In the world of portable 4K capable reasonably-lumened projectors, the XGIMI Horizon Pro and Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K are two sub-$2K offerings I’m looking at at the moment. I’m going to present here the results of about thirty hours of watching these side by side, or in sequence. This particular review is mostly focused on my experiences using both of these as a gaming system projector as I am still doing side by side 4K UHD Blu-ray testing and hope to have that and a breakdown on user experience in the UI.
September 21, 2023: Hey a quick update to articles referencing the XGIMI Horizon Pro, or XGIMI Elfin. Brightness claims were listed based on information provided by the manufacturer at the time. XGIMI has reached a settlement with Epson to switch from ANSI to ISO standards and additionally change the brightness claims of a few of their projectors that overstated them. As I wrote a lot of XGIMI articles I am copying this block and saying if you see it say the Horizon Pro is 2200 ANSI lumens, it’s actually 1500 ISO lumens. The 800 ANSI Lumen claim of the Elfin is now 600 ISO lumens. These still appear to respectively overstate brightness by about 17% & 6% when accounting for conversion.
TL;DR – long piece on gaming and issues with both projectors, lack of blurred washed out images to compare.
The units were both hooked up to a PS5 and played in serial as either projector I had to adjust the HDR on. Each projector appeared to have slightly different calibration levels for the same size projection area, so if I plugged one in after the other it never looked quite right until I recalibrated. As such I could not do a direct head to head on video games without one of the projectors always being ever so slightly off.
Preface to the review
I would also note both of these projectors were provided to me by XGIMI’s PR firm, both purchased from Amazon. Should you want to believe there’s a potential conflict of interest it would be in XGIMI’s favor. Both of these showed up in an Amazon box purchased and fulfilled by Amazon I’m assuming. So what I’m reviewing should be exactly what anyone gets.
This will only cover the gaming experience portion of the units. We’re approaching 2000 words just on that and as I have no good pictures of the projected images we’re dealing with a block of text that’s going to lose you.
Other things to note are I have not discovered any phone or camera equipment I own that takes a semi-decent shot of a screen or projection that does not require significant amounts of PhotoShop color correction to come close what I’m actually seeing. I have pictures galore of this washed out faded blur vs that one, and the representation is so awful that it’s unpresentable. Projector A wins in real life, B trounces it in picture of a picture for reasons unknown. I’m skipping the posting of terrible representations.
I absolutely despise subjective reviews, but unfortunately a lot of this is subjective. Each one looked how I describe despite what specs might say. Here’s a good example – Why might a picture look brighter on a unit with a lower light output that is literally showing dimmer on a LUX meter? Well, maybe the lowered brightness your eyes adjusted more to the darkness. This is something that drives me nuts with subjective reviews and yeah, I run into three things here where the specs and the subjective reality collide.
TL;DR breakdown – they’re both really good, have issues
The quick and dirty subjective rundown at 30 hours head vs head gaming is the following – both produce great pictures. Nebula is slightly brighter, Horizon Pro looks better.
A quick head to head in features and issues:
- Netflix works out of the box on the Anker Nebula Cosmos 4K / XGIMI Horizon Pro currently requires an additional dongle or third party app
- The Cosmos 4K does not have Ethernet / wired capabilities which *might* limit positioning or use
- Cosmos 4K only has one HDMI in. Horizon Pro has two.
- Both are portable projectors, neither comes with a lens cap
- As a portable projector you want eye protection for when your sister’s 5yo tries to look into the projector. The HP does not have this that I can tell.
- Controls on the back of the Nebula are not the same as controls on the remote – not a huge issue but same icons, different results
- Nebula’s speakers on paper appear better, far better (dual 10W / 2x5w). I can’t get them to compete with the Horizon Pro (dual 8W) however. I really can’t explain this yet. The Nebula has been bass-y and doesn’t project sound as far which made it less useful outside than I wanted. No clue on this but will update if I can figure out what is going on.
- Cosmos 4K: Convenient carrying handle, 10.7lbs. XGIMI Horizon Pro: no handle, 6.4 lbs. Both: no lens protector.
- Input lag in gaming mode on Cosmos is too high
- Both have the current Android TV OS – the only noticeable difference between the two involves how you get to the projector settings
Head to head as a gaming projector
XGIMI Horizon Pro vs Anker’s Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K
Every bit of lag hurts if you’re playing fast twitch reaction games. I noticed that I did not do great in God of War: Ragnarök on the Nebula Cosmos, I did on the XGIMI Horizon Pro. Every bit of blocking seemed timed differently.
I’ll note the input lag has next to no bearing unless you’re using this for games so take that as you will. Based on specs I can find on Projector Central, the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K’s input lag is probably in the 70ms range in game mode (it is 70ms according to this review).
