Projector Reviews

LG HU85LA AI CineBeam Projector – Summary

LG HU85LA AI CineBeam Projector – Summary: Big Picture, The Competition, The Bottom Line, Pros and Cons

The Big Picture

Let’s start with a quick summation of the projector itself: 2700 claimed – and delivered lumens, it is an ultra short throw, 4K UHD DLP laser projector. The closest part of the HU85LA sits only inches away, and inches below your screen or image on a wall. You definitely do, however want to pair this with the right type of screen, for best results. The projector is well endowed, with 2 HDMI 2.0 inputs, wireless and wired networking, and three USB’s including one USB 3.0.

This LG HU85LA is definitely a smart Laser TV.

Ultra short throw projectors solve the issue of dedicated theater projectors requiring them to be placed 10+ feet from the screen wall. Now with this LG or other UST, all your gear is together. Mount a screen, set up the projector under it, stream, use the media player, or hook up a source like a blu-ray player.

The HU85LA supports screen sizes from 90” to 120” diagonal. There is no zoom lens (as is typical), for larger screens the projector merely sits a few inches further from the screen.

The audience facing front of the LG houses two 5 watt speakers, to provide decent sound, many will want to have a full audio system to complement the movie theater visual experience. To complement, or replace the internal sound, you can output to Bluetooth or aa Digital Audio Out (Toslink), while the internal speakers are on, or off. (Nice!) That means you could just add a powered subwoofer to have respectable bass, or feed the audio to an AV receiver. Rock on!

This HU85LA is basically the smartest projector around. Most of the competition has no smarts at all, or very little. This LG projector provides the almost identical capabilities to their premium OLED TVs. They have a well regarded App store, some of the major apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Pandora, etc. are preloaded.

Add to that the addition of Google Assistant which you can operate through the remote control, using voice, for general Assistant operation or controlling the projector.

The LG relies on a dual laser light source, which uses one blue, and one red laser. It uses beam splitting instead of a color wheel to create green with phosphors.

The projector has many picture modes, which we describe in more detail within this review. The three brightest modes go from a little punchy to a very “over the top”, heavily saturated, picture designed to cut through too much ambient light. Calibrating the projector produces far more accurate color, although the projector without adjustment looks very good, if cool in the colors. That is enjoyable to watch. The best modes look great with pretty low room light levels. Basically you have a good selection of modes for different lighting conditions.

Black level performance could be better, but I expect in a living room family room type environment, there will be at least minimal lighting, so as to minimize the advantages of projectors with better blacks.

Gamers – The HU85LA should work for you. It’s mid-fifty millisecond input lag is “acceptable” to many “serious” gamers. We call lag in the 30’s good, and any projector down around 15ms is a serious gamer.

Get the Right Screen

If you are placing your LG projector in a room where you will have some light on almost all of the time, you really should buy a screen to optimize your experience.

The LG HU85LA And It’s Competition

Expect to a number of competing UST 4K capable projectors all hitting the market at the same time as the LG. That is because, they are all DLP projectors, and relying in part on chipset’s provided by Texas Instruments – the DLP manufacturer. Optoma has announced their P1, while Viewsonic, VAVA and others are also readying theirs. There’s no real way to provide detailed comparisons against others that aren’t out there yet, but we can make some assumptions. Anticipated List prices can vary, and in this market, list prices aren’t an accurate reflection of selling prices. Some brand build room for big discounts others do not.

Optoma’s P1 is likely the biggest name competitor, and it is being well promoted. It is similarly bright, has some smarts, and claims to have high quality sound bar sound built in, all at a lower price. One thing of note, the LG has a good bit higher list price than some of the others, but there’s a reason. For example, the Optoma P1 is a single laser projector, and it uses the 1920x1080x4 pixel shifting 0.47″ DLP chip, The LG uses the slightly higher-res 2716x1528x2 pixel shifting, larger, 0.66″ DLP. Still waiting for a shipping date, but expect to receive one in two to three weeks after this publishes.  I am not sure of the configurations of some of those not released yet.

We will be reviewing these UST projectors as we can get them. Stay tuned.

HU85LA vs traditional longer throw projectors

The primary competition for the HU85LA in dedicated home theater projectors are just about all lamp-based. The one exception is the now aging Epson LS10500, which is a 1080p pixel shifter, but not native 4K. It does, however, support HDR. The rest, including on the low price end, the Epson Home Cinema 5050UB, at $3K.

