kick the can
Samsung’s Freestyle is a serviceable smartphone that sells well but is priced too much. It’s definitely impressive technology, especially in the absence of air. Contrarily, we are not isolated (OK, we are in a galactic sense, but locally and figuratively, nope). Products with similar functionality but at a much lower price point than the Freestyle exist. These rivals often provide additional functions and comparable or better picture quality, although with a less polished design. If the price decreases to around $600 in a year, you don’t need it to function without an outlet, or you already have a large, powerful battery, then go for it. In other words, just do it.
For the same price, you can have a wonderful home theater projector that does a good job but is much more portable, or a terrific portable projector that does a good job but costs a lot less.