Projector Reviews

LG HU85LA AI CineBeam Projector – Picture Quality 2

LG HU85LA AI CineBeam Projector – Picture Quality 2:  HU85LA 4K Picture with HDR, 1080p Resolution: Movies, Sports and HDTV, Black Level Performance, and Shadow Detail, Overall Picture Quality

HU85LA 4K Picture with HDR

All 4K HDR viewing has been done using Cinema (HDR) mode, since the projector has been calibrated. (The on and off angle Black Panther photos were pre-calibration, and Standard mode, to cut through the ambient light in my testing room), everything else was shot in the temporary digs (using a Screen Innovations Black Diamond UST 100” diag. ALR screen.

I’ll start with the color, then get to the more critical HDR handling and overall picture.

I like the LG’s HDR performance. The projector’s got enough muscle to really pop, if you will fully darken your room. It is very HDR like, a touch dark in the mid-brightness ranges so the really bright areas jump out. (aka HDR). The HU85LA in that regard is very much NOT like the last projector I reviewed – the BenQ HT3550. The BenQ was bright in the those mid areas creating an HDR picture that looked more SDR. (That was really my biggest complaint.)

The colors themselves seem not just saturated, but a little “rich”. Not over the top at all, with our calibration settings in place.

In 4K HDR, the LG projector will attempt P3 color (a larger color space than the REC709 that’s long been the consumer standard – P3 is movie theater), but doesn’t get there (except Red), comes up a good bit short on the other primary and secondary colors. I’m seeing slight differences compared to other projectors such as the Epson 5050UB I’m using as a reference right now, or any of the 4I Sonys, or for that matter, the JVC Phil just finished reviewing. They are all better at getting really close to P3.

Just remember, that the bottom line is good color. Achieving full P3 vs getting say 50% of the way there from the lower is a good thing but the differences are relatively minor compared to say SDR and HDR, to the overall picture you are watching!

The experience is different too, for an ultra short throw projector. Most of us will use ALR screens to deal with ambient light – screens specifically designed for UST projectors. The Screen Innovations Black Diamond I am using with it, combines for a different feel or texture to the picture. (Nothing huge, but the picture just “feels” a touch different than my matte white primary screen – Interesting.

Bottom Line: The HDR itself really seems just about right, relative to other HDR capable projectors. Perhaps a touch less bright on the mid-bright areas than some, but it looks good. And there is some ability to control using the Dynamic Contrast control. Having 2000 calibrated lumens for maintaining the High in HDR, really helps!

Handling 1080p Resolution Content: Movies, Sports and HDTV

The HU85LA has everything you need to enjoy normal non HDR content, from sources including cable/satellite/broadcast, streaming, or disc. We’ve discussed ambient light a lot already.

No one expects you to watch football, or golf, or basketball or the olymics in a really dark room. Those are experiences you are likely to share with others, and blacked out rooms with just the game on aren’t conducive to communication.

So, it’s great that the HU85LA has plenty of lumens to tackle a room with enough ambient light to create a good social environment.

Regarding General HDTV

Now, as mentioned, no “live” cable/satellite for my reviews until October when we move. For my sports photos I broke out a standard Blu-ray disc chronicling the games of the 2018 Superbowl champs (Patriots). One thing to note therefore. Normally I work with DirecTV, where sports are 1080i. This disc is 1080p. That will create a slightly sharper image, so don’t make judgements about the LG’s sharpness from the closeup image (which looks great, btw). I did watch streaming content from Netflix that is more TV programming than movies, IThat included watching a couple of concerts (Glastonbury, etc.) which I think of as very HDTV type content).

There’s no way for me to control room lighting where I am in the daytime from the glass windows, doors, and skylight. Late afternoon is worse than the rest of the day, but these images were all shot either early afternoon or late. (You can spot the differences – there’s some noticeable “washout” on the left side of the screen late in the day. (It would be very subtle on the others).

