The miniaturization of consumer tech marches on, as projectors become the latest devices you can use wherever you roam. XGIMI’s Halo+ is a rechargeable 1080P option that promises to replace ghost stories around the campfire with horror movies, but as simple as it is to quickly set up and use, you won’t want to camp too far away from a reliable power source.
There was a time when getting a portable projector meant carrying around a brick-sized device that barely had enough brightness to produce an image that wasn’t much larger than an average-sized TV. They were fine for business types on the go who wanted the freedom to set up an impromptu PowerPoint presentation, but far from ideal for recreating the big screen movie theatre experience, and definitely not a replacement for your living room TV.
But a decade’s worth of innovation has given us portable projectors that are far more capable now, and ones that don’t need a permanent tether to a power source. It’s a market that’s seen quite a bit of growth over the past few years, capitalising on the Instagrammable vanlife trend, and when it comes to size versus capabilities, XGIMI’s Halo+ is one of the better portable options out there. It’s only let down by its performance when the power cord is unplugged.
WHAT IS IT?
A portable 1080P projector with a built-in battery, allowing it to potentially be used off grid.
Incredibly easy to setup thanks to automatic focus, keystone adjustments, and obstacle avoidance — which occasionally needs a helping hand.
You'll need to reduce the brightness and stick to a streaming service if you want to get through an entire two hour movie on a single charge.
A Solid Take Anywhere Projector, But Not a Permanent Home Theatre Solution
You can find miniature portable projectors that are small enough to slide into a pocket alongside your smartphone if you look hard enough, but their extreme portability comes at the cost of performance. They might be fun for an occasional impromptu vacation slideshow while visiting friends, but that’s where their usefulness ends. If you want something a group of people can comfortably gather around, you need to let go of pocketability.
The last rechargeable all-in-one projector I reviewed was the Anker Nebula Capsule II R2-D2 Edition, which was just a bit larger than a can of LaCroix and was very easy to slip into a backpack or luggage for travelling. The XGIMI Halo+ is quite a bit larger than the Anker with the two sitting side-by-side, but the tradeoffs in size come with definite performance gains.
The $US700 ($972) Anker Nebula Capsule II boasted just 200 ANSI lumens of brightness, which made it all but unusable in the daytime in a room with even the smallest amount of ambient light. The $1,399 XGIMI Halo+ is a bit pricier, but pushes 900 ANSI lumens of brightness instead, which is decent for a compact, portable projector. For comparison, the recently announced short-throw Screeneo U4 from Philips, designed to be a more or less permanent home theatre solution, offers up just 400 ANSI lumens of brightness with a price tag expected to be well over $1,000 when available next month.
For $1,399, the XGIMI Halo+ offers solid specs with a full 1080P hi-def image (it will accept 2K and 4K content but will automatically downscale it all) but if you try to use it as a cheaper alternative to XGIMI’s brighter 4K projectors as part of a giant screen home theatre setup, you’re going to be disappointed.
Using it in the daytime, even in a room with the curtains shut, you’re going to struggle to get a watchable image any larger than three or four feet across that’s not completely washed out or suffering from really weak contrast. Pairing the Halo+ with a proper projection screen that’s able to reflect unwanted ambient light away will certainly help, but at 900 lumens of brightness, this is a projector you’ll mostly want to stick to using when it’s dark out.
In ideal conditions (zero ambient light) you can comfortably push the Halo+ to throw an 80-inch image on a wall or screen with passable levels of contrast and colour saturation. You can certainly position the Halo+ farther from a wall or screen to generate an image as large as 120-inches in size as the XGIMI website suggests, but you’ll probably be disappointed with the brightness and contrast. It’s watchable, but far from being an ideal home theatre experience.
It’s the same story for audio. The XGIMI Halo+ includes a pair of built-in 5-watt Harman Kardon speakers blasting out of each side of the projector. They definitely pump out enough sound to fill a room, or to drown out the crackling of a camp fire, but don’t expect to be blown away or really feel lower frequencies. You can connect larger speakers if you want better sound, but the only output connection you’ll find on the back of the Halo+ is a standard stereo headphone jack. Connecting this projector to a multi-speaker surround sound system really isn’t an option.
Automated Setup’s a Breeze, But Occasionally Needs a Helping Hand
One of the most appealing features of many of XGIMI’s projectors is their excellent auto-focus capabilities. But they can also automatically make keystone adjustments, so even if the projector can’t be placed directly in front of a wall or a screen, the projected image still looks level and perfectly rectangular.
Both features make use of a tiny camera on the front of the projector, and by default, will automatically make focus and keystone adjustments whenever the projector is moved (or accidentally bumped), thanks to a built-in motion sensor. This can also be deactivated if, for instance, you’re using it in the back of a motorhome to entertain the kids while on the road. The Halo+ also leverages this camera for a feature XGIMI calls Intelligent Obstacle Avoidance.
