- Beautiful, luxurious design
- First Long-Throw 4K projector with Dolby Vision
- Smart adjustments offer easy, hands-free operation
- Android TV 11 brings a wide range of sources and apps
- A bit bulky and heavy, but compact compared to most 4K projectors
- Requires adequate distance from projection surface
With more and more people banishing TV sets from their homes, home projectors have become more popular and also more varied. There are plenty of designs available, differing in throw ratio and performance, to the point that choosing which one to invest in can become an overwhelming and daunting challenge. While short throw projectors are gaining popularity for their space-saving qualities, they’re hardly the perfect solution for all circumstances, especially considering their cost and noise. Long throw projectors, on the other hand, are powerful and convenient but still have plenty of room for growth. Fortunately, brands like XGIMI are continuously challenging the status quo to address those flaws, so we take the new XGIMI Horizon Ultra long throw projector for a spin to see what new experience it is putting in the middle of your home.
Although home projectors are becoming more common these days, many of them haven’t diverged that much from the designs of earlier models used in business and commercial settings. There are some that are finally trying to adapt to home interior designs, but there are still far and few in between. Right out of the box, you can already tell which category the XGIMI Horizon Ultra belongs to, bearing an exquisite and elegant design that reflects the attention to detail that the company paid in making its newest flagship.
The predominantly white box comes taller than your average projector, but that shape works to give it more presence in a room. Not that it needs to do that, given how its predominantly white body will easily make it stand out anywhere. Misty gold accents help further highlight the XGIMI Horizon Ultra’s luxurious character, making sure everyone understands that this is no mere consumer electronics product. To ensure visual consistency, even the adapter and cord that power the projector come in a white hue, unlike the predominantly black motif of most power bricks.
XGIMI didn’t just stop at painting the Horizon Ultra white, however. Taking a page from smart home speakers, it also layered fabrics on the projector’s sides, further enhancing its elegance and cementing its place in your home. It gives the projector an almost natural vibe despite its purely artificial construction. XGIMI also aimed for simplicity and minimalism, even hiding the projector lens behind an electrical sliding cover, making the Horizon Ultra a viable piece of decoration for any room. Considering how it will most likely stand in the middle of the room anyway, that’s definitely a much-needed feature.
Unlike a handheld tool or mobile device, the XGIMI Horizon Ultra is not something that will see a lot of manual operation and holding. In fact, given its 11.5lb (5.2kg) weight, it’s not something you will want to hold a lot. It’s still portable in the sense that you can move it around the house and place it in an optimal position, but chances are, once you’ve found the perfect spot for it, it’s staying there for a very long period of time. That perfect spot would be determined not just by the desired distance from a wall or projection screen but, more importantly, by the availability of a wall socket. Thankfully, the projector’s auto keystone correction and other smart features make it possible to set it up at an angle from that projection target.
Using the XGIMI Horizon Ultra itself is as simple as its appearance would imply. The absence of physical buttons on the device itself presents a streamlined and unbroken appearance, but it also means you will be controlling the projector using a remote. The remote looks as luxurious as the projector, though we would have preferred if it followed the same white color scheme rather than a combination of black and sandblasted gray, almost like some brand’s minimalist remote control. The complete reliance on a remote control also means you have to be careful not to lose the accessory, which is often what happens with this kind of device. But since it does run Android TV 11 and uses Bluetooth, there might also be an option to use other wireless methods of controlling it, not plugging in a mouse and keyboard.
As for plugging in things, all the Horizon Ultra’s ports are at the back, making cable management a lot easier, depending on your setup. You only have one place to go to for connecting external devices, and only one side of the projector to hide from plain sight. All-in-all, XGIMI aimed for a simple and minimalist design that is both easy on the eyes as well as easy to use.
Of course, the XGIMI Horizon Ultra is more than just a piece of home decoration, and its real test is in its output. Compared to their short throw cousins, long throw projectors are often criticized for being easily affected by ambient light and obscured by objects and people nearby. XGIMI manages to address practically all these flaws, delivering a long throw projector that can deliver bright, color-accurate, and high-quality images under any condition.
The Horizon Ultra’s primary selling point is being the industry’s first 4K long throw projector that proudly bears Dolby Vision support, a feat that’s difficult to achieve on traditional display panels, let alone a long-throw projector. What this means in practice is that the XGIMI Horizon Ultra guarantees ultra-high brightness, an ultra-wide color gamut, ultra-high color accuracy, and ultra-high viewing comfort, in any setting, without compromise.
