Samsung The Freestyle Portable Projector Review: It’s ALMOST Perfect
Projectors 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
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.
- 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
- 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.
While 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.
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.)
Again, I’m a bit surprised there’s no built in power bank here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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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Samsung The Freestyle projector (2022) review
Sporting a setup process which has you up and running in minutes, Samsung’s The Freestyle projector offers an ease of use that’s truly extraordinary. Along with its built-in Smart features and auto-levelling capability, The Freestyle also offers impressive picture and audio quality. It’s clear that Samsung intends to bring portable projectors into the mainstream with The Freestyle, and we do believe it could be the device which finally cracks the market.
- Great portability
- Handy suite of built-in apps
- Impressive auto adjustment
- Decent brightness
- – Sluggish navigation
- – Occasional autofocus issues
- – Some random restarts
- – Auto keystone can be fussy
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It’s no secret that the last couple of years have changed the way we socialize, with many of us opting to partake in the safety of outdoor gatherings rather than risk the spread of Covid-19 in confined, indoor spaces.
Perhaps sensing this trend would only continue to grow in popularity moving forward, Samsung has ingeniously delivered The Freestyle, a portable projector that’s capable of producing admirable Full HD images at up to 100 inches in size – perfect for backyard movie nights.
With The Freestyle, Samsung provides almost everything you need for a night of entertainment, bringing the Smart TV experience to any surface it’s aimed at. It offers access to all of your favorite streaming services, a powerful 360° built-in speaker with Smart assistant support, and even mobile mirroring functionality – all you need to provide is a power source (either via a nearby wall socket or a compatible power bank) and a Wi-Fi connection (or, failing that, a mobile hotspot).
Approachability is key for mainstream acceptance of any new product, and Samsung has nailed this aspect with The Freestyle. Simply put, any projector which is ready to go within minutes of being taken out of the box is a triumph of design and engineering, and should be celebrated.
That said, its execution isn’t entirely flawless. Though The Freestyle’s auto keystone feature worked well for the most part, it did have trouble registering the surface of our provided projector screen properly, leading to a skewed image that needed to be manually adjusted.
Additionally, we weren’t too keen on Samsung’s updated Smart TV platform, which makes its debut on The Freestyle before rolling out to the rest of its 2022 range. It’s not only sluggish, but also forces us to leave our content in order to perform simple tasks, like adjusting viewing modes.
Still, The Freestyle is by far the most user-friendly projector solution that this reviewer has encountered, offering better than expected picture quality, excellent connectivity and a variety of clever and endearing features.
Price and availability
Samsung’s The Freestyle will release in the UK on February 16, 2022, and is set for release in Australia by the end of February 2022. Though a US release date hasn’t been set, retailers are already taking orders for The Freestyle with an expected delivery date of March 31, 2022.
Pricing for The Freestyle has been set at 899 / £999 / AU1,299, which is a little pricier than other portable projectors on the market. Of course, that should be expected for a product that offers far more functionality and polish than its competition. Taking this into account, we’d argue the price is quite reasonable for a 1080p HDR projector that delivers the Samsung Smart TV experience on the go.
Samsung‘s The Freestyle has been designed with portability in mind, and its compact size and cylindrical shape is a testament to that. It weighs just 0.8kg, and at 95.2 x 171.4 x 95.2mm, it’s roughly the size of a can of dog food, meaning you can pick it up and toss it in your backpack without any hassle whatsoever.
The projector itself is propped up by a sturdy aluminum cradle stand with a flat base which offers well over 180° of tilt, making it easy to project an image on practically any surface.
While The Freestyle is primarily intended for use with a power outlet, The Freestyle can also be powered by compatible power banks which offer 50W/20V output and USB PB functionality, making it especially suited for outdoor settings.
As you’d expect, its 360° degree speaker wraps around The Freestyle’s entire circumference, delivering audio in every direction. On top of the device, you’ll find touch capacitive controls which allow you to power it on and adjust The Freestyle’s volume without a remote.
Meanwhile, on the bottom of the device, you can see The Freestyle’s passive radiator, which is used to expel bass, along with some pin connectors that will come in handy for future accessories, such as an already-planned battery pack.
Along the side of the unit, you’ll spot a USB Type-C port for powering the device, along with a mini HDMI port (which you’ll need in order to connect any sort of games console) and a toggle switch which shuts the device’s mic on and off.
