Friday

Samsung Galaxy Beam Review


And here it is in our hands, one of the more notable handsets in recent memory, the pico projector-laden Samsung Galaxy Beam. We remember how excited we were in 2009 when we handled the first Samsung phone with built-in projector, theI 7410, and the next year when the first Beam made its way to MWC 2010. 

The original Beamer then crushed our hopes and dreams by never venturing outside of Singapore, except to entertain some trapped Chilean miners. Still, those two will stay forever in our hearts as the first phones with integrated projectors, unlike the LG eXpo, which had a pico unit as an accessory to tack on.



Announced at MWC 2012, the Samsung Galaxy Beam now sports a projector module of Samsung's own make, that shines with 15 lumen and nHD (640x360) resolution, supposedly enough to create a watchable experience in a low ambient light setting, which can be blown up to 50”. 

Compare that to the 6 lumen that the pico projector inside its predecessor was capable of, and you will understand why we are excited to take the Galaxy Beam for a spin. Is it living up to our caged desires to watch CSI while camping in Shenandoah, and annoy the heck out of the wildlife there? Read on our review to find out


Design
Graced with jolly bright orange sides, the Galaxy Beam is sure to attract attention as if it's your regular flashy teen-oriented phone for the color choice alone. It's chubby, with a sturdy build, but by no means overly thick at 0.49” (12.5mm), and not at all that heavy at 5.13oz (145g). In fact, it feels and handles very well in the hand, thanks to the ergonomic tapered back with patterned non-slippery back cover made of nice soft-touch plastic. 

The only thing that hints at the phone's extraordinary capabilities is the slight bulge above the circular lens of the 5MP camera on the back, which incorporates the 15 lumen pico projector. 

There is an on/off switch for the projector above the power/lock key on the right. These two buttons, along with the volume rocker on the left, are tactile and easy to feel and press, as is the elongated physical home button underneath the screen. All slots are at the sides, covered with protective flaps, so you can easily swap your SIM or microSD card without prying off the back cover, which hides a 2000mAh battery beneath it.


Display
The phone's 4” LCD screen is with 480x800 pixels of resolution. It sports shiny, vivid colors, and very good viewing angles, but could use a bit more anti-reflectance coating for easier sunlight legibility, despite that its 400 nits of brightness are above average. The 233ppi pixel density is quite good and ensures there are no nasty surprises with pixelation.







Projector
As you can imagine, we took the projector for a spin from broad daylight to complete darkness, and are pleased to announce that the viewing experience is pretty decent with the 15 lumen output. 


The best results were achieved in complete darkness projecting on a smooth white surface, of course, but the image is watchable with a small amount of ambient light as well, like having the door ajar or a small night light on. When dark around, we found the sweet spot to be about 30” - then the picture is vivid, bright and sharp enough to enjoy movies, games and slideshows. At the quoted maximum 50” size, the low resolution becomes more visible, and quality is not as nice, but still really pleasant to watch. Toggle the main lights in the room, and you’ll be treated to a pale resemblance of image in front of you, even at small screen size like 10”. Outside, under broad daylight, the projector is absolutely useless of course.  
Samsung Galaxy Beam Review
50” - Samsung Galaxy Beam Review
30” - Samsung Galaxy Beam Review
50”
30”

Samsung says the projector in the Beam will run for about 3 hours off the battery, and there was still some life left when we watched a two-hour movie indeed. There is a spare battery in the box, so you can easily extend this viewing pleasure.

As for handling, there is no integrated kickstand or a tripod accessory of sorts to keep the phone firm while projecting, so you have to hold it, or secure its location somehow with what’s around you for a steady picture. The area around the projector warms up significantly during projecting, but nothing scorching hot.

Samsung is no stranger to making LED pico projectors and currently has the SP-H03 for about $400 on Amazon, for example. While its 30 lumens and 854x480 resolution beat the Galaxy Beam's 15 lumen and 640x360 unit, it is certainly not fit to be housed inside a phone and juiced up by its battery. 

Brookstone sells a similar unit as an accessory for the iPhone, which also can blow a 640x360 picture up to 50”, and shines with the same 15 lumen. The iPhone accessory case costs $200, though, is bulky and carries a separate battery, so having the thing integrated in the phone itself without adding much thickness or weight is a very good engineering achievement on Samsung's part.

Interface and Functionality
The TouchWiz 4.0 interface - Samsung Galaxy Beam ReviewWe won't be dwelling too much on the TouchWiz 4.0 interface, as it is the same that comes with each and every Android 2.3 Gingerbread phone from the manufacturer, and you can find our thorough review . There is no word yet from Samsung if the handset will be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich or later.


Processor and memory
The interface moves swiftly, powered by a 1GHz dual-core ST-Ericsson NovaThor U8500 processor with ARM Mali-400 graphics. The Galaxy Beam has 768MB of RAM and 8GB of internal memory out of the box, of which about 4GB are user-available.


