Saturday, April 13, 2013
Samsung Galaxy Beam
Surprisingly the projector doesn’t add a huge amount of size or weight to this phone. In fact, lay it down on the table and look at it face on and you’d never know that the top edge houses the projector. On the other hand, it is clearly visible head on, and it makes the top edge of the rim, at its thickest part, about 15mm thick. Elsewhere it is about 12mm.
The projector does add some weight to the Galaxy Beam, but again it’s not a huge amount. This handset weighs 148g, which when set aside around 110g – 120g for similar sized rivals isn’t a huge gain.
Overall then, we have to say that the inclusion of the projector does have some effects on the handset’s look and feel, but nothing to get excited about really, and if anything the large top mounted projector lens looks rather cool.
Samsung has even added a banana yellow trim round the edge of this phone to give it that little something extra.
Projector aside, the Samsung Galaxy Beam runs on a fairly standard upper mid range set of specifications. So we’ve got a dual core 1GHz processor and 8GB of internal storage at the heart of things. Neither of these key specifications are going to blow you away, but on the other hand we found them perfectly adequate for our needs, and of course the storage is easily bumped up with a microSD card.
Because it needs its hardware to be in the centre back of the handset the projector displaces the key slots. The SIM slot is on the left edge of the chassis, microSD on the right. Both are under hinged covers and accessing them is not a problem. You might prefer you SIM to be a little more tucked away, but it’s not a big deal in our view.
More annoying is that the headset connector can’t go on the top edge. Instead it is on the upper part of the left edge, where we found it snagged a bit in the pocket.
The screen is large enough at 4-inches and its resolution is 800×480 pixels. Now, we’re starting to see higher resolutions at the top end, and they really do blow 800×480 handsets out of the water, but the Beam does a good job nonetheless.
There’s just one word of caution. It is a TFT PLS panel and when we stepped outside it became a little washed out. In bright sunshine it might be hard to read.
Camera and video
Considering the Samsung Galaxy Beam has a projector on board Samsung hasn’t paid a huge amount of attention to its cameras. The main snapper shoots at 5 megapixels, and has an LED flash, and the front camera has a 1.3 megapixel lens. Video shoots up to 1280×720 (720p).
There isn’t anything much to write home about in terms of services on offer or quality of output, and there’s no camera shortcut button on the side of the chassis. Samsung has saved the button for turning the projector on and off.
The projector on the other hand is fun, though it does have its limitations. It projects onto any surface at a resolution of 640×360 in full colour. Samsung provides some apps such as Ambience Mode which sends animations or videos to the projector along with musical accompaniment and Visual Presenter which takes what the main camera shows and projects that – effectively allowing you to use the handset as an overhead projector.
There’s also Quick Pad. Draw onto the screen or use a cursor and your work is projected. There’s also the facility to use the projector as a torch. And of course you can project anything that is displayed on the Beam’s screen – streamed video, web pages, whatever.
In theory this is all quite exciting. But there are limitations. You can only move about two metres away from the projecting surface before the image focus controls run out of scope and that means projections can’t be that large.
And you need to be in a pretty dark environment for it to work at all. Showing family and friends your latest snaps is only going to work if you turn the lights out and draw the curtains. HDMI, which isn’t on this phone, might be a better bet for that kind of task.
The long and the short of it is that when the projector works well it is very, very good, but it just isn’t capable enough to be more than a bit of a gimmick. Which is a real shame.
The single most irritating thing about the Samsung Galaxy Beam is that it runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). That now feels decidedly old hat, and with Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) established and 4.1 (Jelly Bean) already in the wild this definitely has a negative effect.
Still, Samsung has skinned it with TouchWiz 3 and added lots of widgets including a fair few social ones for you to fiddle with, and to be fair Android 2.3 has plenty of distance left in it if you don’t need to be up there with the leaders.
In everyday use the Samsung Galaxy Beam performed quite well. It is a good handset for web browsing and video viewing thanks to its fairly large screen, and our only real annoyance on everyday terms was the awkward location of the headset slot.
The yellow banding round the edges is attractive, and general attention to detail in the build makes this a comfy handset to hold. The stippling on the matte backplate means it’s not a fingerprint magnet, either.
We actually forgot about the projector much of the time, though as that is the unique selling point of this phone we aren’t sure Samsung would be pleased to learn that.
Samsung has done two clever things regarding battery life. That projector is a power eater, so clever thing one is to equip the handset with a 2000mAh battery. That’s larger than most, and it can keep the projector going for up to three hours and in our experience gives the handset a good chance of seeing out a full day away from mains power.
Clever thing two is to provide two batteries, so that you can carry a charged spare if you think you are going to need it.
The Samsung Galaxy Beam is a competent smartphone though the version of Android is a bit of a let down. Its two batteries give it superb longevity and its physical design is attractive. The projector is a bit of a gimmick though it works well within its limitations of projection size and darkness requirements.
Of course you pay for that projector and the Beam is a bit more expensive than other handsets with similar general specs. Clove, who provided our review sample, currently lists it at £412 inc VAT. That’s in the same price bracket as the HTC One X, Moto Razr MAXX and even the quirky but popular Samsung Galaxy Note.
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