This All-in-One 4K Projector Is the Easiest Way to Build a Home Movie Theatre

This All-in-One 4K Projector Is the Easiest Way to Build a Home Movie Theatre
Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

I’ve never been a fan of projectors for home use. To me they’ve always been too hot, too noisy, require separate speakers, and expensive if you want enough brightness to be viewable before sunset. But after watching Black Widow on a 3.66 m screen in 4K HDR in the comfort of my family room, the XGIMI Horizon Pro projector has convinced me otherwise.

The cost of a good projector has dropped dramatically over the years, even models capable of 4K resolutions. But the XGIMI Horizon Pro will still set you back $2,499, which is expensive given the limitations of when and where you can use it. For that much money you can get a giant 82-inch 4K TV with enough brightness and contrast to watch any time of the day. But if you’re trying to occasionally recreate the big screen experience of a movie theatre at home now that so many mainstream films are premiering on streaming services, the Horizon Pro is an excellent all-in-one solution requiring very little setup to get a fantastic picture.

XGIMI Horizon Pro

WHAT IS IT?

A compact, mostly portable 4K projector with speakers and Google TV built in.

PRICE

$2,499

LIKE

Beautiful picture, impressive brightness given the price, and having both Google TV and solid speakers built right in makes it very easy to set up a decent home theatre in minutes.

DISLIKE

Not an approved Netflix device so you'll need a workaround to watch Netflix content. Limited contrast levels can sometimes make it hard to see what's going on in dark scenes, and while the projector is compact, it requires a fairly heft power brick to tag along.

It’s a Box

Most projectors aren’t supposed to be the focal point of a room — they’re designed to be hidden or mounted out of sight. As such, the Horizon Pro is still essentially a box with a lens on the front — but a box that XGIMI’s designers have at least spent some time making aesthetically pleasing. It’s got some curves, and it’s wrapped in a housing with a perforated pattern that facilitates both built-in speakers and cooling. It’s not ugly, it’s not pretty, it’s just inoffensive.

XGIMI has squeezed in just about as many useful ports as there's room for on the Horizon Pro. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo) XGIMI has squeezed in just about as many useful ports as there’s room for on the Horizon Pro. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo)

On the back you’ll find the usual connections including an optical out for audio, two USB 2.0 ports, two HDMI ports (one supporting ARC), a headphone jack, and a LAN networking port for connecting it to your home network with a cable. If you struggle with getting a strong wifi connection throughout your home, it’s a nice option to have, but I had no trouble streaming 4K content from services like Disney+ over my home’s wireless network.

Without a built-in adjustable stand, your best bet is to use the Horizon Pro attached to a standard adjustable tripod. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo) Without a built-in adjustable stand, your best bet is to use the Horizon Pro attached to a standard adjustable tripod. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo)

On the underside of the projector you’ll find a very large rubber footprint with four feet ensuring it won’t slide around when placed on a table or other smooth surface. What you won’t find is an extendable leg or any way to angle the projector up when it’s sitting on its own. You’ll need a stack of books or coasters for that, but the better solution is to take advantage of the standard tripod mount on the bottom. A tripod with a ball head makes it incredibly easy to position the Horizon Pro at the exact height and angle you need — you’ll just want to make sure the tripod you use can accommodate a device that weighs 3 kg, plus the exceedingly large power brick the Horizon Pro relies on. (Seriously, it’s like something that shipped with an early ‘aughts laptop.)

Are lens caps no longer a thing with projectors? It would have been a nice inclusion given how portable the Horizon Pro is. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo) Are lens caps no longer a thing with projectors? It would have been a nice inclusion given how portable the Horizon Pro is. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo)

One minor complaint: Given the projector’s relatively small footprint it’s easy to travel with if you want to bring movie night to a friend’s house, but it completely lacks a lens cap. There’s no easy way to protect the projector’s most fragile component, and I would have liked to have seen XGIMI at least include a way to attach a cheap lens cap, even if it has to be purchased separately.

Quiet but Loud

To maximise the lifespan of the bright bulbs used, all but the smallest of projectors rely on a fan to dissipate heat, and that has often been one of my biggest annoyances: the incessant white noise they produce. But the Horizon Pro’s fan is so quiet that it has never been audible over the general din of the room I use it in (which is subjected to the quiet hum of a nearby fridge, and the sound of the AC running). During most of my testing I’ve sat within three or four feet of the projector and at no point have I ever actually heard its cooling fan running.

They won't give you a surround sound experience, but the built-in 8-watt speakers are plenty loud and clear for any room. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo) They won’t give you a surround sound experience, but the built-in 8-watt speakers are plenty loud and clear for any room. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo)

Another thing that’s always annoyed me about projectors is that unless you’re just stepping through PowerPoint slides in a conference room, you need to bring your own speakers for watching movies or playing video games — what’s often built into these devices is just awful. That’s not the case here either. As emblazoned on each side of the Horizon Pro, the projector features a pair of 8-watt Harman Kardon speakers inside. You’re not going to get a true surround sound experience from them, but they’re both more than loud enough to fill a room — I’ve never had the volume past 75%, which is already far too loud to be comfortable. They also offer excellent range and solid bass performance without ever distorting. They can’t compete with a dedicated woofer that lets you really feel a giant explosion or the sounds of a gun fight in a movie, but otherwise there’s little to complain about how the Horizon Pro sounds.

