Posted on August 28, 2014 Art Feierman
The first thing to note about the LG PF85U is that it is the first small LED light source projector we’ve reviewed that is true 1080p resolution – 1920×1080. Until now, most of these projectors have been WXGA (1280×800) or 720p (1280×720).
For a compact LED projector, the price tag that comes with the LG is relatively steep. Street prices seem to be in the $1149 – $1199 range at the time of this publication. That’s reasonable considering that this is a 1080p projector, just note that there are a significant number lamp based 1080p projectors, also targeting the home entertainment market, that do sell for less.
1080p is a real plus on the business side of things, if you need maximum resolution. For many business applications WXGA is normally fine, but the trending is to move up a resolution. The LG becomes a leader in that sense.
The PF85U is also one of the first small LED projectors to claim 1000 lumens. Just a couple/three years ago, the brightest ones were claiming 200-600 lumens.
On the home side of things, consider the PF85U to be a breakthrough product, for a couple of reasons, but first it’s the resolution, because let’s face it, 720p may be acceptable, but projected images are large, and people appreciate the higher resolution. 720p is “entry level” and with a number 1080p projectors now below $1000, 720p will mostly be found on projectors below $600. LED projectors tend to cost more, though, so there are plenty of those between $600 and $1000, and that makes the LG PF85U very competitive.
Physically, the LG has a footprint larger than a traditional sheet of paper, so it’s hardly a “pocket” projector. Compared to traditional projectors though, it’s very thin (height). And it’s pretty light at 4.8 lbs, but all considered, it is neither dramatically smaller or lighter than some traditional lamp based projectors.
The projector comes with a thick printed manual, and the manual also on CD (my new laptop doesn’t have a CD drive, does yours?) I had great hopes for the manual, and it was thorough on some things, but still left a lot to be desired, especially relating to a number of menu functions. Still, a better manual than most low cost LED projectors.
The PF85U is exceptionally “smart.” It has a very interesting Smart remote control, in addition to a traditional remote. The Smart control, also allows control of sources when compatible. It took me all of about a minute to configure the Smart remote to control a Panasonic Blu-ray player I was using for my initial look and photography. By the time this review is finished, I’m pretty sure I’ll have configured it to control my DirecTV box as well.
The ability to control many sources can be a real plus in business/education, and certainly a nice touch, at home.
The LG supports multiple image modes, but with the exception of the brightest mode, they all have some pretty respectable color. I’d definitely say better than many low cost lamp based projectors. In fairness though, a similar 1080p lamp based projector will be two to three times as bright.
This projector review is included in our 2015-2016 Best Classroom Projectors Report, which is sponsored by Epson America.
The PF85U also has a slot for an SD card, and one of its HDMI inputs supports MHL, for plugging in other smart solutions. More on that in the features section.
Built in sound won’t replace your surround sound system, but had respectable volume and sounded pretty good, all considered. In a business or education setting, it has sufficient volume to cover a conference room or a small classroom. No serious bass of course.
A quick additional note on brightness. First, as has been pretty typical in our reviews of the last five or six small LED projectors, the LG didn’t get very close to its claimed brightness. The other thing to note, is I performed all measurements after the projector was on for at least 20 minutes. This is worth noting because LED light sources are the opposite of lamp types, in that they power up instantly, but the twist is that they are brightest when first fired up, and get a little dimmer over the first 5-10 minutes. This is something we’ve found to be pretty consistent since reviewing the first Casio Slim-line LED/Laser projectors almost five years ago.
We’ll also discuss audible noise in more detail than usual. The LG offers a “Peak” mode, for maximum brightness, but the LG definitely “screams” in that mode.
Time to get started looking at the LG’s many special features.
Not sure if you realized or not, but that “black-level” (high/low) setting, doesn’t just affect black-level. It is a manual switch between video(16-235) and PC/full(0-255) levels that also affects highlights and even colors.
Speaking of colors; the CMS system on the pf85 (as well as many other LG displays) cannot be used to fully correct color errors. Instead of changing color-points where the point is adjusted and adjacent colors are also affected in a tapered-off fashion, all but the tint control basically adjusts the point and nothing else which nearly immediately results in noticeable banding and posterizing. The tint control is less guilty, but not completely innocent. Most of the CMS controls can only effectively be used within 15%-30% of their ranges.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what LG is doing and I am a big fan of this projector (except its silly and pointless neglecting of DLPlink 3D..why?). I just think LG needs to get a handle on a couple of their software bits. Especially considering the same problems also affect their high-end displays from what I’ve heard. And people (tinkerers mostly) need to know that they WON’T necessarily be able to get a fully accurate calibration that looks simultaneously good on paper and good on the screen.
On the other hand, I love how LG leaves the color control accessible even during hdmi use. More projectors need to leave that option available.
The auto-keystone should be on/off-able in the menu farther down where you’ll also find high-alt mode.
Much appreciated. I’m meeting with LG on Thursday, I’ll share most of that with them. Kudos for LG to deliver a home targeted 1080p LED projector (I want to say pocket projector), but I’ve yet to be impressed enough to calibrate one of them, so your attempts have provided me with info I simply didn’t have. I’ll add a few notes to the review when I find the time, but slammed now, trying to finish a review and get ready for CEDIA.
I concur – re 3D… couldn’t figure that out myself…
I suspected that the black levels hi low was the usual whiter than white (16-235), thing, but that’s something Mike would have identified if I had asked him to calibrate it. Re the banding, etc. I’m almost glad I didn’t calibrate it.
The other disappointment though was the absolutely dismal lag times. At worse over 150ms, but I was shocked I couldn’t figure out how to get them under 50 no matter what I turned off. But I probably didn’t try the other black level setting? who knows… -art
I have an lg pa77u about 3 yrs old…lovely images but now way too dim. I put it aside till recently. Is still barely acceptable for movies under very dark conditions …not for black on white text-i hate the level of restriction. I paid quite a bit beyond the $650 to import it. So i opened it up and cleaned all the contacts and dust but left the 3 led light box alone. is there a hack to raise the output a bit ? if not this forum can anyone recommend another that can inform me on that? is any of that dimming due to a dirty mirror or just the led outputs? Thanks
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