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Is a $2,500 Android TV short-throw laser projector overkill? I had to find out
I really love Android TV projectors. I actually love them enough to have one in my kitchen. They’re basically huge TVs in a smaller, portable box: As long as you have a white wall somewhere, you just prop the projector in front of it, turn it on, and you have your screen, speaker, and operating system running. It’s a simple and elegant solution when you’re renting or when you want your TV to be easily movable between rooms and homes.
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So when Xgimi asked me whether I was interested in checking out its latest Aura projector ($2,500), I briefly skimmed the spec sheet and agreed. In retrospect, I should have looked closer. But you know, it’s tough to say “no” to shiny cool tech. Plus, this one had a 4K HDR image with 2,400 ANSI Lumens of brightness — way more than any previous projector I’ve reviewed. In retrospect, again, this should have rung an alarm bell and made me look at the dimensions. But no.
ANSI Lumens is a light-measuring unit defined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It records the light output by a projector at nine different points around a projection screen and calculates an average. The higher the value the brighter the light produced by a projector.
It’s different from lumens, or LED lumens, which measure the brightness of the light source. On average 1 ANSI lumen = 1 lumen / 2.4. Read more.
Fast forward a few weeks and the mailman arrives. I knew he was bringing the projector, but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. He had a transport trolley, with a humongous box sitting on it. And I’m not using the word “humongous” lightly. This was at least ten times the size of any previous projector I’ve reviewed. After double-checking that the box was indeed meant for me, I lugged it into my 47sqm (505sqft) Parisian apartment, opened it, and stared in awe.
The Aura measures 606 x 401 x 139.5mm (23.8 x 15.7 x 5.4in) and weighs 11kg (24.2lb). That’s the weight of three very healthy newborns. The opened box was basically the size of my couch. Enter a few weeks of agonizing over where exactly in my cozy apartment I was going to set up the projector. (I briefly contemplated renting the living room of the French presidential palace, or setting it up on the side of our building.) See, I don’t have a lot of empty walls and I rented this place furnished, which means I can’t redecorate on a whim… for a projector. Even if it’s a really cool $2,500 projector.
Eventually, my husband and I discovered that the bedroom dresser’s mirror is easily removable. So against my previous policy of not having a TV in the bedroom, we installed the Aura in the bedroom. The only downside? Two protruding nails that were used to hang the mirror are still visible on the wall — we call them the image’s nipples.
It feels like magic to see an image this big being projected from such a small distance.
The Xgimi Aura fits perfectly on the dresser and, since it’s an ultra short throw laser projector, it can sit right next to the wall. You only need to distance it 11cm (a bit more than four inches) from the wall to get a massive 80-inch image. Pushing it further back to 44.1cm (17.3 inches) gives you a wild 150-inch projection. I settled on 17cm approximately, which results in an image between 90 and 100 inches, and goes up to the edge of the ceiling. It feels like magic when you realize that an image this big is being projected from such a small distance.
Ultra short throw projectors are projectors that don’t need to be distanced from the projection screen to achieve a large projection area. Placed a few inches away from a wall or screen, they can achieve an image as large as 100 inches or more. That steep-angle projection is achieved thanks to wide-angle lenses and mirrors.
Like regular TVs, they can be placed directly in front of a wall (though not mounted on it, or sitting flush next to it.) Built-in audio is another benefit, because the sound comes from the same direction as the image, unlike regular projectors.
And it’s glorious.
You have to see it to believe it. Taking photos of projectors in action is very tough, because if I dim the room enough, all you’ll see is the projection and you won’t have a sense of space; and if I don’t dim it, you’ll see the surrounding objects but the image will appear washed out. Not that the projector doesn’t handle ambient light well, because it does. The 2,400 ANSI Lumens mean you can still enjoy content in a moderately-lit room. Of course, blacks will be a little washed out because they can only be as dark as the projection surface.
But if you want to properly enjoy your movies and TV, you want to dim the room. The Xgimi Aura really shines then. High resolution, excellent luminosity, loud and clear sound (four 15W Harman Kardon speakers with Dolby Audio), and again, Android TV on board. The latter remains one of the coolest selling points for me. I have YouTube, Plex, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify, and my local French streaming services all running on it, without the need to plug in anything extra. I can cast anything from my phone or iPad to it, mirror my phone’s display, or use Google Assistant to control it. (Note: Netflix isn’t officially supported, but there are workarounds.)
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The Aura has plenty of ports too if you prefer to use other input sources and for future-proofing (if/when the OS stops getting updates). There are three HDMI 2.0 ports, three USB 2.0, and one LAN. And for output, you have an optical port and a 3.5mm headphone port. There’s Bluetooth 5.0 too in case you want to pair headphones to watch in silence.
So what is it like to live with the Xgimi Aura? In one word: decadent.
So what is it like to live with such a projector? In one word: decadent. I feel spoiled. I’m definitely wasting the prowess of the Aura in a small bedroom where I can’t have friends over for movie or sports nights. But also, it’s awesome to have such a huge TV that “disappears” when not in use. Well, the projector is still on the dresser, and it isn’t the most elegant or invisible sight. However, inch for inch, pound for pound, the Xgimi Aura is significantly smaller and lighter than any regular 80- to 150-inch TV. And it remains portable, unlike those TVs. It’s essentially an entire movie theater in a box.
Watching YouTube, movies, or our favorite series on such a gigantic screen with great enveloping sound makes us feel closer to the action. Spotify playback creates the biggest karaoke screen you can imagine. For tennis and football, it feels like we’re on the court/field right next to the players. But we’re in our bedroom, laying down. It’s the epitome of indulgence. Going back to our living room’s 43-inch MiTV after experiencing this isn’t easy, as you can imagine.
The Xgimi Aura ($2,500) is overkill for an apartment like ours. But if you have the space for a proper projection screen in a dedicated movie room, oh, it’ll be excellent.