Earlier this year during CES Samsung unveiled a good looking, portable projector called The Freestyle. With all the marketing videos and first looks I was super excited to check it out! It looked like it could be a perfect tool to take on a trip (camping in particular), since it can also be powered from a battery. Once we received it though, I must say I have mixed feelings. Let's get into it as we find one big flaw in this premium product.
First let’s cover some essential specs. This is a sub kilo projector that is powered using USB type C from the wall plug but can also work using USB power delivery compatible power bank. It can display a 1080p image with a recommended size between 30 and 100 inches diagonally.
According to Samsung, the minimum distance required for a 30-inch picture is 0.8 metres and to project a 100-inch picture you should place it at around 3 metre distance. It has a 180˚ Dynamic Angle, allowing you to easily change the viewing angle. Watching a movie on a ceiling was definitely a new experience, I’m still on a fence about it though. While the first couple of minutes might have been fairly comfortable, I don’t think I will switch to watching content this way. Also it works as an inspiration for my wife to fall asleep in record fast times.
The Freestyle is advertised as Smart TV/Projector/Speaker all-in-one. All of those things together could be considered as a positive feature, but when you start looking at them individually, they are somewhat uninspiring. By cramming more features, Samsung has made this a Master-Of-None, I wish they focused on making a great projector first.
Don’t get me wrong, the built-in speaker sounds pretty good as long as you are sitting reasonably close to the device. It doesn’t really have a good base but the dialog is clear. It has a micro HDMI port which supports eARC as well as Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity.
The Freestyle looks pretty cool and I suppose it would blend in with most interiors reasonably well when not in use. It comes in white by default but if you’re willing to add a bit more money for the colour, that warrants you with 3 more. Not sure if it’s worth paying extra since the stand will stay white anyway, plus - the device is not the most budget friendly already.
Samsung has also added an Ambiance Mode to it, where you can choose from different patterns or even one of your own pictures and shine it on a wall or a place of your choosing. It’s nice to have options, and it can definitely be a good conversation starter at a party.
So, as mentioned before - it is a smart projector, meaning that it can playback things like Netflix or YouTube directly from the device and it can do screen mirroring which is pretty cool. It also has support for SmartThings app so you can set up some automations or use Bixby smart assistant.
I would say that the smart features is actually where it shines and it also has auto focus and digital keystone correction. For not initiated - this feature allows you to place the projector at almost any angle and it will adjust itself to make the picture rectangular. Since it is software based rather than optical, it leaves lighter areas around the screen, these are faint but can be seen if you look closely.
It does it together with levelling with about 90% accuracy. Our original unit was actually faulty and its auto levelling would make the screen crooked instead. After a bit of research it seems we weren’t the only ones with a similar issue. If you have the same problem, reach out to your local Samsung support and have it repaired or replaced.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the picture quality. If you have it set to a pretty small picture and on the white background then it does well, it looks nice and vivid, all the detail is sharp and overall a good experience, but that is what I would call the most ideal scenario.
Freestyle is marketed as a portable unit so it should work in less than ideal scenarios - in theory. In practice it’s not quite there. The moment we shine the picture from slightly further away onto our wall which is cream with a yellow tint, the picture gets dim, very dim and (unless it is night-time with lights turned off) the picture coming out of this 1,500 SGD unit is very poor. To add insult to injury - should you watch something with high dynamic range or generally any darker show or movie, you will actually be missing out on detail in the shadows. Have a look at this clip from the Expanse series. The guy walking in has a dark suit but it looks more like a silhouette, this leaves me guessing what colour it actually is. The bright areas are ok but overall the show is very difficult to enjoy.
During the day it is a very expensive paper weight with one exception - if you are watching bright content such as cartoons.
This makes me wonder - who is this projector for? Considering its price - I don’t think it’s a good deal for home entertainment, but rather more focused on the portability of it. Unfortunately to make it portable you have to have or buy a supported power bank and you will likely need to buy the carrying case, I think Samsung realised this and at least for now has it as a gift when purchasing. Personally unless you want something this portable from Samsung I would probably look elsewhere.
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