Samsung Beam i8520 Review

The Samsung Beam I8520 isn’t one of the newest smartphones that is on the market today, but it still might be one of the most unique. It was made available in July 2010 and featured an Android operating system, the Eclair v2.1. Although it could connect a user to family and friends, the main reason to purchase this phone was the built-in DLP projector that could project images up to 50 inches in size at 15 lumens. As an added advantage, it also had an eight megapixel camera which could be used to simulate the effects of an overhead projector.

Most mobile devices don’t stand up well to the test of time. The Samsung Beam I8520 has technology included with it that would still be considered modern today.

Could It Still Be a Great Business Phone?

The Samsung Beam I8520 was one of the first mobile devices that included a comprehensive mobile document editor that was useful. This allowed you to be able to create documents no matter where you were and send them through email as long as you had access to cellular services. In some ways the functionality of the Beam is similar to the older Blackberrys that were on the market at this time. The fact that it can project images, however, helped to set it apart.

The super capacitive touchscreen on this phone had 16M colors and a pixel density of 252 PPI. If you compare those specs to modern mobile phones today, you’ll find that they are similar, if not worse than what the Beam released in 2010. The total resolution was 480p and the 3.7 inch screen was big enough to be useful without being overly cumbersome.

It also had scratch resistant glass that could recognize handwriting. It was equipped with stereo speakers and a digital natural sound engine to provide authentic sounds for movies and music playlists. A stereo FM radio was also included on this GPS equipped phone and it could play virtually any multimedia file, including DivX.

You Could Take Pictures Like a Pro With This Phone

The camera was one of the nicest features of this smartphone. Not only would the images from the primary camera come out with a size of 3264×2448, but modern smartphone camera features were included for an enhanced user experience. You’d have blink and smile detection, autofocusing, and an LED flash to fill in the light for darker pictures. You could also record video at 720p HD with the primary camera if you wished.

The one place where this phone hasn’t necessarily stood the test of time is in the memory department. It came equipped with 384 MB of RAM and 512 MB of ROM for processing power, which at the time was pretty good, but today doesn’t stand up to the 3 GB of RAM that some premium phones have. 16 GB of internal storage came standard as well, which is better than some phones still today, and this can be doubled using microSD cards. The Samsung Beam I8520 also came Wi-Fi equipped, Bluetooth compatible, and could connect using mUSB v2.0 technology, which is still the standard for many smartphones today.

What Are the Pros and Cons of the Samsung Beam I8520?

There are some definite advantages and disadvantages to the design of this particular mobile device. Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons that come in operating the Samsung Beam I8520.


It has an excellent projection quality. You get a competitively good image from this mobile device that is present in quality. As long as you have an empty wall, you’ve got a good screen that can be used to project a movie or a sales presentation without any additional equipment. Images flow realistically and without much blur.

You don’t have to convert the videos.This smartphone was one of the first that could film video at 30 frames per second. When you look at video editing software from the same era, the standard was actually 25 frames per second. This means that you wouldn’t have to convert the videos that you made with this mobile phone before being able to view them either on the screen or through the projection capabilities.

A dual camera design. The VGA camera will draw a lot of yawns, but this is still a standard design that is found in a number of new smartphones. With the 8MP stills that can be taken and the AMOLED display, this mobile device was a top piece of technology for quite some time.

The projection size was customizable. Although you could display the projected imaged from the Samsung Beam I8520 up to 50 inches, it still displayed just fine at 5 inches as well.


It was quite sluggish. The performance of this mobile phone was slow at best. It struggled to keep up with the competition when it was released in 2010 and it is 4-7x slower than modern smartphones today. This means you’ve got to shut down each app you’re trying to use on this phone before opening another, even with the multitouch recognition, and that cuts down on multitasking friendliness.

It was very buggy. Even with an upgrade to a new Android operating system that some users were able to get, the Samsung Bean I8520 was known for its glitches. Having to force a soft reset was a pretty common practice.

The location of the mSD card. In order to access your portable memory, you would have to reset your phone. That’s because the card slot was found behind the battery on this Samsung device. This kept it from slipping out, of course, but it also meant you’d have to start over any time you wanted to switch cards.

What About the Battery Life of the Samsung Beam I8520?

The battery that comes with this smartphone is a lithium-ion 1800 mAh battery that is obviously removable since the mSD slot is behind it. On a standard charge, it could last for about 7 hours of total talk time on a 3G network. This time could be doubled if a 2G Edge network was used instead. Standby life is about 500 hours and data access didn’t increase battery usage very much.

With a total weight of just 5.5 ounces, there isn’t a lot of user fatigue that comes with this phone. It weighs the same as just about any standard tool, so using it to project a presentation by hand is entirely plausible. It also has a nice, flat surface that allows for a tabletop display for longer presentations and unless you plan on talking for 8 full hours, the Samsung Beam I8520 will last all day without needing another charge.

Why Don’t You See These Phones More Often?

With just a few exceptions, the Samsung Beam I8520 was released primarily to the Asian market. It was done to test how feasible the technology was and how receptive the general public would be to it. The results were a little lukewarm, mostly because the 720 Mhz processor really lacked the power this phone needs. A 1Ghz processor, using dual core technology today, would have really helped it out. Quad core processors would be the obvious, best choice if you could make one change.

The lack of memory is also a big problem. The display is nice and clear and everything functions well, but users have to wait to be able to access many of the functions because loading times are pretty long.

Would You Purchase This Smartphone Today?

Yes and no. It would all depend on what the individual needs of a user happen to be. If you have the need for a portable projector, then this is still the phone to purchase. The upgraded versions of the Samsung Beam are actually downgrades. They resolution of the projector is lower, the internal memory is half of the I8520, and the only true advantage is an upgraded chipset. This one device replaces an overhead projector and a wall-mounted device, so it’s perfect for the small business that is looking to improve training or their presentations without a massive cost.

For every day phone use, however, there are numerous smartphones on the market that have processors that can reach above 2 GHz, have 10x the amount of RAM in them, and have a primary camera that is 13 MP or more. The SMS threaded view texts are nice for those who use that form of communication regularly and that’s also something the Beam I8520 doesn’t have.

For its time, the Samsung Beam I8520 was a pretty outstanding phone. It can still compete with today’s entry-level models and lower mid-range smartphones, but there are places where it is clearly starting to age. It is, however, the best projector phone that is on the market today that you can purchase. Until something new comes along, that will always be the case.

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