XGIMI Aura UST 4K Laser Projector Review
- Bright, punchy and clear images
- Good geometry and uniformity
- Excellent motion handling
- Supports 3D
- Built-in Android TV
- Good sound system
- Attractive and well-made
- Great value for money
The not so good
- Possibility of rainbows
- Mediocre black levels
- No built-in tuner
- Some key apps missing
- Input lag too high for serious gamers
What is the XGIMI Aura?
The XGIMI Aura is a 4K HDR ultra-short-throw (UST) DLP laser projector with a built-in Harman Kardon sound system and Android TV smart platform. XGIMI is a Chinese manufacturer that's been making waves in the projector space recently, and this latest addition promises big screen fun at a very affordable price of £2,149 as at the time of writing (November 2021).
For that you get a sleek curved chassis, a laser light source with a claimed peak brightness of 2,400 lumens, and a Harman Kardon speaker system that boasts 60W of amplification. There are three HDMI inputs, one of which supports ARC, and Bluetooth 5.0, dual-band Wi-Fi and Chromecast. So, are the days of big screen TVs numbered? Let's find out...
Design, Connections and Control
The XGIMI Aura sports a sleek and stylish design with a curved chassis and nothing to detract from the minimalist aesthetic, aside from an on/off button on the right-hand side, and the slot along the top for laser light source. The Intelligent Eye Protection feature uses IR sensors that shut the laser off if they detect anything in front of the slot. If this happens for some reason, just press any button on the remote and the image returns to full brightness.
There's a fabric grille at the front that covers the speakers for the Harman Kardon sound system, to the sides are cooling vents, and at the rear (nearest the wall) are all the connections. The unit uses an attractive black and silver finish that will look nice in a modern living space, and the overall build quality is excellent. The Aura measures 606 x 140 x 401mm, and weighs in at 14.93kg.
The connections are composed of three HDMI 2.0 inputs, with the first input also supporting ARC (audio return channel). The Aura accepts a native 4K signal (3840 x 2160 pixels) at up to 60Hz, and supports HDCP 2.2, and HDR10. There are also two USB 2.0 ports (and a third behind a cover below the power button), a 3.5mm audio output, an optical digital output, and an Ethernet port. If you want to make a wireless connection, you have a choice of Bluetooth 5.0 or dual-band Wi-Fi, plus there's Chromecast.
The included remote control retains the same aesthetic as the projector itself, with a two-tone black and silver finish. The design is minimalist, with limited buttons only identified by icons and no backlight. Thankfully the controls are reasonably obvious with on/off, settings, Google Assistant, volume up/down, home, menu, up/down/left/right, back and enter. At the bottom on the silver section is a button for focusing the image.
Features and Specs
The XGIMI Aura isn't native 4K, but uses a DLP 0.47" DMD chip with XPR technology to flash the image four times and create the perception of a resolution of 3840 x 2160. This illusion is highly effective, and is only really revealed when looking at Ultra HD test patterns. The projector can accept a 4K Ultra HD signal, and supports high dynamic range in the form of HDR10.
The Aura sports an ALPD laser light source, with a claimed brightness of 2,400 lumens. The projector uses a colour wheel, which XGIMI claim can cover 90% of BT.709 and 80% of DCI-P3. This isn't particularly wide, and some people may experience the colour-fringing and rainbow artefacts that often plague single-chip DLP projectors. The Aura has a throw ratio of 0.233:1.
Thanks to the use of a laser light source, the Aura has a claimed lifespan of 25,000 hours compared to around 2,000-3,000 hours for a bulb. There's also a fast boot-up time of around 12 seconds because there are none of the cooling features associated with lamp-based projectors. While there are fans to dissipate any heat produced by the laser light source, these run relatively quiet at less than 30dB in the standard brightness mode.
The built-in Harman Kardon sound system is based around two tweeters and two woofers, each with 15W of amplification (60W in total). The projector is capable of decoding Dolby and DTS, and the sound quality is surprisingly good. So whether you're watching movies, TV shows or listening to music, the Aura can fulfil its role as an alternative to a big-screen TV. In fact, the only TV-related feature missing is an internal tuner, but that's easy to address with a set-top box.
This ultra-short-throw DLP laser projector supports 4K and HDR, plus in includes Android TV and a Harman Kardon sound system
The Aura has a built-in smart platform based around the Android TV (10.0) operating system, with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The home page will be familiar to anyone who has seen a TV using the Android operating system, and it's fairly responsive in operation. There's an extensive choice of apps, although some are missing. The good news is you get Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+ and YouTube, but annoyingly Netflix doesn't work because the Aura isn't certified. For UK users there's no Now TV, BBC iPlayer and All 4, and while there is ITV Hub it doesn't work, which makes My5 the only working catch-up service.
The shortcut settings menu is accessed via a dedicated button on the remote, and is broken down into Projector Settings (Standard, Bright, Eye Protection, Performance, and Custom), Keystone Correction, Image Mode (Movie, Football, Office, Game, and Custom), Aspect Ratio (Auto,16:9, 4:3, and Original Size), Sound Settings, HDMI Version (1.4 or 2.0), and 3D Video Setup (side-by-side or top-and-bottom).
