There are few things as grand in display terms as a projector. Being able to beam your games up onto a wall, at a monstrous scale, is an experience that takes some beating. Sure, TVs have become larger, and gaming on a 55-inch screen is pretty engaging, but it's not almost life size, now is it? XGIMI has a wide range of projectors, and we've looked at a few of them now, but the XGIMI Aura (opens in new tab) is something a bit different, it's an ultra short throw device, which means it's able to completely replace your TV.
You just drop it into the same space you'd have your television and, through the magic of lasers, mirrors and lens, it's somehow able to beam a gloriously large 4K image up onto the wall it's butted right up against. No more massive black mirror of a TV in the corner of the room when it's switched off, this is easy big-screen projecting without any of the drawbacks.
At least, that's the idea. In practice it doesn't quite work out that way.
One of the things I still miss about my old Bath flat is the large, empty beige wall in the living room. It was free of pictures, due to being a hastily erected partition wall and not solid enough to even cope with a nail, and therefore a perfect projection wall.
Display technique: DLP
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Luminance: 2400 ANSI lumens
Keystone correction: 8 points
System: Android TV 10
Connection: Dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, LAN
Audio: 4x 15W Harmon Kardon
I/O: 3x HDMI 2.0, 3x USB 2.0, 3.5mm headphone, optical
Dimensions: 606 x 401 x 139.5 mm
Weight: 11 kg
Price: $2,799 (opens in new tab) | £2,149 (opens in new tab)
I spent many a night playing Football Manager on my gaming laptop, with my janky old 720p BenQ beamer plugged into it, projecting in glorious big-o-vision every season of Survivor or Clone Wars there was. And then many hungover days under blankets projecting those endless Come Dine With Me marathons. If that's not a reference you get, just Google 'Come Dine With Me whisk' and that can be my little gift to you today.
But I've never had the space for such a setup again. And that's always the big drawback of projectors; you need to have both a large wall space, as well as somewhere in the room across from it to permanently house a big projector box.
This is where the ultra short throw (UST) projectors come into their own. They can sit in place of a TV set and project a large image without having to be the other side of the room. The Aura can deliver a picture from 80 - 150-inches, while being less than 45cm from the wall.
It's pretty incredible to see, and it's hard to fathom the laser smarts necessary to angle an image so that you end up with a detailed 4K image writ large. At least it is for a simple man such as I. We've checked out the Vava Chroma UST in the past and that's had a place on our best gaming projector (opens in new tab) page for a while now. The Aura, however, for me has it beat.
For one, it's significantly cheaper. I mean, it's not cheap, but at $2,799 it's some $700 less expensive than the Vava. It's also rocking Android TV 10, rather than 9, Bluetooth 5.0 rather than 4.2. The real kicker though is that it delivers lower latency gaming performance from its Game Mode setting.
The XGIMI Aura's standard 14ms latency is already better than the Vava's measured 16 - 20ms, but when you switch to Game Mode that drops to just 6ms. That's a fantastic result, and makes this a great gaming projector. It has to be said, however, that the Game Mode setting is only accessible on the HDMI inputs, so if you're gaming on the Android TV OS of the projector itself you're not going to get the best experience.
In fact, I'm going to suggest you forget the fact that this has Android TV baked into it at all.
XGIMI has long had an issue with licensing that means you can't get Netflix or iPlayer to work, even if you can get the apps installed. Even casting won't get you anywhere; it's utterly blocked. That means you're not even getting the already paltry selection of Andoid apps made available to Google's TV OS.
So, I would absolutely suggest plugging in your PC, or using an Nvidia Shield device to get your TV, movie, GeForce Now, or game streaming fix up on the big screen.
It can get loud, too, especially on full brightness when its fans are working hard to keep the laser lamp cool. Though the quad Harmon Kardon speakers do a decent job of blocking that out when you up the volume on those beasties.
There's also the fact that the angled laser magic isn't quite perfect. I mean, the dial-in focus and eight-point keystoning will allow you to get a sharp, straight image, but the difficulty in creating a UST picture is evident in a Windows desktop, as text at the very top corners remains just off pin-sharp.
And the XGIMI Aura is big. I mean really big. If you thought '80s VCRs were chonky, they had nothing on the sheer bulk of the Aura as a device. It's not something you're going to be able to hide away in your chic living room setup.
It's also not really capable of replacing your TV in anything other than a dimly lit room. The main disadvantage with projectors is their detail is lost in the bright glare of the sun. They're great for a night-time movie sesh, but as an all-day display, even with the blazing light they kick out, they can't quite cut it.
The images on the Aura's product page show a screen with a wall of windows behind it. You're not going to get anything other than a wan, washed out image in that setup. Pull some thick curtains over and you might just have a chance.
But it's still impressive to see, in the right environment. And the gaming experience is absolutely outstanding, too. Limited to 60Hz it might be, but it's sharp 4K gaming, and destroying vehicles in BeamNG though GeForce Now was incredible. So yeah, probably the best UST gaming projector around, just not the TV replacement it's being marketed as.