When using a wall as a screen, which means you might have obstacles on it such as a light switch or artwork, the Halo+ will automatically shrink and reposition the projected image to avoid those obstacles. It all works automatically and most of the time, it does a good job of dodging obstacles while still producing a perfectly rectangular image. Occasionally, it can get a little too aggressive, leaving you with a projected image that’s so small it more or less defeats the purpose of using a projector.
All of the Halo+’s automatic adjustments can be turned off, but it offers lots of manual adjustments too. After the Intelligent Obstacle Avoidance feature does its thing, users are automatically presented with a screen where they can make manual keystone adjustments in each corner to fine tune the shape of the projection.
Batteries Still Bad
Not needing to run extension cords to your backyard or from a camper van to the firepit is a big part of the Halo+’s appeal, and while XGIMI promises around two hours of runtime on a full charge of the Halo’s built-in 59W battery, you’ll need to make some sacrifices to actually get through a full two hour movie. On a full charge, I was able to stream Thor: Ragnarok through Disney+ at full brightness for 1 hour and 34 minutes before the projector promptly let me know it was shutting down due to low power.
With a USB port on the back of the Halo+, you’re also able to attach a drive full of media for when you don’t have a reliable internet connection with which to stream content, but with the Halo+ also powering a connected 4K external hard drive, I was only able to get through about 50 minutes of a movie before the projector’s battery died. In both instances, if I had reduced the projector’s brightness, I’m confident I could have made it all the way through two hours of content on a single charge, but that unfortunately further limits when and where the projector can be used.
There are quite a few factors that affect how long the Halo+ can run on a single charge, including if you’re using it somewhere warm, which will force its cooling fans to work even harder (I tested it inside a fully air-conditioned home). But it’s also not easy to know if the battery is actually going to last through a two hour flick, because the only battery indicator I could find was on the Android TV home screen. It’s a small icon that appears to drain over time, but there’s no percentage indicator, nor is there an estimate of how much runtime might be left given the battery’s charge level. Getting an hour and forty-five minutes into a two-hour movie only to have the projector run out of juice at the film’s climax would be a real bummer.
Keep That Remote Handy
Although XGIMI includes a handful of on-device touch buttons for adjusting the volume or pausing the movie for a bathroom break, as with most of the company’s projectors, it’s more or less completely dependent on its included wireless remote.
While the XGIMI Horizon Pro and the XGIMI Aura include fancy remotes with brushed metal housings and a dedicated button for making quick focus adjustments, like the cheaper XGIMI Elfin Smart LED projector, the XGIMI Halo+ includes a white plastic remote that’s basic, but gets the job done.
The remote includes buttons for navigating Android TV, making volume adjustments, and even triggering Google Assistant for a quick voice search.
You won’t find a shortcut button for accessing focus controls alongside the other navigation buttons, but on the bottom edge of the remote is a tiny switch that, when flipped, brings up the focus calibration screen and repurposes the volume up and down buttons for making fine focus adjustments. I’m not entirely sure why this would be better than simply including a manual focus button on the face of the remote, but it works well enough if you remember it’s there.
Bring a Tripod
Adjustable support legs are still a mainstay on projectors designed primarily for use in offices and conference rooms, but I’m not entirely sure why they’re not being included on portable projectors designed for temporary home theatre setups.
The Halo+ does include a small flip-out kickstand on the bottom angling it up at the front by about half an inch, but it offers no in-between adjustments, and you’ll probably still find yourself occasionally making use of other random objects to prop it up. If you do plan to travel with the Halo+, and you truly want the flexibility of being able to use it anywhere, I highly recommend budgeting for a small adjustable tripod. The Halo+ can easily connect to tripods thanks to a standard tripod mount screw on its underside, and it will save you lots of setup hassle, plus reduce the risk of a precariously perched projector taking a tumble.
A Solid Option If You Understand What You’re Buying
It’s not hard to look at the XGIMI Halo+’s $1,399 price tag and see an affordable way to bring the big-screen movie theatre experience home, but that’s simply not what this projector is designed for. If you’re looking for an easy way to set up a drive-in theatre experience in your backyard (minus the cars), a projector like this, with its own built in power source, will save you from having to run extension cords. But battery performance is still a limiting factor on the capabilities of countless portable devices, especially this one.
You can get a decently large projected image from the Halo+ after the sun goes down, but I don’t recommend reducing its brightness just to eek out a two hour movie. You’re better off pairing it with a backup battery, which still keeps it mostly portable, but with added costs that could make its $1,399 price tag less appealing.