This is our review of the Cinebeam LG HU85LA 4K ultra-short-throw laser projector, one of LG's recently launched UST projectors and a design that was a CES 2019 Innovation Award honoree. When LG reached out to us wondering if we would be willing to do a review of the LG HU85LA 4K, we readily accepted. Considering it supports a hefty $5999 price tag, this is clearly not a mainstream product and one aimed dead center at the luxury market. We had some pretty steep expectations for this projector, and let's just say we were not disappointed.
LG Cinebeam HU85LA 4K UST Review: Introduction and technical specifications
I will start by saying this much: while this projector is part of LG's Cinebeam series, this is not strictly speaking a cinema or even a home theater projector. This is instead, a living room projector with enough punch in its light output to be able to serve as a drop-in replacement for a TV. With the company claiming a 120-inch maximum projection size and considering 100-inch TVs easily retail for $8000+, the price tag starts to make a little more sense. The design of the product is also reflective of this fact, featuring a non-obtrusive and elegant shape that will only add to living room decor and will even serve as a conversation piece.
Inside the projector, however, are internals that will impress any AV enthusiast. While most DLP projectors (the vast majority of projectors in the mainstream segment) have a light source that lasts at most 5000 hours, LG is using a laser light source that will last for at least 20,000 hours. Not only that but while other vendors use a single laser source passing through a color wheel, LG instead relies on a triple-channel laser system (which counterintuitively only houses two lasers - a blue and a red one) for this particular projector.
The result? virtually all of the lumens here (in theory) are color lumens. The difference between white lumens and color lumens is a very important difference when it comes to judging color quality. You can crank DLP projectors up to fairly high lumens, but when you actually separate the colors, you find out that they are a fraction of the white intensity. This problem is something the 3-channel laser system would solve.
The LG HU85LA 4K UST uses a Texas instruments 4x XPR chip to achieve true 4k resolution (at a maximum of 30 fps). A note here about XPR: unlike 4K enhanced projectors, an XPR projector does actually project a true 4k grid on a screen. It achieves this by projector 1/4 of the image, then the rest and so on in rapid succession and continuity of image in your brain makes it appear as a cohesive image instead of four different parts. It works sort of like how CRTs of old used to work (with progressive lines being scanned on the monitor and your brain making them into a single image). While this is true 4k, it is not, however, native 4k. Native 4k UST projectors like the Sony VPL VZ1000ES retail for almost $25000 so we don't really consider that competition at this price point anyways.
The company has rated the projector at a peak brightness of 2700 ANSI lumens and a contrast ratio of 2,000,000 to 1. HDR10 is supported and the min-max screen sizes are 90 inch to 120 inch. It is worth noting here that this is a "smart" projector and contains Google Assistant, LG's native app drawer and more. It features a DTV tuner, Bluetooth and a USB connection that should be able to play most video files. Furthermore, it comes equipped with a somewhat lacking 5W + 5W dual speaker system. Although if you are putting this much into a projector, chances are you will have a dedicated audio system anyways.
The cherry on top of the cake is the company's magic remote, which enables a dynamic pointed on the screen and allows for truly intuitive functionality. Featuring dedicated buttons for Netflix and even Prime Video, this is clearly a remote designed in 2019. LG specifications claim a maximum power draw of 350W from the wall, so this thing will not consume a ton of electricity either (although once again if you are dropping six-grand on a projector, an electricity bill is going to be the least of your concerns). As you will see in this review, while most manufacturers exaggerate technical specifications to various degrees, we were pleasantly surprised to find the opposite with LG.
LG HU85LA 4K UST: Design and IO plate
Lets start with looks. The design of the projector is highly aesthetic and should fit into most living rooms regardless of your color choice. With a low profile and incredibly classy look, this is one projector that will not ruin a living room and should appeal to all generations. In fact, if anything screams a modern aesthetic - its this thing. Featuring a custom fabric stiched to the front part (covering the dual speaker system) and an outer body made of high quality plastic, high attention to detail in QA is apparent in every inch of the projector.
The projection slot is the only thing that breaks an otherwise perfectly flat white body on the top and even the focus wheel is hidden under a collapsible part. The minimum projection distance (from the projection surface) is 2.2 inches and the maximum is 7.2 inches so you are probably going to keep this on a table top in your living room, coupled with an ALR (ambient light rejecting) screen.
The IO port doesn't disappoint either. Featuring 2 HDMI slots, 2 USB slots, one USB Type C and even an Optical Audio Out. A Lan port for improved connectivity is present as well and you have your standard analog antenna port for the TV connection. This last port is evidence of the fact that LG really wants you to think of this as just a really cool looking TV set.
Finally, you have your power input port that can accept voltage from pretty much anywhere in the world (gone are the days of 110V and 220V disasters) as well as a lock button.
LG HU85LA 4K UST: Dark room performance
Well without any (further) ado, let's begin with the performance testing. Unfortunately, I did not have access to a UST-ALR screen (yes these are different as the angle of rejection of a traditional ALR is the angle a UST projector, projects at) during this test so I had to rely instead, on my good old 150-inch, gain 1.0, motorized home theater screen. While a tad big for this projector, the light-isolated room would more than makeup for the lack of ALR and all tests you see here will only improve if you decide to buy this along with a UST-ALR.
Okay, so I have gone through a lot more projectors than the average joe in my reviews and I have to admit I was blown away by the brightness and vividness of the image the first time I turned it on. The LG HU85LA 4K UST's image calibration out of the box assumes you are using it in daylight and that works just fine for the target demographic that doesn't want to get involved with dark rooms and calibrated images.
