Portable projectors come with a set of appealing advantages that no TV or traditional projector can offer, so it’s unsurprising that they’re trending right now. However, your options can be limited if you’re looking for the best portable projector.
Luckily, these smaller, smarter projectors are gaining popularity and with that increasing demand naturally comes improvements in the product themselves. The 2021-released Xgimi Elfin is a terrific example of that. Xgimi had already established itself as a leading portable projector manufacturer, and it’s clear that the company has put everything it has learned into crafting the ideal one
Part-home projector, part-portable one, the Xgimi Elfin is almost exactly the product you’d imagine when you think of a portable projector. It’s light and portable yet powerful enough to display good-sized, high-resolution visuals. It’s robust in features, like an effective auto keystone correction, while keeping things very user-friendly. It’s got most of what you need if you were to take it on a camping trip, including a set of speakers and a storage drive to save a couple of movies in. And, best of all, it won’t burn a TV-sized hole in your pocket.
If you are looking to invest in a portable projector that you can use at home and on your adventures, they don’t come much better than this.
Xgimi Elfin review: price and release date
The Xgimi Elfin saw a summer 2021 release, following the launch of the company’s Horizon and Horizon Pro home projectors, and it comes with a very appealing price tag of $649/£649/AU$970. That’s a bit cheaper than the less capable (though more portable) Xgimi MoGo Pro+, which launched in mid-2020.
Is it cheap? Not exactly. You’ll definitely find a decent 55-inch 4K TV for less. However, considering that non-smart 1080p projectors from BenQ, ViewSonic and HP sit at its price point, you’re absolutely getting a lot of value for your money here. Meanwhile, high-end 1080p smart home projectors, like the Xgimi Horizon, are more than double the price.
Xgimi also has accessories on hand, including the Xgimi X-Desktop Stand Pro and the Xgimi Portable Stand, which is perfect for your outdoor viewing needs.
Xgimi Elfin review: design
The Xgimi Elfin isn’t something you can simply toss in your purse or small backpack, unlike the Xgimi MoGo Pro+. However, at 192 x 194 x 48mm (7.6 x 7.6 x 1.9in), it will take up just as much space as a 13-inch Ultrabook. Better yet, at 900g (1.98 lbs), it will feel much less of a burden than something like a MacBook Air or a Dell XPS 13. So, if you’re used to carrying your laptop everywhere, you’ll have no concerns transporting this.
One of the things I like most about the Elfin, however, is that while it does keep things travel-friendly, it’s also very stable. The biggest issue with smaller units is that they can wobble at the slightest knock or bump. The Elfin takes a wider, flatter form than most, which allows it to lay flat on surfaces, effectively eliminating the wobble issue. It also has three rubberized feet at the bottom to ensure that it doesn’t slide away. I’ve used this projector for a few months now, and I haven’t had any issues with movement.
The outer shell of the Xgimi Elfin has a smooth matte finish, which makes dust less noticeable and also makes it easy to clean. It comes in white, which I appreciate as not only does it blend in beautifully in my apartment, it’s also a nice break from all the black-painted devices on the market.
Media controls are only available on the included remote, which makes sense as no one’s going to want to walk all the way to where it’s placed or mounted just to pause a movie they’re watching. There is a power button on the rear panel, however, alongside its six air vents and all the ports. And, by all, I mean one HDMI 2.0, one USB 2.0, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, which honestly is measly at best considering there could have probably squeezed in a couple more. A DisplayPort would have been appreciated, as would an optical jack especially since the speakers on it aren’t anything to brag about. But, more on those later.
There’s no pop-out stand underneath, sadly. However, a 1/4-inch tripod female thread is right there in the center for mounting it on a tripod or a separate stand.
Xgimi Elfin review: features
Aside from its dual-band 2.4/5Ghz Wi-Fi, which allows its smart function and Chromecast mirroring to work, the Xgimi Elfin also comes with Bluetooth 5.0. That comes in handy if you want to connect it with a Bluetooth speaker or a pair of wireless headphones. In fact, I rely on its Bluetooth when I’m watching TV late at night with my bedroom window open. I simply connect it with my Bose 700 and it can be as loud as I want it without me worrying about it disturbing my neighbors.
During non-quiet hours, however, I use my bookshelf speakers that are hooked up to the Elfin via its 3.5mm audio jack. Although I would have preferred using the optical cable, this way works just fine and is so much better than the built-in speakers on the projector.
Don’t get me wrong, the two 3W downward-facing Harman Kardon speakers on the Elfin work just fine, but they’re not detailed or wide enough to deliver an immersive experience, even in a small bedroom. They’re decent, however, and can get respectably loud – they should come in handy when you’re setting the Elfin up at a campsite or in your camper van and you don’t want the extra load of a portable speaker.
