With its 800-lumen rating, XGIMI's Elfin packs a good punch in a compact, lightweight, and feature-laden projector.
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi built-in
- Small and lightweight
- Android TV
- AC adapter gets hot
- No battery playback
One of the smallest and lightest portable projectors in its brightness class, the XGIMI Elfin is also one of the most capable with everything from the ability to make the most of HDR programming to built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. With the Android TV 10 operating system, the Elfin provides access to a lot of apps and programming. It may not have perfect color balance, but for the casual viewing it's intended for, this 1920x1080 resolution projector should be just as good in the den at home as in the classroom or at the office.
The projector's LED light engine is capable of putting over 700 lumens on screen, just off the Elfin's 800 lumen rating but more than enough for most uses, particularly at night or with the shades down. It lacks the flexibility to run on battery power, but its $650 price tag seems a reasonable amount to spend on a projector with so many personalities.
The compact and easily transportable XGIMI Elfin lives up to its name, measuring just 7.5 x 1.8 x 7.5 inches (WHD). Its matte white case, rounded corners, and ring of soft rubber underneath make it look like it emerged from Apple's design studio. It would make a great visual compliment to a Mac Mini desktop computer.
The Elfin doesn't include a carrying case but protects its delicate lens behind a transparent window. At 2.2-pounds, it is three-quarters of a pound lighter than AAXA's M7 projector but lacks the M7's ability to run on battery power. Still, it can be moved around as needed, whether that's for a night of binge watching Manifest in the basement, running digital lessons in a repurposed room at school or setting up a Zoom video conference for a small group at work.
Inside, it has TI's latest 0.33-inch DLP 1080p imaging chip and can handle 4K input. Relying on four banks of LEDs, the system has lighting sources for red, blue and green as well as an extra blue pump LED. This extra component can add as much as 12% to the projector's output but pushes the color balance towards the green end of the spectrum. The Elfin doesn't need a color wheel. As is the case with most other LED projectors, its lighting components are rated to last 30,000 hours of use, which translates into 10-plus years of use for eight hours a day.
Rated to produce 800 lumens, the Elfin is the rare pico projector that comes close. My testing showed it capable of putting out more than 700 ANSI lumens. In comparison with some other popular compact portables we've tested, it's ahead of the Viewsonic M1 (measured at 140 lumens), AAXA M7 (599 lumens), XGIMI Halo (642 lumens), and AAXA P6X (698 lumens).recently reviewed Horizon Pro, it adds an element of artificial intelligence that makes setting it up quicker and easier. The Elfin scans the scene and resizes the image to give you the largest possible picture for your available projection area while avoiding intervening items like light switches and things hung on the wall. It worked like a charm when I put a lamp on the side of its projected image and ran the automatic keystone correction routine with the remote control. In a second, it cut the image's size by 30 percent to avoid the obstruction.
By the same token, its electronic auto-focus takes a moment to work. Like other auto-focus projectors, it defocuses the image, analyzes the projected target with a forward-facing sensor and then sharpens the image. It can be manually focused with the remote control but it works so well you don't need to.
Because the Elfin lacks any onboard control panel, all the adjustments have to be done via its small remote control. It uses two AAA batteries. There's an on/off button and keys for selecting the HDMI input, going to the Android TV's home screen, and adjusting the volume. There's a key for activating the remote's mic for spoken commands, but more on that later.
Along with Wi-Fi connectivity to its Android platform, there is one HDMI port for video input and a USB port that allows you to play media from a flash drive. Its Harman Kardon-tuned speakers are surprisingly good and have settings for Movie, Music and Sport. The projector recognizes both Dolby and DTS soundtracks. If you want to skip the internal speakers, the HDMI connection offers ARC capability, or you can take audio from the 3.5 mm headphone jack or go Bluetooth out to a speaker or pair of wireless headphones.
Android TV 10 web-streaming can show anything from TED Talk lectures and YouTube videos to Prime Video and a variety of sports apps. The one thing it lacks, like a lot of other projectors in its class that share the otherwise solid Android platform, is an operating Netflix app. So you can forget about watching Trailer Park Boys unless you connect an outboard streaming player like a Roku stick or Apple TV.
The Elfin's built-in Wi-Fi supports Chromecast to receive video streams from a phone, tablet or Windows computer. It requires using the Chrome browser or any of hundreds of Chromecast-compatible apps.
