In consumer technology, how important are branding and marketing? I’d argue a lot, given how iPhones are status symbols in some parts of the world and how a simple new paint job would attract media and fan attention to months- even years-old Apple items. Samsung’s smartphone company has always attempted to achieve Apple-level brand status (and I’d argue the Galaxy Z Flip 3 has done so as a sign of “cool”), and now it’s doing likewise with traditionally less spectacular items, such as projectors, with the new “The Freestyle.”
The South Korean tech giant’s first-ever portable projector is technically lacking in raw power compared to existing products on the market. Still, it’s packed with “fun” features (like support for AirPlay and smartphone screen mirroring) and backed by a marketing campaign that bills the projector as an on-the-go entertainment/party machine for the young and trendy (the press release expressly states that the projector is targeted towards “Gen Z and millennials”). With the “The” being an official element of the branding and not merely a definite article in grammar, the Freestyle comes in a range of colors and has a little pretentious “cool” name. For good language, I shall not capitalize the word “the” for the rest of this essay.
I’m not young or trendy, but I work in a co-working environment with people who are, and they were enamored with Freestyle’s diminutive size and design. It’s understandable: most of us associate projectors with giant, blocky machines that create a constant whirring noise. We recall the days in school when our teachers had to adjust the focus by twisting the knob. Samsung’s Freestyle is the polar antithesis of all of that: it’s small, quiet when needed, and can broadcast on almost any surface without requiring much setup.
It’s also somewhat pricey compared to other XGIMI goods, at $899. Those who are more used to projectors will find the Freestyle underpowered. But what about casual users who may be purchasing their first projector or those who plan to take it camping or to a beachfront barbecue? They’ll almost certainly be pleased with The Freestyle.
Design and Hardware
The Freestyle projector is small enough to fit into almost any backpack or tote bag, measuring about 7 inches tall, 4 inches wide, and weighing only 1.7 pounds. It has a circular plastic frame, a plastic lens cap cover, and an aluminum cradle stand. The cradle stand can be adjusted to various angles, including pointing straight up. However, because the Freestyle has trouble staying in certain angles, the cradle on my review unit was a little loose. To keep the projector at a specific angle, I occasionally had to place something under it.
Because the Freestyle lacks an internal battery, it requires power, which a portable battery pack can provide. A 5-watt speaker wraps around the frame, delivering solid but unspectacular “360-degree sound.” Two USB-C and micr0HDMI ports and a switch to turn on/off the microphone are located on the projector’s side. The lens, capacitive buttons for power and volume control, and a pair of distance sensors for detecting surfaces are all located on the projector’s front/face. The backside has cooling vents and an adaptor for extra accessories, such as the advertised light socket plug, which I did not get to try.
The remote control with the Freestyle is pretty standard fare for any television or TV box, except a voice assistant button that allows the Freestyle to access Bixby or Amazon Alexa.
While USB-C powers the Freestyle, I wish the projector had full-sized HDMI ports or a USB-A port, the latter so that I could play files from a USB stick more easily.
Software and Setting up The Freestyle
The Freestyle uses Tizen OS, with a remarkably similar UI to Samsung’s smart TV. When you first turn on the Freestyle, it will ask you to connect to WiFi before logging into your Samsung account. This may be done immediately on the projector using a remote control or a Samsung phone. The Freestyle is now complete and ready to use. Simply place the lens against a flat surface, and the Freestyle will take care of the rest, owing to its auto keystone feature, which I’ll go over in greater detail in the next part.
I must admit that I am neither a display expert nor a home theater fanatic, so this evaluation is written from the standpoint of a more casual user (which, to be fair, the Freestyle is aiming towards anyway). However, as long as I was in a dark room with a flat surface to project onto, the Freestyle’s 1080p projection looked fantastic to me. Colors were vibrant; pictures had adequate contrast when needed. The projector had enough complex settings to fine-tune everything from color temperature to motion blur correction that I believe only the most discerning enthusiasts would find flaws.
Of course, this is only true when the Freestyle is functioning in ideal dark conditions. The Freestyle’s overall brightness is mediocre when the room is excessively bright. Samsung promises a brightness of 550 lumens, which is confusing because Samsung does not define what type of lumens they are referring to. The ANSI lumen is the industry standard for projectors, and it’s calculated by measuring the projection image at nine distinct locations and then averaging the average brightness by screen size. Lumens can be measured more straightforwardly, resulting in more significant figures. Read more; The Honor Magic V: Honor’s first foldable phone
This is what Samsung has done because, as others have noted, the Freestyle’s brightness is closer to 240 ANSI lumens, which is below standard for projectors in this price range. Colors appear washed out, and contrast is lost when viewing information in a setting that isn’t dark enough (as in the photo below). I don’t think the substance is wrong, but it does take away a lot of the immersion.
The Freestyle is designed to be incredibly easy to use, and this is accomplished thanks to the automated keystone feature, which means the projector will automatically calculate the distance and angle of the surface and frame the “screen” precisely correctly. This includes the projection’s angle and size and its focus and white balance. For example, keep the Freestyle 2 feet away from the wall, and it will project a modest 30-inch display. When you move the Freestyle back to 8 or 9 feet away, you’ll get a screen size of a 100-inch TV, which is the maximum size. Read more; Use OPPO O Relax to Unwind, Listen, or Explore
Should you buy Samsung’s The Freestyle?
For those who take their projectors seriously, the Freestyle will be a tough sell at $900. Projectors in the $500-$600 range from Chinese brands like XGIMI and Fengmi produce more excellent ANSO lumens pictures and have full-sized connectors. Some of these projectors also come with a built-in battery so that you won’t rely on an external power source. To be fair, the Freestyle is the most portable of the bunch.
However, as I already stated, branding and marketing are extremely important. The projectors mentioned above are aimed at fanatics, as I’m ready to guess that most regular consumers have never heard of them. However, practically everyone is familiar with Samsung, and the company has created a stylish, multifunctional projector that works well with both Samsung and Apple’s ecosystems. And it might just be enough to entice enough ordinary people, notably Gen Z and millennials in the United States, to buy their first projector.