XGIMI Aura Review: Finally, a UST 4K Laser Projector You Can … – MUO – MakeUseOf
For the price, the XGIMI Aura is exceptionally good quality, and features a 35ms low-latency gaming mode, too.
At this price point, even a year on from release, I have yet to find another projector that matches the features and image quality offered by XGIMI Aura. It’s not without faults—color purists may not be happy with the default profile and may find the adjustments limited. But for most people, especially those who want to do some gaming on their cinema screen, it represents fantastic value for money. For gamers who want the ultimate immersion, this is the best laser TV yet.
I have a love/hate relationship with laser projectors. On the one hand, you can get an enormous cinema-like 4K HDR experience, even in a tiny space. On the other hand, they're usually terrible for gaming due to the high input latency.
But the XGIMI Aura is different. Not only does it look incredible out of the box, producing stunningly vibrant HDR 4K images, but it also has a low-latency gaming mode.
I feel like Goldilocks, having finally found the one laser TV that's just right. Keep reading to find out why.
At the time of review, the XGIMI Aura can be found for around $2500 (or £2200 in the UK), and despite being a year old, it still represents the best-value laser projector at this price point.
The XGIMI Aura doesn't depart too far from the established laser TV form factor. It's an enormous slab weighing 11kg (24.25lbs), measuring 24 inches wide, 16 inches deep, and 5.5 inches high. But it does have some nice little design flourishes that set it apart from the competition. Look from the front, and you'll find a subtle convex curvature and a curious pyramid-shaped speaker grill.
At first glance, you almost can't see anything there, but it's one of those little things that adds a bit of intrigue and invites you to look closer. It'll look great in your home cinema next to your other pointlessly curvacious yet utterly sexy tech toy, the PlayStation 5.
The remote control also has a very premium feel, with a full metal body that adds heft, and a latching button to secure the battery compartment rather than a tatty plastic friction slide. In terms of functionality, there's nothing remarkable about the remote other than a Google Assistant and dedicated focus button, but it's responsive and feels good in the hand.
The XGIMI Aura claims the laser should last 20,000 hours, which is the equivalent of eight hours a day usage for six and a half years, so that shouldn't be a problem you'll ever encounter during the life of the device. The laser source is non-replaceable; if it breaks, you'll need to make a warranty claim.
Like all 4K projectors at this price point, the Aura uses pixel-shifting technology with a 0.47” DMD chip. That means it's projecting a 1080p image really fast—240 frames a second—to create an effective illusion of 4K60Hz. But by any definition, that's still 4K. This isn't a case of “4K, by which we mean 4K-compatible but native 1080p”, as some misleading Amazon sellers will proudly claim.
Brightness by the numbers is 2400 ANSI lumens, which is superb and more than enough for a massive projection. It's not the brightest laser projector by any means, and on a sunny day a huge 120-inch projection becomes barely visible. But smaller screen sizes, or in a dark room, is perfectly fine.
As for ports, you'll find three HDMI 2.0 ports for a maximum of 4K 60Hz signals, the first of which is an ARC (Audio Return Channel) to send audio back to your AV receiver. There are also stereo out and optical audio ports, a single USB-A port hidden on the side under the power button (presumably for easy access media playback from a USB drive), and two more around the back to provide power for streaming sticks.
Setup was super easy: just turn it on, grab an Android device, and have Google do it all for you. Your Wi-Fi password and Google account will all be added automatically. Great stuff; but doesn't work with an iPhone.
During setup, you'll be invited to perform a 4 or 8-point image correction and use the digital zoom feature. However, I would advise against either. As it's a software correction, you're going to lose resolution and skew the image at source, as well as introduce latency in gaming.
There's no manual zoom adjustment, so the projection size is dictated entirely by how far from the wall you place the projector. So make sure your wall or projection surface is flat and reposition the Aura such that it's facing it head-on. Adjust your image by moving around the projector, not using digital correction tools.
Given the ultra-short throw projection, it shouldn't be hard to do that. Unlike a projector that's mounted six feet behind you, it's a lot easier to deal with something sat next to the wall. Just be careful not to lean over the lens, or the automatic eye protection will kick in.