The projector does not come preloaded with a Web browser, but I installed the Puffin TV Browser and it worked fine over two weeks of daily use. The projector includes a voice-activated version of the Google Assistant app that works through the remote control, so all you have to do—theoretically—is tell it what to do. It was effective for things like "change to the Prime app" but couldn't handle things like "open CNN.com."
As well thought-out as the Elfin is, it lacks a slot for a micro SD card seen on some competitors, such as the AAXA M7. The USB media player can play music and stream video from a flash drive as well as arrange photos into a slide show. On the downside, it can't directly display Office or Acrobat pdf files when it's time to get down to work the way some other portables can (for example, Optoma's ML750).
The Elfin offers HDR compatibility to enhance contrast with 4K HDR programs, and even recognizes HDR10+ content. The contrast enhancement can be set to Auto or turned off when the programming allows it. In a sequence of a river flowing, HDR made the difference between a dull scene with washed out greens and a brighter overall look with lots of highlights and depth. On the other hand, it can make a scene look too good to the point of looking artificial.
All the picture modes allow HDR use except for Game, but Movie mode adds the ability to locally boost the contrast with three different enhancement levels as well as two levels of motion compensation. In most cases the best setting was either Low or Off. On the downside, the projector doesn't allow directly adjusting the color temperature to tune the image.
Unlike other pico projectors that have several mounting options underneath, the Elfin has a single threaded hole for a tripod or ceiling mount. It can sit on its own but lacks adjustable legs. I used a few old school DVDs to level and tilt it to fit the screen.
As with most picos and portables, there's no zoom lens, so framing the screen is best done by moving the projector toward or away from the screen to avoid processing and retain the best image quality. XGIMI does provide digital zoom through its obstacle avoidance, however. Furthermore, the Elfin's vertical and horizontal keystone correction can handle an upward or downward tilt of up to 40-degrees as well as frame a perfect rectangular image even if the projector is off center by as much as 40-degrees. The best part is that the Elfin's interface lets you pull or push corners out or in to tweak the image's shape. On the downside, correcting for an upward tilt of 15-degrees translated into a light loss of 25 percent—huge compared to the light loss of about 10 percent for the AAXA M7, for example.
While XGIMI engineers designed the Elfin to be able to create a 16.7-foot image, it is more appropriate for projecting an image of up to 7.5 feet or so, and it was at its best with a picture between 4 and 5 feet. It created a rich and bright 54-inch image from 59 inches away. (Check out ProjectorCentral's XGIMI Elfin Throw Distance Calculator for placement measurements.)
As easy as the hardware was to set up, getting the Android programming online took another few minutes. After linking the projector to my home Wi-Fi network and pairing the Bluetooth remote control to the projector, I had to speak "OK, Google set up my device" into my Samsung Galaxy S9 phone. After that, I needed to verify a projected code sent by Google and authenticate my identity through a Gmail email. A word of advice, if you don't have a Gmail account before starting, get one.
Next up, I needed to accept the Google Android license and allow the use of location data. Finally, I added a few apps, like MLB.TV and set it up to use my Nord VPN account. It provided a tour of the software's major features, but all I wanted to do at this point was view something more compelling.
But, before I could watch anything, I needed to do two more things. First, I connected the projector to my phone using Bluetooth and fired up the Android TV app. This lets me control the action. Second, I plugged the USB transmitter of my Air Flying Mouse remote control with mini keyboard to the projector. Both worked on the first try and provided more services than the stock remote control.
Like the company's Halo projector we tested a while back, the Elfin's menu is split into two groups. That can make it frustrating to use sometimes. The main menu has everything from Keystone Correction, Image Mode and Aspect Ratio to Sound Settings, HDMI Version and 3D Video Setup. At the bottom is an oddly named All Settings link to Network & Internet, Accounts & Sign In, Apps, Device Preferences, Remotes & Accessories and Projector Settings. The final item is key with selections for Brightness, Keystone Correction, Focus Settings and Projector Placement. The bottom line is that to adjust the brightness and image quality, I needed to jump back and forth between the two menus.
In addition to projection modes for Movie, Office, Football and Game, there's a custom setting. The projector has four brightness levels but no Eco setting, which is just as well because it doesn't really have the brightness to spare. The output settings range from Bright and Standard to Eye Protection and Performance; the last one is the brightest but blasts the projector's green LEDs at the expense of better color balance.