On a technological level, this is made possible by an innovative Dual Light engine that combines the best of both worlds of Laser and LED sources. Laser light is known for its brightness and color range but is criticized for tiring the eyes. LED, in contrast, is comfortable and power efficient but often lacks the brightness needed by long throw projectors. In the XGIMI Horizon Ultra, these two technologies complement each other and make up for the other’s weaknesses using a novel five-channel laser LED hybrid optical path to seamlessly combine these two sources into one breathtaking image that can reach up to 2300 ISO lumens of brightness, without color fringing, speckles, and other artifacts that ruin the visual immersion.
Image quality, however, won’t matter much if the projected image is distorted, misaligned, washed out by ambient light, or blocked. In the old days, it was up to the operator to make all the adjustments on the projector to have a straight rectangle on a wall or screen. Fortunately, those old days are long gone, and the Horizon Ultra offers the most intelligent automatic adjustment capabilities that let you just sit back and relax while the projector does the precision work. This Intelligent Screen Adaptation or ISA 3.0 can adjust almost all aspects of the projector to deliver the correct image, no matter the external environment.
It can, for example, adjust the brightness depending on the time of day or ambient light by adjusting the Iris and the optical zoom. The Horizon Ultra can even automatically adjust the colors so that your wall’s color doesn’t affect the image quality. Automatic keystone is no sweat either, so you can practically place the projector anywhere that’s convenient. And when it detects someone or something in front of it, Eye Protection kicks in to stop direct light beams from blinding your loved ones. You almost don’t even have to lift a finger except to select the videos you want, truly making it an effortless and enjoyable experience.
Like many consumer electronics, home projectors are filled with a combination of materials ranging from metal to glass to plastic. The XGIMI Horizon Ultra is not that different from the rest of the herd, but, to its credit, it does do a few things differently that deserve some applause, both in terms of aesthetics as well as sustainability.
While it doesn’t exactly exclude the use of plastics, using fabric masks at least reduced the reliance on synthetic materials to give the product a sense of style. More importantly, using eco-friendly PU leather gives the projector a sustainability angle that few of its peers can boast of. It doesn’t hurt that it also delivers a pleasant tactile experience by putting something that feels organic and soft to the touch on the surface of the projector, almost making you want to caress the device as often as you can.
There are plenty of home projectors popping left and right these days, and even XGIMI has a roster of choices from both sides of the throw ratio fence. Choosing the right combination of performance and price is already difficult, but if you add requirements for aesthetics and convenience, the choice becomes even more difficult to make. Fortunately, the XGIMI Horizon Ultra seems to check all the right boxes, at least for people who don’t mind having a projector take up space somewhere in the room away from a wall. For those who prefer a tighter placement and can live with the cost and generated heat, a short throw projector might still be a better solution.
Compared to other long throw projectors, the Horizon Ultra manages to address some of the biggest complaints, particularly with how environmental factors can affect performance. Bearing the Dolby Vision badge is no small feat, and it brings with it the promise of excellent picture quality, no matter the lighting situation. The projector looks incredible as well, clearly fitting the home rather than standing out like a sore thumb. It also comes with optical zoom for lossless scaling and sensory brightness enhancement, a feature that is usually only found in projectors costing $2,000 or more. But with a price tag of $1,699, it significantly undercuts other brands that promise the same performance with a higher figure and wrapped in a lackluster design.
People’s lifestyles have changed drastically in the past several years alone. The Internet and streaming have replaced traditional cable subscriptions, and people have become more glued to their mobile devices to the point that large TVs have become less used and less practical to own. At the same time, however, people are also rediscovering the lost art of enjoying content together, whether it’s a film or a video game, gathering in a single physical location to share the energy and as well as the feels.
Home projectors try to bring the best of both worlds, providing freedom without completely locking people out from those social activities. As they become more common in homes, these entertainment devices also start to take on smarter designs that blend better with their surroundings. With its latest long throw projector, XGIMI is raising the bar not just in performance but also in design, acknowledging that projectors are no longer just a machine just for tech-savvy users but also for homeowners with aesthetic tastes and requirements. With Dolby Vision image quality, super-intelligent features that remove the grunt work from setting up the projector, and a wide variety of content sources from devices and the Internet, the XGIMI Horizon Ultra takes long throw projectors to the next level in providing an immersive entertainment experience, without the cord or even a TV.