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Samsung Galaxy Beam Review

on September 12, 2012 – 4:45 pmNo Comment


Samsung launched the Galaxy Beam (GT-i8530) with a pico projector in India in July. It was announced at MWC 2012 earlier this year. Even though the main feature of this phone is the projector, it packs in powerful specs including a 4.0-inch 480×800 (WVGA) TFT display, 1 GHz Dual-Core Processor and is just 12.5 mm thick. Let’s get into the detailed review.

Hardware

The 4-inch WVGA display is bright. There are proximity and ambient light sensors at the top along with a 1.3MP front-facing camera for video calling. There is a earpiece at the center with a Samsung branding below that. The phone has a metal rim running all around. Since the display is glossy, it is a fingerprint magnet.

There is a large home key below the display with menu and back capacitive touch buttons on either side, that illuminates on touch.

The volume rocker is at the right side along with a SIM card slot with hot swap feature, so that you can insert a SIM card on the fly, without switching the phone off.

Since the projector is present at the top, the 3.5mm audio jack is at the right side of the phone.

There is a microSD card slot at the left side of the phone along with a power / lock button above that and a projector button at the top.

The Projector is at the top.

There is a micro USB slot at the bottom along with a tiny microphone hole.

At the back there is a 5 Megapixel Auto focus camera with flash. You can see a slight bulge at the top, thanks to the projector.


The back has nice rugged pattern. The speaker grill is at the bottom.

When you open the back cover, you can find the 2000 mAh battery.


You also get an additional battery and a portable charger.

Here is the video review

Projector

The DLP projector is capable of projecting content from the phone at 15 Lumen in nHD (640 x 360 pixels) resolution. You can project thing far from a distance of 2 meters and 50 inches wide. It is bright so that the room need not be much darker. The dedicated projector key is much useful to switch to the projector mode quickly on long press.


There is no auto-focus ring in the Beam that was present in the entry-level projector phone Spice Popkorn that we reviewed last year. Instead, when you launch the projector, there is a screen that lets you change the focus and screen orientation.


There is a Projector app that offers several features including a Ambience Mode that lets you beaming up any image or video on ceiling, OHP (Over head Projector) captures the camera content and projects it on to a wall. Since Samsung doesn’t provide a stand, it is hard to use this feature. The Quick pad feature lets you write on the display and project it on the wall. There is also a Torch light feature to project bright light of different colors and a briefing mode which is an alarm that opens up the projector to display custom images or video at a particular time.

You can also control the display brightness, set screen timeout duration and change the default projector orientation.

Here is a demo of the projector function

Camera


The 5 Megapixel auto focus camera at the back captures good shots. There is auto focus and macro modes. You can edit shortcuts on the left pane to access them quickly. You can adjust the exposure, set timer, add effects (Negative, Grayscale, Sepia), Change white balance, change the shooting mode (single , smile shot, panorama, action shot, cartoon), change the image resolution and set flash on, off or auto. Macro images in the dark with flash came out well.

Here are some sample images.

The video mode offers similar features. It can record videos at 720p HD resolution. Due to the lack of secondary microphone, the audio is not impressive. Here’s the 720p video sample.

Software


The phone runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), but Samsung has promised ICS update. The TouchWiz UI is similar to the other Samsung phones. There are 7 home screens. You click the menu to add folders, widgets, shortcuts or change the wallpaper.


You can press and hold the home button to access the recent apps, which also has a shortcut to the task manager. You can just swipe to unlock the screen. The drop-down notification bar has shortcuts to toggle WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, Sound and Auto rotate.

Apps

There are several apps in different categories. The utility apps include, Clock, Calendar, Task for entering tasks, Voice Recorder, Photo editor, Mini diary, Calculator, Memo for note taking. There are Samsung apps such as Maps, Social Hub, ChatON messaging client, Samsung Apps apps store, My Movies and My Movies. The My files app lets you view files and there is Polaris office for viewing office documents. There are Google Apps including, Google Search with voice search, Maps, Gmail, Search, Talk and Google+. You can download more apps from the Samsung Apps or Google Play Store.

Music Player and FM Radio


The Music Player can play MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+ and WMA files. The Music Player UI is similar to the other Samsung phones running Android 2.3. You can quickly search for songs and there is a 5.1 audio feature that works when you plugin the earphones. There is equalizer and sound effects in the settings. Other options include, Visualization, Lyrics and Auto music off function that turns the music player off after a desired time. There is a FM Radio with RDS. You can move the jog dial to change the frequency or click the previous or next buttons to skip stations. It has auto scan feature. You can add 4 favorite stations at the bottom to access them quickly.

Calls, Messaging, Browser


The calls went through well, without any dropped calls. The speaker is quite loud. The dial pad has quick dialing feature, and you can access call lons, favorites and contacts. The messaging is in conversational view. There is an on-screen Samsung keyboard but you can also use the Swype keyboard.


The browser scored 189 points in the HTML5 test with 1 bonus point.

Connectivity


The connectivity features include, 3G (HSDPA 14.4 Mbps / HSUPA 5.76 Mbps), WiFi 802.11 b/g/n with WiFi direct, Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP, aGPS and micro USB. There is a power saving mode that lets you switch off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other connectivity options automatically when the battery is below a particular point.

Benchmarks

Here are some benchmark comparison of the Galaxy Beam’s 1GHz NovaThor U8500 processor with other dual-core phones.

Quadrant

The Galaxy Beam tops with a score of 2610 followed by the Atrix 2.

Vellamo

Since the Xperia U runs on ICS, it tops with a score of 899 followed by the beam.
AnTuTu

The AnTuTu benchmark was neck to neck, where the Galaxy Beam falls short by just a few points.

Conclusion

The new Galaxy Beam is a good successor to the previous Beam. The phone is sleek even though there is a projector. The projection is bright, and there are several features in the projector app. Since the 3.5mm audio jack is at the side, you can plug-in an external speaker while you project a video. The additional battery along with a portable charger is very useful, that lets you charge the battery in advance. You can watch a whole movie for about 2 and half hours with a single charge when the display of the phone is off. If you are not using the projector, the 2000 mAh battery lasts for a whole day, with few hours of music, few calls and some photos. The phone still runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) which is dissapointing. The price tag of Rs. 30,000 is a bit high compared to other Android phones in the market, but if you really need a feature packed phone with a projector that you can carry in your pocket, this is a smart option.

Pros

  • Built-in Pico Projector
  • 2000 mAh battery with additional battery pack
  • Hot swappable SIM card and microSD

Cons

  • Runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
  • Doesn’t come with a prjector stand
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Srivatsan Sridhar is a Mobile Technology Enthusiast who is passionate about Mobile phones and Mobile apps. He is currently using the Motorola Moto G. You can follow him on Twitter @ssrivatsan and on Google+