Review: XGIMI Z6 Polar 1080p LED DLP Projector (Hardware)

Reviewed by Shaun James, posted Jul 11, 2019 at 12:53 AM, last updated Jul 13, 2019 at 1:15 PM
Review unit provided by XGIMI - however this review is the opinion of the author and has not been skewed by, nor has the review undergone any kind of approval or screening process by the supplier/manufacturer.
Jul 11, 2019 at 12:53 AM
The XGIMI Z6 Polar packs a lot of punch for its compact size. This portable, full HD 1080p LED projector does a lot of things right, however some issues hold back what could be the perfect package.
Shaun James

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The XGIMI Z6 Polar is intended as an all-in-one "screenless" TV experience meaning that the projector and its power lead are all you need to get up and running. The Z6 Polar boasts LED technology, a full 1080p projected image, 3D playback and genuine Harmon Kardon audio as well as its own built in OS which runs on a customised version of Android called GMUI. It also comes with a bluetooth remote control for navigating this interface.

The Z6 Polar can currently be found for $569.99 on Amazon.com but Amazon Prime members can currently take advantage of a 20% discount offer that brings that price down to a more reasonable $456. There seem to be a number of other projectors in this price range (and below) but few offer the same full 1080p image and portability the XGIMI seems to boast.

XGIMI kindly sent a unit to GBAtemp for testing. So continue reading on to see what we made of this portable projector.

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Specifications

First, let’s take a look at some specifications:

  • Projector type: LED
  • Output resolution: 1080p native
  • Luminance: 500-700 ANSI lumens
  • HDMI compatiblity: v1.4-2.0
  • Projection ratio: 1.2:1
  • Keystone correction: Vertical: ±40 degrees, horizontal: ±40 degrees (2D mode only)
  • Projection abilities: Forward facing, ceiling (upside down), rear projection (upside and flipped)

Technical specs:

  • CPU: Mstar 6A838 Cortex-A53
  • GPU: Mali-T820MP4
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 8GB
  • System: GMUI 3.0
  • Mirroring: XGIMI Assistant, Airplay, DLNA, Miracast
  • WiFi: Dual-band 2.4/5GHz, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth: 4.0

Ports:

  • 1x HDMI (v1.4-2.0 with ARC support)
  • 1x USB
  • 1x 3.5mm audio
  • 1x DC power i

In the box

If there’s one thing XGIMI has done right - its appearance. From its packaging to the actual design of the hardware; the XGIMI Z6 Polar is beautifully presented. There’s a bold, contrasting panda theme going on here, with a heavy focus on clean blacks and bold whites.

Slip the lid off the package and you’ll find the projector sat inside some padded foam with a simple ribbon allowing for its removal. Under that you have a few different boxes that house the power brick and remote control, as well as the quick start guide and warranty card.

Strangely enough, despite being sold as a portable device, there is no kind of carry bag or sleeve included in the package.

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Design and appearance

The Z6 Polar’s sleek outer appearance actually has very little to catch your eye which makes a nice change from the heavy-set projectors of yesterday. It is an attractive piece of tech, with a sleek, rounded, minimalistic look. Its inconspicuous design will blend in well to any modern home, especially if ceiling mounted.

Weighing in at just 980 grams (about 2.1lbs) and measuring just 19.5cm (7.6 inch) square - the Z6 Polar has a small footprint for what it offers.

Taking a closer look at the projector, on the front is a scratch resistant glass window which hides the projection lens, an auto-focus camera and music mode indicator lights. To the right of this is a dotted speaker grill that hides the Harmon Kardon speaker behind it. On the right hand side of the projector are some touch sensitive power/play/pause and volume buttons with some discrete Harmon Kardon branding sloping over the edge. As appealing as they look, I’d rather have physical buttons as I have a couple times accidentally pressed one of the buttons while moving the projector around on its surface.

On the rear you have a large vent, a single HDMI port (that supports ARC (audio return channel)), a full size USB port for connecting keyboard dongles or storage devices, a 3.5mm audio output jack and DC power connector.

Finally, on the underside you have a circular vent design that works for outputting the built in audio as well as the intake for the fan, in the dead centre of that we have some anti slip rubber feet and the usual standard 1/4 inch mounting screw thread for mounting onto a ceiling bracket or tripod.

Hardware

The power brick that comes with the Z6 Polar is relatively small, about the size of your average laptop power supply and in my testing only ever seems to get moderately warm. The length of the cable from the power brick to the barrel connector is fairly short at just 120cm (48 inches) so if you’re planning to ceiling mount the projector this could be a bit tricky, however, the mains cable (that is roughly the same length again) is detachable and is a standard clover leaf type so you could easily replace it with an extended length lead.

