LG CF181D Projector Review

How does the LG CF181D compare to other 1080p home theater projectors on the market? In this section we consider the practical and performance differences, between the LG CF181D projector and some of the toughest competition.

Well, as many readers know this Competitors section is often the last section completed, for any number of reasons. With the 1080p report only about 5 weeks off, now I decided to get this page up with the first posting. Since there will be tons of competitive discussion in the Report, I’ve cut this page, to comparing the LG to only five key competitors: The Epson Home Cinema 8500UB, the BenQ W6000, the Panasonic PT-AE4000, the Sony VPL-HW15, and the JVC DLA-RS15. I would have also considered the InFocus X10, but my understanding is they are no longer available, so, it’s a moot point. Meantime, if you want to figure out how the LG compares to projectors not mentioned here, read in between the lines. After all, there’s likely to be a comparison between one or two of these other five projectors and the one you are considering. Let’s have some fun:

CF181D vs. Epson Home Cinema 8500UB

Ok, let’s start with the 8500UB. It replaces last year’s Best In Class award winner in the mid-price range, the 6500UB. The 8500UB offers the best black level performance of any under $3500 projector (street price) that we’ve reviewed. No contest in this regard. While the LG CF181D also relies on a dynamic iris for best black level performance, it’s not quite in the same class. There’s a very visible difference between the two. The Epson, in this regard, is outstanding, the LG, “respectable”.

But, black level performance isn’t the whole ballgame. When it comes to general color, both do a really good job, but, With two tries of calibrating the 8500UB, and despite that on paper, it’s color is slightly better than the LG, I give the LG a real, though slight, advantage in terms of skin tones and overall color. Mind you, the difference between the two, both right after calibration, is likely less than the amount of color shift that occurs as you put your first 1000 hours on either projector’s lamp. In other words, score a point for the LG, in terms of color handling, but, it’s small.

Next comes brightness. In “brightest” modes, the two projectors are effectively identical in terms of brightness.

There’s a huge difference though, when comparing “best” modes with the LG being almost twice as bright. That’s a huge advantage for the CF181D, for folks with larger screens. Case in point. Despite the fact that I haul the Epson in to my main theater for my annual Superbowl party (or other sports viewing), and use its brighter modes, with my 128″ Firehawk there’s no way the Epson’s 500 lumens in “best” mode produces enough brightness to fill my screen.

Or, to put it another way: If I had to lose my JVC, and replace it with an under $3500 projector, because of my room and screen size, I could not choose the Epson. On the other hand, the LG would likely be at the top of my short list, easily handling my room and screen.

For those with smaller screens (say 110″ diagonal or less), the Epson does have enough lumens (though it still can’t match the brightness of the LG). In that case, the battle becomes very interesting. Epson for blacks, and more features, the LG with weaker blacks, a touch better color, and more lumens… Very interesting trade-off.

The LG is pretty flexible, but the Epson wins, easily. With a 100″ screen, the LG can only be placed as far back as 17 feet 10 inches, compared to the Epson’s 21 feet. For those wanting to rear shelf mount, just about everyone should be able to do that with the Epson, and probably one third of those that can use the Epson will find their rooms are too deep to rear shelf mount the LG. (Of course, if you want to rear shelf mount, and both work, then its not an issue.)

Sharpness between the two – essentially the same. Which one is the slightest sharper, will likely be determined by how precise the pixel alignment is on each particular projector. Call it a tie.

Warranty – Epson tops the LG. Both have 2 years, but Epson has two years of overnight replacement program as well.

Bottom line: If I were buying a projector for my main theater, in this price range, I’d have to pick the LG for the brighter “best” mode. While the Epson can have very good color in a calibrated, bright, LivingRoom mode, in that mode, the color is not a match for the LG.

If I was buying a projector – same price range, for my testing room “theater 2″, with its 106″ diagonal Carada Brilliant White screen, then for me, a no brainer. I go with the Epson, for the blacks, features, warranty, etc.

