Televisions are ugly. A 55-incher creates about 1,300 square-inches of eyesore when not in use. Many don’t care, however my partner does, which meant residing with a tiny TV for longer than I care to confess.
Ultra-short throw projectors are sometimes marketed as TV replacements. They’re small by comparability, but able to projecting a giant picture when positioned simply inches from the wall. But UST projectors able to a large shiny 4K HDR picture have at all times been prohibitively costly. So, lengthy story brief, we purchased a 55-inch OLED TV whereas in Covid lockdown.
But now there’s a newcomer: the all-in-one Xgimi Aura is a 4K HDR ultra-short throw laser projector with built-in sound system that runs Android TV and is able to tossing 2400 lumens onto my white partitions for $2,499. That’s not low-cost, but it surely undercuts different 4K short-throw projectors that begin at $2,800 for a VAVA, soar to $3,300 from established manufacturers like Optoma, and attain costs as excessive as $15,000 for a top-end Sony.
“Your next TV is not a TV,” is how Xgimi markets the Aura. But can a UST projector actually replace a fashionable TV?
Let’s first take a step again for these of you not acquainted with Xgimi. The Chinese firm acquired its begin in 2014 earlier than debuting in Western markets in 2016. It’s constructed a loyal fanbase round good trying all-in-one moveable projectors which can be fairly specced but nonetheless cheap. These embrace the Z4 Aurora and Horizon Pro 4K which The Verge reviewed beforehand.
The Xgimi Aura just isn’t moveable. It measures 606 x 401 x 139.5mm and weighs 14.9kg (about 32 kilos) which is large in comparison with conventional long-throw projectors. But most of that quantity sits low on a cupboard instead of a free-standing tv.
To replace a TV, the Aura must activate as rapidly, be simply as pleasant to view in all lighting situations, provide a related number of streaming apps, and ship comparable sound with the choice to reinforce it for residence theater setups. It additionally must do all this stuff whereas justifying a worth that’s at the least twice that of a 55-inch OLED.
So let’s tackle every merchandise one-by-one.
Time to TV
My 55-inch LG TV boots into webOS in about 25 seconds with Quick Start+ turned off. It activates in simply 5-6 seconds with standby enabled, which is my common setup. By comparability, the Xgimi Aura boots chilly into Android TV OS 10.0 in about 55 seconds, twice so long as the LG TV. Turning on from standby takes about 11 seconds, once more twice the time.
There is an possibility to show the Aura’s laser projection unit off (to stream music, for instance) which permits it to spring again to life instantaneously. But fan noise (extra on that later) and extreme energy draw makes this an possibility I exploit sparingly.
More importantly, apps launch quicker on the Aura than my TV. Plex launches about 3 times quicker, YouTube opens immediately whereas the TV takes a few seconds, Apple TV launches about 50 % quicker, and Prime Video about 20 %.
I can cope with a few additional seconds of startup time so long as my apps are responsive after I’m searching for one thing to observe.
Comparing the viewing expertise of a projector to a TV is actually evaluating apples to oranges. Some will definitely prioritize a 100-plus inch immersive show that, for most individuals, is simply financially viable with a projector. Others need high-contrast, color-accurate shows enabled by the brightest TVs. Unless you’re out there for a tremendous yacht, you can’t afford each dimension and image-popping HDR from a single show.
Size junkies will probably be drawn to the Aura’s claimed 150-inch max show. But that comes with a few catches. First, spreading all these lumens throughout such a giant house dims the displayed picture significantly. Second, the Xgimi Aura must be 17.3 inches (44.1cm) from the wall to realize such a giant picture, which can simply defeat typical TV stands that are usually fairly slender (the projector is almost 16-inches broad). Nevertheless, shopping for a wider desk is cheaper than flattening a wall to realize the gap required by some long-throw projectors to realize that very same show dimension.
In my setup, the place the Aura sits on a slender Ikea sideboard, the furthest I can transfer the projector from the wall earlier than the beamer tumbles over the sting is about 15.5cm (6.1 inches). That’s far sufficient to create a 90-inch projected rectangle. It’s large in comparison with my 55-inch LG OLED however nowhere close to as shiny.
As you may need already guessed then, viewing the Aura throughout the day is unhealthy. It’s advantageous for watching the information, I assume, and catching up on a few of my YouTube subscriptions so long as the blinds closed, however the picture is washed out severely, even on dreary wet afternoons.
It’s at evening when the Aura’s large 4K projected picture actually springs to life. True, blacks endure from having to be projected over distance utilizing mild not like my OLED TV, however the Xgimi Aura nonetheless serves up some lovely darkish surroundings from movies like Dune, due to the extra spacious display screen that evokes the kind of cinematic expertise I’ve longed for because the pandemic closed theaters. Sports additionally look nice on the Aura when seen in a darkened room. It ought to go with out saying, however the greater picture makes it simpler to maintain observe of the ball.
