Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen review: the best portable projector gets even better

Samsung's next-gen portable projector mixes a compelling design with great features, though the price ultimately is high for what you get.

Feb 25, 2024 - 23:50
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Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen review: the best portable projector gets even better

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen: one-minute review

Samsung’s first The Freestyle projector created quite the buzz with its compact, cylindrical form and superior streaming capabilities compared to other portable projectors. Notably, it featured the same Tizen smart TV interface found in the company’s TVs, which let viewers easily stream from a wide range of apps while also allowing for voice control via Samsung’s Bixby or Amazon Alexa voice assistants. Beyond that, the original The Freestyle could beam images as large as 100 inches, and it provided auto focus and keystone adjustments to quickly align pictures on any surface you pointed it at. We liked it so much when we tested it, that it rocketed to the top of our list of the best portable projectors.

The Freestyle 2nd Gen doesn’t stray too far from the original, but does get a key update with Samsung’s Gaming Hub, a section of the smart interface that houses a range of cloud-based gaming services such as Xbox, Nvidia GeForce Now, Utomik, and more. This new feature lets you pair the projector with wireless gaming controllers and play premium games without having to connect a physical console – something the Freestyle 2nd Gen’s single micro-HDMI connection doesn’t make easy anyway.

Samsung offers a range of accessories to pair with its portable, including a rechargeable battery base that will give you around 3 hours of playback time and an adaptor to plug it into a standard ceiling light socket for power. While most users won’t need to have images beamed down from the ceiling onto a table or floor, having that capability is just one of the things that makes the Freestyle 2nd Gen a more flexible and fun option than typical projectors.

The Freestyle 2nd Gen’s LED light source provides only limited brightness, which means you’ll get the best picture when viewing in a dim room, or at nighttime if viewing outdoors. Even in those conditions, the projector’s picture lacks the detail and punchy contrast you can expect from the best 4K projectors, making it more of a convenient means to project a big image than a high-quality one. But the Freestyle Gen 2’s compact design and excellent feature set still make it a great portable projector, one that will easily fit in your backpack.

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen Review: price and release date

  • Release date: August 2023
  • MSRP: $799 / £649

Samsung’s The Freestyle 2nd Gen sells for $799 /  £649. At this writing it is not currently available in Australia, and availability appear to be limited in the UK. The $799 list price is somewhat high compared to other 1080p HD-res compact portable projectors, though it does offer some unique features not found in the competition such as Samsung’s Gaming Hub. 

The Freestyle 2nd Gen gets regular discounts during holiday sales events, where it sells for around $599. That price makes Samsung’s portable projector a much better value than at its $799 list price, so sales are worth seeking out and waiting for.

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen Gaming Hub interface

The new Samsung Gaming Hub interface (Image credit: Future)

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen Review: Specs

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen on table with battery base

Samsung's optional battery base accessory provides around 3 hours of power before needing a recharge (Image credit: Future)

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen Review: design and features

  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Tizen smart TV interface for streaming
  • Samsung Gaming hub for cloud-based gaming

The Freestyle 2nd Gen sports the same white cylinder form factor as its predecessor. At just 1.8 pounds, it’s easy to tote around the house and is compact enough to easily stash in a backpack. An included cradle stand rotates 180 degrees and can be tilted 90 degrees, giving you plenty of flexibility as to where you beam images, ceilings included. 

Samsung includes a SolarCell remote control that doesn’t require batteries (as the name suggests, it draws energy from available light sources, as well as from your home’s wireless network) and the projector can also be controlled via Samsung’s Bixby or Amazon Alexa voice commands. Such commands can be executed by pressing and holding the Mic button on the remote, but the projector also has built-in far-field mics for hands-free voice control.

The single-chip DLP projector uses an LED light source that Samsung specs for 30,000 hours of use. Auto focus and keystone adjustments let you position the projector even at extreme angles from the wall or other surface you’re projecting on and The Freestyle 2nd Gen’s image will automatically align itself to a 16:9 aspect ratio. Those adjustments can also be carried out manually (and in many cases you'll want to tweak the keystone and focus settings), and there’s the option to shrink the image to a smaller size without physically moving the projector.

Samsung offers a range of accessories to use with The Freestyle 2nd Gen. A socket adaptor lets you plug the projector into a light socket, and is mainly intended for projecting from the ceiling onto a floor or table. There’s also a battery base, which provides several hours of charge and lets you use the projector indoors or out without having to connect to power. A carrying case is another accessory and one that will protect The Freestyle 2nd Gen if you’re bringing it outdoors or to another location.

The Freestyle 2nd Gen is all about streaming and features the same Tizen smart interface found in the company’s TVs. This provides pretty much any streaming app you could want and also has Samsung’s Gaming Hub onboard for cloud-based gaming from services such as Xbox, Nvidia GeForce Now, Utomik, and others. The projector uses the somewhat dated Wi-Fi 5 standard for streaming, although I didn’t have any issues during my time with it.

As a streaming-centric projector, connections on The Freestyle 2nd Gen are limited to micro-HDMI. No HDMI-to-micro-HDMI cables or adaptors are included, so, like me, you’ll probably need to order one online to be able to plug in an external gaming console, Blu-ray player, or other HDMI source. The micro-HDMI connection supports HDMI-ARC, which allows you to connect it to a soundbar or other audio system. Another option is Bluetooth, with dual Bluetooth supported for both wireless input and output connections, and there’s also wireless app casting from iPhones and Android phones.

