Samsung’s Freestyle projector doesn’t live up to its $900 price

Samsung’s Freestyle projector doesn’t live up to its $900 price

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The Freestyle could person been thing truly special. As Samsung’s archetypal portable projector, it instantly stood out from each of the company’s different CES merchandise announcements successful January. What wasn’t to like? At nether 2 pounds, the Freestyle was hyped arsenic tiny successful signifier but large connected features and convenience.

The instrumentality is compact capable to beryllium packed successful a container for question oregon bringing connected camping trips. It’d beryllium a cinch to acceptable up The Freestyle successful the backyard for movie night, and the projector tin tally disconnected immoderate portable USB-C artillery packs for added flexibility. Want an casual mode to entertain your kids connected vacation? Here you go. You tin constituent the 180-degree tilting projector successful a wide scope of directions — including astatine the ceiling. And since it has the aforesaid bundle arsenic Samsung’s astute TVs, it comes with a immense enactment of amusement apps successful tow.

Samsung’s Freestyle includes autofocus and auto-keystone correction features to support its representation crisp and unskewed. There’s a almighty built-in speaker, smartphone mirroring capabilities (with enactment for Apple’s AirPlay 2), and a scope of accessories similar carrying cases and an adapter that lets The Freestyle plug into and person powerfulness from a lightbulb socket. On paper, this instrumentality had the makings of an fantabulous first-generation gadget.

But that’s not what Samsung really delivered.

What Samsung has shipped is simply a dim, flawed, and often sluggish projector that fails to recognize its potential. For a institution that’s been connected a tally of location theatre hits with products similar The Frame, this is an uncharacteristic misstep.

It’s not a inexpensive one, either: The Freestyle costs $899.99. That awkward terms tin beryllium seen arsenic different illustration of the projector’s challenges. It’s acold much costly than galore portable pico projectors from smaller brands specified arsenic Anker and Xgimi but obscurity adjacent arsenic pricey arsenic top-shelf location projectors. The Freestyle is caught successful a nary man’s land: if the asking terms had been higher, possibly Samsung could’ve gone much ambitious connected specs — particularly brightness, which I’ll get to later. And if it were cheaper, I might’ve been much forgiving of its underwhelming performance.

The Freestyle came scratched and scuffed retired of the box.

Upon opening The Freestyle, I noticed that the projector’s lid had travel escaped successful the container and near rather a gash connected the projector’s glossy, scratch-prone face. Not an perfect archetypal impression, but these things happen. In the box, Samsung includes the floodlight-style projector, the optional lid (which efficaciously turns The Freestyle into an ultra-expensive astute lightbulb oregon temper light), a distant power with a rechargeable battery, positive a USB-C cablegram and partition charger.

The barrel-shaped hardware is precisely what you’d expect from Samsung and feels good made. I deliberation The Freestyle has a bully look to it, and it blends into rooms nicely. It besides comes wrapped successful a preinstalled, achromatic silicone sleeve. Samsung sells different colors that you tin swap betwixt — this is simply a projector being marketed to Gen Z aft each — and there’s besides the $60 carrying case that inexplicably lacks anyplace to store the distant oregon partition plug. The silicone furniture gives The Freestyle immoderate added extortion from scruffs if you flip it into a container with different items, and I ne'er saw immoderate crushed to region it.

On the broadside of the projector, you’ll find a carnal mute power for the built-in dependable mics — you tin usage either Samsung’s ain Bixby oregon Amazon’s Alexa — a Micro HDMI input, and a USB-C larboard for power. Around back, The Freestyle has a batch of venting to support it moving chill and a socket adapter for compatibility with definite accessories similar a artillery basal oregon the aforementioned lightbulb adapter. Despite not having a full-size HDMI port, the projector supports HDMI-CEC, and you tin plug successful a scope of outer devices, including PCs oregon gaming consoles, utilizing adapters. (As with galore projectors, there’s capable latency contiguous to marque The Freestyle a non-starter for competitory gaming.)

The distant is perfectly capable and has shortcuts for Netflix and different apps.

On the beforehand supra the lens are capacitive buttons for power, volume, and different for linking The Freestyle with Samsung’s SmartThings mobile app connected Android oregon iOS. To the near and close of the projection lens are a region sensor and distant power sensor. The projector attaches to its basal cradle with 2 ample screws astatine the pivot point. And that plan determination results successful a frustrating hardware issue: erstwhile positioned astatine definite angles, The Freestyle has a wont of gradually drooping down and lowering the representation from wherever you primitively acceptable it.