We really appreciate this last inclusion, because while The Freestyle is intended for use as a Smart speaker, it’s understandable that some people would just want to use it exclusively as a projector, without it listening in on every conversation.
When it comes to functionality, you won’t find a more feature-packed portable projector than Samsung’s The Freestyle.
But let’s start with its cinematic prowess. The Freestyle offers Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution projection with HDR10 support at up to 550 lumens of brightness. On paper, that doesn’t sound like much, but we were pleasantly surprised by the bright and vivid images it’s able to produce.
Even when used during the day, and with indirect light from outside coming into the room, The Freestyle is able to project confident images that still exhibit an acceptable amount of contrast (depending on how bright your content is to begin with, of course).
We put this down to clever processing from Samsung’s Hyper Real picture engine, which is able to automatically adjust color and brightness using its Smart Calibration feature.
One of The Freestyle’s most talked about features is its Digital Keystone Correction functionality, which is able to automatically adjust your picture on the fly to present a perfectly squared image, even when projected onto angled surfaces. Adding to this is an auto-levelling feature which will get you a perfectly straight image, even when The Freestyle itself is placed on an uneven surface.
Of course, there’s a limit to how much your image can adjust itself – look closely and you’ll see a sort of boundary area in your projection, which your reshaped image has to stay within. While that obviously can’t be helped, it’s worth noting that the crazier your projection and surface angles are, the smaller your image will get.
Speaking of image size, The Freestyle is capable of projecting images starting at 30 inches (from a projection distance of around 79.5cm), all the way up to 100 inches (with a 2.6m projection distance).
As discussed earlier, one thing that gives Samsung’s The Freestyle the edge over many other portable projectors is that it has a suite of streaming apps and other services built in from the word go.
Users can take The Freestyle out of its box and start watching the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video and more within minutes – a setup process that’s even faster and smoother when done via Samsung’s SmartThings phone app.
Which brings us to one of The Freestyle’s lesser known features; one which honestly makes all the difference in the world for those looking to use Samsung’s projector as their primary home entertainment device – The Freestyle will automatically connect to compatible devices on your Wi-Fi network, especially Samsung ones.
Not only does this mean the ability to mirror our Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 to any projected surface (a feature that’s also available to iPhones via AirPlay), The Freestyle also automatically connected to our Samsung soundbar (something which was discovered entirely by accident).
Movie and TV viewing aside, The Freestyle also offers a number of clever ambient modes which will bring a great deal of fun into your home. Sick of looking at a wall all day? Project a virtual window onto it with a beautifully picturesque (and animated) outdoor setting to look at instead. Or maybe you’re having a party? The Freestyle will let you project a happy birthday message on your wall in neon, among other things.
Picture and audio quality
As we mentioned earlier, we were genuinely surprised by how The Freestyle was able to overcome the limitations of a 1080p maximum resolution, 60Hz refresh rate and just 550 lumens of brightness to produce impressively vibrant images.
The Freestyle offers three primary picture mode presets: Standard, Dynamic and Movie. In our testing, we did notice the brighter Dynamic mode brought about some motion smoothing, which makes us think it would be best suited to watching sporting events.
Our preferred setting, however, was Movie mode, which offered any experience similar to Filmmaker Mode on Samsung’s premium television models, in which the image offers enhanced contrast and colors which are closer to the Hollywood standard.
After switching off all the lights in our living room, we kicked off our home movie by testing the bright and colorful Disney film Encanto, and came away very impressed with The Freestyle’s picture quality. Color reproduction was strong and faithful, with a sufficiently good level of contrast.
Later, we chose to watch the dark and grimy action film The Raid, and were once again surprised by how well The Freestyle handled not just the more muted material, but also the aggressive motion and shaky camera work that the movie possesses.
It’s worth noting that The Freestyle also offers a Game mode, which brings its latency down from around 70 milliseconds to 43.2 milliseconds. That’s fine for casual gamers who want to play a bit of Mario Kart, though competitive players will probably want to steer clear of any projector.
As expected with portable projectors, The Freestyle’s image sharpness decreases somewhat the larger you go, and moving it further away from your desired surface will also see a drop in brightness, but even then its images remain fairly crisp and viewable.
