The Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen portable projector combines simplicity, flexibility and some clever high-tech cinematic features
- Easy to set up
- Built-in streaming apps
- Surprisingly good sound
- Limited to Full HD resolution
- Some people may see rainbows
The Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen is the latest iteration of the South Korean giant’s FHD HDR portable projector. It supports a variety of features – including auto installation, 360-degree sound, Tizen-powered streaming apps and Smart Calibration for accurate colours – and improves on its predecessor in a number of ways.
Samsung has increased the processing speed, extended the life of the LED light source, upgraded to its SolarCell remote, included a hub for cloud gaming, and added a new Smart Edge Blending feature that can turn two Freestyles into a single widescreen image. All of this helps make the Freestyle 2nd Gen one of the best projectors available.
Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen review: What do you get for the money?
The Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen is a portable projector that uses a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) DLP chipset combined with an LED light source. Both that resolution and light source are fairly typical for this type of projector, but the Freestyle also supports HDR10, HLG and HDR10+, either using a micro-HDMI input or, more likely, its built-in streaming apps.
The use of an LED light source delivers 550 lumens of brightness and a lifespan of up to 30,000 hours. The Freestyle also includes an adjustable stand combined with automatic focus, levelling and keystoning, which makes installation simple. Thanks to Samsung’s SmartThings app, setup is equally straightforward, allowing quick access to Wi-Fi, other devices and streaming services.
For this second-generation model, Samsung has included its SolarCell remote control, which means no changing batteries, and added a Gaming Hub to access cloud gaming. The Tizen smart system offers a greater choice of streaming apps and is more responsive, the built-in audio has been tweaked, and the luminance and longevity of the LED light source have been extended.
The big new feature is Smart Edge Blending, which allows you to combine two second-generation Freestyles into a single widescreen image that’s bigger, brighter and better sounding. This is achieved using the SmartThings app and the camera in your mobile device, and once blended you can look at photos or watch video to create a more cinematic experience at home.
Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen review: Price and competition
The Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen launched at £899 and that was how much it cost at the time of writing this review. However, it’s since had £200 knocked off its price so can be picked up for just £699. This is very competitive, especially when you consider that the first-generation model isn’t that much cheaper at £549.
The portable or pico projector market is fairly saturated and, based on the Freestyle’s features, alternatives include the XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro (£449), the Nebula Anker Capsule 3 (£799) and the LG PF50KS (£526). While all are slightly cheaper, none is as feature-packed as the Freestyle.
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Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen review: Design, connections and control
The Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen looks identical to its predecessor, with a cylindrical white body and adjustable stand. This is both decorative and practical, allowing you to angle the projector from 90 through to 180 degrees. You can also use it to carry the Freestyle when moving around.
The chassis isn’t just stylish, it’s also well constructed, ensuring the Freestyle is light enough to be portable and robust enough not to be easily damaged. Behind a hole array is a built-in 360-degree speaker system, combined with a heat sink, invisible fan and spiral air duct for quiet cooling.
At the front, where the lens is located, you’ll find some basic touch-sensitive controls for power on/off, volume up/down and casting, along with sensors for automatically adjusting the image.
On the right-hand side as you face the lens is a switch for the built-in microphone, a USB-C port and micro-HDMI input. The latter supports version 1.4 features such as CEC, but can also handle HDR and eARC. The USB-C port is only for connecting the USB power adapter.
In terms of wireless connectivity, there’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and support for Apple AirPlay 2. There’s also mobile mirroring and, if you have a supporting Samsung Galaxy phone, you can use Tap View for quick wireless access.
The Freestyle 2nd Gen comes with a SolarCell remote control that’s finished in white to match the projector itself. It’s comfortable to hold and easy to use, with an intuitive button layout that makes setting up and controlling the Freestyle easy. The rechargeable batteries are also eco-friendly.
As with all of Samsung’s devices, the Freestyle supports the SmartThings app (Android and iOS), which offers the same control options as the included remote, plus a host of other features. There’s also voice interaction via built-in Bixby, and the Freestyle works with Amazon Alexa.
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Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen review: Features
The Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen is a Full HD DLP projector with an LED light source that has a peak brightness of 550 lumens. It’s capable of illuminating a screen up to 100in, and the performance has been tweaked to extend this brightness to a whopping 30,000 hours.
The Tizen-powered smart platform offers all the main streamers including Netflix, Prime, Disney+ and Apple TV+, plus all the UK TV catch-up services. It also includes other smart features such as Samsung TV Plus, Samsung Universal Guide, Samsung Health and Remote Access.
While there’s no built-in tuner, compatible Samsung TVs offer TV Access, allowing users to stream live TV broadcasts to the Freestyle in another room via Wi-Fi. When the TV is on, you can mirror content to the projector, and when the TV is off, you can control the TV content from the Freestyle.
The ambient mode allows you to project from a choice of images or your own photos, which is handy for holding parties or creating a relaxing environment. You can even leave the lens cap attached if you fancy turning your Freestyle projector into a stylish if rather expensive LED lamp.
New features for the second-generation Freestyle include a Gaming Hub that allows cloud gaming with no downloads, storage limits or console required. However, you’ll need a pretty fast internet connection, a gaming service subscription and a compatible third-party controller.
