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XGIMI Aura projector and Uplift Desk: Unexpectedly useful for workshops and studios

In this week's project, we're repurposing two items meant for the office or living room to use in the workshop and studio. And they rock!
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor on

A few months ago, I was sent a lifting desk and video projector for review. Since I already have a very customized office, and we're happy with our family room TV, my interest was sparked. Could I use these items in a new and unusual way? Could they help me overcome any challenges?

They sure could, and in the accompanying video above, I'll show you how.

Let's start with the Uplift Desk, which is standing between me and the camera in the video. This is a powered desk that goes up and down at the touch of a button. According to the company, the desk has a lifting capacity of 355lbs. I haven't tried it with anything that heavy, but I can tell you that it is definitely a very solid, robust desk.

Image: David Gewirtz

The desk arrived in a bunch of boxes. Our biggest challenge was moving the 72-inch desktop from our front entryway to the workshop, which involved some very sharp turns through small hallways.

Image: David Gewirtz

Building the desk was straightforward. You build it upside down, adding legs and components piece by piece. Once built, you will need an extra set of hands to lift and flip it. My unit came with wheels, which makes all of what I'm about to show you possible. You can also get it with adjustable feet, but the wheels are a total win.

We'll come back to the desk in a minute, but for now let's talk about the XGIMI Aura projector.

Using the XGIMI Aura

In the video above, take a look at those graphics behind me. They were displayed on my back wall by the XGIMI Aura projector. You can even show video as a background if you wish. In my case, I just filled a USB stick with images, and I displayed them using the built-in Android TV File Manager app.

I've been very curious about this because some of my viewers complained that my simple blue background was too … empty. I didn't want to just hang stuff up, since I'm not ready to commit to any one use for that wall. I tried using an old 60-inch TV on the Uplift Desk, but no matter what height I set it, or where I placed the camera, the glare from the ceiling lights was inescapable. Worse, keeping a 60-inch TV on the desk nerfed all the great uses of the desk and tied up a lot of space -- space I don't have in my small garage/workshop/studio.

A green screen might have worked, unless I have to review a product with green in it, such as Lulzbot printers and every Ryobi tool I own.

Image: David Gewirtz

The Aura is a short-throw laser projector, and it's the short-throw capability that makes it interesting for studio display. That's because the projector can project from behind me, allowing the image projected to become a backdrop. The Aura is far smaller than a 60-inch TV, so it can be carried to where I'm using it, set up, and then put away when I'm done. And yet, it's capable of projecting a 152-inch picture.

Image: David Gewirtz

Even though my light blue wall is not designed for projection, the Aura does quite well in a darkened room. I had to light myself with a couple of lights so you could see me in the shot, but it works. I'm using a pair of old LED lights with a diffuser (gaffer tape is my friend) to make it all work. Bright images work best to counter the shadows thrown by the lighting setup.

Image: David Gewirtz

With all the workshop's ceiling lights on, however, the images aren't as well-defined (as you can see in the video). That's not the fault of the projector. I have substantial lighting in the workshop, installed specifically because I use the room for filming. In a normal room with normal lighting, the projector should do quite well.

Using the Uplift Desk in the workshop

And now, let's dive deeper into the many uses and conveniences of the Uplift Desk. This thing is transformative in a small space.

First, of course, it makes for a great presentation desk. I've been getting by using my old Harbor Freight workbench, but the workbench aesthetic (complete with dog holes for clamping) is not ideal for all presentation situations. The Uplift Desk also has height adjustments, so I can tweak it for exactly what I'm filming.

In fact, the Uplift Desk makes an incredible film and product photography station. At 72-inches wide, it's big enough to hold the product shooting area and all the gear needed to make the shoot work. I love how the desk goes up and down, so if I'm shooting from the side, I don't have to crouc. And if I'm taking a top-down shot, I can lower the desk to an ideal height. You can see pictures shot using the desk in my most recent laptop review.

Image: David Gewirtz

An unexpected benefit of the Uplift Desk didn't become apparent to me until after I'd assembled it. I can lift the desk up and store both my table saw and miter saw underneath, and still have table space.

I can also hide one of my two Harbor Freight benches underneath, giving me two layers of work surface for more complex projects, freeing up extra space to use some of my other tools.

The Uplift Desk can also be rolled into place as a table saw outfeed table, able to catch wood as it comes out of the saw. I will need to find a way to protect the desk's surface from the sliding wood, but I can probably just gaffer tape a piece of tarp material (or even brown paper) to the surface to keep it from scratching.

The folks at Uplift sent me some great accessories, like drawers that can be mounted underneath. But since I discovered how this desk is able to space-multiply, I decided not to install them. I'm just glorying in the ability to tuck stuff underneath the desk -- and how easy it is to repurpose for different tasks. But if I was using the Uplift Desk in an office setting, I would undoubtedly love the under desk drawers, keyboard holder, CPU holder, and other accessories available from Uplift.

I like to experiment with alternate uses for various devices, resources, and objects I find. Sometimes, the alternate use becomes a brilliant, standout force-multiplier, as is the case with the Uplift Desk. It's a nice idea that might not be practical for everyone, like using the $2,500 XGIMI Aura to generate a backdrop. That said, the Aura got a 9.4 out of 10 here on ZDNet when we reviewed it for its designated purpose as a projection TV.

So there you go. Two items normally used for other purposes that completely enhance the working environment for filming and workshop projects. What items have you repurposed for completely unexpected uses? Let us know in the comments below.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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