Samsung Galaxy Beam (2012) - The Second Light

Launch SRP: S$648

Samsung Galaxy Beam (2012) - The Second Light

Overview & Design

The pico projector smartphone is not a new concept, at least not with Samsung. First glimpsed at Mobile World Congress 2012 at Barcelona and later seen at the Samsung South East Asia Oceania Forum 2012, the new Samsung Galaxy Beam (2012) is finally here to stay on our sunny island. Its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy Beam (yep, you got that right) first made the headlines two years back, condensing pico projector features into the form factor of a mobile phone.

When the niche device first came out, it was criticized for being overtly bulky and clunky; the newer Galaxy Beam seeks to address the issue with a slimmer and lighter body. Aside hardware and software updates, what else is there to look forward to in the new Beam rendition? Here's a quick chart to compare both smartphones:
 

 

 Device

Samsung Galaxy
Beam (2012)

Samsung Galaxy Beam

OS Google Android 2.3 Google Android 2.1
Processor Dual-core 1GHz Single-core 720MHz
RAM 768MB RAM 384MB RAM
Storage 8GB built-in
(microSD card expandable to a further 32GB)
16GB built-in
(microSD card expandable to a further 32GB)
Display 4-inch TFT LCD 3.7-inch Super AMOLED
Resolution 480 x 800 pixels 480 x 800 pixels
Camera 5-megapixel /
1.3-megapixel (front-facing)
8-megapixel /
VGA (front-facing)
Lumens 15 9.5
Battery 2000mAh 1800mAh
Dimensions 124 x 64.2 x 12.5mm 123 x 59.8 x 14.9mm
Weight 145.3g 155g
Launch Price S$648 S$1018

The new Samsung Galaxy Beam improves in leaps and bounds from a design perspective, showcasing a relatively attractive body. While it is still generally sheathed in plastic like its predecessor was, it doesn't look tacky or cheap and actually comes across as polished and funky. The phone is wrapped by a yellow plastic trim and framed by a black body.

Looking for a projector smartphone? You have two options: the new Samsung Galaxy Beam (pictured here) and the old Galaxy Beam. Confusing? Fortunately, the predecessor has long been phased out, so you're likely only to get this new version.


Curved at the edges, the phone generally fits well into our palms; with the addition of a grooved back case, the phone feels rather slip-resistant. This is definitely a welcomed aspect given that the projector lens is vulnerably placed at the top with no cover or casing, and users wouldn't want to risk dropping the device.

The splash of yellow does add a little life to an otherwise serious "business" smartphone. Note the huge projector lens on the top.

With dimensions of 124 x 64.2 x 12.5mm and a weight of 145g, the device is slightly wider than its predecessor but noticeably thinner and lighter. Nonetheless, because of its built-in projector, the new Samsung Galaxy Beam still remains bulkier and heavier than most of the slimmer and lighter smartphones out in the market (relatively speaking). Take for example: comparing it to the Samsung Galaxy S III (8.6mm, 133g), the new Galaxy Beam does seem a tad intimidating.

Otherwise, usability is generally positive here with tactile physical buttons. The projector button is laid at the top on the right profile of the phone, allowing for quick access to its projection capabilities. As a word of caution - users transiting from a regular smartphone might need some time to get comfortable with the button layout; the power button, usually located at the top, has been relegated to a spot below the projector button. Strangely, both microSD and SIM card slots are located on either side of the phone despite having a removable 2000mAh battery. This causes the sides to be a little too cluttered for our liking but this isn't something that will make or break the Galaxy Beam experience.

Card slots for SIM and microSD are each flanked on the left and right profiles (top and bottom photos respectively ), and are protected by plastic covers that are, thankfully, easy to remove. Spot the projector button at the top on the right side of the phone?

 

Features

The new Samsung Galaxy Beam is equipped with the usual TouchWiz UI, of which we aren't going to elaborate much here, and the rather outdated Android 2.3 OS. For the uninitiated, the TouchWiz UI is Samsung's trademark user interface, one that seemingly takes a leaf out of Apple's clean iOS design. The usual Samsung add-ons like Game Hub, ChatON, Samsung Apps, and Social Hub make appearances here as part of the Korean company's additional services.

The main subject of interest here, is of course, the phone's projector capability. Pico projectors have been in the market for quite some time now but the projector smartphone still remains a relatively novel concept. Our experience on the first Galaxy Beam was a little rough on the edges - interesting yet experimental in nature -, and the new successor happens to improve this somewhat. Both Quick Pad option, a feature that allows the user to bring up a cursor-shaped pointer or type text, and the Visual Presenter option, a feature that allows images or videos to be captured via the cameras lens and projected real-time, both make reappearances on the new Galaxy Beam.

Click on the Projector app to access the Samsung Galaxy Beam's key features. You can activate the projector via the app or by long pressing the dedicated button on the phone's right profile. The icon at the top of the screen indicates that the projector is currently turned on.

The device comes with a rather exhaustive list of features, including the capability to focus/rotate and to turn the projector into a torchlight.

You can flash pointers and notes with the quick pad function. The feature allows you to scribble quick annotations for your audience to read. You can save your changes as a screenshot in your gallery as well. The bad thing about the QuickPad option is that you can't toggle it off mid-way through a presentation; one has to press the back button. Otherwise, if you want to bring it up again, simply quick-press the projector button.

If you are planning to screen a short slideshow of your photos alongside music (your own tracks can be selected), the Ambience Mode will most definitely come in handy.

Basic settings such as brightness levels can be adjusted here as well. A faster way would be to quick press the projector button.

Like we mentioned earlier, you can activate the projector via the projector button. If you are playing a video from your gallery and want to project it on the screen, simply long press the button; you don't have to go into the app specifically to activate it. Likewise, long press the same button to switch it off. The Samsung Galaxy Beam gets a boost with a higher output level of 15 lumens, up from its predecessor's 9.5 lumens, matching the average lumens level of current pico projectors (12 to 15). This makes it easier to discern projections in difficult lighting conditions, say in brightly-lit places.

Projection at the maximum recommended size of 50 inches, half-brightness and viewing at 2m away from projected wall in a dark room. Details were slightly pixelated and fuzzy but still relatively clear and visible enough. We reckon documents or spreadsheets wouldn't look clear at this output size.

Here's another look but at a projected size of 37 inches, half-brightness and viewing at 2m away from the wall used for projection. Details were visibly sharper and projection was brighter. We advise users to keep to a projected size to a maximum of 40-inches across for optimal viewing.

Of course, you cannot expect it to match the quality of standalone dedicated projectors as Samsung states that the device can only display images up to 50 inches across at a resolution of 640 x 360 pixels. As a general rule of thumb, the Galaxy Beam works best when projecting on a white space in a reasonably dark room. Furthermore, our test findings shown above actually reveal that the projection works best if the output size is kept at no larger than 40-inches across. 

8.0
Overall rating 8/10
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Design
8
Features
8.5
User-Friendliness
8
Performance
8
Value
8.5
The Good
Good range of features for its built-in projector
Good performance
Reasonable battery life
The Bad
Bulky and heavy build
Outdated 2.3 Android OS
Below average camera capabilities