My purse needs a size upgrade. Soon, I'll have to throw a Hefty sack over my shoulder to accommodate the four different electronic devices that swim around in a sea of receipts and empty hand sanitizer bottles. But wait, pico projector technology has finally made its way into the smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy Beam offers me the chance to spare myself from schlepping a portable pico projector and replace it with a crucial bottle of aspirin.
Familiar with many pico projectors, I was pleasantly shocked to see that the size of this phone/projector hybrid was not much larger than my iPhone 4s. The dimensions of the Beam are 4.88 inches by 2.53 inches by .49 inches and weighs 5.13 ounces.(The iPhone 4s is 4.87 by 2.31 inches by .3 inches and weighs 3.95 ounces.) Since I use an iPhone, I ran into issues with the Beam's layout. It reminded me of a compressed laptop. However, after two days of trial and error, I mastered enough of the Android Gingerbread operating system and its apps to function as a user. I quickly discovered that the crown jewel of this smartphone is the DLP pico projector hidden inside of it.
My first line of business with any projector is entertainment for my boys. Usually, I just power up Netflix, and let Phineas and Ferb do their job. However, my children preferred the animation in the ambiance mode setting of the projector. With this, you can set the desired content to project for a certain amount of time while playing your choice of soothing music in the background. It can definitely set the mood. If you have a kiddo who is afraid of the dark, set up the ambiance mode to project the constellations and play a light lullaby for him at night. No kids? Throw a party, and use the ambiance mode to project a 50 inch disco ball on the wall. Who said disco was dead?
Now, with a native resolution of 640x340, the picture quality during movies was not as sharp as I would have liked. I found that while watching the beloved classic, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, the best screen size was 45 diagonal inches. Anything larger than this compromised the picture. Also, with 15 Lumens, you need a dark area. While you are able to adjust the brightness of the image, it can only make a slight improvement. The phone's projector is more practical when used for one or two individuals viewing a movie. The smaller the screen size, the better the quality. I found myself impressed with the battery consumption. An 88 minute movie only consumed 20%. This is impressive considering many pico projectors can only last roughly 90 minutes on a single charge. Even though I wouldn't use it for a group movie night, the Beam would be a great companion on a two hour flight to Vegas.
After the movies and disco balls, it was time to get down to business with the Samsung Galaxy Beam. When giving a presentation, I always live in fear of a technology apocalypse. I have been on a roll when in the middle of a PowerPoint cliffhanger my computer unilaterally decides to run a five hour update. With this smartphone, the proverbial middle man is cut to pieces. I was able to project my saved presentation for my advisers directly from the phone.
The quality of the slide presentation and text was much better than that of the videos. I could increase the viewing size to over 50 inches diagonally without compromising too much of the sharpness. I do recommend restricting all calls during your presentation, or Mom's daily check in may be the only thing your boss remembers. The phone also provides a Quick Pad application that comes in handy during a meeting. You are able to use the touchscreen to highlight or draw on the image you are presenting. During financial meetings, you can easily bring attention to figures by circling them or using the pointer. You can also take pictures of your colleagues and draw moustaches on them.
Another useful advantage of this smartphone is the visual presenter application. You can use it as an impromptu overhead projector or document camera. I had to become rather creative with this utility. I needed to darken the room to see the projector's images, but the camera needed a light source in order to pick up the document I was attempting to display. If you can dim the lights in the front of the room while keeping the back lights illuminated, you are good to go.
Nothing is perfect, and this holds true for the Samsung Galaxy Beam. First, I rarely use my smartphone in a pitch black room, so 15 Lumens is simply not going to cut it for my family. I need this projector to function at dusk when I am stuck at another tedious soccer practice or when in the dreaded pediatrician's office under fluorescent lights needing to conjure up a quick SpongeBob episode to make the 45 minute wait more bearable. Turning off the lights and closing the curtains is not always a possibility. I need a projector that works with me on these issues. Second, the focus control exhausted every ounce of patience that I have. Each time I had to adjust the focus, the video, presentation, or photo was interrupted with the same notification on how to focus. You can either slide the bar using the touchscreen or use the volume button to focus in and out. Great, the picture is now in focus, but I've lost mine!
Finally, if my mother or her friends owned this phone, I'd become the local help desk. At times, I was certain that this phone and operating system required a 6 week course at the local vo-tech. Even after three weeks, I am still a bit confused. No one wants a phone that they cannot fully master. Overall, I think Samsung should reclaim the KISS principle as in Keep It Simple, Samsung.
If the Samsung Galaxy Beam is an indicator of what future smartphones hold for us, then I am willing to buy my ticket to get on that crazy train. No more projectors and cables or fighting for electric plugs at the airport; the hottest commodity will be flat, white surfaces.This phone has not been officially released in the United States; however, if you cast your net into an internet search, you will pull up street prices around $470 for the unlocked Beam with compatible carrier and service with AT&T 2G/3G and T-Mobile 2G.
Samsung is headed into a bright future. How long will they stay in that spotlight? Apple, I believe the ball is now in your court.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Samsung Galaxy Beam projector page.