A Surprisingly Excellent Remote

The remote controls that usually ship with projectors always seem like an afterthought, and for the most part they’re really only ever used to make settings adjustments when the projector is mounted out of reach. But with Google TV on board, XGIMI has included a fully-featured media remote with a lovely brushed metal body.

The remote XGIMI has included is surprisingly excellent, and even features a lovely brushed metal finish. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo) The remote XGIMI has included is surprisingly excellent, and even features a lovely brushed metal finish. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo)

You not only get all the buttons you need to navigate Google TV, including shortcuts for Google Assistant, a back button, and quick access to the home screen, but XGIMI has also included a dedicated button for triggering the projector’s manual or auto focus modes, which should be mandatory if, like the Horizon Pro, a physical focus wheel isn’t included on the projector itself.

A limited set of redundant controls can be found atop the projector, but you won't want to lose that remote. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo) A limited set of redundant controls can be found atop the projector, but you won’t want to lose that remote. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo)

A limited set of redundant controls can also be found atop the projector, including quick access to volume, but as a rule you won’t want the included remote to ever go missing.

Google TV With One Big Limitation

One thing that’s made projectors a more appealing solution for an easy home theatre is that many of them now run Google TV instead of a proprietary operating system with an ugly and confusing user interface. Even if you’re not familiar with Android, Google TV is easy to navigate, and through the Google Play Store you can install almost any streaming app imaginable… almost. Netflix keeps a tight rein on what devices are approved to access its streaming service, and the XGIMI Horizon Pro is not one of them.

Even with Google TV installed, Netflix isn't available for the Horizon Pro, so you might want to consider pairing it with a cheap streaming dongle. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo) Even with Google TV installed, Netflix isn’t available for the Horizon Pro, so you might want to consider pairing it with a cheap streaming dongle. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo)

You can jump through hoops to try and make Netflix work, like casting a stream from another device, but that defeats the convenience of having Google TV built right in. My solution is to simply connect a Chromecast with Google TV, but I would still certainly like to see XGIMI get Netflix’s approval eventually.

Easy Setup and a Treat for the Eyes

Yet another inconvenience of the projectors of yesteryear was the setup process. The more level they were positioned, the better the chance you had of getting a perfectly squared image using limited keystone controls. The Horizon Pro can do this automatically, and even adjust the projected image to avoid light switches, paintings, and other items that might block the image if you’re using a wall as a screen.

Excellent manual keystone controls means you don't have to stress over perfectly positioning the Horizon Pro. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo) Excellent manual keystone controls means you don’t have to stress over perfectly positioning the Horizon Pro. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo)

It works, but can often lead to a smaller image that defeats the use of a projector, so a big empty wall will give you the best results and better take advantage of the Horizon Pro’s resolution. But you don’t have to necessarily stress over perfectly positioning the projector when setting it up. Its manual keystone correction controls are excellent, allowing you to adjust each corner individually in several directions so you can easily correct for a projector that’s slightly misaligned.

Both manual and autofocus controls are available, but when it works, the autofocus works quite well at producing a very crisp image. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo) Both manual and autofocus controls are available, but when it works, the autofocus works quite well at producing a very crisp image. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo)

The Horizon Pro’s autofocus is also excellent, and it can be set to refocus every time the projector is turned on, and when movement is detected. Unless you permanently mount it somewhere, there’s a good chance the projector is going to get accidentally bumped. For whatever reason, the projector’s initial attempt to autofocus at power up always results in an incredibly blurred image for me, despite ensuring its software is completely up to date. But triggering autofocus again using the remote always results in an incredibly sharp image after that. Manual focus adjustments are available, but I have yet to need to use them.

The Horizon’s Pro $2,499 price tag isn’t cheap, but when compared to the $1,000 Anker Nebula Capsule projector which only musters 720p resolutions at 200 lumens, for an extra grand you’re getting a boost to 3,840 x 2,160 pixels at 2200 lumens. Depending on how far away from a screen or wall the projector is positioned, that’s more than enough illumination to create a bright image in a room even in the middle of the day.

I’ve been testing the Horizon Pro at a distance of a little over 3.66 m from a wall, which produces an image about the same size diagonally, and while I can play bright video games like Animal Crossing in the middle of the day with the blinds drawn, content with darker images is almost impossible to see until it gets darker outside. I’ve given up on trying to watch Star Wars: The Bad Batch until after sunset with this setup, but that’s with the projector creating a massive, wall-filling 144-inch image. If you go smaller, or use a highly-reflective screen instead of a tan-painted wall with a matte finish like I do, you’ll see much brighter results.

Are Your TV’s Days Numbered?

Would I consider the XGIMI Horizon Pro a permanent replacement for a TV? No. For $2,499, your money will be better spent on as large an OLED as you can get with enough contrast ratio and brightness that you’ll never have to worry if a room is too bright to use it.

Where the Horizon Pro excels is as a temporary alternative to a big TV. Maybe you want a big screen in your bedroom without actually hanging a giant black monolith on the wall that will clash with the decor, or, like myself, you want to recreate a movie theatre experience at home and take advantage of first-run movies still debuting on streaming services. You could easily spend tens of thousands of dollars building yourself a permanent home theatre, but that now seems even less appealing to me when the $2,499 Horizon Pro has let me confidently say goodbye to movie theatres once and for all.