I don’t have a way to measure this beyond I can tell you that in God of War I really, really, did not do well on the Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K. I’d generally say that a 35ms difference is not a lot but I think when dealing with timing windows for blocking attacks it might have been. My assumption here is that 35ms got added on top of other lags anything has (controller, processor, etc.) It could also be extreme coincidence, but I preferred the Horizon Pro.
Whatever the case was I did not do well on the Cosmos, which had the same projection space as the XGIMI.
I found no difference in my perceived or actual performance between the two projectors playing the game Stray, or Mario Kart (which is only 1080p on the Switch).
I feel confident with the specs listed that I can say the XGIMI Horizon Pro is the winner here and depending on the games you’re playing I think the Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K will actually mess you up slightly. Then again, perhaps you just learn to compensate if you’re playing on the same lag setting long enough. Switching back and forth between these projectors may have messed me up on adapting.
Some things to note
As these both run Android at the core, I decided to hook up my now-Bluetooth Stadia controller and install some games. Games that I could find in the Play Store worked fine on them. Emulators seemed quite bogged down but I also did not tweak emulator settings much. If you wanted one of these for emulation, it looks like the processor and the storage on the XGIMI Horizon Pro (32 gig) would beat out the Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4k (16 gig). The performance I got emulating was not acceptable, but as noted I didn’t mess with the settings too much.
Neither performed acceptably using the emulator I was playing with.
Power on times – if these are left in both have decent power on times from snoozing. Due to rolling blackouts, high winds, two car crashes, and three unexplained issues, in the past month and a half we’ve had over 20 power outages. I’ve watched the cold-boot screens of both of these more times than you’d believe just because of power fails.
I really want to throttle the person who designed the Nebula Cosmos boot animation… that’s all I’m saying. It takes too long and… you will not want to because you haven’t lost power twenty times during a product testing window.
Portability – I mentioned above that the HP is lighter but the Cosmos had a handle. There’s more than that and here the Cosmos wins – the power cord and brick for the XGIMI is kind of absurd. The brick makes mounting the Horizon Pro require some extra thought because it’s huge, it’s not a terribly long cable, so if you’re mounting it somewhere a few feet behind you’ll need somewhere to mount the brick.
Heat – both of these throw off 105f/40.5c heat as measured by an IR thermometer. I believe the Nebula Cosmos throws off more heat however. I believe it’s dispelling more cubic feet of air per minute heated to that temp. It’s also about 9% brighter lumen-wise (2400 v 2200,) and the power brick/convertor is in the main body of the unit, so that probably tracks. Looking at the wattage of the two it looks like the Nebula is pulling about 15% more power.
Both units can be mounted upside down, reverse projection (for rear screen projection,) and would be suitable for a TV replacement. Both automatically adjust when mounted upside down.
I found it easier to use the Horizon Pro on a tripod mount, mostly due to weight and height. The Nebula’s height brings the center of gravity up a few inches. Not a biggie but something to note.
While each gives a range of how large the projected image can be, I found no difference other than the auto-focus tends to fail at absurdly large image levels. My assumption is if you want a 250 inch image, the Nebula Cosmos is slightly more your bag just due to Lumen levels.
In 15 hours of testing on each the XGIMI Horizon Pro failed to auto focus two times on start up (once a kid walked through during the calibration, once I have no clue,) and the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K failed once. Both failed after a cold boot. Both were corrected by pressing a button on the remote.
I can not figure out how spec wise the XGIMI speakers sound better. That said, neither the XGIMI Horizon Pro nor the Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K have speakers powerful enough that they can fill the audio for the size of picture they produce. In either case if you’re outdoors I would grab a powerful Bluetooth speaker and put it near the audience, especially if rear projecting.
Mostly subjective conclusions for this round
As a gaming projector, and we’re only talking gaming at this point, the XGIMI Horizon Pro wins. I believe my subjective experience combined with the objective input lag time probably cements that. I will admit I believe 35ms shouldn’t be noticeable to someone of my age and reaction times, although I am reading that people can perceive down to 20ms. But it’s there.
So take this as you will from a former arcade manager, and currently aging gamer. The XGIMI Horizon Pro seems to be a better gaming experience to me than the Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K.
Until I sat down and started researching the response times on gaming I had no idea why I didn’t like playing on Anker’s unit. I just didn’t.
The multiple HDMI inputs, optical out capabilities, lower response times in gaming mode, less heat, weight/portability, it seems to me that for gaming and what my use cases are, the Horizon Pro edges out the Nebula Cosmos pretty soundly. More options, lower lag.
I will point out once again, this is only the gaming review and I will link the head to head UHD Blu-ray and general use review when I get that finished.
As of this writing the XGIMI Horizon Pro 4K projector is available from Amazon for $1,699.99, and the Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K projector is $1,999.99. Clicking either of those links gets us a commission.