Quadrant StandardAnTuTuNenaMark 2
Samsung Galaxy Beam2680528935,6
HTC One S4867701260,7
Sony Xperia P2187540429,4

Software
The Projector app - Samsung Galaxy Beam ReviewThe handset sports a dedicated app for controlling all aspects of the projector, from focus through brightness and image rotation, to the ability to use it as a torch, illuminating the scene in red, green, blue, or white with its LEDs. 

Called simply Projector, the app allows for evoking the so-called Quick pad overlay, that lets you doodle with your finger on the phone's display, which comes very useful when presenting something with the phone in front of a wider audience, and you want to highlight a specific section of the image projected. The shape that you've drawn can then be erased with your finger again. You can set the color of the line, as well as the eraser's thickness. The Quick Pad option also lets you call various types of pointers on the screen, and move them around with your finger, so you can draw the audience's attention to something on your slide in a more subtle way than drawing a circle around it, for example. You can bet that we loved the paper plane pointer type.

There is also a Visual Presenter mode that projects whatever image comes through the 5MP camera module viewfinder, and blow it up for a larger audience, as if with those write-on projectors you had at school.

Another neat option in the Projector app is the Ambience mode, which can project a slideshow of images for a specified amount of time and play music to your liking, setting up a romantic atmosphere. If you want automatic projecting, well, the Briefing section does just that, and it’s an awesome idea – you can set the alarm to ring from there in a specified time, and then choose what to be projected when you wake up – local news and weather, time&date, or all of those, and you will have them on the wall in front of you when you open your eyes.




Internet and Connectivity
The default Android Gingerbread browser performs admirably on the Galaxy Beam - Samsung Galaxy Beam ReviewThe default Android Gingerbread browser performs admirably on the Galaxy Beam, with no hiccups or delays while rendering even Flash-heavy pages, or when panning around, pinching to zoom or using double-tap. That’s undoubtedly thanks to the nifty dual-core processor, and the screen pixel density is enough to ensure comfortable reading.

he phone sports the minimum connectivity suite we've come to expect from Samsung's Android handsets, like 14.4 HSDPA download speeds, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, A-GPS, FM Radio and DLNA for media streaming, managed by the AllShare app.

Camera
 All the usual bells and whistles coming with the transparent interface menu of TouchWiz are present on the Galaxy Beam, including Smile shot and Panorama mode. 

The pictures come out pretty good - slightly off more to the yellowish and warmer side than needed, but exhibiting a good amount detail, and a sharp looking photo.
The 5MP shooter with LED flash on the back of the Samsung Galaxy Beam only records video with HD 720p definition, not the 1080p type we'd expect from having a dual-core processor. The 720p video has the warm yellowish overcast, too, but the footage is crisp, and it runs with smooth 30fps.

Multimedia
The tried-and-true TouchWiz music player is present on the Samsung Galaxy Beam - Samsung Galaxy Beam ReviewThe tried-and-true TouchWiz music player sports the usual array of ways to categorize your song library by albums, artists and playlists with cover art galore, and a rich selection of equalizer presets. 


Here we have to note the potent loudspeaker, which emits strong and clear sound, adding significantly for the viewing experience when you are projecting a movie, for instance, and the only sound source is the built-in speaker.

The Galaxy Beam plays almost every video format you throw at it, including DivX/Xvid/MKV files up to HD 720p definition, and the video player is the usual rich in functionality TouchWiz endeavor. It's all good, since you will be tempted to project a great variety of videos when demonstrating the phone's projecting capabilities to every stranger on the street that is willing to listen to you. We wish it was able to handle 1080p though, so it can play absolutely any file.




Call quality and battery
Samsung Galaxy Beam Review
The Galaxy Beam delivers a pretty average call quality in the earpiece, and there is something to be desired both in terms of strength and clarity. The microphone didn’t impress as well, delivering somewhat muted and hollow voices.

Samsung rates the 2000mAh battery for the excellent 9 hours and 40 minutes of talk time in 3G mode, and we aren’t surprised, considering such a capacity is reserved usually for phones with larger HD screens and more power-hungry processors.

Wrap-Up

It is fascinating how Samsung's researchers managed to stuff all these LEDs inside the small projecting unit in the Galaxy Beam, and still achieve a watchable picture that can be blown up to 50”, as if you carry your own big-screen TV in your pocket. Naturally, the resolution and brightness can't replace a TV experience, but under the right circumstances you can definitely enjoy a movie or two on the go together with many other people sitting nearby. That's the Galaxy Beam's key feature.

To top it all off, the phone is a very good all-around Android performer with a fairly compact and appealing design, considering what’s inside. Moreover, the large battery comes in handy to deliver excellent endurance in your daily smartphone routine as well, and there is one extra battery in the box. The only big drawback is that the phone doesn’t come with the newest Android onboard.

As for the price, it costs about the same as a high-end Android handset. Considering that a separate pico projector case for your smartphone with the same nHD definition and 15 lumen specifications costs around $200, the phone actually seems priced reasonably. 

All in all, just like in the case of the Nokia 808 PureView, the Beamer is in a category of its own - a niche device for enthusiasts - yet it carries the better Android OS, also doubling as a normal mid-range smartphone. Now off to phones with hologram capabilities, R&D!