In recent years, compact, portable projectors have gained popularity. Versatile and small, they aren’t without faults. Brightness is a huge factor, and in a lot of cases, there isn’t native support for popular streaming apps. After a hiatus in the space, Samsung re-entered the projector space a couple of years ago with The Premiere UST 4K projector. Now they’re back with a compact portable projector, hoping to excel where others haven’t.
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Our Samsung The Freestyle first look checks out the company’s newest compact, full-featured portable FHD projector with some unique features, including the ability to mount it in a light socket. I’ve reviewed quite a few portable projectors recently, and given how great The Premiere is, I was pretty excited to check out a pre-production unit of The Freestyle. As this is a first look, it’s not a full review, nor will we be scoring it. Read on to see why it earned our Best of CES 2022: Small Projector award.
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The Freestyle portable projector from Samsung features a cylindrical design, a pretty typical style for a lot of projectors in this category. White in colour, it is 3.66″ in diameter and 6.13″ in height. The main unit comes with a swivel stand. When attached, the projector is just under 5″ when projecting at a 90° angle. As such, it’s pretty compact, right alongside other portable projectors. There are only two ports on The Freestyle though: USB-C for power and a Micro HDMI for connecting media players or even your game console. There is also a mic mute switch to disable voice commands if you wish. The included power cable looks almost like the one you get with your smartphone, albeit with a 90° angled end for the projector side that helps to keep the cable horizontally aligned with the side of the projector.
There are perforated holes around the top and bottom of the unit, for ventilation and sound. The front of the projector, where the lens is found, also has touch buttons for power, volume, and casting. The back of the projector has another set of perforations in a circular orientation and you can see the woofer underneath it. There are also pogo pin connectors and two small slots, presumably for attaching the optional battery and light socket attachments.
The included remote is pretty small and compact as well. You’ll find the usual controls on it, including power, voice assistant, back, home, play/pause, volume, channel, and menu wheel with a centre button. Additions to the remote include four buttons for easy access to Samsung TV Plus, Netflix, Disney+, and Prime Video. In addition, the remote is recharged via USB-C so you don’t have to worry about changing the battery in it.
Another interesting feature is the clouded lens cover itself. The projector has an ambient mode with different colours and even scenes. When enabled and the lens cover is placed on the projector, it adds some ambience to whatever room you have it set up in. In addition, there are some fun ambient scenes you can play for parties or when you’re listening to music with it.
The Freestyle portable projector has an FHD 1920×1080 resolution — unlike a lot of other portable projectors. While Samsung hasn’t divulged the ANSI lumens on this projector, it is pretty bright. It’s not bright enough to use in a living room in the middle of the day without the blinds drawn, but it’s great in a bedroom (again with the blinds drawn) or a basement with minimal ambient light. Even when projected onto my 106″ screen with all my pot lights on, it was viewable. Of course, as with any projector, the darker the setting the better.
Of course, an FHD display is nice and crisp, especially when casting a smaller screen size on a bedroom or living room wall. It’s not terrible either at larger sizes and beats the 720p upscaling resolution a lot of other small, portable projectors offer. The Freestyle is also HDR10 compatible, a feature that not a lot of other portables can boast.
As for image size, the projector needs to be about 31″ away from the wall to project a 30″ picture and about 104″ away for a 100″ picture (almost a 1:1 ratio).
As far as setup and software are concerned, The Freestyle is pretty straightforward, with the projector guiding you through the setup with ease. During the setup, you can select between Bixby and Amazon Alexa voice assistants. Once set up, the projector is easy to use with the included remote or even the SmartThings app on your smartphone.
On the software front, The Freestyle portable projector is powered by Tizen 6.5 and the Samsung Smart TV Experience. In some ways, it looks a bit like the new Google TV interface with a banner along the top with tips or suggested viewings. Below is a row of your installed app icons. Finally, there are a few more rows for various services, depending on what you have installed. On that note, this projector comes with Samsung TV Plus installed and you can easily install official versions of Disney+, YouTube, Prime Video, and even Netflix. While I’d expect nothing less, quite a few projectors require you to sideload or cast Netflix, creating a sub-optimal experience. Not so with The Freestyle, thankfully. You’ll have no shortage of content with this portable projector.
For the most part, our pre-production unit performed decently. It didn’t take overly long to power up, and navigating the menus and launching apps was pretty snappy. However, there were a few times when the unit appeared to slow to a crawl which did cause some frustration. I asked Samsung about it and they suggested re-pairing the remote via Bluetooth to the projector. Once I did that, the snappy navigation returned. At least in my case, it seems like the Bluetooth connection would drop occasionally, causing the remote to fall back to IR mode which is much slower than Bluetooth.
In addition, The Freestyle portable projector also features Auto Keystone, Auto Leveling, and Auto Focus. These functions worked pretty well. I didn’t have any issues with the Auto Focus, and the Auto Keystone created a nice rectangle for the most part. Depending on the projector orientation, it wasn’t always possible to get an exact rectangle, but it was close enough. The Auto Leveling feature was nice as well. If The Freestyle isn’t exactly level, this feature will tilt the image accordingly so that the image is practically horizontal. Finally, you can also shift and scale the image size so you can projector your picture without any light switches or lamps interfering with it.
Sound quality is one area that is pretty hit and miss when it comes to portable projectors, primarily due to their size and the lack of space for larger speakers within the unit itself. The Freestyle from Samsung features a 360° 5W speaker with a built-in woofer as well. To date, this is one of the best-sounding portable projectors I’ve used once you turn the volume up. The volume does go up to 100 and I found in my basement with ambient noise, a volume of 65 was the sweet spot. That being said, when cranked to 100 it wasn’t too loud for extended listening. The levels are pretty balanced and there is a decent amount of bass when watching action movies, listening to music, or even playing games when I tested with my Xbox Series X.
Unlike a lot of other portable projectors, The Freestyle doesn’t have an internal battery. As a result, you need to be plugged into a wall outlet or extension cord to be able to use it. That being said, you can use it with a portable power bank provided it has at least 50W output and USB-PD support.
While we weren’t able to test out any of the accessories for Samsung’s The Freestyle portable FHD projector, there are a few the company has in the works. The first of these is a battery pack, giving you more mobility and freedom with the projector. There is currently no word on the capacity or battery life yet, but most portable projectors top out at around 2 to 3 hours, so it’ll be interesting to see where Samsung goes with theirs.
The second is a socket mount, which allows you to mount the projector in a light socket. This does seem like an odd accessory and I’m not sure how much use it would actually get. When used, while you are powering the projector through the light socket, you are removing the ability to swivel the projector so you are relegated to projecting the picture on your desk or table. Granted, it could be good for meetings or work collaboration, so some might find it useful.
Unfortunately, we are still waiting for pricing information from Samsung. We’ve been told it will be under US$1000 with more information coming closer to the anticipated January 24th launch. If it comes in at $999, it will be a bit pricier than other portable options. I feel that a price point of around $799-$849 would be a reasonable price given the specifications, performance, and features. For those wanting true portability with the battery accessory, or even a third-party battery pack, you’ll have to shell out a bit more. Check this projector out on Projector Screens.
On the surface, The Freestyle portable projector by Samsung is a pretty decent first attempt from the company in this segment. It has a great picture and solid audio, however, some of the minor issues can make it a bit annoying to use at times. Hopefully, these are just issues with our pre-production unit and aren’t present in the final production units. On that note, hopefully, we’ll be able to have a look at a final production unit at some point soon and have a full review for you.
Regardless, the Freestyle still earned our Best of CES 2022: Small Projector award.
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Last Updated on September 16, 2022.