In fact, we’d go as far as saying that The Freestyle’s picture quality becomes more pleasant the larger it goes, as the tighter its image projection gets (and the closer you are to it), the easier it is to spot a sort of grid-like, dotted texture to the image, which we imagine is a side effect of how the projector works.
Obviously, this texture would be even less noticeable were The Freestyle capable of a 4K image output (and we don’t doubt to see that as a bullet point in future models), however, this model’s 1080p looks perfectly fine at an optimal viewing distance of a couple meters or so.
If, like us, you were initially concerned about having to use The Freestyle’s built-in 360° degree speaker as your home cinema’s primary audio source, you don’t have to worry – switching to our aforementioned soundbar in The Freestyle‘s quick settings menu allowed it to output full surround sound over a Wi-Fi connection, instantly allowing for a more traditional home theatre audio experience.
To be clear, you won’t be able to produce full Dolby Atmos audio over Wi-Fi, however, you will get far superior multi-channel sound, which any cinephile will find to be an enormous improvement.
For the purposes of our review, Samsung was able to provide us with a 92-inch roll-up projector screen which gave us the opportunity to have a real cinema-style experience at home (minus the risk of Covid, crying children and exorbitant snack prices).
As for The Freestyle’s auto keystone feature, in our experience it worked well in any instance in which the projector was pointed at a wall or ceiling, automatically levelling and adjusting its image into the correct proportions regardless of the surface’s shape or angle.
That said, we did find that The Freestyle ironically had trouble registering the surface of our projector screen. Even with the projector pointed directly at the screen from a very central position, it always defaulted to a skewed image.
Additionally, there were some instances where The Freestyle was unable to settle into FOCUS. Eventually, we ended up switching both features off, opting instead to manually adjust both the keystone and FOCUS settings. Thankfully, doing so is a relatively straightforward process.
Our biggest bugbear, however, is the extreme sluggishness of The Freestyle’s user interface. The new projector acts as the debut of Samsung’s new Smart TV operating system, and we must admit, it isn’t off to a great start.
For starters, Samsung’s new TV OS is now a full-screen affair, meaning you can no longer adjust settings on the fly without leaving the show or movie you’re watching. This also means that reaching the (now not so) quick settings requires additional steps.
While the new OS is still based on Tizen, it often takes well over a second for individual button presses on the supplied remote to register on screen. This makes the act of simply navigating Netflix, or adjusting picture settings, an absolutely aggravating affair.
It’s worth noting that the remote which was provided to us for review isn’t the final remote that’ll ship with The Freestyle, but rather the standard remote that ships with Samsung’s mid-tier TVs. Despite this, we don’t think the remote has anything to do with The Freestyle’s slow-moving navigation.
Issues like these obviously go against the effortlessness and ease of use that Samsung’s The Freestyle is primarily being sold on, however, we imagine (and hope) that issues like these could be sorted with a firmware update.
Buy it if.
You’re after a projector for every occasion Compact, portable and with a built-in suite of apps, The Freestyle is a projector that offers everything you need in one place.
You want a no-fuss setup process Thanks to its auto keystone and levelling features, it’s easy to get The Freestyle up and running in minutes – no need for professional calibration.
You want great picture and audio The Freestyle offers surprisingly great picture quality and brightness for a 1080p projector that’s limited to 550 lumens. We also appreciate its built-in 360° degree speaker.
Don’t buy it if…
You hate sluggish navigation As great as The Freestyle’s picture quality and easy setup is, its sluggish navigation can be incredibly frustrating.
You don’t have a lot of space To make the most of The Freestyle, you’re going to want to have plenty of space to project large images. You’ll also need a decent sized area to project onto.
You need 4K The Freestyle’s 1080p projection looks great, but if you’re willing to wait, we feel pretty confident that a 4K version will come in the next few years.
Samsung The Freestyle review
Projector, media streamer, ambient light source – the Samsung Freestyle is all these things, and probably a few more. We’ve seen portable Pico-style projectors before, but this is an almost unrecognisable evolution.
The cute circular beamer has an angled stand which allows you to point at a wall or the ceiling. It can also be driven off an optional battery pack, for wire-free use.
So is this the next-gen display device you’ve been waiting for?
The Freestyle, to give it it’s full name, has the girth of a jumbo can of beans (17 x 10cm) and sits on a directional pedestal stand that allows it to be pointed forward, backwards or straight up, 180 degree style.
