There’s something magical about turning a wall into a movie screen. A minute is just an empty sheet of plasterboard. the next, a 100-inch room showing the new Batman movie. (There’s always a new Batman movie, right?) Even better is when you can take that magic outside to your driveway or backyard.
But there must be a ton of equipment involved, right? Not necessary: The Xgimi Elfin mini projector packs everything you need into a flat, compact package. It’s my favorite instant home theater projector to date, mostly because it’s the easiest to use. And while it normally retails for $649, right now you can get the Xgimi Elfin for $509.
(Pro tip: If you have Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping, of course. Not a member yet? No problem. You can sign up for your free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime here.)
Xgimi Elfin features and performance
Weighing in at just over two pounds, the Elfin measures just 7.5 inches square and 1.8 inches tall. It could easily slip into a suitcase or briefcase for travel purposes. However, unlike some mini projectors, this one does not come with a battery. To operate it, you will need AC power.
Assuming you leave it plugged in after your initial setup, the Elfin comes back from standby in about five seconds, which is fantastic. Most projectors I’ve tested take anywhere from 30 seconds to a full minute to start.
Although 1080p is a far cry from 4K, a native 4K projector would cost you much more. (Xgimi’s Horizon Pro, for example, costs $1,699.) So while you’re not going to get the sharp resolution that, say, your living room TV offers, I found the Elfin’s picture quality to be pretty good overall: sharp, colorful and definitely adequate for family movie night.
In terms of brightness, 800 ANSI lumens is well above average for a mini projector. (Look at the cheaper models, and you’re likely to see 200 to 400 ANSI lumens — which, by the way, is the only measurement that matters. Any manufacturer can claim “8000 lumens!”, but that’s meaningless. It’s the ANSI score you want.) Even so, you probably won’t be happy watching daylight, which results in a pretty washed-out wall. But in a room with a lamp, the Elfin performs very well and absolutely crushes it when it’s dark. It also runs very quietly.
I was also extremely impressed with the projector’s autofocus, keystone, size, and obstacle avoidance capabilities. In short: Place it on the wall and it will produce a perfectly rectangular, perfectly focused image with little or no manual adjustment required. And if, say, there’s a piece of wall art encroaching on the view, it will change the image accordingly.
In my tests, I placed the Elfin on the arm of my couch, below and to the left of my wall-mounted monitor. Within seconds, the skewed, oversized image was magically scaled to fit the screen — a must-see. The correct placement of the projector can be a huge suffering? Elfin makes it easy. (So there’s a standard threaded tripod mount on the bottom, in case the arm yours The sofa is not the ideal location.)
There is another feature that I absolutely love, and that is the Android 10.0 operating system on board. Right out of the box, you can stream almost every popular app: Hulu, Disney Plus, Prime Video and so on. And if you’re already an Android user, the interface looks and feels very familiar (right down to the Google voice assistant accessible via the remote).
Xgimi Elfin problems and limitations
Unfortunately, I said “almost” as one important app is missing: Netflix. In fact, it is not missing; is installed, and you get to log into your account and select something to watch — only to be greeted with an aggravating “account not supported” message. This is due to a long-standing licensing problem, and although Android supports “casting” from various devices, you can’t use, say, your phone or tablet to fill the Netflix gap.
Instead, the only way to get Netflix is to connect a streaming device like a Roku, Fire TV, or game console — which can you do, at least, thanks to the available HDMI input. I connected a Google Chromecast (currently $20 at Best Buy) and was then able to stream Netflix from my phone. This is an inconvenience, no doubt, but at least the fix is cheap and the Chromecast was able to draw power from the projector’s USB port — no extra AC cord or outlet required.
Elfin sound is mixed: The projector gets a lot of pressure from the dual 3-watt Harman Kardon speakers, which can get pretty loud. But they are physically small, with little bass to speak of, so the sound also seems rather “small”. Fortunately, you have the option of connecting an external speaker via Bluetooth, a headphone jack or the aforementioned HDMI (ARC) port.
My only other hardware complaint is with the remote, which isn’t backlit and therefore difficult to use in a dark room — at least until you memorize the button layout. It’s pretty intuitive, but I’d happily pay a few extra bucks for a backlit remote.
Xgimi Elfin Mini Projector: Should You Buy It?
I really, really like the elf. It’s much brighter than similar projectors in the same price range (like the Anker Nebula Solar and the Xiaomi Mi Smart Compact), and it’s easy to use thanks to automatic image adjustment and built-in Android. However, it doesn’t have a battery, so it’s not as portable as the Solar, and it can’t play Netflix like the Mi.
If these two shortcomings aren’t something that puts you off, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Xgimi Elfin. It comes very close to portable projector perfection and is reasonably priced. All you need is a wall and you’re ready for some theater-style movie nights.
XGIMI Elfin Mini 1080p projector
$509 on Amazon
Compact enough to sit on the arm of your sofa, the Xgimi Elfin still projects a sharp, bright image on your wall. And it comes with Android already built-in. the only thing missing is Netflix.
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