The other big new feature is Smart Edge Blending, allowing you to combine two Freestyles into a single widescreen image that’s bigger and brighter. Using the SmartThings app and the camera on your mobile device, you blend the two beamers to look at photos or watch streaming videos.
The Freestyle is compatible with external batteries that are USB-PD and 50W/20V output or above, although Samsung also offers an optional battery base with a claimed maximum charge of three hours. There’s even an optional weather-resistant carry case for those on the move.
Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen review: Setup and operation
The Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen is incredibly easy to set up, thanks to automatic keystoning, levelling and focusing. Point it where you want to project and it will do the rest. This proved flawless in testing, although you can manually fine-tune the keystoning, levelling and focus if necessary.
You increase or decrease the image size between 30 and 100 inches diagonally by moving the Freestyle nearer or farther from the wall. You can project at any angle, including upwards if you want a picture on the ceiling, so you can watch your favourite show anywhere, even lying in bed.
The Freestyle proved fairly quiet in operation, with a noise level of only 25dB from two feet away. It’s also easy to operate, with a home page and menu system that’s intuitive to navigate, allowing you to make adjustments in the menus or choose from the available streaming apps.
The SmartThings app makes setup a breeze, providing basic control plus additional functionality for accessing the apps, a universal guide, smart edge blending and smart calibration. All the main apps are present and correct, while navigating the smart system is slick and responsive.
Samsung’s Smart Calibration feature enables the Freestyle to be quickly and easily calibrated with a supporting smartphone. This feature measures test patterns to produce more accurate images in a matter of seconds, making it very useful when projecting onto off-white walls.
Smart Edge Blending allows two second-generation Freestyle projectors to be paired and their pictures seamlessly blended into an ultra-large-screen image. The minimum recommended screen size is 130 inches, allowing users to get the full benefit of 21:9 content when streaming videos.
We tested this feature and it worked flawlessly thanks to the entire process being explained in the SmartThings app. Set up the two Freestyles, align the test patterns, then use the camera in your phone to analyse the two images and seamlessly combine them into a single widescreen picture.
The process worked without issue, and we couldn’t see the blend between the two projectors when looking at photos or watching videos streamed from a mobile device. At present, only the Android version of SmartThings allows video streaming, but the iOS version does support photos.
Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen review: Performance
The Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen is reasonably bright but will struggle in daylight, so for the best results you’ll need to pull the curtains or use it at night. In general, the picture quality is very good, with images that appear clean and detailed. Since the projector is limited to a resolution of 1080p, it can’t display 4K and this content is downscaled without introducing any apparent imaging artefacts.
The Freestyle supports HDR10, HLG and HDR10+ via its internal apps and micro-HDMI, but the colour space doesn’t cover the full DCI-P3 gamut. Despite its limited brightness, the tone mapping is good, producing HDR images with a bit more punch compared to their SDR equivalent.
Whether SDR or HDR, the pictures appear accurate, and the motion handling is excellent thanks to the use of DLP. Unfortunately, this also means the Freestyle suffers from the usual limitations of DLP, with weak blacks and contrast, plus possible colour fringing (rainbows) for certain people.
The built-in speaker system sounds surprisingly good considering the projector’s compact size. The combination of 5W of amplification, a 360-degree speaker configuration and two passive woofers produce a sound that’s much larger than you’d expect based on the Freestyle’s dimensions.
The audio spreads out in all directions and is capable of going loud without distorting or losing its composure. While it can’t compete with a soundbar, it’s fine for most viewing, and the HDMI ARC means you can even send the audio from the built-in apps back to an external sound system. When using the Smart Edge Blending, both projectors’ speakers are used to expand the audio.
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Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen review: Gaming
The Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen is a decent projector for gaming, although it can’t take advantage of all the latest console features such as 4K, 120Hz high frame rate, VRR (variable refresh rate), and ALLM (auto low latency mode).
However, you can connect a gaming console to the Freestyle using the micro-HDMI input, and in the game mode input lag is 40ms, which may be too high for serious gamers, but will be fine for most people who just fancy a quick gaming session.
The fact that you can quickly and easily set up the Freestyle means you can play games just about anywhere, and with the addition of cloud gaming, you don’t even need a console. As a result, the Freestyle delivers a fun and hassle-free big-screen gaming experience.
Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen review: Verdict
The Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen is a capable projector that achieves its main goals of being portable and incredibly easy to set up. The build quality is excellent, the connectivity is good, the eco-friendly remote is effective, and the automatic levelling, keystoning and focusing all work well.
While limited to 1080p, the Freestyle supports HDR, and the LED light source produces bright and punchy images. There are no apparent processing artefacts, the motion handling is great, and the easy-to-use Smart Calibration feature ensures accurate colours, even with off-white walls.
The smart platform offers an extensive choice of streaming apps and smart assistants, the input lag is low enough for most users, and the sound quality is surprisingly good considering the size of the projector. All this makes the Samsung Freestyle a fun and flexible big-screen performer.
The addition of cloud gaming will be welcomed by anyone who fancies immersive fun with minimum hassle, and if you happen to own two Freestyles, the Smart Edge Blending is a very clever feature that will impress your friends. Cinema on the go has never been more fun.