Watching in darkness isn’t a drawback presently because the solar units at 5pm the place I dwell. However, I’d want blackout blinds within the summers when daylight stretches previous 10pm. That’s one thing to contemplate when you dwell in a northern local weather.
Overall, the Aura’s colours are wealthy, even when they have an inclination to skew inexperienced; photographs are sharp; and focus is uniform all through. And whereas the Aura helps HDR10, it’s merely not shiny sufficient to provide the image-popping distinction produced by fashionable TVs.
Casual gameplay can also be great on that enormous show, particularly in multiplayer split-screen modes that can be cramped on even giant televisions. But enter latency and lack of HDMI 2.1 imply you gained’t be taking residence any skilled esports titles.
I needed to tilt my Aura assessment unit upward to maintain a energy outlet from obscuring a part of the projection. This was simple to do due to Aura’s built-in legs that unscrew from beneath, and 8-point keystone correction to sq. the picture once more. But like all projectors, the picture brightness suffers as a end result at these angles whereas additionally leading to trapezoidal mild shadows that develop into seen in darkish scenes. The very best setup is for the Aura to be sitting flat and pointing immediately on the wall.
Having the sunshine projected from under additionally makes deformities in my wall extra noticeable because of their respective shadows. Front-projection units do a significantly better job of obscuring the holes, nicks, and undulating plaster on my 170-year-old partitions. My setup would profit from a projection display screen, which might easy out the pictures whereas bettering picture brightness and distinction. But that might actually defeat this as a TV substitute until I wished to pay much more for a display screen the routinely unfurls from a ceiling nook. No thanks.
Like Xgimi’s different projectors, the Aura options an built-in Harman Kardon sound system. This time it’s a beefy 4 x 15W setup (equally divided into two tweeters and two woofers) with DTS and Dolby Audio help. It’s lots loud and yields first rate audio separation that blows my LG TV out of the water. The Aura’s audio can’t compete with my common 5.1 Sonos setup, but it surely does have an S/PDIF optical output for enlargement, in addition to a headphone jack and help for Bluetooth audio.
Fan noise from the Aura produces a mild hum that’s simply noticeable. I can hear it buzz from ten-feet away as Android TV cycles by means of what ought to be silent slideshows. It bothers me when my consideration is drawn to the noise, however largely I’m unaware of it. With the show off, Aura slows the fan down to chop the noise by half. This can be helpful if you wish to use it as a music participant, for instance.
Winner: It’s a tossup, as a result of typically a large show that’s good is best than a smaller one which’s nice.
The Aura runs Android TV like many good televisions. That means loads of streaming apps to select from like Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Plex, and HBO Max. Netflix, nonetheless, has nonetheless not licensed Xgimi below the steamer’s proprietary Open Connect program to make Netflix streams extra environment friendly. The app can be put in through workarounds, however even this stopped working half-way by means of my testing (different workarounds routinely pop-up). Fortunately, Aura has Chromecast help built-in however the expertise pales compared to a native app, and efficiency is inconsistent.
For instance, Chromecasting video was normally advantageous, however the NFL GamePass app crapped out on each iOS and Android units. The solely repair was to connect an previous Chromecast dongle off an HDMI port that labored flawlessly.
The Apple TV app additionally errored out a few instances throughout my testing which was solely solved by rebooting the Aura.
But it actually comes again to Netflix. Netflix is utilized by over 200 million individuals all over the world. Spending $2,500 on a projector marketed as a TV substitute solely to seek out out the app is lacking is troubling, particularly for households with small youngsters who don’t have telephones for casting.
- The Aura has built-in eye safety that rapidly cuts the laser mild supply if it detects interference. It’s quick and can hopefully shield the curious eyes of children and pets.
- Upscaled 1080p content material seemed advantageous.
- The Aura options the identical distant management with devoted Google Assistant button I examined, and preferred, on the Horizon Pro. Don’t lose it as a result of apart from a energy button, there aren’t any on-device controls. (Even then there’s at all times the Google Home software program distant.)
Over the years I proposed a number of much less ugly TV options to my spouse solely to be rebuffed. A ceiling mounted projector (don’t wish to open the partitions for cable runs). TV mounted to an electrical carry (need to construct a large cupboard to cover it). Rollable TV (too prototype-y and approach too costly). One of these always-on TVs that pretends it’s a image body (do you assume I’m a idiot?).
The Xgimi Aura all-in-one 4K ultra-short throw projector can certainly replace a TV however provided that you’re putting in it in a very darkish room. Even you then’ll need to put up with fan noise, no Netflix app, and an inferior (however excellent) image for the value of two 55-inch OLED TVs and a recreation console.
But when you actually hate the thought of a large TV ruining the aesthetic of your minimalistic lounge, otherwise you need the largest picture potential in a slender room the place a conventional long-throw projector simply gained’t match, then the $2,500 Xgimi Aura is pretty much as good because it will get for the value.
Photography by Thomas Ricker / The Verge