HU85LA Sports Viewing

Most of the day the picture looked great. I did most of my watching early in the day, using Eric’s calibrated Expert – Dark) mode or uncalibrated Cinema Home (a good choice), or when the ambient light got worse, Standard mode. Finally, at the worst part of the day (no coveriings on my windows), I did have to switch to Vivid.) Night time viewing some lights on – either Expert (Dark) or if I really want more pop, the Cinema Home.

At no point, despite a lot of ambient light late on, was my football or golf viewing overwhelmed by the ambient light. All daytime viewing has been done with lamp on full power (minimum energy savings).

Colors were appropriately rich, the calibrated Expert mode should please everyone for sports, unless you just want more pop, which the other modes can deliver!

HU85LA 1080p Movie Viewing 

I did all of my movie viewing either using Expert Dark (calibrated) or Cinema Home. I avoided watching serious movies (like my sci-fi collection) in poorer lighting conditions.

I have watched parts of a number of Blu-ray movies, no real complaints, except, of course, the one area I usually complain about, and that is black level performance, which we’ll discuss next.

I will say, the HU85LA’s black level performance is not as entry level as the HU80KA’s. Despite putting almost 2000 lumens on a 100” diagonal screen, the blacks weren’t as noticeably medium grey as I feared. This is no JVC or Epson UB in terms of black levels, but I certainly feel they are fine for most non-hard core enthusiasts. And it certainly is just fine if you like to leave a little bit of light on in the room while watching movies (or don’t have a choice).

Hunger Games looked really good (1080p), but mostly I viewed 1080p movies that I don’t use for photo shoots.

Bottom Line: As a “living room” (or family, or bedroom…) type projector, not placed in a proper cave, the overall picture for movie viewing is really very good. Being a 4K UHD projector no sharpness issues on the lower res 1080p content. (Other than some minor corner sharpness issues – common to most UST projectors).

Black Level Performance and Dark Shadow Detail

Not bad, not my idea of ideal, I won’t count this LG as a “ultra-high contrast” projector, the term I use for any projector that really does a great job on very dark scenes.

At the same time, I don’t think I’ve seen more than a couple of 4K UHD DLP’s that can do better. I’m thinking the lamp based BenQ HT3550, and the now almost ancient Acer VL7860 (rough around the edges though). For better black levels the 3LCD and LCoS projectors still dominate, in part due to their use of dynamic irises.

Check out the assorted and standard images in the player. I’ve put in captions where comments are useful.

For a family room type projector, for the non-perfectionist, though, I think, the black levels are more than adequate: When I’m just watching – I will rarely even notice the black level performance with the LG until I hit a very dark scene, then my mental “notifications” will “un-immerse” me, and I notice that they could be better. But (being a “black level fanatic”, that is my curse, not yours!

If you intend to put this projector in a dedicated home theater/cave, then the black levels should be a consideration.

Bottom Line on Black Level Performance Regardless of the room, I don’t have a better alternative I can recommend you in a 4K capable UST projector that can beat this LG. Well, the one exception to that is the native 4K Sony VZ1000ES – which at 5 times the list price, has truly excellent black level performance.

Dark Shadow Detail

No issues here. With the less than super dark blacks, near blacks are, of course a touch lighter. It’s harder to spot the darkest details in projectors capable of the darkest blacks.

If anything, though 4K HDR content (where black levels seem higher) were even better at revealing the dark details. However, I did tweak Eric’s settings a bit to find them all. I mostly stuck with his for normal viewing.

Overall Picture Quality

Solid! In a really good way. You’ve got modes to match your lighting conditions, nicely spaced from dealing with “too much” ambient light, to low or no levels. I will say that LG could do a better job of pre-calibrating the modes, but we’ve given you some settings for “best” HDR and SDR content viewing.

One of the best things, is that once you have your content on, the projector’s picture is well balanced, no significant flaws, from skin tones to black levels. And HDR performs really nicely. “Works for me!”

Next up: Performance – the numbers, and Sharpness.