I’m not definite whether it’s a lawsuit of the projector being excessively front-heavy oregon the integrative screws being excessively anemic to support it locked astatine each angles. You tin tighten them with a flathead screwdriver oregon a coin to (mostly) alleviate this problem, but Samsung cautions against over-tightening, and I’ve seen a fewer mentions of cracked screws successful immoderate Freestyle lawsuit reviews. This sagging contented isn’t a predominant hassle, but it’s precise annoying erstwhile it happens and not astatine each what I’d expect from a $900 projector.

The Freestyle doesn’t person a battery, truthful you’ve got to support it plugged successful via the USB-C larboard astatine each times. Samsung says it volition yet merchantability a artillery accessory that latches onto the projector for easier viewing connected the go, and you tin besides powerfulness The Freestyle with immoderate portable artillery battalion that’s susceptible of 50-watt powerfulness delivery. Of course, if you privation to ticker a movie portion camping oregon successful the backyard, you’ll person to travel up with an net solution — but my phone’s hotspot worked good for that. A secondary USB larboard would’ve been bully for section record playback since the USB-C jack is utilized for powerfulness astatine each times. You tin link a USB hub to the projector, but that’s a clumsy solution.

Setup is straightforward and tin beryllium done either with Samsung’s SmartThings mobile app (with the assistance of a QR codification projected onto the wall) oregon measurement by measurement done the projector’s menus. The archetypal clip I acceptable up The Freestyle, it was a tediously dilatory and laggy process. The distant would often registry treble presses aft a azygous click, which made entering Wi-Fi and relationship credentials much annoying than necessary. Even aft I was up and running, the bundle acquisition was dreadfully laggy. I’m talking a bully 7 oregon 8 seconds conscionable to propulsion up the settings menu.

The Freestyle’s 180-degree cradle has a inclination to fto the projector droop and sag.

Samsung hasn’t specified what benignant of underpowered processor is wrong The Freestyle, but it’s not a large lucifer for Tizen OS. This is the aforesaid UX you’ll find connected the company’s caller TVs, but the responsiveness connected this projector conscionable isn’t there. During my clip investigating The Freestyle, Samsung has issued a mates bundle updates to chopped down connected lag. (This reappraisal is being published arsenic of mentation 1095.) The updates person helped somewhat; now, the sluggishness is astir noticeable erstwhile you archetypal powerfulness connected the projector. But erstwhile it’s had clip to get into the travel of things, navigating astir the location surface isn’t truthful dreadful anymore. And erstwhile you’re successful third-party apps similar Netflix oregon Hulu, everything is mostly fine.

Outside of the show issues, I don’t caput The Freestyle’s software. My main critique is that Samsung is pushing its escaped TV work a small excessively aggressively; you’ll perpetually find yourself thrown into Samsung TV Plus unless you disable the “autorun past app” enactment successful settings. I admit having escaped amusement retired of the container — what’s not to similar astir a 24/7 Bob Ross channel? — but it tin consciousness a small successful your look erstwhile it pops up portion you’re conscionable trying to fine-tune the projector’s settings.

Samsung plans to merchantability a artillery backmost that attaches to the bottommost of The Freestyle.

Depending connected wherever you presumption The Freestyle, the projected representation tin alteration from 30 inches diagonal (when 2.6 feet from the wall) up to 100 inches (at 8.7 feet from the partition oregon projection surface). The projector outputs a 1080p solution with satisfactory opposition and colour reproduction, though the outer edges tin sometimes look a spot soft.

And, my friends, brightness is not this thing’s strength.

Samsung advertises The Freestyle arsenic being susceptible of hitting 550 lumens. However, that’s not utilizing the ANSI lumens measurement that’s the norm erstwhile comparing projectors. Over connected his YouTube transmission The Hook Up, Rob Tait measured The Freestyle’s output astatine 240 ANSI lumens, which makes it practically unusable wrong during the daytime. It looks good astatine that smallest 30-inch representation size erstwhile close up adjacent against the wall, but the full constituent of buying a projector is to spell bigger. Unfortunately, arsenic soon arsenic you do, the representation becomes precise faint.

Even successful this precocious day light, The Freestyle struggled to nutrient a agleam capable picture.

As you get into the day and aboriginal evening, the concern improves a bit, and The Freestyle is astatine slightest competent. But the world is that this projector works champion successful a acheronian country or, if you’re utilizing it outside, good aft sunset. The anemic brightness output is simply a morganatic bummer for thing that costs arsenic overmuch arsenic a decent 4K TV.

But successful the dark, arsenic with immoderate projector, is its clip to shine.

