Samsung Galaxy Beam review: first look

28 Feb 2012

Samsung declined to announce its flagship phone at MWC this year, but it hasn't abandoned the show altogether, bringing a total of four new products to Barcelona. We've already brought you a first look at the Galaxy Note 10.1; now it's the turn of the Galaxy Beam.

The Beam is notable not for its design, nor its screen or camera - at first glance it's a fairly ordinary 4in smartphone. It's unusual because it has an integrated pico projector.

The lens for the projector is built into the top of the phone, measuring roughly a centimetre square, and behind it is a 15-lumens TI DLP projector. This, Samsung claims, is able to throw a picture of up to 50in in size at a resolution of 640 x 360. We were curious to see how good it was, so we ventured down to the Samsung stand and found, tucked away at the rear, a small, dark, curtained-off area where the phone was being demonstrated to curious onlookers.

The 15 lumens brightness isn't enough to cope with the glaring lights of the Samsung stand, but with all the lights off we have to admit to being impressed by the clarity of the image projected on the screen, with little distortion in the corners and surprisingly decent colours.

A quick tap of a button on the right hand side activates the projector and beams out a mirror of what's onscreen.

You can see what we saw in the brief video clip below (apologies for the shaky footage).

Impressively, Samsung says three hours of continuous projector use can be had from one charge of the phone's 2,000mAh battery. We were also taken aback at how normal this phone looks and feels in the hand.

Although a good deal thicker than today's ultra-slim flagship phones, a depth of 12.5mm and a weight of 145g are by no means unmanageable. We think you could whip this out on the Tube without drawing too many curious glances from fellow commuters.

Again, the design and finish aren't exciting - it feels quite plasticky and the orange and grey colour scheme is a little dated - but it isn't ugly. In a similar vein, you're not having to compromise too much on the specifications either. The Beam has a 4in 480 x 800 resolution screen, is powered by a dual-core 1GHz processor, has 1GB of RAM 8GB of storage and runs Android 2.3.

The big question is, why on Earth would you want one? For impromptu business presentations, the brightness isn't really good enough. It just isn't practical to have to dim the lights and draw the curtains before you start.

And as for home entertainment, we suspect the majority of people will be perfectly happy to buy a phone with an HDMI output and use a cable to hook it up to a big-screen TV for far superior image quality. Still, nice try Samsung.

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