Samsung Galaxy Beam Preview

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

We couldn't be happier to preview one of the more interesting 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, the I7410, and the next year when the first Beam made its way to MWC 2010.

The original Beam-er 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 likely 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 were 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 preview 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 soft-touch plastic.



You can compare the Samsung Galaxy Beam with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

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

The projector shows what is happening on the phone's 4” LCD screen that is with 480x800 pixels of resolution. The phone's display sports bright, vivid colors, and very good viewing angles, but could use a bit more brightness for easier sunlight legibility, despite that its 416 nits are above average. The 233ppi pixel density is decent, and ensures there are no nasty surprises with pixelation.


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 even on our non-final unit, 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 the 2000mAh battery.




Projector:

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. Samsung says the projector will run for about 3 hours off the battery, and there was still some life left when we watched a two-hour movie indeed, but we'll run a complete test when we get the retail unit.

Brookstone sells a similar Texas Instruments unit as an accessory for the iPhone, which also can blow a 640x360 picture up to 50”, but shines with 50 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.

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 phone performed fine with a small amount of ambient light as well, and the image was watchable in smaller 10-12 inch size in your averagely lit room, too. It is, of course, useless outside under broad daylight as it is. The area around the projector warms up significantly during projecting, but nothing scorching hot.

We had a Projector app preinstalled on the phone, but it was seemingly not fully interfaced with the pico unit in our prototype, as tapping the focus option or adjusting the brightness slider didn't affect the light output at all, so the final unit image results might be better when these adjustments are present. Have a look at our brief video demonstration of the projector's capabilities below:

Samsung Galaxy Beam Projector Demo:



Samsung Galaxy Beam 360-degrees View:





Interface and Functionality:

We won't be dwelling too much on the TouchWiz 4.0 interface of our prototype Samsung Galaxy Beam unit, 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 TouchWiz 4.0 review here.


Suffice it to say that it moves swiftly, powered by a 1GHz dual-core ST-Ericsson U8500 processor with ARM Mali-400 graphics. The Galaxy Beam has 768MB of RAM and 8GB of internal memory out of the box.

Projector management software:

The handset sports a dedicated app for controlling all aspects of the projector, from focus through brightness, 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.

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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 scene comes through the 5MP camera module lens, and that stands for both still pictures you take on the fly, as well as video capturing.

Internet and Connectivity:

The default Android Gingerbread browser performs admirably on the Galaxy Beam even on our non-final unit. There are no hiccups or delays while rendering even Flash-heavy pages, or when panning around, pinching to zoom or using double-tap.


The 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:

The 5MP shooter with LED flash on the back of the Samsung Galaxy Beam promises to be pretty average as it only records video with HD 720p definition, not the 1080p type we'd expect from having a dual-core processor. 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.


We captured a few samples with the 5MP camera for a general overview of its capabilities, with the usual caveat that this is still a prototype unit, so the results can be different when the finalized piece hits retail.




Samsung Galaxy Beam Sample Video:



Samsung Galaxy Beam Indoor Sample Video:



Multimedia:

The 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 speaker.

The Galaxy Beam plays almost every video format you throw at it, right out of its protoype box, 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.

Expectations:

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. Minority Report stuff indeed.

Now don't get us wrong – the resolution, brightness and focus can't replace the TV experience, but under the right circumstances you can definitely enjoy a movie or two, while the battery lasts – together with many other people sitting nearby, and that's the Galaxy Beam's biggest advantage.

To top it all off, the phone is shaping up to be a decent all-around Android performer as well, one you  might consider buying even if it didn't have a pico projector stuffed inside, so we can't wait to get our hands on the final unit for some more happy projecting.

Samsung Galaxy Beam Video Preview:





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