Review: Xgimi Halo packs a ton of smarts into a portable HD projector
Xgimi promises its Halo throws "the sharpest picture you will ever see from a portable projector" – and while the march of progress will surely make a lie out of that, this is indeed an impressive piece of kit, with crisp 1080p visuals, the full voice-controlled smarts of Android TV, and a capable Harman Kardon audio system.
The Halo is portable without being tiny; it weighs 1.6 kg (3.5 lb), and at 113 x 145 x 171 mm (4.4 x 5.7 x 6.7 inches) minus the power brick and remote control, it fits comfortably in a backpack but you definitely know it's there.
It's an impressively self-contained device that's happy to show a two-hour movie unplugged at full power, on the strength of its built-in 10,400-mAh battery alone. You often don't need to plug in a video source, either, since the Halo happily connects to Wi-Fi and runs its own Android TV operating system, giving you access to a ton of apps and streaming media, as well as a built-in Chromecast setup for screen mirroring and media casting.
There's not a ton to play with on the physical projector itself; buttons are limited to power, play/pause and volume, the only inputs are single HDMI and USB ports, and the only output is a headphone cable. There's a small, stiff leg on the bottom that you can fold out to raise the angle , and a screw hole that'll let you attach it to a tripod. That's really about it.
Setup is as simple as with any Android TV device; you can do a lot of it on your phone and neatly dodge the annoyance of having to type in passwords using an on-screen keyboard. Once you're connected to Wi-Fi and (optionally) logged in, you're ready to rock.
The Halo's DLP digital micromirror matrix projects a Full-HD image at up to 800 lumens when it's plugged in. That's not massively bright compared to the several thousand lumens you get from dedicated indoor projectors these days, but it's still bright enough to put a 100-inch picture on a white wall or screen with the room lights dimmed halfway, and if you can darken the room and find a flat white area big enough, you can get an image up to 300 inches.
The biggest I managed was 150 or so inches – about four times the area of a 75-inch TV, thrown from about 15 ft (4.5 m) back (the Halo's throw ratio is 1.2:1). In a darkened room it gave the kids and I a great movie theater experience – with the caveat that your detail in the dark areas is directly correlated to how dark you can get the room. Unplug it, and it's good for 600 lumens for a solid two and a bit hours. That's seriously impressive for a portable projector; Xgimi claims it's the brightest portable 1080p unit on the market.
The Halo does indeed deliver a lovely sharp image here, with impressively uniform brightness across the screen area. There's a slightly clunky but reliable autofocus system that handily resets itself when the Halo detects you've moved or re-angled it. It can perform keystone correction automatically on the vertical axis, but there's also a simple process to let you manually reshape the image by drawing the corners in when you're projecting at an angle.
There are several different image modes to choose from, including a custom mode that lets you set brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, noise reduction and color temperature, including a custom color temp setting that lets you push reds, greens and blues up and down. Nice to have under challenging circumstances, but the standard picture mode worked fine for me.
There's also a game mode, only available when you've got an HDMI device like a Playstation plugged in, designed to give low-latency gaming performance at less than 40 ms. Single-player PS4 titles like Ghost of Tsushima and Red Dead Redemption II felt significantly more responsive in game mode, and lag didn't feel like an issue. Annoyingly, though, game mode doesn't support keystone correction, so you need to have your projector dead center.
Xgimi doesn't publish a refresh rate for the Halo, but it does appear to go at least as high as 60 fps for nice, smooth motion. And 3D is also supported in a number of formats, although you'll need to go buy a set of DLP active shutter cinema 3D glasses.
The Halo's Harman Kardon audio system gives you a 5-W speaker on each side, throwing sound out in all directions and operating as a standalone Bluetooth speaker if you like. They sound crisp and clear, particularly in the frequencies you need to understand speech, and they're decently loud too. But physics is physics; they don't deliver a ton of bass, and the absence of low end is particularly noticeable when you're watching movies on a really big screen.
If you really need to feel the rumble, you can connect an external Bluetooth speaker, or Bluetooth or wired headphones. I've been running it through my 40-W Positive Grid Spark guitar amp, and that brings the cinematic boom very impressively over Bluetooth with no significant latency.
Android TV is a terrific and flexible system that constantly tunes itself to become more useful as it gets to know your preferences, even across devices. It is most definitely a pain trying to type the name of things you're searching for using the remote control, but the Halo does work with certain Bluetooth keyboards, and the remote has a microphone in it to unlock voice control, which makes life much easier.
Android TV also gives you access to thousands of apps, including all the big streaming services. Well, all of them except Netflix. Netflix, in its wisdom, is currently refusing to allow certain projectors, including the Halo, to run its app – and that means you can't Chromecast Netflix content from your phone, either. Not ideal, but it doesn't take too much hunting to find a workaround.
In terms of criticisms, the Xgimi Halo could probably do with an audio line out for easier connection to external amps/speakers. In my view it should ship with some kind of carry case as well, or at least a soft bag to protect the lens in a backpack.
Otherwise, it's a little slow to get out of bed in the morning, taking more than 50 seconds to warm up, load Android TV and be ready to go. There's a little lag on the remote control as well, which if we're splitting hairs can make it feel a hair sluggish, and there's some very slight fan noise, sub-laptop level I'd say. All is forgiven, though, once the movie starts.
At US$799, the Xgimi Halo hits an appropriate price point reflecting its versatility, 1080p resolution, battery life, video quality, audio quality, self-contained smarts and wireless "let's bring it out camping" portability. There are cheaper pico projectors for sure, and much smaller ones and slightly brighter ones, but you'd struggle to find one that offers so much for the money. We're impressed.