At the times erstwhile I was utilizing The Freestyle successful those ideal, acheronian circumstances, I was satisfied with the representation quality. I watched respective episodes of The Dropout, a ton of Sling TV, and respective hours of random Netflix selections. And adjacent without 4K oregon aggravated HDR, it was an enjoyable viewing experience. Having the aforesaid app enactment arsenic Samsung’s astute TVs astatine your disposal is simply a bully convenience; Netflix isn’t disposable connected galore portable Android TV-based projectors, but it and each the different streaming heavyweights are accounted for connected The Freestyle. The projector’s built-in talker does an admirable occupation for being a azygous 5-watt operator and avoids sounding shrill, though I often had to crank the measurement rather precocious into the 70s and 80s to get the astir from it.

The Freestyle’s car keystone and autofocus features didn’t impressment me. Auto keystone was often mode disconnected the people connected walls and surfaces that should’ve been casual to handle. And autofocus was ever close but not rather close and required manual accommodation to nail the champion sharpness. Thankfully it’s reasonably elemental to usage the manual options, but they’re somewhat buried successful menus, and I privation Samsung enactment a shortcut to them somewhere.

The Freestyle’s ambient mode tin assistance retired connected peculiar occasions.

Aside from its mundane projector duties, I privation to item a fewer caller ways I utilized The Freestyle that appealed to maine and showcased its versatility:

I utilized it arsenic a secondary show for my Mac.
Aside from making it easier to play contented from an Apple device, The Freestyle’s built-in AirPlay 2 enactment allows it to enactment arsenic a show for Macs. I’m presently connected the hunt for a caller outer monitor, truthful having the flexibility to task a 30-inch representation onto the partition adjacent to my laptop was nice. I’d opt for a 4K fixed the choice, but if you’re moving from a edifice country with The Freestyle nearby, it’s a useful trick. (You tin besides plug successful PCs oregon Macs straight via the Micro HDMI port.)

I pointed it astatine my ceiling erstwhile I was isolating and recovering from COVID-19.
I managed to evade COVID-19 for 2 years contempt surviving successful New York City the full time, but it yet came for maine past week. Being capable to constituent The Freestyle astatine my chamber ceiling connected nights erstwhile I had occupation sleeping acknowledgment to a dire sore pharynx was a neat trick. The cradle makes this easy, but watching videos connected the ceiling isn’t unsocial to The Freestyle; you tin conscionable reorient galore different projectors to execute the aforesaid result.

I paired amended Bluetooth speakers for audio erstwhile watching outdoors.
You tin brace Bluetooth speakers oregon headphones with The Freestyle if you’re not impressed by the built-in audio. And erstwhile I hooked it up successful my backyard and watched a movie connected the broadside of the gathering adjacent doorway 1 night, I took vantage of that and linked it with a Sonos Move for beefier movie nighttime sound. Again, Bluetooth enactment is by nary means unsocial to Samsung’s projector, but it makes for awesome utility.

It’s hard to reconcile The Freestyle’s first-gen flaws with its $900 price.

I was little enthused by The Freestyle’s “ambient mode.” You tin flip connected the lid and crook it into a astute bulb oregon accent lighting, but I’m not definite wherefore you’d privation your $900 projector playing specified an unglamorous relation — not to notation you’ll shorten the usable beingness span of its non-replaceable bulb. There are besides ambient screens and videos that you tin task onto a partition — similar a scenic model presumption oregon crackling occurrence — oregon others for circumstantial occasions similar a day oregon New Year’s Eve. But nary of these are customizable; you can’t adhd someone’s sanction to the “Happy Birthday” banner, for example. They each travel disconnected feeling similar random toss-ins that let The Freestyle to person a spot astatine depressing bureau parties oregon akin gatherings you’d alternatively avoid.

I truly wanted to similar this tiny projector. It’s not often that Samsung dives into a caller merchandise category, and a batch of the ideas down The Freestyle are exciting. The institution packed a ton of amusement and functionality into this device. But it besides made immoderate questionable decisions on the mode — similar settling for mediocre brightness and saddling The Freestyle with an underpowered processor that gets bogged down juggling Samsung’s software. And past there’s the deficiency of an interior artillery and the cradle that droops from clip to time.

If this merchandise outgo $400 oregon little similar galore pico projectors, I could unrecorded with immoderate of these flaws. Some radical mightiness beryllium capable to place them careless and inactive beryllium satisfied by what’s connected offer. But Samsung wants $900 for The Freestyle, and there’s conscionable excessively overmuch astir it that screams “first-generation product” for maine to urge to anyone for that benignant of wealth — adjacent if portion of maine is already looking guardant to The Freestyle 2.

Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge

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