Is the Samsung Freestyle all HYPE? Full Unsponsored Review and Testing
Well, I got one. Three weeks ago I made a video saying that no one should buy this Samsung freestyle projector because the price was too high and the specs were too low. I also passed judgement on Samsung for flooding YouTube with paid reviews that clearly didn’t let reviewers speak openly about the Freestyle’s problems.
A lot of you agreed with me, but there were also quite a few comments pointing out that I shouldn’t write off the freestyle without testing it myself, which I actually agree with, except it wasn’t possible because the only people who had the projector were those paid influencers… but now I have one, so it’s time to finally get some unbiased testing to see if my earlier advice to steer clear holds up, or if I’m going to have to eat my words.
For better or for worse, the Samsung freestyle is mostly being marketed at people who have never owned a projector, so if you fall into that category here are all the things that you might not have thought of that will make or break your projector experience, and today on the hookup we’re going to test them all.
- Picture Quality
- Sound Quality
Ease of Use:
- Battery Life*
- App Compatibility
- Operating System Performance
- Projector fan noise
- Gaming Latency
Starting with brightness, my experience having tested a ton of budget projectors is that for a mostly dark room 300 ANSI lumens is a tipping point between an acceptable viewing experience and a good one. Samsung’s pre-order page lists the brightness of the freestyle at 550 lumens, which sounds great.
However, lumens is an ambiguous term for projectors and if a listing doesn’t specifically say ANSI lumens, then you shouldn’t trust it.
The ANSI lumen is the accepted standard for measuring projector brightness, and it’s calculated by taking a brightness measurement at 9 different zones on an all white screen, then averaging those measurements, and multiplying by the screen size in square meters to get the ANSI lumens.
According to my actual testing the Samsung freestyle comes in at 240 ANSI lumens, which means that the 550 lumens listed on the pre-order page is referring to something called LED lumens and unfortunately not ANSI lumens.
To show where the freestyle fits in with the current portable projector market I selected two other projectors to compare to in this video: First is the new XGiMi Halo plus because it has a similar feature set and MSRP to the freestyle and Second is the XGiMi MoGo Pro which is a considerably cheaper 1080p alternative with similar specs to the Freestyle. And yes for full transparency I did ask XGiMi to send me these projectors for the purpose of making this video, but that was the extent of our relationship and unlike the sponsored Samsung videos, xgimi doesn’t have any control over the content of the video, and as always, there are no sponsored reviews on my channel.
Anyways, the MoGo pro’s brightness was very similar to the freestyle with 237 ANSI lumens while the Halo+ clocked in at a comparatively huge 665 ANSI lumens, almost triple the brightness of the freestyle. A 400 lumen brightness difference at this level is a huge deal and you should expect the MoGo Pro and Freestyle to only be usable in a mostly dark room with zero chance of being able to use it outside during the daytime, no matter how shady it is. You also shouldn’t expect miracles from the 665 ANSI lumen Halo+, but it will at least give you a fighting chance for a small to medium sized screen during the day, and will allow you to use it in a room with the blinds open or some lights on.
In the first category, brightness, the Halo+ is the clear winner with the Freestyle barely edging out the MoGo Pro for second place.
However, I have shown in my other projector videos that more brightness doesn’t ALWAYS lead to a better viewing experience if things like clarity and contrast are sacrificed. So to evaluate their overall picture quality I set up each projector with a 100 inch screen in a mostly dark room and used the same manual settings on my Sony A6600 to record each one.
As I said, the brightest image isn’t ALWAYS the best, but in this case the Halo plus’s additional brightness didn’t come with any losses in clarity or black level, and as a result the video from the Halo+ had much better contrast and looked significantly more dynamic and vibrant than the other two projectors. Two scenes where the contrast was especially noticeable were the kayaker scene from the dolby atmos test video where you can see the kayaker really popping out against the waterfall, and also in the leaves on the banister in Enchanto that look like they actually had sunlight shining on them on the Halo+ vs the other projectors that didn’t have enough brightness to show the highlights properly.
During picture quality testing I normally also critique color accuracy, but the Freestyle and Halo+ have enough advanced picture settings to let you dial in whatever particular color palette you prefer, so I
don’t think that’s necessary. I was also impressed by the advanced picture settings on both The Halo+ and Freestyle which offered things like local contrast enhancement and motion blur compensation.
Surprisingly I actually preferred to have those settings enabled at a moderate level on both projectors even though those are usually the first things that I turn off when setting up a new TV.
