Xgimi Elfin miniature projector hands-on
Miniature projectors have carved a niche in some regions around the world, and with good reason. Mini projectors often serve to replace comparatively bulky televisions that may not fit in small apartments. Xgimi is one of the leaders in the compact projector market, and the new Elfin is their latest product in the segment.
Boasting 800 ANSI lumens and a long-lasting LED bulb, the Elfin proves to be one of the best options for a tiny projector. Other features like an auto-focus system and automatic keystone correction set the Elfin apart from competitors.
I recently looked at the Mogo Pro from Xgimi. While its battery-powered portability was a nice selling point, its weak 300 ANSI lumen light kept it from being a solid recommendation. The Elfin improves almost every feature of the Mogo Pro but loses the battery as a tradeoff. However, it's a solid option for anyone hunting for a small projector... provided they can find an outlet. Here are my thoughts.
Design and case
The Elfin has a simple and underplayed aesthetic. It is white save for the lens housing, the back I/O panel, and an unobtrusive Xgimi logo on the top. The matte plastic finish hides fingerprints and smudges well. The acrylic plastic covering the projector lens and camera smudges but wipes clean easily.
The projector has a small footprint (192.1 x 194.2 x 48.3 mm). As a result, it is easy to store away and doesn't get in the way when in use. While the Mogo Pro's tall profile could obstruct the projection for some viewers, the Elfin is significantly shorter and thus shouldn't block the picture.
I/O is a bit sparse around the back of the device. Users have access to a single 3.5 mm audio jack, one HDMI 2.0 port, and one USB 2.0 port. The Elfin has built-in WiFi (Dual-band 802.11ac) and Bluetooth 5.0. It also sports a built-in Chromecast (more on that below), so users have a few options to connect to the projector. Interestingly, there are no controls on the case; everything must be done via the included remote. This was a nice touch on the Mogo Pro, and I'm disappointed the Elfin has no built-in controls.
The Elfin's remote is the same as that of the Mogo Pro and has the same light weight, thin build, and clicky buttons. The threaded hole on the bottom allows users to mount the Elfin on a tripod.
Software and Features
Like Xgimi's other projectors, the Elfin runs on Android TV. This makes it a self-contained media machine fully compatible with the thousands of apps available on Android TV. The Elfin has built-in WiFi (802.11ac) and Bluetooth, so it can stream media from YouTube, Amazon, Disney, Netflix, and more.
It also supports simple games like Crossy Road. More complex games and emulators are a bit trickier to set up since the Elfin has only one USB port. Bluetooth controllers can connect to the projector. I don't have any on hand, so I can't speak to their efficacy.
The UI is snappy, and using the included remote is fluid and easy. I had no trouble firing up movies on Disney+, YouTube videos, or media from a USB drive.
The Elfin outputs a 1920x1080 image. It can receive and process 4K media, but the final image is limited to 1080p. Sound is pumped out by two 3 Watt Harman/Kardon speakers, and they get extremely loud. Bass is a bit thin but still present. The sound doesn't distort or rattle at max volume, which is nice. It's honestly surprising something so small can get so loud.
The Elfin includes some very nice features for automatically tuning the projection. Like the Mogo Pro, the Elfin has a built-in camera for auto-focus correction. The camera is pretty good at detecting when the projected image is too fuzzy and will automatically focus it. The auto-focus takes roughly about 2-4 seconds.
In addition to the auto-focus feature, the Elfin also includes automatic keystone correction (+/- 45 degrees, horizontal and vertical). Keystone correction involves straightening up the corners of an image to correct a warped or angled image. While many projectors require users to correct this manually, the Elfin does it automatically. This process takes less than 3 seconds in my testing and is extremely accurate. It's a very nice feature, especially as many short-throw projectors suffer from skewed images.
Lastly, the Elfin includes an intelligent screen alignment feature that attempts to fit the image within boundaries on a wall so that they don't interrupt an image (e.g., a window or picture frame). In my experience, this feature is hit-and-miss. The Elfin manages to find boundaries about 70% of the time, but it's not great at adjusting the image. It often gets one or two corners within the frame, but the picture often overlays the other sides of the frame.
The Elfin proves itself to be one of the best mini-projectors on the market, but there are a few things I wish Xgimi had included. Chief among them is a battery. The Elfin isn't designed to be a portable projector, but its tiny size makes it easy to carry. I've personally used it for an elementary astronomy class I teach once a week at a community center, and it has become tedious to find an outlet and run the Elfin's power cord across a room. There have been times when I couldn't position the projector well because the cord wouldn't reach the wall, which created some frustration. A battery (like the one in the Mogo Pro) would solve this, but Xgimi does offer portable projectors with batteries and similarly bright displays.
The other pain point is the lack of physical controls. While the remote is adequate for controlling the Elfin, if it ever gets lost, you can't use the projector at all. The Mogo Pro (and some of Xgimi's other projectors) had simple controls built into the case; even without the remote, the projector could perform basic functions like playing media. That's not an option with the Elfin.
The Xgimi Elfin is a marvel of a projector, especially considering the compact design. It's certainly not the brightest short-throw (1.2:1) projector on the market, but it may be the smallest with this feature set. The LED bulb is bright enough for most environments (600-800 ANSI lumens), and the bulb is rated at 30,000 hours, or about 3.5 years of continuous use. Additionally, the inclusion of Android TV and solid auto-focus and auto-keystone correction features make the Elfin a simple, self-contained projector that doesn't get in the way.
All this doesn't come cheap: the Elfin projector retails for US$649 on Amazon. However, there's a lot packed into this tiny projector. It may be a good option if you want a smart media-viewing experience without the bulk of a TV, but the Elfin is definitely a luxury purchase.
Disclaimer: The author of this review received the XGIMI Elfin miniature projector free of charge for the purpose of testing.