Samsung The Freestyle Portable Projector Review: It’s ALMOST Perfect

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Erin Lawrence

Samsung The Freestyle projector reviewProjectors are an interesting category. For many years they were a substandard way to splash larger than life videos up on a classroom screen, but at the same time they’re the only way most major motion pictures get displayed in movie theaters. There lies the trouble many people have with imagining projectors as a desirable gadget for home use… at home projectors were known for being substandard; often weak in the brightness department, loud (fan noise), and generally hit or miss depending on the unit you bought and the technology within it. So why haven’t projectors gone away? It’s because they’re generally a good idea. They allow you to create a very large image and thanks to their smaller size they can be placed in a variety of locations where a standard flatscreen TV just won’t work. Case in point; the new Samsung The Freestyle video projector. This projector is ultra small and packed with technology, and Samsung’s been marketing it hard. But what’s the appeal, how is the video picture, is it as versatile as Samsung would have you believe, and overall would it be a good buy for you? I recently borrowed one of these units from Samsung to test it and review in my home.

Samsung The Freestyle
4

Summary

This projector has a lot going for it, but you might be frustrated by it if you don’t plan to use it in fully dark rooms.

Pros

  • Compact; very portable
  • Can create wide variety of image sizes
  • Remote control included
  • Streaming TV built in including Netflix, Prime, Disney+
  • Silent operation
  • Auto-keystone and auto-focus worked well

Cons

  • Works best in very dark environments
  • Only one connection port, and it’s micro-USB
  • No internal battery; must buy at extra cost
  • HD only; no 4K

What is Samsung The Freestyle?

This device is a compact, portable 550 Lumen video projector and TV streaming device that’s designed to be a gadget your friends will ooh and ahh over. Indeed I have high hopes for this device since I’m admittedly a huge Frame TV fan, and have bought two of them over the last few years.

Going along with that blending into the room thing, The Freestyle comes in four different non-standard colours: white, blossom pink, forest green, and coyote beige. The cylindrical unit is 102x173x95mm (or 4x7x3.7 inches), making it very portable and easy to move. It seems like it’s the video equivalent of a wireless speaker; designed to throw in your bag and bring out at a party or get-together or to  turn any wall into a movie theater.

Samsung The Freestyle projector review 2022-11-19 at 4.00.24 AMWhile small in size, The Freestyle is able to project a screen of up to 100 inches at a distance of about 9 feet. You can also move the Freestyle closer and reduce the screen size down to 30 inches at about two and a half feet. 

The Freestyle is capable of 1080p Full HD and is HDR compatible, though you won’t be able to get anything in the 4K and up range, and I have to say I’m a bit surprised this unit doesn’t have (almost universally standard) 4K resolution. Particularly when you’re spending this much money.

There’s a built-in 360-degree 5-watt speaker to handle the audio, which should allow everyone in the room to hear things no matter where the Freestyle is placed.

Smart TV streaming built in

Samsung has built streaming TV right into the projector so there’s no need for any external devices or dongles—you’ll connect it to your home’s Wi-Fi network, or grab wireless wherever you happen to be. (No wireless? You could connect an external device like a Blu-ray player, or try hot-spotting off your phone.) You can control it with the included remote control or the Samsung Smart Things app.

You can also connect wirelessly to your mobile device to mirror the screen. If you have a Samsung Galaxy phone, you simply tap the phone anywhere on the Freestyle to mirror the content. It’s also possible to AirPlay from an iPhone too if that’s your jam, but there are a few additional steps to do that which I won’t get into here. You can also mirror an existing Samsung TV, even if it’s in a different room.

To get it set up, hit the power button on the included remote, or touch the nearly invisible power button located on the face of the projector. While we’re on that subject; there’s also volume buttons on there.

Any time I turned the projector on it loaded up and played Samsung’s TV app, whether I wanted it or not. Fortunately you can kill this by disabling “autorun last app” in settings.

Power considerations

The Freestyle has a USB-C cable for charging, and you can purchase Samsung’s battery backup to make things entirely portable. The battery pack is also cylindrical and built to match the size and shape of the Freestyle. (You can use other power banks, provided they have a power output of at least 60W(20V) and are capable of USB-C PD support.)

Samsung The Freestyle projector review 2022-11-19 at 4.00.24 AMAgain, I’m a bit surprised there’s no built in power bank here.

Positioning/Viewing Size

One of the key features of this projector is its 180-degree swivel, which will let you position the video image wherever you need it, even if that’s on the ceiling. Its auto-focus feature will also make the picture sharp and clear for you. I found the auto focus did work well in most situations, though it would sometimes struggle to adapt particularly outdoors with any kind of chill, and I found I needed to give it a hot minute to catch up.

The Freestyle also has an auto-leveling feature, which will take a lot of the guesswork out of placing it. It will also “auto keystone,” meaning it makes the screen look straight and rectangular every time. I did find that this feature worked quite well. I’m a bit mystified if I’m being honest about how exactly it does this, but since it works, I didn’t dig too deeply into the magic behind it.