There is only one caveat that I can report on from my testing: I was not able to hit the company's claimed maximum size of 120 inch without significant distortion/blurring occurring in the outer edges. In my testing, the maximum size with almost no distortion/blurring was 110 inches. Any further and the bottom part of the screen (near the projector) would start to get blurred and if you tried to focus that, the topmost portion would start to get blurred. I will admit that it is possible that this is due to the mirror inside getting warped/moved during shipping but I will still recommend that you keep the screen size between 100-110 inches for an optimal experience.
With that out of the way, let me just say, wow. LG's dual-laser system makes it clear just how much of their lumens are color lumens (hint: practically all). While DLP projectors have a massive difference between white lumens and color lumens, this is not the case with LG. In fact, just through eyeballing the image, I could see that color lumens were easily twice that of my home theater daily driver (a BenQ HT3550). Here are images I took (and edited in post to make them look closest to what the human eye will see):
The colors on the LG HU85LA pop out almost explosively in a dark room (that is a compliment btw). For the cinemaphiles out there, LG also includes an expert mode which was impressively close to a perfect calibration that I conducted with my lux meter. So with one touch of a button on the remote, you can go from TV mode to cinema mode which will dial down the vividness and expand the color gamut/color space by an almost exponential factor. The lumens on this thing are easily good enough to beat out HDR standards on most output devices.
This picture shows the difference between vivid mode and expert mode (included as a preset) as seen from a dark room. The expert mode provides an exponentially better image as far as a reference image goes and should be appealing to those that prefer a cinematic image. The expert mode is what I would personally prefer to use if I was using this in a dark room and it's worth adding that it will still be objectively more vivid than any standard DLP projector. Time for some brightness tests. I took out my handy lux meter and started doing some measurements.
Remember I said that LG is one of the first companies we have seen that is conservative with their numbers? Well, while the company claims 2700 lumens, we measured a whooping 2800 lumens of ANSI lumens at vivid mode and a plain white test pattern. This is absolutely insane and higher than the BenQ TK800 which is one of the brightest projectors we have tested in a long while. Shifting to the calibrated image brings down the lumens to a more manageable 2400 lumens but the increase in color space is almost 2x.
Speaking of color space, while other projectors can compete in white lumens, color lumens is one area where the LG HU85LA 4K UST projector absolutely blows away the competition. Featuring almost two times the color lumens of the HT 2550, LG's little white giant consistently showcased incredibly deep color levels across all spectrums.
Finally, let's talk about screen lumens. This is one of our favorite metrics because it shows you how bright the screen will actually be. To simulate a UST-ALR screen, all measurements were taken at a 45-degree angle to the surface. The LG HU85LA clocked in at a massive 1014 lumens brightness in a darkroom in vivid mode and 800 lumens in calibrated mode. The recordings on a non-UST-ALR screen like mine were 800 and 500 respectively. These are absolutely insane numbers when you compare them to DLP long throw projectors which usually clock in anywhere between 250 to 350 lumens of screen brightness at 15 feet. These tests make it clear that the LG HU85LA has more than enough firepower to run a daylight setup.
LG HU85LA 4K UST: Ambient/daylight performance
Since we are talking about daylight performance, I wanted to include some reference pictures of what you can expect while running the LG HU85LA in a moderately lit room. One of the biggest cons of projectors is that you cannot use them in rooms with ambient light since all projectors draw their black levels from the difference between the brightest spot and the darkest. With DLP projectors, this difference is not high enough to fool the eye.
This is not a problem that the LG HU85LA suffers from of course, so here are the results with ambient light of 40 lumens (a lightly lit room). I debated what was the best way to showcase the screen brightness in a picture and decided the best way to show some of the room as well. You can look at the level of brightness in the image above (the one with the lux meter) and then compare it to the images below).
In what is one of the most impressive feats of color brightness, the LG HU85LA is frankly the brightness daylight projector I have ever tested (or even had demoed for me). With a UST ALR screen, this is going to easily go toe to toe with the baddest OLEDs out there that can scale to 100+ inches in size. In fact, considering these measurements were taken at 110 inches and light fall-off is an inverse squared equation, a 100-inch image would be even brighter if you want that extra oomph.
LG HU85LA 4K UST: Breaking down the price tag and conclusion
Before I head on to the conclusion. Let me go over some power consumption numbers as well. Once again, we measured specifications that were well above LG's conservative estimates. While the company claims a maximum power draw of 350W, we couldn't top 208W with everything being pushed to its limits. While an electricity bill isn't going to be an issue for most, this does indicate an important factor: this thing is not going to act as a miniature heater. Owners of expensive DLP projectors will know that lamp cooling system is not only noisy but raises the temperature in a room as well. This projector will have no such issues and will keep cool and quiet - just like a TV.
Okay, so let's talk cost. While you can find other (cheaper) alternatives in the UST 4K space from other manufacturers that are likely at least a couple grand cheaper, you have to keep in mind that when talking about daylight projection, color lumens are king and with LG's dual laser system, the added cost is more than justified in the tech this will ship with.
Hi Sense 4K 120-inch and 100-inch TVs cost $11000 and $8000 respectively. This projector is comparatively, a measly $6000 and can do 120 inch as well. Coupling it with a UST-ALR screen (which usually start at $800 for 100-inch) would cost you a total of $7000. So an LG HU85LA 4K + 100-inch UST-ALR screen setup would offer significantly better image quality than a TV and would save you a grand. The value proposition improves further with a 120-inch screen (usually around $1800) bringing the total damage to $8000 and the cost differential to a whopping 3 grand. If you are in the market for a TV that is bigger than 90 inches, then you should definitely consider the aforementioned setup. So while this product is not for everyone, if you are its target audience, it is well worth your money.
This projector also wins our Editor's Choice award for best UST projector under $7000.
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