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What’s 4K Worth? LG CineBeam vs. Samsung Freestyle

With its new projector, The Freestyle, Samsung has made a huge play for a previously untapped market: those who are willing to shell out a reasonable amount — but not too much — for a practical, portable cinema-style experience that doesn’t involve picture correction or flickering images.

“All the benefits of a Smart TV, virtually anywhere,” goes Samsung’s tag line. “Where every angle is the perfect angle”, goes another.

While smartphones have long divorced people from the family television set, quality, affordable projection is still a nascent market. Cheap projectors look like cheap projectors. Anything less than a pitch black room provides too much light, while a decent projector is out of reach for most people. Enter: The Freestyle

The Freestyle might end up being many things to many people: a portable sports screen, a ceiling cinema at 4 in the morning, but it is not a 4K projector – with only 1920 X 1090 resolution, and an LED light source with 550 lumens, the picture is fantastic, but not 4K.

The thing is, I’m not sure too many people will care.

LG’s latest laser CineBeam 4K projector models, the HU715Q and HU710P, are touted as the company’s “most advanced projectors to date.”

While the Freestyle needs to be 2.6 metres from the wall to project a 100-inch picture, the HU715Q need be placed just 21.7 cm from the wall.

LG’s CineBeams deliver 4K resolution with 3,840 x 2,160 vibrant pixels, a 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio and high peak brightness. It is a powerful visual beast, and — as LG explains — it is designed for the residential home market. This is the opposite of how Samsung is marketing the Freestyle. With The Freestyle, you carry the cinema around in a backpack.

“More and more consumers appreciate being able to watch their favorite content in real cinematic scale, which is why the home projector segment is experiencing such strong growth,” said Seo Young-jae, senior vice president and head of the IT business unit of LG Business Solutions Company.

“Specifically designed for movie lovers and the residential home market, LG CineBeam offers outstanding brightness, excellent picture and sound quality as well as a choice of the most popular streaming apps on webOS. Anyone thinking of creating or upgrading a home theater system won’t be disappointed with a CineBeam projector from LG.”

Looking at the specs for both the Samsung Freestyle and LG’s CineBeam, it is clear that the latter trumps the former in almost every area – except where it may matter most: in price.

The Freestyle retails for $1,299 in Australia, while the last generation of the CineBeam, released in early 2021, retailed for approximately $4,400.

While the Cinebeam certainly isn’t overpriced, the emergence of Freestyle, which looks amazing, is extremely practical, and around the price of a new iPhone, may represent a huge shift in the marketplace.

It seems likely we will see a number of portable projectors at a similar price point to The Freestyle.

Once the market is flooded with these, a box-shaped projector designed to live in a lounge room may find itself looking very old fashion – 4K or not.

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