Xgimi Aura 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector Review | PCMag

2021-12-27 23:15:14 By : Ms. Cynthia Ye

A 4K smart TV disguised as a projector

The Xgimi Aura delivers sharp picture and sound quality, a potentially huge image, and more bang for the buck than any of its closest competition.

At $2,499 list, the Xgimi Aura isn't cheap, but it is a bargain for a 4K home-entertainment projector. Its features include HDR10 and HLG support, a 2,400-ANSI-lumen laser-phosphor light source rated at 25,000 hours, and an ultra-short-throw (UST) lens that lets you put the projector just inches from the screen to get a 150-inch diagonal image. You won't find even a 110-inch TV for that price. The Aura itself is a smart TV with fully integrated Android TV 10. It's also nicely designed, with a handsome silver-and-black case that will look great on a credenza below a wall-mounted screen in your family room. The combination makes it our Editors' Choice pick for a 4K UST projector in its price and performance class, and quite suitable for replacing a TV.

The Aura shares a number of key features with the $1,699 Xgimi Horizon Pro. Each is built around a solid-state light source meant to last for the full life of the projector, and each is paired with a single 1,920-by-1,080 DLP chip that uses TI's fast-switch pixel shifting to put 3,840 by 2,160 pixels on the screen. But where the Horizon Pro uses an LED light source, the Aura upgrades to brighter laser-phosphor. Both also have unusually high-quality sound for projectors, using Harman Kardon sound systems. But the Aura raises the ante for both volume and quality, with two 15-watt woofers and two 15-watt tweeters.

The most important difference between the two is the choice of lens. The Horizon Pro's standard-throw lens requires placing the projector relatively far from the screen. By comparison, you can place the Aura just inches from a wall-mounted screen, eliminating the need to snake power, data, and audio cables through walls, floors, or ceilings, and making the cables as easy to connect as with a flat screen TV. The only drawback is that UST lenses are pricey, which is a key reason, along with the laser-phosphor engine, why the Aura costs $800 more than the Horizon Pro for otherwise similar capabilities.

The Aura is a fairly large beast, at 5.5 by 23.9 by 15.8 inches (HWD) and a hefty 24.25 pounds. But once it's in place, setup is easy. Simply connect the power cord, and optionally connect an Ethernet cable and HDMI cables to one or more video sources. Connectors on the panel facing the screen include three HDMI 2.0 ports as well as the LAN port. You can also use Wi-Fi to connect to your network, if you prefer.

As with most UST models, there is no optical zoom, so you need to adjust the position to the match the image size to your screen. It's also best to avoid using the eight-point keystone adjustment if you can, since digital adjustments can introduce artifacts and lower image brightness. Focusing is easy, thanks to a powered automatic focus that reliably provides sharp focus on command. The Android TV setup is standard.

As already mentioned, the Harman Kardon sound system, which supports both Dolby and DTS audio, delivers high audio quality for a projector. It also offers sufficient volume to fill a large family room. For still better audio, you can connect an external system to the 3.5mm audio out, the S/PDIF optical audio out, or the one HDMI port that supports ARC. You can connect to a Bluetooth speaker, but there is no audio lag setting to adjust for potential loss of sync between the audio and the video. The Aura can also serve as a Bluetooth speaker.

Xgimi says the Aura's lens can throw a 150-inch diagonal image without distortion at just 17.3 inches from the screen. I used a 110-inch screen in my tests without problems, and measured the distance to the screen at 9.5 inches. Xgimi's minimum recommended screen size is 80 inches.

According to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), 2,400 lumens is bright enough to light up a screen larger than 150 inches in a dark room. For moderate ambient light, it's suitable for a 125-inch diagonal, 16:9 image on a 1.0 gain screen. For smaller screens and lower ambient light levels, you can adjust the power setting to lower image brightness.

The Aura's image quality earns high marks for brightly lit scenes, which are the vast majority of film and video scenes. In my tests, it delivered nicely saturated color, more than acceptable color accuracy by most people's standards, appropriate detail for the resolution, and good contrast for both video and film—as long as the scene was brightly lit. However, dark scenes, and dark areas in otherwise brightly lit scenes, lost a significant amount of shadow detail.