Set-up is straightforward, you simply place the projector next to the wall and move it backwards and forwards to change the image size. The Aura can produce an image of 80 inches diagonally at a distance of 109mm from the wall, but it can go up to 150 inches at 441mm. You move the projector left or right to centre the image, and use adjustable feet to level it.
There's a grid to help you set-up the picture, and a dedicated button on the remote for focusing the image. There's also an eight-point keystone control, but this is best avoided. You can choose between different projector placements (front, front ceiling, rear, and rear ceiling), and while you can project onto a white wall, for the best results use a dedicated screen. The Aura is bright, but in a living room with windows and white walls, you should consider an ambient light rejecting screen.
SDR Out of the Box
The XGIMI Aura defaults to the Movie image mode, but in testing this proved to measure the same as Custom, which is the only mode that offers more detailed picture settings, so we used the latter as the out-of-the box setting.
As you can see in the graph above, there's way too much blue energy in the greyscale. The gamma isn't great either, although given the projector's brightness and the fact it'll be primarily used in living rooms with ambient light, this is less of an issue compared to the noticeable blue tinge to whites.
The out-of-the-box image accuracy is poor, and the calibration controls are minimal, but you can improve the greyscale performance
Unsurprisingly, the colour gamut is being skewed by the excess blue in the greyscale, but as stated in the Aura's marketing material it covers about 91% the BT.709 colour space (although yellow is over-saturated). The overall performance out of the box isn't terrible, but could be much better.
In the Custom image mode there are controls for Brightness (50), Contrast (45), Saturation (50), Sharpness (50), Noise Reduction (Off), and Colour Temperature (Custom), plus Local Contrast (Off), HDR (Auto), and Motion Compensation (Off).
The customisable colour temperature setting starts at standard, and only has a single point control for red, green and blue, but thankfully the blue errors are fairly consistent across the greyscale. As a result, you can get a very accurate greyscale with Red (65), Blue (33), and Green (50). There's nothing that can be done about the gamma because it has no controls, and the same goes for the colour gamut (aside from using the saturation control), so there are still hue errors in green and cyan, and saturation errors in red.
The Aura switches into HDR automatically when it detects the appropriate signal, although there's no real indication this has happened. HDR is the only directly-related control, with a choice of auto (default), on or off. Clearly the default is best, and thankfully the projector didn't have any issues detecting or handling HDR10.
The tone mapping is actually pretty good, tracking the PQ EOTF within the limitations of the projector, and the greyscale is also surprisingly accurate. The projector handled 1,000 nits content very well, but suffered from clipping with grades using 4,000 and 10,000 nits. However, this was only really noticeable with specific test content. The colour tracking is poor, but that's not unusual with lower-priced DLP projectors that use a colour wheel and, overall, the HDR performance was fairly good.
The laser light source is pretty bright, depending on which brightness mode you select – Standard (196 nits), Bright (223 nits), Eye Protection (196 nits), Performance (234 nits), and Custom (198 nits). The projector doesn't use a colour filter, which is good news for image brightness, but does mean the colour gamut can only reach 81% of DCI-P3.
To test the XGIMI Aura we used Portrait Displays' Calman colour calibration software.
The XGIMI Aura is a solid ultra-short-throw projector and suffers from the usual DLP strengths and weaknesses. On the plus side, the single chip nature of the technology produces a reasonably sharp image, and the ultra-short-throw optics are effective at projecting a picture with accurate geometrics and good uniformity. However, the focus control could be better and it was difficult to get the entire grid sharp when setting-up the Aura.
In general, the motion handling was excellent with smooth images that were free of judder, smearing or blurring. This is normally a strong point of DLP projector technology, as is the ability to deliver a bright big-screen image. As mentioned previously, the laser light source is not only consistent, with long-life and fast on/off, but also bright enough for the average living room. Having said that, you really need to pull the curtains for optimal performance, and no projector can compete with conditions shown in the marketing image below!
The downside to this being a bright projector that uses DLP display technology is that the black levels are fairly poor. This is fairly standard for a DLP projector where the blacks are often weak, and look more like a dark grey. Of course, this is less of an issue in a room with white walls and ceiling, but in a dedicated home cinema it's very obvious, with a contrast ratio of 3100:1, which is about average for a DLP projector.
The Aura is bright and, as usual for a DLP projector, the black levels are weak but that's less of an issue in a room with white walls
The Aura is intended as a replacement for a big-screen TV, and is primarily aimed at rooms with windows and light coloured walls, so the weak blacks aren't really an issue due to any reflected light washing out the contrast performance anyway. An ambient light rejecting screen would certainly help in this regard, resulting in improved perceived black levels and contrast. The issue of brightness is undoubtedly the one area where a big-screen TV has a major advantage.