Samsung calls The Freestyle 2nd Gen’s built-in 5-watt audio system “360 Degree” sound, and during my use, it did provide surprisingly spacious sound, although with unsurprisingly limited bass. The projector can also do double-duty as a wireless speaker for streaming music via AirPlay or Bluetooth, boosting its already impressive features list.

  • Design and features score: 4.5/5

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen beaming picture at screen

With The Freestyle 2nd Gen, you'll get the best picture quality results when viewing  in a dark room (Image credit: Future)

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen review: picture quality

  • Limited brightness
  • Relatively accurate Movie picture mode
  • Plentiful picture adjustments

Lower-cost LED-based portable projectors typically don’t put out a very bright image, and having seen The Freestyle 2nd Gen in action before starting this review, I knew I would have to temper my expectations. With the picture blown up to maximum size on a 100-inch screen, it was noticeably dim, even when viewed in a completely dark room. Using an ambient light rejecting screen with 0.8 gain, I measured a mere 7.3 nits in Dynamic mode on a 10 percent white window test pattern, and 6.6 nits in Movie mode. By way of comparison, a standard home theater projector such as the BenQ v5000i ultra short throw model I recently tested can deliver 125 nits under the same circumstances.

Image brightness got a boost when I positioned the projector for a smaller picture (there is no zoom lens, though images can be digitally scaled to a smaller size), though it still seemed relatively dim. Picture contrast was decent, with blacks in images showing a good degree of depth, though shadows lacked detail, appearing as more of a dark gray mass.

Colors were most accurate in the Movie picture mode. With that selected, I measured color Delta-E (the margin of error between the test pattern source and what’s shown on-screen) at 5, and the grayscale Delta-E at 14.1. They were notably less so in the Standard and Dynamic modes, but even so, I preferred Standard because it provided a slight brightness advantage over Movie. Watching Asteroid City streamed on Amazon Prime, the film’s hyped-up color scheme came through with all its garishness intact, though there was also a softness to the picture, which was being downscaled to the projector’s native 1080p format.

The projector supports HDR10+, HDR10, and HLG high dynamic range, but I didn’t see much of a picture quality difference when viewing in HDR from standard HD format – something the above peak brightness measurements, which were taken with the projector displaying in HDR backs up. As for other measurements, Samsung’s projector managed 88.5% P3 color space and 68.9% BT.2020 color space coverage, and input lag was 62ms with Game mode active. That last number is a relatively high one compared to what you’ll see from the best gaming TVs, as well as certain projectors such as the BenQ v5000i, though I didn’t have any issues when playing Xbox games in Samsung Gaming Hub.

  • Picture quality score: 3.5/5

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen inputs section

Side-panel connections include one HDMI with eARC and a USB-C port for power (Image credit: Future)

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen Review: value

  • Pricier than portable competition
  • Frequently gets discounts
  • Enhanced value for gamers

At its $799 / £649 list price, the Freestyle 2nd Gen sits in an awkward spot value-wise. It costs twice as much as other portable 1080p LED projectors with similar brightness specs such as the Anker Nebula Solar Portable. And spending around $1,000 more will get you a 4K model with a significantly brighter laser light engine such as the Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K.

If you find the Freestyle 2nd Gen selling at a discounted price, while still not cheap, it’s value gets a boost. The main advantages Samsung’s projector holds over similar models are its highly flexible setup options, easy portability, and superior smart interface for streaming and gaming. If limited brightness won’t be a big factor in your buying decision, there’s plenty to recommend the Freestyle 2nd Gen.

  • Value score: 3.5/5

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen remote control held in hand

The projector's remote features a built-in mic for voice commands (Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen?

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen close up of lens and controls

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don’t buy it if… 

Also consider...

Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K
This powerful portable has a laser-based light engine with a whopping 2,400 lumens brightness, though it costs more than twice what you’ll pay for the Samsung. It also has a stunning design, though there’s no built-in battery for easy outdoor use.

Read our full Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K review

Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen smart interface

(Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen

  • I spent about 5 hours in total measuring and evaluating
  • Measurements were made using Calman color calibration software
  • Used with an Elite Screens Kestrel Tab-Tension 2 CLR 3 projection screen

When I test a projector, my first step is to spend a few days using it for casual viewing for break-in and to assess the out-of-box picture presets. The next step is to select the most accurate-looking preset (typically labeled Filmmaker, Movie or Cinema) and measure the white balance (grayscale), gamma, and color point accuracy using Portrait Displays’ Calman color calibration software. The resulting measurements provide Delta-E values (the margin of error between the test pattern source and what’s shown on-screen) for each category, and they allow for an assessment of the TV’s overall accuracy.

Along with those tests, I make measurements of peak light output (recorded in nits) for both standard high-definition and 4K high dynamic range using a 10% white window pattern. Coverage of DCI-P3 and BT.2020 color space is also measured, with the results providing a sense of how faithfully the projector can render the extended color range in ultra high-definition sources.

Unlike many portable projectors, the Samsung The Freestyle 2nd Gen provides a full range of adjustments to calibrate its picture. And while most users aren’t likely to bother using these, it’s nice to know they exist. Knowing that Samsung’s portable will almost exclusively be used for casual viewing, I bypassed a calibration and relied on both streaming reference 4K Blu-ray discs to test its performance in the Movie, Standard, and Dynamic preset picture modes

My projector testing experience spans almost three decades, going back to the early three-gun CRT models.

First reviewed: February, 2024

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