Dark scenes in 4K HDR material failed to deliver on HDR's promised improvement compared with SDR. When I compared 1080p SDR and 4K HDR versions of the same movies on disc, the 4K versions lost significantly more shadow detail, the black level was nowhere near as dark, and contrast was much lower. That said, this is less of a problem when viewing in ambient light, which tends to wash out dark blacks anyway, than when viewing in a dark room. So whether you consider this a problem or not will depend on whether you plan to watch in the dark, as well as how demanding you are about image quality.

Most viewers will likely focus on how good the bright scenes look and accept occasional dark scenes without complaint. Video enthusiasts may complain, but the Aura isn't really designed for them. The four predefined picture modes have few or no adjustable settings. There's also a Custom mode with basic settings, but no color management system that video enthusiasts would need for calibration. All modes except Game mode work with 3D input as well as 2D.

Most people will consider any of the predefined modes usable for casual viewing, though all of them wander just outside the realm of realistic color occasionally for memory colors (colors that you're familiar with, including skin color, blue sky, and common fruits). Of the predefined modes, Office delivered the best color accuracy in my tests, but I wound up using Custom mode, which was easy to tweak to improve accuracy, and also benefited from being able to adjust brightness and contrast.

Custom, Football, and Movie modes offer frame interpolation. Most people find it distracting for filmed material, because adding frames also adds a digital video effect (aka the soap opera effect) that makes movies look like live video. However, it can enhance the look of live or recorded video.

Game mode is the best choice for gaming, thanks to its short input lag. I measured it with a Bodnar meter at 35ms for 1080p 60Hz input and 34ms for 4K 60Hz input, which is easily suitable for casual gaming.

Like any single-chip projector, the Aura can show rainbow artifacts (flashes of red, green, and blue), but I see these artifacts easily, and saw them only infrequently with the Aura. Unless you both see them easily and are particularly bothered by them, they shouldn't be an issue. Our standard advice still applies: If you find rainbow artifacts bothersome, buy the projector from a dealer that accepts returns without a restocking fee, so you can test it out for yourself.

Compared with its closest competition, the Xgimi Aura stands out for how much it delivers for the price. It displayed better color accuracy and fewer rainbow artifacts in my tests than the $2,999.99 JMGO U2, for example, and delivered much better image quality for movies on Blu-ray discs than the $2,699 Wemax Nova. And for gamers, it boasts a shorter lag time than either.

Video enthusiasts who demand still better color accuracy plus a color management system for calibration will need to consider more expensive choices, including the $3,499 BenQ V7050i. But for many people, the boost in image quality won't be worth the extra $1,000. If you want the convenience of an ultra-short-throw projector and don't see (or don't mind seeing) the occasional rainbow artifact, the Xgimi Aura delivers the best bang for the buck at this writing, making it our Editors' Choice pick for entry-level 4K UST laser projectors.

The Xgimi Aura delivers sharp picture and sound quality, a potentially huge image, and more bang for the buck than any of its closest competition.

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M. David Stone is a freelance writer and computer industry consultant. He's a confirmed generalist, with writing credits on subjects as varied as ape language experiments, politics, quantum physics, and an overview of a top company in the gaming industry. David has significant expertise in imaging technologies (including printers, monitors, large-screen displays, projectors, scanners, and digital cameras), storage (both magnetic and optical), and word processing.

David's 40-plus years of writing about science and technology include a longtime concentration on PC hardware and software. Writing credits include nine computer-related books, major contributions to four others, and more than 4,000 articles in national and worldwide computer and general interest publications. His books include The Underground Guide to Color Printers (Addison-Wesley) Troubleshooting Your PC, (Microsoft Press), and Faster, Smarter Digital Photography (Microsoft Press). His work has appeared in a number of print and online magazines and newspapers, including Wired, Computer Shopper, ProjectorCentral, and Science Digest, where he was Computers Editor. He also wrote a column for the Newark Star Ledger. His non-computer-related work includes the Project Data Book for NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (written for GE's Astro-Space Division) and occasional science fiction short stories (including publications in Analog).

Much of David's writing through 2016 was for PC Magazine and PCMag.com as a Contributing Editor and Lead Analyst for Printers, Scanners, and Projectors. He returned in 2019 as a Contributing Editor.

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