There are four height-adjustable feet underneath—but again, if you tilt the device to project up or down, you're going to need the software adjustment to straighten the image, at which point you're losing clarity.
The XGIMI Aura runs Android TV 10, with all projector settings and menus deeply integrated. There is a button on the remote for direct access to the projector picture settings, so you needn't navigate a complex full Android menu system just to adjust things there.
You also don't need to open a custom app to switch inputs; the shortcut is in the top right of the home screen. If you switch on an external input, it'll automatically switch over from the main menu, too.
There's little else to say about the software side of things. It's the same familiar Android TV interface you'll find on any device with a built-in Android player. And just as with most third-party Android TV devices, you'll find a selection of apps that either won't install or run, such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer. They are not licensed.
If you want a system certified for those particular picky platforms, just plug in an original Google Chromecast or Roku. Or cast to the XGIMI Aura from your smartphone.
To show off what the Aura is capable of, I've placed it on the floor and gone for the largest image possible. At this price point, the XGIMI Aura is competing with 70-inch or larger OLED TVs, which will reproduce superior color and range—especially black levels. So the only reason to buy a projector is if you want an even bigger screen of 100 inches or more for a truly immersive spectacle.
With a stated throw ratio of 0.23:1, I placed the front of the XGIMI Aura approximately 15 inches from the wall, from which I managed to achieve a 136-inch (11.3 ft) diagonal image (or 120-inch wide). Note that throw ratios are officially calculated using the distance the laser emitter is from the wall, rather than the front of the projector. In my case, that would be 28 inches (28:136 is the same as 0.23:1, so my experience lines up with what XGIMI promises). This is typical for a UST laser projector.
As with most laser TVs, the vertical offset is around 100% from the front, so the further you move from the projection surface, the higher up the image will begin linearly. For me, the limiting factor, in this case, is the height of the ceiling.
The Aura is HDR10 compatible but not Dolby Vision, and it claims to cover 90% of the rec.709 color gamut. I'm also going to point out that colors are a profoundly subjective matter, so what I found pleasing may not apply to you.
Using the built-in Android TV interface for YouTube or Plex, colors felt good but not outstanding, whether in HDR or just upscaled SDR. In fact, I'd say that SDR content looked much the same as HDR in that there was no particular benefit to seeking out HDR-specific content.
However, the color palette isn't always natural looking and can take some getting used to. It tends to run on the cold side, even when you adjust the settings to warm. You may need to tweak this if you're a massive film buff or color purist who wants to see it precisely the way the director intended. And as ever, you won't find nearly the same quality of black levels or color accuracy as a mid-range OLED TV.
There are five color SDR settings to choose from: Movie, Sports, Office, Game, and Custom. While motion smoothing is on by default for Movie mode, you can easily disable it without creating a custom profile.
I mentioned in my review of the Formovie Theater that I found the image adjustment menu overwhelming. That was frustrating because I didn't like the image out of the box. In this case, the opposite is true. The adjustment menu may be slightly too simplistic for those who need it, with only one-point RGB color adjustments. While that doesn't bother me because I liked the default profile, again, that might not suffice for color purists.
Anything with neon colors in the scene—cyberpunk movies or animations—let the Aura show itself off to full potential. Since my preferred genre of movies or gaming tends to be sci-fi and fantasy, this suits me fine.
Interestingly, HDR performance from an external source is much improved. The screenshot below shows the same source media played through the built-in Android system Plex app vs the Plex PC client. It's night and day difference, despite both being correctly recognized as HDR. You can see the warmth of the environment clearly from the external source.
Again, gaming with titles like Cyberpunk 2077 on PC allows the HDR feature to shine.
For most people, the XGIMI Aura will produce a stunning image of vibrant, dynamic colors, bursting out from the enormous cinema-sized screen in front of your sofa.
Overall, I found the image from the XGIMI Aura to be of incredible quality with crisp details throughout most of the screen, with only very slight blurriness in the corners that I noticed when using the Windows desktop. This should be expected from any UST lens.