Unfortunately, the MoGo Pro has a more basic set of picture options but still lets you adjust things like brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, noise reduction, and color temperature. With that said, the Halo+ definitely had the best picture quality and overall viewing experience, and between the MoGo Pro and Freestyle it was pretty close, but I think I actually preferred the MoGo Pro’s image compared to the freestyle which consistently looked too flat and muted for my preference.
The last important part for overall viewing experience is sound quality. And unfortunately, conveying sound is pretty hard on a YouTube video, but one thing that I definitely know is that it’s impossible to do it without a comparison. So with that in mind, here are the three projectors, up against a sonos one SL as a baseline for what a good speaker should sound like.
I do have to give credit where credit is due, the freestyle does sound really good for just a single 5 watt speaker, however, it’s still not as loud or clear as the Halo+ with its dual 5w speakers. Clearly, we shouldn’t expect a portable projector to outperform a $200 purpose built speaker like the sonos one, but between the three projectors I don’t think there’s any question that Halo+ is both louder and higher quality than both the freestyle and the mogo pro, and the Freestyle comes in easily in second place.
The viewing experience categories were dominated by the Halo+, but lots of people said the Freestyle wasn’t just about specs so let’s move on to the ease of use categories, starting with portability. For overall size the MoGo Pro is slightly smaller than the freestyle, and the Halo+ is considerably larger. As for their weight, the Freestyle is the lightest at 774g, then the MoGo Pro at 905g, and last the Halo+ is a pretty big boy at 1,688g. Based on this it might be tempting to think of the freestyle as the most portable of these projectors, but that would be overlooking one HUGE issue: the freestyle doesn’t have a built in battery, so you always need a power cord, and if you want true portability you also need to carry a battery bank.
And not just any battery bank, in fact I spent a little over $200 on Amazon trying to one that could power the Samsung freestyle, and for reference I now know the battery bank has to support 9v charging at at least 3amps. None of these other quick charge compatible battery banks worked with the freestyle because they have less than 3A output at 9V, and the freestyle wouldn’t even turn on when connected to them.
The one that did end up working was this 20,000 milliamp hour pack that weighed in at 490g, which brings the total weight of the portable freestyle to a little over 1300g, which is much closer in weight to the Halo+ than to the MoGo Pro, giving the MoGo Pro the point for being the most portable of these projectors, and I guess the Freestyle can be in 2nd based on its size, but I personally prefer the all in one style of the Halo+ rather than needing to carry an external battery and cord like the freestyle.
So how much portable play time should you expect from that big 20,000 milliamp hour battery pack? I ran a battery drain test using full brightness on the Freestyle and Mogo Pro which remember is about 240 ANSI lumens, and I adjusted the brightness of the Halo+ to the same 240 ANSI lumens to be able to compare apples to apples.
After just 55 minutes the MoGo Pro automatically reduced its brightness to eco mode to conserve battery and then lasted an additional 57 minutes. The Samsung Freestyle ran at its full brightness for one hour and 32 minutes before depleting the entire battery bank and powering off, while the Halo+ was able to maintain playback at 240 ANSI lumens for 2 hours and 14 minutes before automatically switching to eco mode for an additional 34 minutes making it the clear winner in the battery life category followed by Freestyle and then the MoGo Pro.
And I guess it’s worth noting that you COULD bring multiple battery banks for the freestyle to get more playtime, but since there’s no internal battery and just a single USB-C port for power there’s no way to hot swap batteries without turning the projector off in the middle of your movie.
Speaking of ports, lets talk connectivity. The only two ports on the freestyle are a micro HDMI port and the USB-C power port, which again, will always be used for power since there’s no internal battery. By contrast the mogo pro and halo+ both have very standard connectivity with a USB port to play files directly off a thumb drive, a standard HDMI port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the freestyle I was able to use a USB-C hub with charging passthrough to play local files off a thumb drive, but since micro HDMI is a pretty uncommon connection and the USB-C port needs to be plugged into power you’re pretty much always going to need some kind of adapter with the freestyle, so for connectivity the freestyle is definitely in third place with the mogo pro and halo plus tied for first, since they have identical ports.
Next in ease of use is keystoning which was one of the most heavily advertised features of the freestyle. If you aren’t familiar with what that means there are two types of keystone correction; vertical keystone is on most projectors and corrects a skewed image caused by tilting the projector up or down while horizontal keystone is a little less common and corrects a skewed image caused by mounting your projector to the left or right of the screen.
