Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen projector review

hcchighreccomend Samsung's upgraded portable LED beamer adds new clever features. Steve Withers gets blending…

Samsung made a triumphant return to the projector market 
a couple of years ago, thanks to the one-two punch of The Premiere and The Freestyle. The former is a premium ultra-short-throw model with an RGB laser light source capable of delivering the full BT.2020 wide colour gamut, while the latter is a lifestyle LED beamer that redefines the very concept of a projector.

Never a company to sit on its laurels, Samsung has now released a second-generation version of The Freestyle, building on its earlier success by including a host of useful and ingenious new features at a very competitive price.

How do the two generations differ? The 2nd Gen Freestyle adds Samsung's SolarCell remote control, so 
no changing batteries, and sports a new hub for access 
to cloud gaming. The choice of streamers has also been increased, with all major apps including the UK TV catch-up services present and correct.

The built-in memory has been expanded to improve 
the responsiveness compared to the earlier version, and the LED lifespan has been extended from 20,000 to 30,000 hours. The automated setup has also been upgraded to include focus, levelling and keystone geometric correction.

However, the headline new feature is Smart Edge Blending, which allows you to easily and seamlessly merge two 2nd Gen Freestyles into a single widescreen image – more on this later.

Standing out
The Freestyle is an impressive bit of kit, offering all the strengths of a 'Pico' ultra-portable projector combined with an operating system typically found on a TV, plus the functionality of a smart speaker and even the benefits of an LED light. It's very much a jack-of-all-trades.

It also still stands out from the crowd, with its unique design based around a white cylindrical body that's attached to a stand allowing it to be rotated through 180 degrees. This means you can point it at a wall, towards the angled eaves of a loft, or even directly up at the ceiling to watch your favourite movie in bed. Just don't fall asleep.

The Freestyle 2nd Gen appears well-made and robust, which is important for a portable projector, although if 
you want to be genuinely mobile you'll need the optional battery base, with its three-hour charge and weather resistant carry-case. Otherwise you just plug the PJ into 
a wall socket using the provided USB-C power adapter.

The connections remain the same with a single Micro HDMI input, which means you'll need an adapter to attach a disc player or games console. 
The priority is clearly wireless connectivity, and here this beamer impresses with dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2, and AirPlay 2.

Plug 'n' play
Installation couldn't 
be much easier, with The Freestyle 2nd Gen automatically focusing and levelling the image, and applying any keystone correction if necessary. These elements work better than on the previous generation of the hardware, and while there are manual controls 
for tweaking the geometry, in reality all you'll need to do is adjust the image size by physically moving the beamer nearer or farther from your wall (or screen). There's no zoom here, so the projector's throw ratio is fixed at 1.2:1, and capable of image sizes ranging from 30in to 100in.

The SmartThings app takes you through the rest of the setup procedures, and within minutes you'll be connected to your Wi-Fi network and accessing streaming apps and cloud gaming portals. (although the latter will require a speedy internet connection, a gaming service subscription, and a compatible third-party controller).

Thanks to Samsung's clever Smart Calibration feature, you can also improve the accuracy of The Freestyle 2nd Gen using the SmartThings app and the camera in your smartphone. It only supports the basic version, but in about 30 seconds it will get you in the ballpark.


The projector's 5W-rated speaker array, including a passive radiator, lurks in its bottom edge

The Freestyle 2nd Gen's LED light source can deliver 550 Lumens, and while reasonably bright it'll struggle in a room with a lot of ambient light. This, and the fact there's no built-in tuner, means it can't really be considered as an alternative to a TV. It's more of a pop-up option for bigscreen fun, offering a Full HD resolution and playback of HDR10, HLG and HDR10+ content via HDMI or, more likely, the internal apps.

Running around the bottom of its body is its 5W-rated speaker ring and a passive radiator, which combine to generate 
a surprisingly big sound. It obviously can't compete with a full-on system but it gets the job done, and allows The Freestyle 2nd Gen to double as an everyday smart speaker. Want audio with enough scale to match the visuals? There's the option of passing audio from the internal apps via HDMI-ARC.

More Spidey than Batman...
This projector aims for the entertainment market rather than home cinema fans, and as such a degree of expectation management is required. The emphasis is on convenience, as opposed to pure picture quality, but having said that its images are nicely rendered with some excellent detail and effective tone-mapping.

Colours in particular are rich and crisp, allowing The Freestyle to do justice to brighter HDR material. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (4K Blu-ray) is a good example of the kind of visuals that look great here, with 
a bright and punchy image that laps up all the primaries in the animation. The scenes in Gwen's world look especially vibrant, with an almost watercolour aesthetic.

Motion handling is impressive, as evidenced when Miguel chases Miles through the Spider-Society headquarters. There's a fantastic fluidity to the movement as the pair swing through the gravity-defying structures.

As expected from an affordable DLP-based device, 
the Freestyle 2nd Gen reproduces blacks more as a dark grey. A particularly dark film like The Batman (4K Blu-ray) therefore tends to suffer from some black crush and loss of shadow detail.

Of course, you're unlikely to notice The Freestyle's black level limitations in a room with a white wall and ambient light, but it's worth bearing in mind. DLP rainbow artefacts are another thing to consider.

In the unlikely event you happen to have two Freestyle 2nd Gens knocking about, the Smart Edge Blending tool is very cool. All you need 
to do is roughly line up the two projected images, and then run the feature in the SmartThings app. A grid pops up to help you align the beamers, and then using the camera in your phone, the software blends both into a single widescreen picture. Heart of Stone (Netflix) really benefited from the expanded cinematic sweep, with the brightness increased and the paired speakers boosting the sound quality. This feature is supported by Android and iOS, but at present only the former offers widescreen video, with the latter restricted to photos.

The smart option
The Freestyle 2nd Gen is an all-singing, all-dancing portable projector that blows the competition out of the water when it comes to design, features and performance. If you're a serious cinephile this beamer probably isn't for you, but if you're looking for quick, easy and flexible largescreen fun that won't break the bank, Samsung's PJ is the smart option. Especially if you buy two.

HCC Verdict: 4.5/5

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen
Price: £599

We say: Samsung's sophisticated LED portable doesn't quite qualify as 'home cinema' but it delivers excellent features and performance at a very competitive price.


3D: No 4K: No. 1,920 x 1,080 HDR: Yes. HDR10; HLG; HDR10+ CONNECTIONS: Micro HDMI input; USB-C power point BRIGHTNESS (CLAIMED): 550 Lumens CONTRAST (claimed): 100,000:1 ZOOM: No DIMENSIONS: 104(w) x 173(h) x 95(d)mm WEIGHT: 0.83kg

FEATURES: LED Pico projector; DLP device; 5W built-in 360-degree speaker 'ring'; 30,000-hour claimed lifespan; SolarCell One remote; 30dB claimed fan noise; 1.2:1 throw ratio; Motion plus processing; built-in Wi-Fi (dual band); Bluetooth 5.2; Apple AirPlay 2; voice control support; built-in Tizen smart system with streaming apps; prismatic lens cover; smart light functionality including Ambient mode; auto focus, level and keystone correction; 30-100in image size; Smart Calibration; Smart Edge Blending; battery option for untethered use; optional carry case

Samsung UK