The Z6 Polar projector is LED based; meaning unlike conventional projectors, the Z6 Polar doesn’t use a bulb to project the image it outputs and instead uses an array of LEDs and therefore runs much cooler meaning less heat output and less fan noise. This also has the benefit of meaning you will not have to replace the bulb if it burns out which is an expensive annoyance that comes with traditional projectors. One caveat of this is that current LED technology will not match the brightness nor the contrast in image quality that a quality bulb based projector can produce - so there are trade offs for sure.

The fan noise produced by the Z6 Polar is minimal unless it’s sat right next to you. It’s fairly noticeable in a small room but quickly blends in with the audio. I have not noticed any major ramping up in fan speed so it appears to stay spinning at a somewhat constant rate. If you were to ceiling mount the projector I can imagine the noise would be difficult to notice at all.

Dual-band WiFi is supported by the projector meaning you won’t need to route a network cable to get it online. Though USB network adapters are supported should you need to.

The remote control that comes with the Z6 Polar is great. It takes 2x AAA batteries and is comfortable to hold. It uses a bluetooth connection which means you don’t have to point it directly at the projector for it to work. The remote has power, air mouse, submenu, back, home, and directional navigation buttons.

On the underside of the remote is a discrete switch that allows you to set the focus of the projector using the volume buttons. Thankfully it’s a small switch that requires some effort to push so it would be near impossible to unintentionally switch it.

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Software

The XGIMI Z6 Polar runs a customised version of Android called GMUI. I really would have preferred to have seen an actual Android TV implementation here but alas that’s not what we have. What we do have is a stripped down version of Android with a custom launcher designed for remote control operation. The interface and settings have been heavily modified from stock Android, for better and for worse. More worryingly, the interface is rife with Engrish. Simple setting labels such as “on/off” are referred to as “open/close”. Something that seems particularly inexcusable in 2019.

From shutdown the Z6 Polar takes approx 18 seconds to start up which is relatively quick and never became a hassle.

On first boot you're instructed on how to pair the remote control and focus the image. The instructions are clear and well illustrated. After that your thrown into the main menu.

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The home screen is minimal, with some featured apps at the top and your installed apps below it. You can navigate around the interface using the included remote control which is excellently built and feels good to hold and use. There is also an air mouse feature built into the remote which you can enable with the tap of a button, which allows you to wave a cursor around the screen using gyro controls. This works great and is a life saver in the internet browser.

Unfortunately with this being a modified version of Android, it means that there is no access to the Google Play Store on the device (though you can sideload it). There is however Aptoide (an alternative marketplace for apps) pre-installed, though I found the app selection lacking. A few built in apps such as YouTube, a screen mirroring software and internet browser are also included. There is no Chromecast support however.

Performance is acceptable but not fantastic. Navigating around the OS is fluid enough and internet browsing is passable but you’ll run into some hiccups and you may be better off attaching an alternative device through HDMI if not just for the extra apps.

Here are some various benchmark results performed after a hard reset of the XGIMI Z6 Polar:

  • Octane 2.0: 2826
  • Vellamo - Chrome browser test: 1871
  • Vellamo - Metal test: 1138

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When it comes to video playback performance on the Z6 Polar; I did initially run into some issues which turned about to be related to the keystone correction facility of the projector. These issues are covered in more detail in the Projection and Video Quality portion of this review. 

One of the biggest grievances I have with the built in GMIU OS is with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video - or the lack thereof. Unfortunately neither are compatible with the Z6 Polar. You can sideload them of course, but in the case of Netflix - the video stream will max out at 480p as a result of it being an uncertified device and there is simply no way around this that I can find. Even though the projector is keen to flaunt its full HD capabilities, you will not be able to stream from Netflix in anything higher than 480p.

Playing back locally stored files through an app such as the built in video player however works much better and although this projector is not the fastest device in the world I was able to navigate through several files quite effortlessly. I tested a few different 2K, 4K, 60FPS and even 3D (SBS) files and all played back smoothly and without a hiccup.

Thankfully you can avoid the problems with the built in OS such as the inability to stream Netflix in 1080p and lack of an App Store, as the XGIMI has a full size HDMI port for connecting alternative devices such as the Nvidia Shield TV, Chromecast, Fire TV stick etc. This shouldn’t be necessary but the option is there.

When an HDMI device is connected, a simple tap of the HDMI button on the home screen will put the projector into HDMI display mode. Alternatively, in the settings you are able to set the projector to automatically load into HDMI display mode when powering on.