The freestyle and the halo+ have horizontal and vertical auto keystone but in my testing the Halo+ version worked significantly better. To test the keystone correction range I used three different locations for each projector, the first at 35 degrees horizontal offset and 0 degrees vertical offset. The second at 22 degrees horizontal offset and 22 degrees vertical offset and the third at 0 degrees horizontal and 45 degrees vertical. Not only did I have a hard time getting the auto keystone to trigger on the freestyle, but I found that even after it did the keystone wasn’t perfect and unlike the Halo plus’s implementation it didn’t immediately give the option to correct any errors, meaning the process almost always took significantly longer than it should have.
As I said, the halo plus’s auto keystone was the most accurate and easy to trigger, while the freestyle had trouble making parallel edges and the manual adjustment was significantly less intuitive than the 4 point corner pining on the Halo+ and MoGo pro. It’s also worth noting that although the mogo pro doesn’t have auto keystone, it does still have 4 point corner pinning which is really easy to use and resulted in a good looking screen from every test location.
Hopefully the freestyle’s auto keystone is able to be fixed in a software update, because it definitely needs it to come close to the ease of use of the Halo plus which takes first place in this category, and I guess I’ll give the freestyle second place for occasionally getting the auto keystone correct, but in reality the MoGo Pro was actually easier to get set up properly in most cases even without auto keystoning.
As an extension of this section I also want to talk about ceiling projection since a bunch of people said that was the killer feature of the Freestyle, and I got multiple comments asking which other projectors could project on the ceiling, and the answer to that is all of them, you just point the projector at the ceiling. In the case of the freestyle you do get the convenient 180 degree stand, but ceiling projection isn’t some special technology, and as you can see the Halo+ does just as well, or maybe even better than the freestyle by just laying it down on its back.
Next up, lets talk smart TV app compatibility. The Freestyle runs Samsung’s Tizen OS, which is the same operating system that runs on samsung smart TVs, while the Mogo Pro runs android TV 9, and the Halo+ has android TV 10. While Tizen OS isn’t my favorite, it definitely has better app compatibility based on one single app: Netflix. For whatever reason, even though there is a Netflix app for android TV you can’t just install it on any android TV device, instead each device needs to be individually Netflix certified to be able to use the native app which is a limitation implemented by netflix. Unfortunately, neither the Halo+ nor the MoGo Pro are Netflix certified devices, so to be able to use Netflix you have to load the desktop version with another app called desktop manager, so while you can technically make it work the whole experience is a little bit janky and not ideal.
For screen mirroring the freestyle can cast directly from a Samsung phone, and surprisingly also supports apple airplay. The only issue would be if you have a non-samsung android phone which would require some workarounds. By contrast the Halo+ and MoGo pro only officially support chromecast mirroring, and even though you can download an app called airscreen to enable airplay it’s definitely not as easy to use as the native airplay support on the freestyle.
One other unique thing about Tizen OS is Samsung’s TV plus app, which lets you browse through free live content sort of like basic cable, and even though I can’t see myself using it regularly I do think it’s a cool feature and it further cements the freestyle’s win in the app compatibility category, with the Halo+ in 2 nd place with Android 10, and the MoGo pro in 3 rd with Android 9.
But I’m not done talking about TizenOS, and specifically how the Freestyle’s processor handles it. If I had to pick the one worst thing about the freestyle it’s definitely the lagginess of the interface. I’m not sure if this is something that will be fixed in a future software update, but wow, it is a terrible user experience. Button presses take way too long to respond, menus and apps are slow to load, and most annoyingly, Tizen tries to play whatever is in the background while you are in other menus resulting in even more lag. By contrast the Android TV interfaces on both the Halo+ and Mogo Pro are intuitive, easy to use, and extremely responsive.
I do like Android 10 slightly more than Android 9, and the Halo+ does an especially good job of loading programs quickly. I also like that both the halo plus and mogo pro have all the important settings easily accessible from a button on the remote instead of needing to navigate to the settings menu from the homepage like you do on the Freestyle. For user interface and operating system performance, the Halo plus is first, the MoGo Pro is second and in a distant third place is the Freestyle.
So that wraps up the ease of use section and things are still looking pretty bad for the freestyle. The last section includes a couple things you may or may not care about depending on how you plan to use your projector.
