LG AF115 - Review Summary
A summary of the LG AF115 projector's pros and cons and capabilities.
8/9/2010 - Art Feierman
LG AF115 Projector - The Bottom Line
First of all, sorry LG AF115, no award. There is no way to decide the value proposition without having a decent idea about pricing. I'll say that if the price is under $2000 (where I think it belongs), it would at least be seriously considered. There are several things going for the AF115. First, it's still brighter than average in "best mode" among 1080p home projectors, and it combines those lumens with impressive color.
Don't forget, the projector has much better than average placement flexibility as well.
Black level performance is the primary weakness, so if you are a sports fan, and don't worry to much about critical movie watching, this baby just might be for you.
As I have said, placing the AF115 in a room you can't completely darken, or one with lots of near white wall and ceiling to reflect light, is doable. In such rooms blacks get compromised to some degree regardless.
Above, from the new Star Trek movie - Blu-ray disc
Finally, there's not much "low cost" LCoS competition, basically just the Sony VPL-HW15, and the Cinetron HD700, the rest of the LCoS projectors are over $4000. When, the Cinetron was an OK projector, nothing to write home about except lots of lumens, and the LG is brighter still. The Sony, well, it's got some really nice things going for it, but, like the Epson, has no chance of filling my large screen for best movie watching.
And there you have it. I'd probably have to take a close look between the LG and the BenQ, but, it really has to come down to one of those two, in the lower price ranges.
I define a Hot Product Award winner as basically being a projector with overall very good performance, but also one that is likely the best choice for at least one significant segment of the buying public. Well, large screen folks are definitely a very significant segment! As I said, wasn't hard to decide.
Above, from The Dark Knight, Blu-ray. This AF115 image is a good example of a night time image with enough bright lights that the difference in black levels between the LG, and some projectors with better blacks, isn't going to be very noticeable, if at all.
Of course the LG has more going for it than 900 "best mode" lumens. It also is one of the brightest in "brightest mode". In fact it is about the same brightness as the Epson UB, and really only comes up short when compared to the BenQ, but, the BenQ when it's at its brightest - around 1700 lumens, has fairly weak color - way too green. The LG though, just short of 1400 lumens, has color far better. Drop the BenQ down to its next best mode, and the LG is brighter, and has color at least as good!
Bottom line brightness, the LG is the second brightest "best mode" projector we've tested in the price range, and also the 2nd brightest in "brightest mode", with only the BenQ beating it at all. The LG, like the BenQ is perfectly at home with larger screens or situations with too much ambient light for almost all other competition.
LG AF115 Color Performance:
On paper, post calibration, the LG looks very good. That is to say, it calibrates nicely, but there are a number of other projectors that calibrate over the range, closer to the ideal 6500K.
No matter, the overall picture of the LG - in terms of general color, and especially skin tones, creates an image that is very pleasing to watch. It's one of those, at least as far as this one is set up, that generally looks very right. Not as "right" as my all time favorite reviewed projector (for color accuracy), the InFocus IN83. That said, score the LG AF115 as offering superior skin tones, and overall better than average color. And, I might note, if you don't need lots of lumens, and are comparing the LG to the Epson 8500UB, I'd have to give the LG the edge in overall color performance.
The image above, is a very good image for viewing black level performance. There are sufficient bright areas, that most projectors with dynamic irises won't close them down too far. As a result, it's a good indicator of how the LG performs on "mixed scenes - mostly dark but with moderate amounts of brighter areas. Within the limits of its black level performance, it still looks really good in scenes like this one.
The LG is typically sharp for 3 chip projector. Optics seem particularly good, convergence on this projector is better than I would expect from pre-production. That said, it's using the same lens, etc. as the existing CF181D, so it should be pretty good. You can get a sharper image with a sharp DLP projector, but not by a dramatic amount. My take, as I've expressed many times, is that the difference between a good "average" sharpness 1080p projector and one of the "sharper still" DLPs is barely noticeable when watching film-based movies, but you can appreciate the difference on high quality digital content like HDTV sports,or the type of gorgeous content you see on channels like Discovery HD. Smithsonian HD, etc. Bottom line - I'll steal more from the CF181D review: "It could be sharper, but, pretty sharp, nonetheless, and shouldn't be a deal breaker except for the most fanatical sharpness freaks." Myself, I've moved from single chip DLP to "other" and have survived the change.
Black Level Performance and Shadow Detail:
Let's keep it simple: Black level performance definitely could be better. Most likely there will be several projectors at whatever price point this LG ends up at, that will have much better blacks. Assuming it prices under $2000, most of the projectors priced over $1000 will have better blacks.
