Samsung's second-gen Beam brings with it HD smarts, enabling you to project high-definition footage on any flat surface up to 50" wide
Editor's Review of the Galaxy Beam
While they're never destined to be the bigger sellers, niche phones with truly special features always get the phone reviewer excited. The Galaxy Beam isn't in fact the first Samsung phone to feature a pico projector however, with the I8520 having the same feature back in 2010. As you'd expect however, this model of the phone is more powerful, featuring a dual-core processor and, most importantly, a bigger and better projector.
Design & Build
Moving away from the trademark sleekness of most Samsung smartphones, the Beam goes for a garish black-and-yellow colour scheme that certainly makes the phone stand out from the generally serious majority crowd of most smartphones out there.
Containing a projector inevitably has an effect on the waistline, but not as much as you might have thought. At 12.5mm thickness and 145g, the Beam feels solid and weighty in the hands while not being likely to over-encumber you. The back is made of plastic but with a rubberised sheen that makes it feel reasonably undroppable.
The 4" screen here runs at a 480 x 800 px resolution and packs in 233ppi. The colours are vibrant and sharp, although the screen suffers in conditions of bright sunlight (though of course you'll be spending most of your time with this phone in a dark designated projector room, so that shouldn't be a problem). The viewing angles are decent, and while the Beam screen isn't high-end, it does its job adequately.
The projector's physical presence in the phone is only given away through a fairly subtle bulge at the top-centre of its rear. The 15-lumen light is surprisingly powerful, and is - obviously - best used in complete darkness. It can, however, handle a small amount of ambient surrounding light and maintain good visibility.
The projector's resolution is 854 x 480 px, which is a considerable improvement on its predecessor. That being said, when it's blown up to the maximum 50" size, the picture looks pixellated and horrible. However, crank it up to the 32" size you get with an average HD TV, and you've got yourself a miniature - but very watchable - cinema screen.
OS & Performance
While the operating system isn't the phone's main focus, Samsung should know by know that a mid-range phone released in this day and age should come with Android 4.0, not 2.3. Sadly, Samsung seem to have forgotten about this fact with the Beam, so users are stuck with an OS that doesn't do justice to the phone's reasonably powerful Dual-core 1GHz processor.
Samsung's TouchWiz 4.0 UI remains one of the most intuitive about, and the whole show runs smoothly and quickly enough. The Gingebread internet browser has no trouble with content-heavy sites, or panning, pitching and zooming. You can also comfortably use most of the apps on Google Play, including some of the mid-high end games.
Software & Multimedia
As you'd expect, Samsung's software focus here is the projector, imaginatively labelled on the phone as 'Projector.' From here, you can access a few neat features, such as the Quick pad overlay, which lets you make markings and drawings on the projected display using the phone screen; very useful for you presentation-based business types.
The Ambience mode does comes good in its name by allowing you to project images or videos for however long you want, accompanied by music and transitional effects that you set yourself. Great for looking through pictures with the family, loved ones, or, well, by yourself if you're that way inclined.
The 5MP camera here is boosted by Samsung's wealth of TouchWiz features, which include the usual batch of effects and lens features, as well as the always-impressive Panorama mode.
Photos are of reasonable quality, with the LED flash ensuring that there is good detail in all kinds of lighting conditions. The video recorder shoots at up to 720p resolutions, but it certainly could've squeezed out 1080p considering the phone wields a dual-core processor.
Battery life, Storage & Connectivity
The 2000mAh battery may seem substantial, but you'll definitely be needing it if you plan on using this phone's stand-out feature. While you can get well over 24 hours' moderate use out of the phone, this figure drops drastically if you use the projector.
True to Samsung's style, they've kitted the Galaxy Beam out with plenty of storage space. Aside from 8GB of onboard space and 768MB RAM, it also features a microSD slot with up to 32GB of capacity.
It's all standard and fairly quiet on the connectivity front. Alongside the obligatory Bluetooth 3.0, WiFi, A-GPS, the Beam features HSDPA download speeds of up to 14.4MBps and DLNA, which is best used through Samsung's handy AllShare streaming app.
The latest model of the Galaxy Beam is the kind of niche device that most people probably wouldn't mind owning. The nHD onboard projector may not be up there with the quality you'd get for splashing out £200 on a pure projector, but it's a huge improvement on its predecessor. Plus, it's integrated into your phone, making anywhere you go a potential cinema or presentation room.
Samsung did get a bit lazy on the operating system front by only putting in Android 2.3 (with no signs as yet of Ice Cream Sandwich), and a better camera would certainly have made the phone more of an all-rounder. But the overall quality you'd expect from a Samsung phone is there, and the satisfaction of having a good-quality projector in your phone quickly blinds you to its few shortcomings.
Samsung Galaxy Beam News
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Samsung Galaxy Beam Specifications
124mm x 64.2mm x 12.5mm
Full capacitive touch screen
Type: TFT LCD
Size: 4.0 inches
Resolution: 480 x 800
Interface: TouchWiz 4.0 UI
External: microSD up to 32GB
CPU: 1GHz Dual core
A-GPS with maps
Up to 14.4 Mbps download speed
Up to 5.76 Mbps upload speed
Wi-Fi: IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
Audio: 3.5mm stereo jack
Data: Standard microUSB
GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
A2DP for wireless stereo headsets
5.0 megapixel camera
Auto Focus and LED Flash
720p Video Recording
At 30 fps
Front facing camera with video calling
Battery Capacity: 2000 mAh
Radio: FM with RDS
Audio supported formats
Playback: MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA
Video supported formats
Playback: MPEG4, H.263, H.264, WMV, DivX