When in HDMI mode, it’s not necessary to go back to GMUI to adjust image/focus settings as a quick/long press of the menu button on the remote control will overlay a number of image/video settings on the device when in HDMI mode including keystone correction and focus settings.

Projection and video quality

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Setting up the projector was very easy and took under 5 minutes to get to a correctly calibrated, positioned and focused projected image.

Of course, the distance you place the projector heavily influences the brightness and size of the displayed image. In my testing, with the projector placed approximately 224cm (88 inches/7.3ft) I got a screen size of 216 cm (85 inches) and a nice bright, vivid image. I also tested the projector placed 391cm (154 inches/12.8ft) away and got a size of 355cm (140 inches) with a slightly reduced brightness.

The Z6 Polar supports front projection (both table top and ceiling mounted (vertically flipped)), rear projection (horizontally and/or vertically flipped) and side projection, meaning you can place the projector on a coffee or bedside table that is to the side of the projection surface or wall.

In front projection mode you have the ability to manually adjust the keystoning (the way in which the projected image appears to lean away from or towards you when the projector or projection surface are not perpendicular to one another) or have the Z6 Polar set itself automatically via the built in gyroscope. I found the automatic setting not quite perfect so I opted for manual. I’m sure automatic would be fine if you are using the projector in different rooms frequently as it is intended, but if you’re leaving it in just one place then you may as well set it manually for optimum image quality.

If you are using side projection mode you’ll initially have a projected image that looks like a trapezoid rather than a 16:9 image. To compensate for this, the Z6 Polar has four corner 2D keystone correction. This means you can manually pull each corner of the image in and out to correctly align them to your wall or projector screen. This is a handy feature to have but unfortunately causes a number of issues that I’ll talk about shortly.

After the image is squared up you can adjust the focus. Like the automatic keystoning feature; the Z6 Polar also has an automatic focus adjustment that uses a built in camera behind the lens, but in non-optimal environments such as a well lit room the image can still appear soft. Another downside of side projection is that the edge furthest from the projector will appear slightly more blurry than the nearer edge due to the angle of the projection. This is only ever really noticeable on text and can be overlooked when watching videos.

To adjust the focus you need to enter the settings, or while watching content you can flip a small switch on the bottom of the remote that remaps the volume buttons to focus in/out. This drives a motor inside the projector that adjusts the focus. This is particularly handy as it means you won’t need to leave your viewing position to manually adjust lens focus unlike other projectors that require you to manually adjust the focus using a wheel.

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In a darkened room the image produced by the Z6 Polar is extremely impressive. I was initially quite blown away by it. Colour accuracy is not perfect by any means but is very good, especially as the wall I was projecting it onto isn’t pure white - it’s more a very light grey. Black levels are equally impressive and don’t distract when watching letterboxed movies.

Unfortunately we don’t have the facility to measure lumens levels but the projector claims 500-700 ANSI lumens. Other users have tested that in its brightest mode the Z6 Polar puts out an average of 530 ANSI lumens and approx 380 ANSI lumens in standard brightness.

On standard brightness mode, the Z6 Polar produces a bright, clear and colourful image that really does pop when displaying 1080p or downscaled 4K content. Some of the scenes it produces really impressed me considering the form factor and size of the projector.

Of course with this being a projector you will not want to use it in a well lit room even though the image is visible. A moderately lit room, for example with curtains drawn (even partially) works surprisingly well and I heard no complaints from my nieces and nephews when watching their favourite cartoons during the day time.

The projector does have a high brightness mode that bumps up the brightness but I found the gains to be minimal and the image to take on a very obvious green tint when in this mode.

Take a look at the images below to see some examples of the Z6 Polar’s projected image during various times of the day and room lighting scenarios (see image top left corner for details on each).

Daytime, room fully lit:

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Daytime, dimly lit room:

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Nighttime, room totally dark:

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The Z6 Polar has the necessary mounting thread to hang it from a ceiling bracket or even set it up on a tripod if you want to though it feels as though it was intended for coffee table or bedside table placement due to its design. However unfortunately, outside of the facility to correct the projected images zoom and keystone there is no way to adjust the height of the output - the feet are non-adjustable so you can’t adjust the angle of the projector. This means that the surface you sit the projector on is crucial in the positioning of the projection.

As I do not have a ceiling mount nor the room in which to place the projector squarely in front of the wall, this is where I ran into the biggest problem with the Z6 Polar.

