Societal trends continue to change as we exit the grips of a global pandemic, and brands such as Samsung are doing their part to fill niches in the market where traditional products no longer see fit. Their latest projector offering ‘The Freestyle’ is both smaller, easier to use, and higher in quality than anything you’ve probably used since personal use projectors came on the market decades ago.
While it’s by no means a powerhouse of performance that will have you throwing out your TV in a nanosecond, The Freestyle is aimed as a lifestyle item perfectly suited to social gatherings, parties, and Netflix sessions on a Friday night. Delivering 100-inches of screen real estate in a package that is no larger than a portable speaker, it’s an impressive unit, and we’ve had our mitts on one for the last few weeks. Here are our thoughts.
The convenience of having a portable 100-inch screen cannot be understated, but it’s the full package that impressed us the most. With a built-in speaker that’s more than adequate and the ability to stream directly from your device over the air (or through HDMI), the unit is entirely portable and perfect for outdoor viewing whether it be in a park or camping. During our testing, we regularly powered The Freestyle from a 26,000mAh portable battery (USB-PD/50W/20V required) where we saw run times in excess of 2-hours.
If portability is less of a concern, there are options to power the unit from an AC adapter and access streaming services directly through the built-in apps on the new Samsung Smart TV experience. Unfortunately, this is where we found what is the biggest gripe with The Freestyle. The hardware is remarkable, but it’s let down by a poor software-based user experience that is likely enough to turn some impulsive buyers away from the product.
While manually adjustable, the auto-focus can be tiresome as it struggled to figure itself out on our professional projector screen, and the automatic keystone feature is slow to respond and frustrating when you just want to watch a screen that isn’t skewed. Thankfully, this is easily fixed with manual adjustment through the settings and by positioning the projector in a more suitable location. We expect a software update to arrive soon that fixes most of these gripes.
Overall, the Freestyle required a good amount of manual adjustment and trickery to get lined up in our testing. Enough to turn us away? No. Although we’d love a software update to overcome the sluggish performance, it’s also worth noting it seemed to get faster after 5-mins of ‘warm up’ time. Our recommendation would be to prepare your drinks before you check out what is new on Netflix.
Absolute portability is where the Samsung The Freestyle projector shines, here are some physical stats for reference;
- Dimensions: 95.2 x 171.4 x 95.2mm
- Weight: 800g
The height alone is enough to shock, in fact, it’s only 10mm taller than the just-announced Samsung S22 Ultra. Combine this with the weight and you’re looking at a product that you’ll want to bring with you everywhere.
While it remains most useful with a power outlet we regularly powered The Freestyle from a 26,000mAh portable battery (USB-PD/50W/20V required) where we comfortably saw more than 2-hours of runtime. That’s enough for a movie and perfect for camping where you can simply charge the portable battery back up the next day while you drive. A flat base provides more than 180° of tilt which is perfect for any angle, although we recommend keeping a coin or screwdriver on hand to tighten the hinge if you tilt it often.
The 360° degree speakers that wrap around the device deliver impressive audio in every direction, and the touch-capacitive controls near the lens are great manual overrides when the remote is out of range. Connectivity is provided on the left-hand side of the projector with a USB Type-C port for power, a mini HDMI port, and a switch for the microphone. An overall simple and smart package, we also appreciate the lens cover.
This is where the Samsung Freestyle kicks every other portable projector in the
Everything that’s been packaged into this small portable is truly commendable, not only is it a smart speaker that can control all your household connectables, but it has built-in streaming apps installed from the jump, including the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Disney Plus.
If you have a Samsung mobile phone it takes the experience one step further with the Samsungs SmartThings phone app. Here your devices will talk to each other and allow you to control everything from one central screen (like a smart hub), in our case that meant mirroring our phone (something that is also available for iPhone users via AirPlay) but other cases might include soundbars etc.
How Does the Picture Look?
On paper, the numbers don’t exactly jump off the page and fill you with excitement, but this is a portable device that can run for hours off battery after all so we didn’t expect OLED viewing. What we really didn’t expect was the 1080p maximum resolution, 60Hz refresh rate and 550 lumens of brightness to produce such rich images.
We expected the image to get worse when walking it back to the maximum 2.6m distance, but it appeared to get more pleasant as images remained fairly crisp and vibrant. The texture is more noticeable at this distance and the real sweet spot lies around 85-inches. It’s not 4K by any means but it’s more than enough for portable viewing.
In reviewing this product, Samsung offered us a professional 85-inch projector screen to make the most out of the picture. We also tried a number of surfaces and walls around our house and noticed little difference in quality. Funnily enough, the keystone feature (that levels and flattens the image) actually worked better on walls and ceilings!
While setting up for movie night with the 85-inch screen and the lights off, we moved The Freestyle off to the side and pointed it directly at the professional projector screen in expectation of an auto-Keystone flattening. Unfortunately, the image was almost always skewed until manually adjusted. Frustrated we eventually threw the towel in and manually adjusted all the settings. As mentioned, we expect this to be fixed in a future update and there are manual controls to take control of any issues.
The New Samsung Smart TV
While Samsung’s TVs are yet to receive the new Samsung SmartTV experience, we find it here in a portable projector that can run on battery and features less computing power than your average smartphone. This may not have been a great idea on Samsungs behalf, because while it’s cool and exciting to see the user interface debut in such an innovative product, it was painfully slow to use.
How slow? We’re talking 1-2 seconds of delay between clicking the button on the remote and seeing a visual response. It did get quicker after the device warmed up, but it’s slow. This is most notable when manually adjusting the visual features, such as focus, keystone, and image size. It’s less apparent when simply browsing the menu and choosing a show, but we imagine there’s a firmware update in the foreseeable future.
We also dislike the fact we have to completely leave a show to adjust any kind of settings.
Should You Buy the Samsung ‘The Freestyle’ Projector?
It might not be the cheapest or the absolute all-out best performing projector from a viewing perspective, but it’s the one we’d buy 9 times out of 10 thanks to its portability and user experience alone. If Samsung can iron out some of the gripes that detract from the viewing and user experience this is one serious product and enters the conversation early as one of our favourite products of the year.
Price and Availability
Samsung’s Freestyle projector is available now in Australia and the UK, and although a US release date is yet to be set, retailers are taking orders with an expected release date by the end of March 2022.
Pricing is set at $1299 AUD, $899 USD, and £999.
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