The Elfin is able to get started quickly with its solid state light source, so it's good for stop and go meetings, class lessons and TV-show watching. It put an image on-screen in 7 seconds and shut its fan off about 1 second after turning it off.
Rated at 800 ANSI lumens, the Elfin came close in the real world, with 712 ANSI lumens available in its Performance brightness mode and Movie picture settings. That's 89% of rated output and well within ANSI tolerance.
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At this maximum output the color balance was heavily skewed towards green, however. Images of people and natural scenes took on a ghostly appearance. They looked better using the Football and Office settings, which lowered the green level relative to reds and blues. The brightness levels for Football and Office were 708 and 702 ANSI lumens.
Dropping to Bright mode reduced the Elfin's output by about 11 percent, and using the Eye Protection mode, which lowers the blue light level, reduced output by 26 percent. Finally, the Standard mode's brightness was also off by 26 percent versus the maximum output. The projector's lowest brightness level was 316 lumens (Eye Protection/Game), though that's better than some other small pico projectors.
In Standard and Movie modes, I watched the "Dawn of Man" opening scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey and saw rich and vibrant colors that weren't oversaturated. There was just enough brightness to reveal details in the cave scenes. For such a small projector, the Elfin can be a stand-in for casual TV viewing, though it will not satisfy home theater enthusiasts.
Later, when I watched the Chicago Cubs play the White Sox on MLB.TV in Football mode, the view was startlingly good. The colors felt right and the contrast between the grass, dirt and cloudless sky were eye opening for such a small projector.
The projector's 92 percent brightness uniformity is on a par with other pico projectors, like the AAXA M7 and P6X. The projector's peak power use was 59 watts and it used 0.3 watt in idle mode. That adds up to an annual expense of $13 if it's used for eight hours a day for 200 days out of the year and you pay the national average of 13 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity. It has a dust filter but it has been designed to last the life of the projector and might just need the occasional cleaning.
With a large heat sink and fan in the back, the Elfin didn't break 105-degrees Fahrenheit while being used. Its AC adapter did heat up significantly and hit a peak of 130 degrees, something we've seen in the power supplies of other pico projectors. Still, the Elfin projector was one of the quietest projectors available. In its hottest mode, the device only emitted 40.3dBA of fan noise in a room that had a background of 34.7dBA. This makes it significantly quieter than some lower output projectors, such as the AAXA M7.
The XGIMI Elfin is a touch larger than some pico projectors, but with over 700 lumens of light at its disposal, it leaves most of them in the dark. Its 1080p HD resolution is a significant benefit from such a small projector, and the Elfin is capable of making the most of 4K HDR material from its Android 10 platform. Furthermore, it's flexible, also connecting via its built-in Wi-Fi to Chromecast apps on your mobile device, or directly to wired HDMI or USB sources. At $650, it squeezes a lot of projector into a small and light package with an attractive, modern design that looks straight out of Apple. For schools, offices and at home, the Elfin just might be the right projector at the right price.
Brightness. Despite the small size of XGIMI's Elfin, it is a powerful projector for its size capable of pumping out 712 ANSI lumens in Performance and Movie modes. This drops to 708- and 702-ANSI lumens in Football and Office modes. When the projector was set to Bright or Standard modes, the output dropped by 11 and 26 percent. It has an Eye Protection mode but no Eco mode.
With individual red, blue and green LEDs as well as a blue pump LED, the Elfin gets by without a color wheel. Its color brightness measured just 7% below the white brightness level.
XGIMI Elfin ANSI Lumens
Brightness Uniformity: 92%
Fan Noise. At its peak output, the Elfin is still quiet with a fan noise level of 40.3 dBA. The room had a background noise level of 34.6dBA.
Keystone Correction. With the ability to correct for keystone distortion of up to 40 degrees, the Elfin can make a perfect rectangular image regardless of how it's set up. More to the point, the automatic obstacle avoidance can also apply digital zoom to resize the image and avoid wall obstructions in the targeted viewing area. On the downside, at 15 degrees tilt, the projector's light output drops by 25%, which is a greater much loss of brightness at that angle than we've measured on some other projectors.
- HDMI 2.0 (with ARC)
- Audio out (3.5mm stereo jack)
- USB 2.0 Type A
- Bluetooth audio out
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our XGIMI Elfin projector page.