Starting with fan noise, one thing I can tell you is that in general portable projectors tend to be extremely quiet compared to traditional bulb projectors or laser projectors and these are no exception. So with that said, here’s exactly what they sound like: The Halo+ at full brightness had a faint buzzing sound that was almost below the noise floor of my room. lowering the brightness to 240 lumens makes the halo plus basically silent with the slightest hint of a fan noise with a dominant low frequency. The Freestyle has a very noticeable fan sound around 800hz which is not only a higher pitched more annoying frequency, but also significantly louder than the Halo+. And the MoGo Pro had even less fan noise than the Halo+ with a lower dominant frequency making almost completely unnoticeable. So while none of the projectors were problematically loud, the Freestyle was definitely the loudest of the bunch, and the MoGo Pro was the quietest.
The second thing you may or may not care about is latency or input lag. Basically if you plan to play video games with your projector the latency is the amount of time between when your game console sends out the signal and when that image appears on the screen. As a general rule, latency under 50ms is undisguisable for everyone but the most hardcore gamers, between 50-100ms starts to feel a little funny but is mostly tolerable, and latency above 100ms makes playing video games difficult and a lot less fun. The more image processing the projector does for things like keystone correction and contrast enhancement the more latency it introduces.
First, lets look at latency with normal picture mode, image processing, and keystoning. I sent a split HDMI signal to my LG C9 TV that has a well-tested latency of 13.5ms, then I measured how many frames behind the TV each projector is, multiplied that number by 16.6ms and added 13.5ms for the delay of the LG C9. Using this method you can see that the Freestyle does the best with around 80ms of latency, then the Halo+ at 138ms, and last the MoGo Pro with 146ms.
Using these settings I really wouldn’t recommend any of these projectors for playing games, but thankfully they all have gaming modes that reduce image processing for a faster response. In gaming mode you can see the Halo+ did the best with just 30ms of latency, and the Freestyle and MoGo Pro were just one frame behind that for a total of 47ms. That means that the Halo+ has the lowest latency in gaming mode, however, I’m not going to put it in 1 st place because the gaming modes on the Halo+ and MoGo Pro disable keystoning, while the Samsung freestyle can still keystone and maintain that 47ms input lag, so first place in this category needs to go to the Freestyle with the Halo+ in second, and MoGo Pro in a close third.
So that wraps up all the normal projector stuff, but there are a few other features that were advertised in sponsored videos that I need to talk about: First, putting the lens cap on your projector and calling it an ambient light lamp is ridiculous. Not only does the ambient light mode look pretty lame, but this is a $900 projector with a maximum lamp life of about 20,000 hours. If you want colored light, an RGB lightbulb costs $20 or less. Not only is an RGB bulb more convenient, quieter, and brighter than the freestyle they are also about 5 times more energy efficient and won’t waste your projectors limited LED lifespan.
Second, the freestyle is supposed to have auto color correction that detects the color of your wall and then modifies the projected image to correct for a non-white wall. However, the implementation of this feature isn’t exactly convenient. Not only do you need to have a compatible cell phone, but you also need to have added your projector to Samsung smartthings, and then you need to run the calibration process on your phone any time you move the projector. So while this feature does technically exist it shouldn’t be thought of as automatic like keystone correction and focus adjustments, and I imagine most people won’t use it.
So after all that it’s time to answer the question: Is the samsung freestyle worth $899? Definitely not, especially considering you also need an $50 battery bank if you want true portability and adapter cables if you want to match the functionality of similar projectors. The freestyle does do a few things well, but it mostly performs like a projector that costs roughly half as much. More importantly, I question the overall usefulness of a projector with less than 300 ANSI lumens because even in a mostly dark room that isn’t enough brightness to properly show high contrast content, and I think anyone who buys this to work as a TV replacement is going to immediately regret their decision.
Some people will inevitably think I’m just a Samsung hater, or an xGiMi shill, but neither of those things are the case. The truth is that this video isn’t going to make me any friends at Samsung, but it did need to be made because taking pre-orders while simultaneously flooding youtube with paid reviews is super shady business that’s bad for consumers and bad for YouTubers. If you’re wondering what I hope to gain from a video telling you NOT to buy something, the answer is simple: hopefully just your trust and maybe a new subscriber.
Thank you to all of my patrons over at patreon for your continued support of my channel, and if you’re interested in supporting my channel you can get out the links in the description. If you enjoyed this video please hit the thumbs up button and consider subscribing, and as always thanks for watching the hookup.