When in side projection mode and you have adjusted the four corner keystoning, the Z6 Polar seems to either reduce the refresh rate or re encodes the image somehow. This is most noticeable when playing 60FPS video or games. Unfortunately the video output is reduced down to something that looks like 24FPS or similar and there is a drastic reduction in video smoothness. 60FPS content is cut in half and judder and frame skipping is added to regular video content. Scenes that once panned smoothly suddenly look as though frames are being dropped.

This was equally evident when playing back YouTube videos in 4K. The projector could simply not keep up and 4K playback stuttered, paused and skipped. Setting the YouTube quality to 1080p fixed the pausing but not the choppiness.

Unfortunately these issues also take effect in HDMI mode. Tested across PS4, Wii U and the Nvidia Shield TV.

This meant for me personally that the side projection mode is simply worthless and that the only position I could then place the projector in was squarely dead-centered to the wall. Fortunately a conveniently placed shelf meant it wasn’t a major issue for me. But when one of the key selling points of the projector reduce the video quality to such a degree, it’s just unfortunate.

Fortunately in front projection mode the quality is simply great. You can even make out individual pixels thanks to the projectors use of square pixels via DLP rather than the traditional diamond shaped.

Here are some samples of 4K content downscaled to the Z6 Polar’s 1080p projected output in a darkened room.

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Audio

With a built in Harmon Kardon speaker the sound quality is surprisingly good. It gets fairly loud and easily fills a small room but bass is extremely low. It will make do for sure but for any serious movie watching you’ll want to connect up some speakers through the 3.5mm jack or over bluetooth.

The HDMI port also supports the ARC (audio return channel) so when connected to a surround sound system will pass back audio through your speakers.

The Z6 Polar can also act as a bluetooth speaker but given the average quality of the speaker and the abundance of higher quality bluetooth speakers already available I don’t see many people taking advantage of this feature. Though it’s handy to have.

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Gaming

As mentioned in the Projection and Video Quality portion of this review, there are some serious issues with frame pacing when running the projector in side projection mode. This prevents 60FPS content from displaying and other video content to appear jittery even when using an HDMI source.

Fortunately in front projection mode this isn’t an issue and games appear smooth and responsive even in 60FPS. There is a slight lag introduced by the projector but in the Gaming Mode video setting this is reduced to approximately 45ms or so. This means it may not be the ideal projector for competitive gamers but for casual gaming, games play great and look fantastic.

Conclusion

The XGIMI Z6 Polar packs a lot into its small size but a number of issues with the software hold back what could be a complete package. The idea of a compact, portable projector that looks this good and that runs Android sounds great on paper but unfortunately the GMUI OS is too limited when compared to rivals such as the Nvidia Shield TV or Fire Stick. The inability to run the most popular apps such as Netflix to their full potential severely dampen the experience and a lack of a Chromecast feature only hampers the experience further.

Thankfully an HDMI port is available to overcome these limitations, though it shouldn’t really be necessary.

What is unfortunate however, is that one particular issue with software carries over outside the OS and effects HDMI sources when using the projectors advertised side projection mode. The drop in refresh rate caused by this modes processing of the signal means that certain content and games will appear jittery and unresponsive. Ultimately meaning that the projector is only usable in front/rear projection mode if you’re sensitive to these sorts of things.

As a projector, the quality of image produced by the XGIMI Z6 Polar is fantastic, especially for its small size. The full 1080p image is crisp and vibrant when calibrated and games can look amazing. The built in Harmon Kardon audio will make do for those that don’t need a full 5.1 surround setup and the quietness of the projector makes for a great night time viewing experience.

It’s unfortunate that a number of software limitations and oversights can ruin for some (depending on your setup) what could potentially be an amazing all-in-one solution for watching content on a big screen. Perhaps XGIMI will be able to fix some of these problems in software and if they do, I'll be sure to update the review.

 

Amazon Product Page

Verdict
Pros
+ Amazing projection quality - a full 1080p
+ 4K downscaling to 1080p
+ Compact size
+ Beautifully built
+ Great remote control with focus control
+ Runs Android
+ Dual-band WiFi
+ Decent built in Harmon Kardon speaker
+ Quiet operation
Cons
- Side projection mode degrades video quality in both the built-in OS and HDMI mode
- No access to the Google Play store out the box
- Lack of Netflix certification means that the built in OS can’t stream Netflix higher than 480p
- No carry bag included
- Short mains lead
7.8
out of 10
Overall
A fantastically built, compact projector that produces a stunning 1080p image in moderately lit to dark rooms. However, depending on your use case, it is let down by a number of software issues and limitations.


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