I am impressed with the LG. It’s been a couple/three years, since there was a projector in this class/price range that I would choose for either of my rooms, that isn’t an Epson UB. So, I guess the LG being the selection for my main theater, definitely indicates there’s a new major projector (the LG) worth considering!

LG CF181D vs. BenQ W6000

In this comparison, the issues are different from the comparison with the Epson above.

First of all, the BenQ is even brighter than the LG CF181D. It’s brighter in “best” mode, and in “brightest”, although the W6000′s “brightest” mode isn’t very pretty (way strong on greens). That said, the W6000 offers up another “bright” mode, with similar brightness to the LG’s brightest mode, but, like the LG, having much better color than the W6000s brightest (which is over 300 lumens brighter than the LG).

I’ll give the LG the slight advantage in color accuracy, while I’ll give the W6000 the advantage in terms of “pop and wow” – that is the BenQ has a more dynamic look.

Still I’d say the LG offers the more refined image. For those that like that classic “look and feel” of DLP, they will tend to favor the W6000 over the LG, but, I suspect that more people will favor the LG, for its slighty more accurate color.

When it comes to the “holy grail” of home theater – black level performance, neither projector is exceptional. Yet both are pretty good!

I truly wish I still had a W6000 for a side by side, but, after going through notes, and mostly looking at some of my side by side images for black levels, between the Epson and LG, and then comparing the same images between the Epson and the W6000, it would seem that the W6000 has a slight advantage, but the operative term is “slight” LG and BenQ are much closer to each other, in tems of black level performance, than either is, to the Home Cinema Epson 8500UB.

My best interpretation would be that the W6000′s dynamic iris has more range, so, on the right, very dark scenes, will best the LG. On the average darker scene, though, with some bright areas, the two are probably about as close to being the same as any two projectors with dynamic irises that have different behavior. In terms of black levels, close to a tie, but I give the advantage to the BenQ.

When it comes to sharpness, a clear win for the BenQ W6000. Because of the lack of convergence issues with a single chip DLP, it’s a rare DLP projector that isn’t visibly (though not greatly) sharper than the usual LCD and LCoS projectors.

Warranty wise, the LG wins. their standard 2 year parts and labor warranty is exactly twice as long as the BenQ’s single year.

Placement flexibility: While technically, the LG has the advantage, I have to score these two as a virtual tie. Consider:

The LG has a 1.8:1 zoom compared to 1.5:1 for the W6000, so more distance flexibility. But, people who ceiling mount usually have a lot of options. The BenQ won’t let you mount closer than just under 12 feet, compared to the LG’s just under 10 feet, but, does anyone care? (maybe!). More importantly, is considering flexibility for those who want to shelf mount. Definitely a tie, as the BenQ can be placed 17 feet 8 inches back at maximum (100″ diagonal screen), and the LG, can only best that by 2 inches 17 feet 10 inches.

The BenQ has the advantage of also having horizontal lens shift, which might be of benefit to some. On the other hand, the LG CF181D has more vertical lens shift. For that same 100 inch screen the LG could be as high as 10 inches above the screen, whereas the BenQ goes no higher than even with the top of the screen (surface).

For those ceiling mounting with a tall ceiling, the BenQ has to stick down lower by about that extra foot, which I assume is a little less attractive to some. On the other hand, the LG is the bigger, more noticeable projector.

When it comes to frame interpolation both up the 24fps rate of movies, but only the LG offers creative frame interpolation (CFI).

Those enamored with the look and feel of DLP will almost certainly favor the W6000. For the rest of us, it’s a lot of trade-offs. As of right now, I’m leaning toward the LG projector as the slightly preferred of the two, but I may yet, change my mind. In fact, I’m probably favoring the LG right now, because I’ve just spent 70 hours watching it. Normally you would expect me to favor the BenQ for the slight black advantage, and for the sharper image. I suspect that in the upcoming 1080p Report, the LG and W6000 are going to be slugging it out for the same award. We shall see who wins.

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