XGIMI CC Aurora review: Android smart projector that falls short in important places

Chinese manufacturer XGIMI has its share of expensive smart projectors, but the company is back with a more affordable projector: the XGIMI CC Aurora. “Aurora” means “dawn,” and I don’t think the name is a surprise when you consider all the device does (and doesn’t) have to offer. It’s a start, a leap into a market that few have considered worthy of such an endeavor, and XGIMI both surprises and underwhelms.

Hardware

The XGIMI CC Aurora comes in a compact CNC Alloy case at 5.43 inches x 5.31 inches x 4.69 inches. The device resides in a stylish gray box with a zipper across it and a space at the top for the brown leather, XGIMI-branded strap to sit.

Upon opening the box, one discovers a pair of rechargeable, 3D glasses for content viewing alongside the CC Aurora smart projector, warranty information, and projector manual.

A separate, rectangular box provides an adjustable tripod stand for projector mounting on flat surfaces that you can turn in various directions. The front of the 1.5kg or 3.3-lb. device, a small door with “JBL by Harman” branding, slides down to reveal the projector lens.

The top of the CC Aurora features a brown leather strap that attaches to the projector by way of cylindrical, silver knobs.

The top back of the device features four dots that serve as the CC Aurora’s battery charging indicator. Directly beneath the dots are large volume indicators on the far left (volume down) and far right (volume up), and three audio buttons for rewind, fast forward, and pause/play options. The back of the device features the charging adapter port, two USB ports, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack.

Two audio speakers sit horizontally beneath the connection ports and provide excellent sound.

There’s one piece to the equation that I can’t leave out: it concerns the CC Aurora’s projector XGIMI-branded, rectangular remote along with two AAA batteries. The white remote contains black, functional buttons for power, voice command, projector settings, scrolling and selection, back, home, and volume up and volume down.

Setup

To set up the CC Aurora, you need only slide the small door down the front of the device to uncover the lens. Give it a minute or so to run through some initial projector presentation images. Connect the Aurora projector to your home Wi-Fi network to get started.

Once you complete the initial setup, the Android-powered smart projector’s desktop will appear. Use the hardware remote to navigate the desktop, and click “ok” when you want to open an app or access a service.

My first recommendation to get the most out of the CC Aurora is to first visit System Setup > About > System Update and download any system updates available. If you don’t see an “Aptoide TV” on your desktop where YouTube is, then you need to install a system update. Without Aptoide TV, there’s little to do.

Software and Services

Once at the desktop, you’ll first be greeted with four pre-installed apps: YouTube, Web Browser, WPS Office, and FileManager. YouTube is a welcome app here, as so many Android users love the service.

The hardware remote works fine if YouTube is the only reason you’ll use the projector, and WPS Office should be okay too. However, if you want to use the Web browser or Aptoide TV you’ll need to download XGIMI’s “XGIMI Assistant” app from Google Play on your smartphone to type words, letters, and search terms in Aptoide TV, among other things.

YouTube

The YouTube experience works here on the CC Aurora as it does on your smartphone, tablet, and smart TV, so you need not worry about the unexpected. You’ll be able to use the hardware remote without trouble, but you’ll need the VControl app (XGIMI provides this on the Aurora’s main desktop) to access voice commands and voice search for videos. YouTube remembers search terms and brings up your favorite videos with one letter typed.

XGIMI Assistant

The XGIMI Assistant app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store, and it provides a virtual remote control on your smartphone from which to navigate the user interface of the CC Aurora.

You can use your Android smartphone as a remote control when you don’t have the hardware remote nearby or the remote batteries die out.

The XGIMI Assistant app has a few modes that you’ll need to get a handle on so as to navigate web browsers, Netflix and Hulu logins, and so on. One mode is the virtual remote, while another mode, “TouchPad,” allows you to use the remote as a computer mouse. This will come in handy with regard to Google’s search engine, the in-built Google web browser, as well as privacy-friendly web browsers (you can find these private web browsers at Aptoide TV).

Some games in the Aptoide TV app store demand a mouse, while others demand a gamepad. While the “TouchPad” mode on the XGIMI Assistant app provides the mouse you’ll need, XGIMI doesn’t provide a virtual gamepad whatsoever. Real Racing 3 and the original classic Sonic the Hedgehog can’t be played with the virtual TV remote.

Aptoide TV (Smart Projector App Store)

With access to YouTube on an Android-powered smart projector, you’d expect the CC Aurora to dazzle users with Google Play Services and Google Play Store integration. Sadly, I have to inform you that it does not.

There is no Google Play Services integration here, so the best you can hope for is app selection by way of XGIMI’s third-party app store, “Aptoide TV.” Once you download an app from Aptoide TV, it will appear on your desktop automatically.