When it comes to watching SDR content, the XGIMI reveals a clean and detailed image with effective upscaling where necessary. As a result, shows like American Horror Stories and Only Murders in the Building looked great on Disney+. The colours struggle in places but there's sufficient brightness and 'pop' to ensure most will be pleased. The delivery is generally free of any unwanted artefacts but, given this projector uses a colour wheel, anyone who suffers from rainbows could see colour fringing on moving objects.
The SDR performance is solid, and the HDR images are fairly good considering the inherent limitations of this projector
The HDR performance was also generally good, and 4K images looked sharp and detailed despite the projector not actually being native 4K. Without Remorse on Prime Video, Foundation on Apple TV+, and Loki on Disney+ all looked very watchable, with some nice detail and highlights. While the Aura can't reach the full DCI-P3 colour space, the brightness definitely helps, as does the good tone-mapping with 1,000 nits content.
All these factors combine to deliver results that are often very impressive, although a 4K Blu-ray like Blade Runner 2049 can reveal some of the Aura's limitations. The image is nice and detailed, but the deliberately saturated colours look a bit weak, and the poor blacks ruin some of the photography's stylised contrast. This disc also uses a 4,000 nits grade, which results in some clipping. A good HDR TV would undoubtedly be better, but at 100-150-inch screen sizes, it would also be considerably more expensive.
The motion handling would usually make the Aura a good choice for gaming, but the dedicated game mode delivers an input lag of 56ms, which will be too high for serious gamers. As a result, it's better suited to those with a more casual interest in gaming. XGIMI has included 3D support, although it's not automatic, so if you're playing a 3D Blu-ray you will need to select top-and-bottom in the menu. You'll also need to buy glasses, but once you've done that the results are great with bright and detailed 3D images. This is a strong point of DLP, so it's nice to see 3D included.
XGIMI Aura UST 4K Laser Projector Review
Should I buy one?
The XGIMI Aura is a very affordable ultra-short-throw 4K HDR DLP projector with a laser light source that delivers solid picture quality with bright, punchy and detailed images. There's enough brightness to handle the average living room (although you should really pull the curtains for optimal performance), the motion handling is excellent, and the HDR tone mapping is effective.
The colours are adequate, but the lack of a filter means the projector can't reach 100% of DCI-P3. This DLP projector also uses a colour wheel, so there may be issues with rainbows, and the black levels and contrast ratio could be better. However, these aren't bad for a DLP projector and will be less of an issue in a room with white walls and ceiling.
The Aura is nicely designed, extremely well made, simple to setup and, thanks to a Harman Kardon sound system, it also sounds good. There's even a built-in Android TV smart platform with a decent selection of apps – although Netflix, Now TV and most of the UK catch-up services are missing. There's also Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Chromecast, and three HDMI inputs (one of which supports ARC).
The XGIMI lacks a built-in tuner, but that's easy to fix by simply pairing the projector with a PVR like the Manhattan T3-R. It also has fairly high input lag, even in the game mode, although it's lower than the competition. However, the inclusion of 3D support is a welcome addition and, overall, the Aura is a solid and competitively-priced projector that makes for an obvious Best Buy.
In answer to the question posed at the start of this review - the big-screen TV is certainly not dead, and, if you're looking for a display in the 70- to 90-inch screen size, it remains the best choice with vastly superior brightness, built-in tuner, better HDR performance, lower input lag, HDMI 2.1 connections, and more streaming apps. However, it will also be considerably more expensive.
The only ultra-short-throw projector that comes close to seriously competing with a big-screen TV is the Samsung LSP9T (Premiere), which uses an RGB laser to deliver very bright images and an incredibly wide colour gamut. It has a built-in tuner, a full Tizen operating system, eARC, and HDR10+ support, but at £6,999 it starts to hit the same price bracket as big-screen TVs.
That brings us to more affordable projectors like the XGIMI Aura, which can deliver big-screen action and 3D for a fraction of the cost of a similar sized TV. These ultra-short-throw projectors can also produce image sizes far in excess of the biggest TV and, as long as you manage your expectations in terms of brightness and HDR performance, they deliver serious bang for your buck.
What are my alternatives?
The obvious alternative is the VAVA VA-LT002, which is very similar to the Aura in most respects. They are both ultra-short-throw 4K HDR DLP laser projectors with built-in Harman Kardon sound systems. They have similar connections and features as well, although the Aura has a better built-in smart operating system, more choice of apps, lower input lag and its 3D works. Neither has a built-in tuner, but both deliver very similar performances with SDR and HDR images. The main difference is that the Aura is £650 cheaper, giving it a definite edge.
If you're looking for better HDR performance the BenQ V6050 makes for a great, if more expensive alternative at £2,999. This 4K HDR ultra-short-throw projector delivers detailed, bright and saturated images using a DLP chipset and laser light source. There's no built-in smart platform or tuner, but that's easy to fix, and you get similar connectivity and a decent sound system. The BenQ also delivers a more accurate image, a wider colour gamut, and excellent 3D. The Aura has a lower input lag but, in terms of its images, the BenQ is more accurate.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
2D Picture Quality
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.