Among its best features is its keystone correction and autofocus functions. The keystone correction, especially, is robust and effective – better than those on other portable projectors I’ve tested. The auto keystone correction is pretty intuitive and so effective that even on my ever-so-slightly skewed bedroom wall, I only have to make the tiniest adjustments manually. Autofocusing, in the meantime, is done decently fast – again, better than on other portable projectors. Although, the device is so stable, unless you move it, you hardly ever see it at work.
The included remote – also in white – works beautifully. It connects via Bluetooth, so you don’t need to contort your arm to point it at the device. It’s a small detail that most people wouldn’t even notice, but portable projectors that use infra-red remotes require you to do just that.
Like most smart portable projectors, the Elfin utilizes Android TV 10.0, which means two things: it’s easier and faster to set up if you’ve already got an account, and it’s extremely user-friendly and customizable.
Sadly, there’s no built-in battery here, so if you’re looking to use it outdoors or when you’re on the go, you’ll need to plug in to an outlet or generator. Wi-Fi is required as well, if you want to stream. However, thanks to the 16GB of storage in the Elfin, you can download movies and shows to the device in advance, or plug in a USB drive or laptop in the rear.
Xgimi Elfin review: performance
Armed with the X-Vue 2.0 image engine, Intelligent Screen Adaption (ISA) technology, and HDR10+, the Xgimi Elfin is fast and delivers bright and sharp 1080p picture quality in an up to 200-inch image, which is pretty massive for a portable projector.
It offers a brightness of 800 ANSI lumen portable – that’s bright enough to light up a small dark room – which should give you an enjoyable viewing experience that’s easy on your eyes. In fact, that’s bright enough that you can still use it in the daytime as long as it’s indoors in a non-brightly-lit room. Yes, there are brighter projectors out there with better dynamic range or more vibrant colors, but bear in mind that this is a portable projector. And, for a portable projector, it’s pretty great.
It also offers plenty of contrast and vibrant colors, although if you raise the brightness level all the way up, the picture does get a tad washed out. Drop it down too low, and it’ll likely lose a lot of details in the shadows. Turning on the HDR10+ gives a nice little boost, but don’t expect anything mind-blowing.
Still, I enjoyed watching movies and my favorite shows on the Xgimi Elfin. Everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who to Shang-Chi and countless Christmas movies look great, and are immersive enough that I don’t really feel the need to switch to my actual 4K TV in the living room.
One thing about the Xgimi Elfin that is annoying is that it tends to power off without warning when it gets too hot. It’s a little quirk that you cannot do much about, unfortunately, except to just try and keep it running cool during hot days or when you plan on using it all day. If it does shut down on you, leave it off for 30 minutes or so, and it should get back to working order.
Another thing to bear in mind is that Netflix has ceased app support for non-certified Android UI projectors from companies like Xgimi and Anker Nebula. This means that while the app can be downloaded, you won’t be able to stream Netflix content. There are a couple of workarounds, including streaming it via a laptop or Fire TV Stick, or side-loading an older version of the Netflix app, but it is inconvenient if that’s your main streaming platform.
Xgimi Elfin review: verdict
Smart portable projectors often come with compromises that are hard to swallow. The resolution is not what was advertised. The processor is too slow. There aren’t enough features. It wobbles.
The Xgimi Elfin, on the other hand, is much more capable. It’s not perfect – it’s got its share of flaws too, though none of them big enough to be deal-breakers. It’s fast, stable and portable yet also ideal for home use. Best of all though, it’s got a price tag that’s affordable enough for many people and reasonable enough considering its features.
If you’re looking for a smart portable projector, this should definitely be on your list of options.
Xgimi Elfin review: also consider
A cheaper 1080p smart projector that is about the same size as the Xgimi Elfin is the Nebula Solar from Anker, which is currently priced at $519.99/£599.99. It’s a decent alternative and comes with extras like mobile app support and a built-in stand. However, it only has 400 ANSI Lumens of brightness, HDR10, and a 120-inch projected image.
Another cheaper option is the Xiaomi Mi Smart Projector 2. This has a 500 ANSI Lumens projection and runs Android 9 complete with Netflix certification.
And, if you don’t mind sacrificing portability for that stunning 4K resolution, the BenQ TK850 features a whopping 3000-lumen brightness and still comes in a pretty compact form. As well as the regular non-Android version, it also comes in with Android TV built-in to allow it to be used without a laptop or TV source. However, this model also won’t run Netflix natively.