 

Aptoide TV has some options, including FreeCell (Solitaire), Real Racing 3, Mahjong, old Sega Genesis games such as Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and 2, and newer games such as Candy Crush and Clash of Clans, but the app selection is rather underwhelming.

Some sections of the Aptoide TV app store have nothing in them, many with only 5-6 titles (max) available for purchase. Skype and Facebook are here, but you don’t get Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or Google Duo, if you’re wondering.

 

You do get CBS, ABC, NBC, and even popular services such as Netflix, Hulu, and CBS All Access, but you don’t get YouTube TV because, as the screen popup says, “YouTube TV won’t run without Google Play services, which are not supported by your device.” Of course, the same popup appears for Mahjong Village but you can still play Mahjong (it even has Facebook social sharing integration).

If you’re a parent looking for cartoons and kid content, PBS Kids is an excellent choice. I was able to go online to PBS Kids on my smartphone and enter an access code and immediately gain access. I’ve watched “Ready Jet Go!,” “Arthur,”

Do note that you only have 16GB of internal storage with the CC Aurora, so don’t get too program-happy when selecting programs to view. XGIMI says that its 16GBs of storage can hold 4,000 songs and 10 movies, so you can download music to your heart’s content.

Charging and Battery Life

The XGIMI CC Aurora smart projector charges by way of the supplied adapter, but it takes about 4 hours for the device to charge. It’ll charge up to three of the battery “dots” in about 2.5 hours, but don’t expect the remaining battery dot to charge quickly.

Four hours of charging is quite a lot, but the additional misfortune is that the CC Aurora will only last 4 hours on a single charge. XGIMI says that the short battery life of the CC Aurora is “enough for an outdoor party,” and the CC Aurora still outlasts the 2.5-hour battery life of the LG MiniBeam Projector, but the battery life is a disappointment.

Price and Availability

 

The XGIMI CC Aurora costs $699 at Amazon.com, but you can get it for either the typical $699 price at eBay or the discounted price of $625 at eBay. The MSRP is $569, so you’ll likely pay a slightly steeper price for access to the smart projector that can do a little of everything.

What the XGIMI CC Aurora smart projector does right

 

The following are strengths of the XGIMI CC Aurora smart projector:

  • Easy Setup: The XGIMI CC Aurora is easy to set up and easy to use
  • Audio by JBL (Harman) is excellent: The audio quality in internet TV streaming is where the JBL/Harman audio shines
  • Multipurpose: The CC Aurora is many things at once: a Bluetooth speaker, music player, internet browser, TV/movie-watching machine, game console, etc., all in one device.
  • Price: While some may not want to pay around $600 (around $569) for a smart projector, I think the price is acceptable for its capabilities.
  • Connect to other devices:  One doesn’t need a smart projector to watch Netflix and Hulu, but might want to stream Spotify or Pandora through the CC Aurora.

Where the CC Aurora smart projector could improve

 

  • Size: The CC Aurora isn’t terribly heavy but it isn’t as lightweight as, say, the one-pound ZTE Spro2 smart projector from 2015. A more compact feel and look would sell the device even more.
  • Battery life: The CC Aurora only provides about 4-4.5 hours of battery life.
  • Resolution: 720p content viewing is acceptable at times but appears washed out at other times. The CC Aurora projects 180 inches across walls; I’d like to see 720p become 1080p or 2K (4K viewing is ideal).
  • Storage: 16GB of storage is okay for music because you can store up to 4,000 movies, but 10 movies (max) on a home theater device is insufficient.
  • Controller: XGIMI includes a pair of 3D glasses in the box of every CC Aurora smart projector, but some games in Aptoide TV “require a GamePad”. I think that XGIMI should either add a GamePad.G
  • Google Play Store and Google Play Services: This is one of the biggest drawbacks that XGIMI must fix. It seems odd that the company offers an Android-powered smart projector that has YouTube, Chrome web browser, Google Translate, and the Google search engine but doesn’t include Google Play or Google Play Services.
  • Water and dust resistance: Water and dust protection would make the smart projector more kid-friendly.

Final Thoughts

 

The XGIMI CC Aurora deems the smart projector to be an all-in-one substitute for TV, music player, Bluetooth speaker, computer, tablet, and smartphone. As an ambitious device that looks to supplant all others in the coming years, the CC Aurora must do more to meet the needs of consumers who might expect a “galaxy” device for $600.

The nature of the smart projector creates the “everything” problem. If a product promises to be “several devices into one,” then the product must make good on that claim. The CC Aurora fails on some important fronts, and this must change if XGIMI has ambitions to corner the American smart projector market.

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