Samsung’s original Freestyle portable projector had a ton of promise, but it really fell apart in the execution and was severely overpriced for the hardware specs on offer. Still, the blueprint was encouraging, and it seemed like just the kind of product that Samsung could nail the second time around — or so I hoped.
But back at CES in January, the company showed off a barely changed revision of the Freestyle that addressed virtually none of my quibbles with the original. It was updated with Samsung’s latest TV software, which meant owners would be able to access the Gaming Hub and various cloud gaming services from Xbox, Nvidia, and more. Samsung also demonstrated a neat “smart edge blending” trick whereby you could combine two Freestyle projectors for a massive 150-inch picture. This would make it possible to “watch content in a 21:9 configuration with no manual lining up or adjusting,” Samsung said at the time.
Fast-forward to today, and the Freestyle Gen 2 is now up for preorder starting at $799.99. That’s $100 less expensive than the original, albeit still higher than a number of other portable projectors on the market. Samsung says the Freestyle Gen 2 “boasts increased memory, which enables a snappier UX and makes it easier to experience your favorite content right from the smart projector.” Sluggish, laggy software performance was one of my main gripes with the first-gen model, so that’s at least a step in the right direction.
But curiously, Samsung’s press release contains zero references to the edge blending feature that it showcased in Las Vegas. There’s nothing about it on the product page, either. I assumed that maybe it didn’t work as seamlessly as the company had hoped and was dropped during development. That’s not the case, but its utility is, uh, rather limited.
“Yes, the Freestyle Gen 2 does support Smart Edge Blending, so you can pair two Freestyle projectors to create a single, ultra-wide display,” Samsung spokesperson Griffin Burrough told The Verge by email. “At launch, this feature is only supported for you to project your own content using the SmartThings app.” Buying two Freestyles (or pairing yours with a friend’s) was already a niche idea, but if you can’t use streaming apps like Netflix or Disney Plus with the smart edge blending feature, I’m not sure I see the point.
Without that, you’re left with a Freestyle Gen 2 that’s basically a rerelease of the flawed original with some speed enhancements and a newer Samsung SolarCell Remote. I’m sure there are some fun use cases for the Gaming Hub on the go — you can pair a Bluetooth controller with the Freestyle, after all — but it continues to come across as a device that’s more of a multifunctional toy than a true projector. For a lot of people, that might do the trick, but I’d still wait for a hefty discount before considering the Freestyle Gen 2. Samsung’s at least throwing in a free case this time for early buyers.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge