Instant Guide

Samsung's Galaxy Beam: The smartphone that doubles as a 'pocket projector'

A new mobile gadget with a "Cyclopean eye" can project a streaming movie or photo slideshow onto a wall with images 50 inches across

If you squint every time you stream a Netflix movie on your iPhone's 3.5-inch screen, you might want to have a look at Samsung's newest phone, the Galaxy Beam. The Android-powered device is outfitted with a built-in LED projector to display movies, images, and presentations on nearby walls. Here, a guide to Samsung's new "pocket projector":

What sort of specs does the phone boast?The otherwise-ordinary Galaxy Beam comes equipped with "one special thing," says Sascha Segan at PC Mag: "A Cyclopean eye up top that beams a 15-lumen image out the front onto whatever surface you can find." The manufacturer says the projector can be used continuously for three hours on a single charge. Despite the extra hardware, the phone's size is pretty standard: 12.5mm thick, compared to the iPhone 4S's 9.31mm. The Galaxy Beam still slips easily into your pocket.

How does the display look?Samsung claims "crisp, high-definition images" up to 50 inches across, but it depends on the lighting conditions in the room. During a live demonstration in a dark room, the video looked "sharp," says Segan, and while the brightness "didn't stun," projections still looked clear. But "it doesn't work at all in a bright room," says Chris Ziegler at The Verge, "though you could pass it off for a quick slideshow among friends if you dim the lights."

Besides the projector, is the phone any good?The Galaxy Beam leaves a lot to be desired, says Ziegler. For instance, Samsung was so intent on slashing costs to accommodate its projector that it built the Galaxy Beam to run on Android 2.3, a relatively ancient version of Google's mobile operating system. Most new Android phones run version 4.0.

Is this the first time a projector phone has hit the market?No. Samsung unveiled a model called the Show in 2009, but it was only available in Korea. Rival manufacturer LG brought out a projector phone called the Expo in 2009, which "hit the U.S. market with a stunning thud," says Segan. However, the Expo was targeting PowerPoint-savvy business people. The Galaxy Beam is different; not only is it much smaller than its bulky predecessors, it's being marketed to a wider audience as a "fun" gadget. There's no word yet on pricing, but expect the Galaxy Beam to hit the market in the second quarter of this year.

Sources: Guardian, PC Mag, The Verge, ZDNet

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