LG CF181D Projector Review

LG CF181D Projector - The Bottom Line

I am impressed. And pleased to grant LG’s new CF181D home theater projector our hot product award. There are a number of contributing factors, but, what it really comes down to is this: The LG CF181D is one of the brightest 1080p home theater projectors, and it combines all those lumens with some rather great looking color. Add to that, some pretty good placement flexibility, and, it starts looking like the decision was a slam dunk. Truth is, not quite. The LG projector would have been even more impressive with better blacks, but, the LG’s blacks are borderline, but not quite, ultra-high contrast level performance.

There are 3 or 4 other projectors in the general price class that can beat the LG in terms of black level performance, but, I’ve deemed the black levels to be good enough. While folks really into performance will always prefer better blacks still, I found the LG to do a sufficient job that “I could get by with these blacks.” I’m not that easy to please. Nonetheless, when I kicked back and said “Art – what projector would I put in my main theater, with its 128″ Firehawk screen, if I was limited to under $3500, and had to surrender my JVC?” It all became rather clear:

The LG, for my room, would be the best compromise projector. The Epson, Panasonic and other LCD projectors are all too thin in “best mode” lumens to survive my room for movie watching (without switching to a brighter, inferior mode).

Then I looked over to DLP – With InFocus out of the picture in this price range, that primarily leaves BenQ and Optoma, and of course the much less expensive entry level Mitsubishi HC3800. The DLP’s might all be a touch brighter, but only the BenQ is brighter, with only the BenQ having comparable black performance, and having more lumens. (The BenQ, would not work in my particular room, unless I went back to ceiling mount,which means the projector would hang down on an 8 foot pole, instead of a nice, neat shelf mount).

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.

CF181D Brightness

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!

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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 CF181D 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.

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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 CF181D 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 LG offers perhaps a more natural look than the BenQ W6000, but the two projectors should look fairly different. I think from a color standpoint, the choice is likely to be very personal. I’m not sure which I favor, would need to get another look at the BenQ, for a side-by-side.

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