Projector Reviews

LG HU80KA 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Picture Quality

LG HU80KA 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Picture Quality: Out of the Box Picture, Skin Tones, Black Level Performance, Dark Shadow Detail

Out-of-the-Box Picture Quality

Like many projectors, the LG HU80KA has a whole lot of preset picture modes, with names like Vivid, Standard, Cinema, Sports, HDR Effect, Technicolor, Expert…

In the image player above, in addition to a few “right out of the box photos” there is a set of all the major modes, using the same Victoria Secret model shot.  Two of the modes (noted) are calibrated, the others are not.

Vivid and Sports appear to be the brightest, although 5 of the modes, including those two, are all within a few percent of each other.  Most modes start out cool – more blue than red.  In all cases, the projector’s default color temp, is set to Warm.  Warm delivers the best color, and Eric our calibrator did not bother to try to calibrate using any of the other preset color temps

I’ll discuss further on the Performance page, but the Warm color temp is just over half as bright as Natural mode, which is the brightest, and gets the HU80KA close to its claimed 2500 lumens.  But there’s always a yellowish caste to the picture if using Natural, so generally, except in “break glass in an emergency (of too much ambient light), stick to the Warm Color temp.

With warm color temp selected the is pretty darn good light out of the box, if always a bit cool (could use a bit more red).  But most won’t notice in the better modes.

Vivid has the most pop.  It is over the top, in saturation and dynamic look, because that’s your go to mode if facing a lot of ambient light.  If facing way too much ambient light that’s when you also adjust the color temp to Natural.

Standard mode, unadjusted is even cooler. We are using it, post adjustment, though for our 4K HDR calibration.  Cinema is going to be your most accurate “right out of the box” mode, for movie viewing.  I do like Vivid and Sports though for my sports viewing, because I allow far more light into my theater.

Eric had setup three “calibrated modes” (see our calibration pages) that noticeably improve the picture. Standard, as mentioned, set up for 4K with HDR, and also used for our “brightest” mode (with good color).  Expert Dark Room was calibrated to provide our best overall viewing of 1080 content (really anything without HDR).

Skin Tones

Overall, skin tone handling on our two calibrated modes – varies from just respectable to very good.  Many (the brighter ones mostly) modes are, overall, after calibration, a bit on the cool side, not quite enough red, in skin tones, so they tend to look a touch pale.  Mind you just upping the saturation isn’t a cure for that, because other colors will end up over saturated.  The Expert Dark Room mode, one of the ones Eric calibrated

That said, there’s not issue with too much green in our adjusted modes, even our “brightest” setup. That’s a good thing.  Of course, if you need max brightness more than good color, you can take Vivid mode, switch color temp in that mode to Natural, and have a light cannon, but skin tones will not be right, they will typically seem almost golden/brown – aka: way off.  That’s ok, every projector has one of those “break glass in case of emergency” modes, that are way too green, or gold, or yellow green. Use that option (Natural) sparingly.

For the rest, this projector has no problem putting out 800 or so good looking lumens when it comes to best skin tones, Expert (Dark Room)  Standard, even post calibration, and the mode we are using for our brightest (and also 4K HDR), with the color temp staying on our recommended Warm setting, definitely comes across a bit brighter (over 1000 lumens), with more pop, to deal with ambient light.

While perfectionists want the color balance to be right on the money, my friends coming through this theater, who really aren’t into the whole “home theater” thing, are just fine with these skin tones.

Bottom line on skin tones, could be improved with a slightly warmer color balance, but respectable, that is, very watchable, if not highly accurate.

Black Level Performance

All considered, the LG HU80KA may be a very unique projector in terms of ergonomic design and features, but despite it also having a laser light engine, it is behaving like mostl of the 4K UHD DLP projectors when it comes to black levels.  Even among the lamp based 4K UHD projectors several best this LG.  There are $700 1080p projectors that can match it too.

Of course, this is a big deal, in a good, really dark room. If you watch content with even very modest lighting on, the seeming difference is far less.

A few assorted black level type images, and then our traditional grey-scaled/overexposed – Daniel Craig Casino Royale night train scene, where (give or take exposure differences) see how the black levels compare to a lot of competitors.  If you want to know how you would want these images to look on a projector with great black levels, look at the JVC RS440, or even the $2499 Epson 5040UB.  As you will notice most of the DLPs do about the same (again, but for the slightly differing exposures), but that Acer VL7860 which I put next to the LG because it is also a laser projector (although $1000 more).  It looks far more like the Epson and JVC than the LG or, say, any of the BenQs or Optomas.

The LG is certainly no match for any of what I call “ultra high contrast” projectors, which includes Epson’s 5040UB/6040UB, as well as all of JVC’s LCoS projectors and Sony’s higher end models. There’s also one definite exception among the 4K UHD DLPs, that’s a direct competitor for this LG – Acer’s VL7860 which is also a laser projector, a bit brighter, and sporting a $1000 higher list price. But, for those really serious about home theater and black levels, it’s the only player I’ve encountered (at least in the under $15K range) that successfully is doubling its laser engine as a good dynamic iris. As such, that Acer can do what this LG cannot, and that is, deliver some impressive black levels.

Folks that’s a key reason why, despite the laser engine, this is still more home entertainment, than home theater.  If you have a proper cave/home theater, and can full darken it, then you can appreciate really dark scenes.  They pop!. But with ambient light present, you are going to lose much of the advantage of projectors with better black levels.  So, again, this is a better performer, relatively, in the living room, or den, or ??? than in a theater with dark walls and other surfaces.  That dedicated room cries out for projectors with great black levels, your living room doesn’t.

The Bottom Line on Black Levels for the HU80KA

Just better than entry level (whether 1080p or 4K projectors). If you are creating a fully darkenable home theater, this projector will not perform in your room as well as several alternatives around the price, but if you are looking for that fun, living room, bedroom, outdoor party projector, this LG is just fine for that.

Dark Shadow Detail - and Near Whites

Not bad. There’s just a little bit of crushing of the deepest greys just above black. Check out these images, but also go back to the night train images above.  There look at the tracks and shrubs right behind them in the lower right.  You can see that the LG is losing just a little compared to some of the others.  A finer adjustment of the Brightness control (which affects black levels – go figure), might reveal more. But, the LG does OK in this area.

We normally don’t comment on crushed near whites, but Eric has pointed out to me, having now calibrated about a dozen 4K UHD DLPs, that almost every one of them do crush a bit of near white.  (For Movies/HDTV, etc. we set white at 235 value.  If the projector an only distinguish up to 230, that means that 231-234 – all just a little more grey than white, end up white.

This is slight, and typical of the DLPs. Where will you see it?  Well, perhaps a bit less detail in clouds, or losing the near detail in white shirts and jerseys. That makes this LG typical.  As this is more home entertainment, and the losses are minimal, no problem!