There’s also a Smart Calibration feature that allows you to adapt the White Balance on the screen based on the color of the wall behind.

Ports/Inputs/Capabilities

The Freestyle used a USB-C port for power. When it comes to what else you can hook upto it, there’s only one option and one single port: and it’s a Micro HDMI. While this in theory means you can connect devices like a Blu-ray player or video game system, you will obviously need an adapter. (Depending on your external device, you will need to use something like a Micro HDMI to HDMI cable, or a Micro HDMI to USB Type-C cable.) You could also use it to connect a speaker or sound bar too, again with an adapter. Perhaps the obvious question is how you’d hook up both a game console and a sound bar or speaker at the same time. The answer is to use a Bluetooth or wireless speaker, which is compatible.

There’s a built in mic so you can access Samsung’s Bixby audio assistant, if you happen to use that, or Amazon Alexa.

Ambient Mode for mood

I’ve written plenty on Samsung’s artsy offerings when it comes to their TVs. The frame TV is known for its art mode, and many higher and Samsung televisions also have ambient mode.

Samsung The Freestyle projector review

Ambient Mode; creating a window in the room.

Using Ambient Mode, you can display scenes, or help augment the mood in the room with different moving and static display options. Splash a giant roaring fire up on the wall or create a window where there wasn’t one. Display virtual signs and pre-set messages. There’s plenty of options to get some added value out of your streaming projector—including adding your own photos too, though you’ll need to manage that using the Samsung Smart Things app.

Using Samsung Freestyle in my home

I opted to use the Samsung Freestyle primarily in our kitchen, though I did also bring it into other areas to compare. We have a big empty wall that is just begging for something to jazz it up, and I thought this would actually be perfect. When it comes to placing the device, the small size and convenient base makes it easy to tuck onto an edge of the counter and get a great big image up on the wall. Trouble is, the image is not very bright.

Samsung The Freestyle projector review

Image as seen in my kitchen during daylight.

I initially set the freestyle up during the day, and have to admit I was quite underwhelmed at the lack of brightness. I immediately went into the settings and looked for a way to boost the light output, but sadly this was not to be.

Somewhat maddeningly, Samsung doesn’t make it easy to adjust the brightness level  This setting is actually hidden inside a menu labelled picture mode, and changing the brightness actually involves choosing a setting called dynamic picture mode. Select All Settings > Picture > Picture Mode.

Also, frustratingly, there is really only one option for increasing brightness it’s either Dynamic mode or not. So if you turn that on, and it’s still not bright enough, it appears you are out of luck.

Samsung The Freestyle projector review

Image in evening room with ambient lights on.

The video is often washed out in areas with any sort of sunlight coming in.

In darker rooms it performs much better, not surprisingly, but even then it’s often rather lackluster unless the room was 100% dark.  (As it was winter when I got this device, I didn’t have a chance to try it outdoors.) I imagine it’s due to the small size and small bulb inside? But I’m no expert here.

Samsung The Freestyle projector review

Image in fully dark room.

I will note the internal fan does run pretty much constantly, but it’s almost imperceptible. While the TV interface works well, and the autofocus and auto keystone are helpful, the places you’d be able to reliably use this projector seem limited.

Remote

The remote has an on/off button, a microphone for the voice assistant, and a control dial for navigating the interface menu. Below that are forward, back, and home buttons, as well as up and down volume controls. Finally, there are buttons for Netflix, Disney, Samsung’s Tv menu, and Amazon Prime Video.

Overall review: Samsung Freestyle

This projector is a great idea in theory. In practice, it’s a bit lacking. It seems like it’s made to be portable and made to use anywhere, but it doesn’t adapt well to bright spaces. It seems made for taking along to create impromptu outdoor movie nights, but needs to be plugged in at all times, and the speaker isn’t the greatest.

On the pro side, it’s compact and portable meaning it’s easy to move around the house. The design is quite unique, the image size is quite variable, and there’s streaming built in, plus the ability to connect other devices either via an adapter cable or wirelessly. There’s a speaker built in, and while that’s handy, it doesn’t provide high fidelity sound.

Samsung The Freestyle projector review When it comes to the downsides, the image is only HD; it’s not 4K, and while it doesn’t claim higher resolution I think it’s a missed opportunity and I think folks who want solid video quality may want to wait for a 4K version. The brightness isn’t strong and this is a projector best used in  100% dark rooms. You also need to stay plugged in unless you want to pay extra for the battery.

And speaking of paying, even if you think you can overlook the cons, it’s not cheap. The Freestyle sells for about $900US/$1149CAD. (For holiday 2022 I have seen it advertised at some pretty steep discounts.) You can also get $50 instant Samsung Credit when you pre-order at Samsung US.

In short, this feels like a projector that had great plans, but stopped short of executing on all of them. If you plan to use this in fully dark rooms, you will probably be happy with The Freestyle, but if you’re hoping to use it day and night in other (brighter) rooms of your house, you’ll likely be disappointed.


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