It wasn't always perfect, though. Some content seemed to come across as a little grainy, and I'm not sure why. I turned off motion smoothing, so that didn't seem to be the cause of it, and it didn't make a difference whether I was using the built-in streaming or from a computer. Something from the built-in image processing was causing that. I don't want to overstate how significant it was, and didn't happen with all content, so it's difficult to pin down.
While you can find better picture quality from a 4K laser projector, it won't be in this price bracket, and you'd be looking to pay at least $500 to $1000 more. For the price, this is superb, and most people will be blown away by the image.
While I dont have the equipment to measure input latency, I have plenty of experience testing projectors with games. The stated latency in Game mode is 35ms, which aligns with my experience. If anything, it's a conservative estimate and may be higher depending on your settings. I've had a blast gaming on XGIMI Aura for all genres, from twitchy online shooters, dungeon crawlers, platform games, and casual games.
Latency is significant in fast-paced multiplayer games like Call of Duty, and I'm pleased to say I was back at the top end of the scoreboard. While purely anecdotal, that hasn't usually happened when testing laser projectors in the past, and I haven't got any better in the meantime!
It also felt more responsive in Minecraft Dungeons. As a local multiplayer game, this gives a better idea of the input latency from the projector, as opposed to the latency of the projector plus my internet connection.
Some gamers will still balk at the notion of 35ms of latency. It's not the absolute best you can get for gaming, but it's more than acceptable if you're primarily buying a laser projector for the immersion. If you dont want the ultra-short-throw image projection offered by a laser TV and would happily mount a projector above or behind your sofa, LED gaming projectors such as the BenQ X3000i offer 4K HDR visuals with latency as low as 14ms. But as an all-in-one UST movie and gaming projector, you won't be disappointed by the XGIMI Aura.
There's one other downside for gamers though. Unlike some projectors specially designed for gaming, the XGIMI Aura doesn't support lower resolution higher refresh modes, so you can't downgrade to 1080p for 120Hz refresh. 60Hz should be sufficient for all but the most serious of gamers.
I had no issues with 4K HDR 60Hz modes being supported for PS5 or PC. It was correctly detected automatically, all the time. Another minor point that I appreciated is that it remembers the settings. Anytime I switch over to PS5, it knows to use Game mode, whereas back in the main Android system it'll automatically revert to Movie mode. Yes—these really are small things, but they all add up to a frustration-free and pleasurable user experience, which I can't claim for other projectors.
Behind that pyramid speaker grill you'll find four Harmon Kardon speakers—two woofers and two tweeters—for a total of 60W that deliver an incredible sound.
No kidding: I didn't feel the need to plug in my external sound system at any point during testing. Of course, if you have one, you can use HDMI ARC to get audio back to your receiver. But I'm confident in saying that if you don't already have a sound system installed in your living room, you might not feel the need to.
The XGIMI Aura gets plenty loud, with great bass, and doesn't distort or lose clarity at those higher volumes.
It features a wide stereo stage and feels like some sort of vocal isolation is going on. However, I can't find a specific audio setting for that, so it could be my imagination.
I've been watching plenty of movies on the XGIMI Aura and never once felt it was too quiet or couldn't hear voices because they were muffled.
At this price point, even a year on from release, I have yet to find another projector that matches the features and image quality offered here.
It's not without faults. Color purists may not be happy with it. But for most people—including those who want to do some gaming on their big screen—it represents fantastic value. I think I'm justified in saying this is the best Ultra Short-Throw laser projector for gaming so far.
Overall the image quality is superb to my eye, and nothing beats a UST laser for the sheer size of image possible, which is why you're buying a projector and not a big-screen TV. Immersion is the name of the game here and combined with a great audio system, the XGIMI Aura has it in spades.
So if your budget is $2500 and you've been waiting on a UST laser that performs well out of the box, gives a huge image, and lets you enjoy some gaming, with decent built-in audio—look no further. The XGIMI Aura gets a highly recommended and Editor's Choice award from me.
James has a BSc in Artificial Intelligence and is CompTIA A+ and Network+ certified. When he’s not busy as Hardware Reviews Editor, he enjoys LEGO, VR, and board games. Before joining MakeUseOf, he was a lighting technician, English teacher, and data center engineer.