It comes in white as standard with Forest Green an option in the UK. Across the pond, US buyers will have to spend extra on a skin to turn the Freestyle Forest Green, Blossom Pink or Coyote Beige for 29.99.
Physical controls are minimal. Once aimed, the projector’s auto-FOCUS mechanism clicks in and its picture snaps into FOCUS. The Freestyle can also automatically keystone-correct skewed images, within reason, to present a regular widescreen frame.
There’s a mini HDMI port, plus USB for external power supply use; the big idea is to use it wirelessly, connected via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to your smartphone.
The projector squirts audio through a ring of perforations, to give something akin to 360 sound, while the base incorporates a full-width woofer. Audio power output is rated at 5W. There’s a plastic cap provided to protect the lens, which is surrounded by some touch-sensitive controls for volume, microphone and power.
Bundled is a tidy remote control, with menu navigation and Netflix, Prime Video, Disney and Samsung TV Plus hot buttons. Home calls up the main UI.
When it comes to usability, the Freestyle is built around the familiar interface of Samsung’s Tizen Smart platform as per the firm’s TVs such as the QN95A. With access to a wide range of streaming apps and catch-up TV services.
Provided as standard are Disney, Netflix, Prime Video, Samsung TV Plus, iPlayer, ITV hub, Apple TV, Now, YouTube, All4, My5, and Plex, but you can add more by opening the Samsung app store. It took just a few minutes to add the UFC Fight Pass app to my go-to services.
There are rails of curated content from the catch-up services, plus channels from the Samsung TV Plus free-to-watch programme bouquet. There’s no TV tuner onboard, but with such a diverse selection of live streaming apps on hand, you’ll hardly notice.
It’s also compatible with Samsung’s SmartThings app, and Apple AirPlay 2. There’s voice control via either Bixby or Amazon Alexa, via integrated far-field voice control micros.
You need around 2.66m distance to cast a 100in screen, or 1.59m to replicate a 60in TV. The throw ratio is fixed at 1.21:1 and lamp life is claimed to cover 20,000 hours.
The projector can also be used purely for audio, streaming over Bluetooth, making this an over-specified Smart speaker (details on the audio quality below).
While the Freestyle doesn’t have a built-in battery for true portability, it can run off the optional matching battery pack, or any external USB battery pack cells that are USB-PD and have a 50W/20V output or above. Check our list of the best laptop power banks for some options.
If you’re more into mood than movies, then there’s Ambient Mode, which offers a variety of coloured patterns and messages (‘Happy New Year’, ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Welcome’ for example). Other niceties include a Sleep Timer and Contrast Enhancer.
Arguably the most important characteristic of any small Pico projector is brightness. Thankfully, the Freestyle doesn’t fall at this first hurdle. Light output is rated at 550 lumens (aka nits) which is not bad for a device this size.
The Freestyle isn’t really suitable for use in rooms with high ambient light, but dim things down a bit or watch after dark and you’ll be impressed.
Resolution tops out at Full HD (1080p), and ostensibly there’s some support for HDR10 and HLG sources, but the idea that this projector is HDR capable is misleading. This isn’t a performance product, it’s a lifestyle gadget.
The light engine is LED, and is notable mainly for its solid reds and blues. Picture modes comprise Dynamic, Standard, Movie. Standard is the best all-rounder, offering the best blend of sharp imagery and colour authenticity.
There’s an inevitable constraint on the projector’s black level performance, and in a fully dark room, deep blacks are really grey, and near black detail is lost. Brighter images work better. But balance that with the ability to create a big picture in virtually any room space, and this shortfall will seem a price worth paying.
Sonically, the Freestyle is impressive – at least when compared to more conventional projectors. That circle of dispersion delivers a nicely balanced sound, with clean treble definition and appreciable mid-range weight. At everyday day volume levels, it easily drowns out operating noise, which is a little on the loud side at 30dB.
The Samsung Freestyle sells for US899.99/£999 (model number SP-LSP3BLAXZA or SP-LSP3BLAXXU respectively). Australian buyers can pick one up for AUS1,299
You can customise the Freestyle with a coloured cover. Choose from Coyote Beige, Blossom Pink and Forest Green, for /£29.99 askin. There’s also an IP55 rated carry case complete with carabine clip, the VG-SCLA00G/XC, which can protect from dust and water when you’re out camping and the like. It’s priced at /£59.