On the other hand, not a thing wrong with the LG's shadow detail. I only had to move brightness 1 notch (default is 50), to optimize. Plenty of dark shadow detail.
Yes, above, the LG is filling my entire 128" Firehawk G3 screen, and with some windows open behind the screen, and on the side walll! And it's looking good!
The very bottom line:
The LG AF115 ideally will come in, under $2000 (and hopefully, by more than a few dollars), at least if it ends up with online sales. It's going to need a sub-$2000 price point to "play" with the competition. The strong "best mode" brightness, and natural and comfortable look and feel of the AF115 projector are its key strengths, but it has some stiff competition, from the bright little Mitsubishi HC3800 DLP projector down around $1200, or the $2000+ BenQ W6000. Both can easily match the "best mode" lumens of this LG, and both can put a lot more lumens on the screen if needed, by using brighter modes. The LG can't stay with them.
On the other hand, the LG has just about all the 3LCD competition beat in "best mode", with only the Mitsubishi HC6800 of those, coming close to the LG. The Epsons and that Mitsubishi HC6800 definitely can put more "brightest mode" lumens on the screen, whereas the LG is just average, right around 1000 lumens.
I like this projector for the family room type environment. If you are big on sports and general TV viewing where you don't want the room fully darkened, it may work for you, or you might opt for a brighter projector. If you mostly want to watch movies though, those "best mode" lumens are just about right.
Overall, you'll typically want to pair this LG projector with screens from 92" to 110" for versatile viewing on typical screens. If you are really only interested in watching everything in a fully darkened environment, then you can go a size or two larger. This LG, as noted, with new lamp, has no trouble at all, filling my 128" high contrast gray screen.
While this isn't a high performance projector it does sport features like creative frame interpolation, which are typically found only on over $2000 projectors (at this time).
The real reservation I have about the AF115, is that it's not as good as the CF181D. Which is as it should be. The point is, enthusiasts will want the more expensive LG. The two are virtually identical in operation, but the CF is brighter and has better blacks.
So, as I said, LG's going to need to price this one just right. Remember it's got goodies like power zoom and focus, CFI and a dynamic iris. Everything the CF181D has, just at lower performance. Most of the under $2000 projectors (Panasonic PT-AE4000 notwithstanding), shall we say, aren't so nicely equipped!
LG AF115 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Image below: From The Fifth Element
LG AF115 Projector: Pros
- An impressive almost 700 lumens in "best" mode, makes handling larger screens practical, and dynamic
- Excellent color, post calibration, especially skin tones which really do look a touch better than some very good projectors
- Reasonably "good enough" black levels, though not great
- Better than average placement flexibility with 1.8:1 zoom and lens shift
- Dynamic iris, though not producing the blackest blacks, does offer pretty smooth operation
- Iris can be put in manual mode, if projector too bright, but iris can not perform dynamically, so black levels not as good.
- Offers creative frame interpolation (some limits)
- Takes 24fps film to 48fps (2:2 pull-down)
- Excellent remote control
- Overall, a solid picture, plus all those lumens make for the AF115's superior price performance
LG AF115 Projector: Cons
- CFI a bit jerky at times with 24fps film content. Not recommended for movie viewing
- Black level performance is "average" for a normal projector, and a ways from matching any of the ultra high contrast projectors
- Documentation - pretty basic, though generally helpful, but lacks good descriptions of many features. For example, Real Cinema On, 24fps 1080 becomes 48fps. Set it Off and it uses 3:2 pull-down. It's not explained in the manual.
- No anamorphic lens support
- Menus, otherwise logical, pack too many items per menu, requiring scrolling, and making it harder to find features
- Changing out the lamp requires unmounting from a ceiling mount (rather rare these days)
- Overscan not operational with 1080 source material, and no edge masking either (that's something that needs to be corrected)
- Could be a quieter (23 db claimed in eco-mode, probably about 28 db at full power
- Despite 1920x1080 native resolution, does not support data resolutions of 1600x1200 UXGA, or 1920x1200 WUXGA. (not tested with the AF, but true for the CF)
LG AF115 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Documentation - overall
- Average "brightest mode" brightness - with just under 1000 measured lumens
- Just average lamp life - 2000 hours in High lamp power mode, 3000 in low (eco) power
- Styling: Black, boxy, some minor nice touches - not bad, not impressive, surprisingly tall
- Overall size and weight - a medium large projector typical in size for an LCoS projector
- Shadow detail performance
- Cost of operation
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