I don’t review projectors. Projectors are boring. Even the good ones. They remind me of vacation slideshows and the film strips we had to watch in health class — neither of which I’m in a particular hurry to revisit in my adult life.
That said, I’ve always harbored some germ of a notion that some day I might buy one, to compensate for being one of those weirdos without a TV set. There’s something undeniably appealing about a big screen TV you can break out during movie night and then stash back into the closest of your one-bedroom New York City apartment.
XGIMI’s CC Aurora is the closest I’ve seen to fitting the bill — or, for that matter, being a projector that I could actually muster any reasonable amount of excitement about. From the looks of it, it’s kind of the perfect package for the apartment dweller: it’s compact, self-contained with a built-in speaker system and plays nicely with mobile devices.
Clearly I’m not alone here, either. The product scored $170,000 on Indiegogo — around three times its goal. The product’s clearly struck some kind of a chord with people.
I’ll say right off the bat that the CC Aurora is pretty nice looking, as far as projectors go. It ships in a lovely, fabric-covered carrying case that blends in nicely with Google’s line of home products. The projector itself is roughly the same dimensions as a tissue box, with a large leather strap on top for easy transport.
Up front is a speaker grill and a small panel the user slides down to expose the projector. Doing so also fires up the system, with the light switching on and fans whirring, in about six seconds. Up top are rubberized buttons for play/pause and volume, and four lights let you know what level of charge is left.
Holding down play/pause will also let you pair the system to an external Bluetooth speaker. I’d recommend that for any situation larger than a small room — in which case the on-board speakers are perfectly acceptable.
Around back is the charging port and headphone jack (if you want to get really intimate with a giant projector), HDMI out and a pair of USB inputs, if you’d like to hook it up directly to an external hard drive or thumb drive.
There are a bunch of different ways to play through the system. The simplest is probably downloading the iOS/Android app, which also doubles as controller. There’s actually a pretty nice controller included in the package, but really, why use it when you’ve got your phone.
Once the fairly painless setup process is done, you’ll see a menu on the screen, containing a handful of apps, including YouTube and an Office reader, which I suppose is handy if you need a projector for work-related purposes. There’s also a basic browser on there — that, like most of the apps, is a real pain to access with the remote. Entering addresses requires choosing one letter at a time from the menu.
You also can add services like Netflix, Facebook and the BBC through the mobile app. I’ll be honest, though, I spent most of my time with the projector streaming stuff using AirPlay on my desktop. You’ll essentially input the projector as an extended display — again, a fairly painless process, though you may have to futz with the resolution a bit to get things right.
On the whole, the setup works pretty smoothly. I did run into a few connection issues with the mobile device and system, and streaming from the desktop proved a bit spotty in places. At points, there was a lag between audio and video and the picture often looked a bit choppy. I’d recommend either going full mobile, or, if you’ve got a long enough cable, hardwire the thing. Also, there’s a tripod mount on the bottom — that’s definitely your friend. I had issues getting the projector straight and finding the right angle until I mounted it on the included tripod.
There are still some bugs to work out — no surprise, really, for a first-generation product. The product’s MSRP will be around $600 — a bit of a tall order if you don’t feel like you absolutely need a projector in your life (a statement I assume applies to most humans). It’s a compelling product, but I’d suggest waiting for the inevitable price drop.
And hey, you might be able to get one just in time for the summer, when you can take it up on the roof top or into your backyard to really put it through its paces.