In the US, as well as the official store, you can get it from BestBuy, Newegg and Amazon.
The Samsung Freestyle is a novel projection proposition that could very well usher in a new category of display technology. Its HD performance eclipses standard small-form Picomodels, and it’s unquestionably versatile.
We think it can be used pretty much anywhere. It’s a great big-screen solution for smaller rooms that are unsuitable for a large, permanent TV but conveniently have a wall ready to be filled, and works just as well in a kid’s bedroom or open plan kitchen space.
It’s even small enough to park on a desk if you want to bring a huge news feed to a spare wall in your home office.
Value is harder to judge, as it has no direct competitors. Overall though, we rate the Freestyle a top tier gizmo.
The Best Portable Mini Projector
Xgimi has replaced our former top pick, the MoGo Pro, with the MoGo 2 and MoGo 2 Pro. We tested both new models and made them our pick.
A portable mini projector combines the convenience of streaming videos on a phone or tablet with the big-screen appeal of a TV. None of these small, portable projectors rival a good TV or traditional home-theater projector in performance, but the Xgimi MoGo 2 Series delivers the best combination of picture quality, ease of use, and convenience.
How we picked and tested
We only tested models with a resolution of 720p or better, and we preferred a brightness rating of at least 300 ANSI lumens.
The best portable models offer automatic FOCUS and image-positioning tools that quickly produce a correctly shaped image on a wall or screen.
For convenience and portability, we looked for models with a good built-in streaming platform, as well as battery or USB-C power.
We measured each TV’s brightness, contrast, and color accuracy using Portrait Displays’s Calman software and a colorimeter.
Best portable mini projector for everyday use
This compact projector offers good image brightness, above-average sound, and easy setup—for less money than similarly equipped competitors. It lacks a built-in battery, but you can run it off a USB-C power bank.
If you need a 1080p resolution
The Pro version’s 1080p resolution produces a slightly cleaner, sharper image than the basic version—but that improvement may not be worth the extra cost for many people.
Xgimi’s MoGo 2 Series offers almost everything we want in a portable mini projector. The series includes two models that share the same core features and design: Both are LED projectors with a compact form, built-in streaming services and speakers, support for Bluetooth audio, and a USB-C charging port. The 720p MoGo 2 is best for most people because it gives you all of that—and surprisingly good performance—for around 400.
The pricier MoGo 2 Pro ups the resolution to Full HD (1080p)—which does produce a slightly cleaner, sharper image—and has a few more advanced setup tools. But those improvements come with a fairly significant 200 price increase that may not be worth it for many shoppers, especially if you plan to project the image directly against a wall in your home.
Both projectors measured brighter in our tests than many competitors that cost more, but we wish the black level were better—the darkest scenes in movies looked a bit washed out in a dark room. But with most TV and sports content, the MoGo 2 Series creates a nice-looking image.
The inclusion of Android TV means you don’t have to connect an external video player to enjoy lots of streamed content, though the projector has HDMI and USB video inputs if you need them. The internal speaker sounds loud and full, but you can also connect a speaker via cable or Bluetooth.
The main downside here is that the MoGo 2 Series lacks a built-in battery, though you can run the projectors off a 65-watt USB-C power bank.
Why you should trust us
I have over a decade of experience reviewing TVs, projectors, and other video devices. I was formerly the video editor and primary TV tester for HomeTheaterReview.com, and previously contributed TV coverage to Home Theater Magazine, Electronic House, and other publications. I am an Imaging Science Foundation Level II Certified Video Calibrator, and I have the full complement of objective testing gear to measure and evaluate the performance of these projectors.
Although this type of projector is a great space saver, it’s important to temper your performance expectations. Nothing we’ve tested for this guide performs as well as a traditional home projector or even a good budget TV.
Who this is for
If your video entertainment comes mostly from streaming services and you don’t want a TV taking up permanent space in your house or apartment, a small, portable projector is a convenient solution that lets you easily (and temporarily) display video on a wall or screen.
Although this type of projector is a great space saver, it’s important to temper your performance expectations. Nothing we’ve tested for this guide performs as well as a traditional home projector or even a good budget TV.
If you primarily watch TV and movies during the day or in a bright room, you’ll probably be happier with a modest-size TV, which can get a lot brighter and do a better job showing new video technologies such as 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) video.
Likewise, these are not the projectors to use if you want a true big-screen home cinema experience—they are not bright enough, and their black-level performance and color accuracy are not up to home-theater standards.
The Best Budget Projector for a Home Theater
The BenQ HT2060 ’s good contrast, bright output, and impressive color accuracy make it our pick for the best budget home theater projector.
How we picked
To determine which portable mini projectors to call in for testing, we considered the following elements:
We look for projectors with an HD resolution (720p or better) and a claimed brightness of at least 300 ANSI lumens. You can find a ton of super-tiny projectors costing 200 or less that have, at best, a 480p standard-definition resolution and very low light output (under 200 ANSI lumens), so they can’t deliver a bright, detailed image in a room with any light.
Most projectors in this category use LED light sources instead of bulbs, and some manufacturers list these models’ output in “LED lumens” in order to give a higher number. (For details, read about the difference between ANSI lumens and LED lumens.) As we mentioned above, none of these small, portable LED projectors can get as bright as a traditional home-theater projector.
We look for projectors that are small and light enough to carry with one hand and transport in a backpack, briefcase, or large purse. A carrying handle or included travel case is a plus.
To be considered truly portable, a projector must have either a built-in battery or a USB-C charging port that can run off a portable power bank. Many manufacturers are moving away from the use of a built-in battery, which complicates the brightness specifications. When you run the projector off a built-in battery, it will automatically switch into a dimmer mode to lengthen the battery life. Sometimes you can bypass this dimming, but then the battery life is drastically reduced.
Connection and source options
We require all projectors to have a full-size HDMI input, and we prefer ones that have Wi-Fi and internal streaming-video apps (such as YouTube, Prime Video, or Disney) so you don’t have to connect an external source device. A USB slot for playback of personal media files (or charging an HDMI streaming stick) is also a plus.
We did not set any price restrictions. However, projectors that meet our minimum resolution and brightness specs generally start at around 350. On the other end, we’ve tested mini projectors that cost as much as 1,000. We’ve found that, once the price climbs above about 750, you can get much better performance if you’re willing to give up the smaller form and go with a budget home-theater projector.
How we tested
We begin each evaluation by testing the projector’s objective performance. We use Portrait Displays’s Calman color calibration software with a Murideo Six-G test-pattern generator (shown above) and a C6 HDR2000 colorimeter to measure all the available picture and brightness modes to determine which provides the best combination of light output, contrast ratio, and color accuracy. For these measurements, we display a 55-inch-diagonal image onto a Silver Ticket STR Series 0.95-gain, matte-white screen.
Then we spend time using each projector, evaluating the picture quality of both the internal apps (if they exist) and connected sources.
We use the following criteria during our evaluations:
- User experience: We prioritize ease of use, since we believe most people who want a portable mini projector put high value on a user-friendly experience. We look for projectors with well-designed menus that allow us to set them up easily and adjust settings. If a projector has internal streaming apps, we make sure that those apps are easy to load and use. (For licensing reasons, official support for Netflix is a rarity in many small, portable projectors.) The included remote should have all the necessary buttons and be able to control all the internal apps. The ideal remote will control the projector via Bluetooth instead of infrared (so you don’t need line-of-sight) and has a simple layout.
- Picture quality: We look at how each projector measures objectively, as well as how the image looks with real-world content. Does the picture look rich and clean? Is the picture sharp? Do colors look natural, or are they wildly exaggerated? Color accuracy is not very good on many portable movie projectors, but considering their intended use, we think that light output and contrast ratio are more important parameters, so we weigh those more heavily.
- Picture setup: It should be simple to FOCUS and shape the image correctly. We give extra points to projectors that perform one or both of these functions automatically. Most projectors in this category lack the advanced lens shifting and zoom functions you’ll find on a home-theater projector.
- Speaker quality: We want a projector’s speaker to be robust enough that you don’t have to use an external speaker. But you should be able to connect one if needed, either directly with a cable or with Bluetooth. When Bluetooth is an option, we connect the projector to a Wonderboom speaker (a pick in our guide to the best portable Bluetooth speaker) to test for ease of pairing, signal reliability, and lip-sync issues.
- Battery life: If the projector has a built-in battery, it should last at least the duration of an average movie, about two hours.