Long term you might buy a couple of replacement lamps for the Epson, but the Epson will still be lower cost over its life. The Epson is much better at black levels and is similar in brightness. And it can support wide screens for CinemaScope shaped movies. It also has slightly better color. But the Epson is a fairly loud projector with its eco and medium power modes at least as noisy as the LG’s full power. If you really want accurate color, remember that a long life laser projector will hold color far longer than lamps. The Epson is a 1080p pixel shifter – 1920x1080x2, vs the LG’s higher res.  But still all these pixel shifters are close in sharpness.  Image processing can make a bigger difference than chip resolution.

If you want to go native 4K, Sony’s least expensive model, the very popular VPL-VW295ES is $4999. Lamp again, but this one is in the same general price range. The Sony offers motorized lens features, allowing you to go “wide screen” if you are a movie fanatic, that wants the largest image to be with Cinemascope – wide – movies (as most are). No it doesn’t have lens memory, but you can switch back and forth from one aspect ratio to the other in a minute’s time or so.

NX5 4K projector
JVC DLA-NX5 projector is their entry level $6999 native 4K projector, standard throw zoom

JVC also serves up a pixel shifter – the RS540 – at $3999, which will give you lens memory and deep blacks, but not native 4K. Finally Phil is publishing his JVC NX7 – at $6999 list price, is another native 4K projector. Here you have great black levels, lens memory, and native 4K. Sony offers another native 4K with much better black levels than the VW295ES – the VW695ES, for $9999, so a step up in price, but then, dynamic iris, lens memory and better black levels than the LG.

Acer projector VL7860
Acer 4K UHD Laser Projector: 3000 lumens, lens shift, more...

Those are some of the best choices out there, around the price range. There are a couple of other DLPs – lamp based, like the BenQ HT5550 (I just published the full review). There are some laser UST projector geared really for business. Dell’s S718, Optoma’s UHZ65, etc. For the most part these simply aren’t “tuned” for home use, they lack a few features, or some limitations that you don’t want in a home projector (like being very noisy).

Again, there will be a lot of direct competition, over the upcoming months from Viewsonic, Optoma, VAVA and others, in terms of laser powered UST projectors that are 4K UHD resolution (pixel shifters). Stay tuned as we review those as they hit.

The LG HU85LA AI CineBeam: Bottom Line

Other than the price tag of the LG HU85LA being on the high side (we’ll see what discounts it gets as it starts shipping), and the usual not great black levels found on most DLP projectors (that lack dynamic irises), this is a really impressive projector. I had no problem deciding it deserves one of our Hot Product Awards. That also means it will be in the hunt for one of our Best In Class awards in my August 2019-2020 Best Home Theater Projectors Report (which I’ve already started on).

Pros

  • 4K UHD resolution of 2716x1528x2 with pixel shifting – the higher res 4K UHD chip
  • Ultra short throw design works great in living rooms, dens, family rooms
  • 2700 lumens claimed – and measured
  • Bright enough to tackle moderate ambient light, not the brightest rooms but those with some reasonable lighting control
  • No sun-drenched rooms (get shades!)
  • For best movie viewing – turn off the lights!
  • Exceptionally smart projector – with almost all the same features as their premium OLED TVs
  • Works with Google Assistant, voice control the projector, or ask Google questions from the remote
  • LG’s Magic remote relies on a gyro design making for a great, fast pointing system, Great!
  • Supports HDR – HDR10 for expanded dynamic range – more “pop”!
  • Multiple Picture modes for both HDR and SDR content
  • No spinning phosphor color wheel like some laser projectors have
  • Minimal rainbow effect (for those like me, who are sensitive)
  • Laser light engine rated 20,000 hours
  • Two 5 watt front-facing speakers produce good volume and good sound – for what they are
  • Output to a separate audio system or powered subwoofer, with internal speakers on or off
  • Conveniently small and light – suitable for back yard movie parties, vacation, work
  • Excellent remote control – in terms of layout, range and backlight – the Trifecta of remotes
  • Lots of connectivity – for mobile devices, USB inputs, Media player for music, photos and videos
  • Reasonably fast input lag for gaming – acceptable to most (57ms)
  • Full set of color controls, calibrates easily

Cons

  • Out of the box color in most modes could be a bit better
  • A 2 year parts and labor warranty is on the short side for a projector in this price range (2-3 years is normal) but many competitors (ie. JVC, Epson, Optoma also include first, or all year rapid replacement programs with their warranties and several have 3 year warranties as well as a replacement program
  • No support for HLG – Hybrid Log-Gamma – a second HDR standard (broadcast and some streaming)
  • Internal audio could be better – but the projector has great audio output options
  • Remote lacks full set of player controls when operating blu-ray players only play and pause  (use on screen ones for the rest, but that’s slow).
  • Black levels could be darker (a dynamic iris or laser dimming would have improved blacks)
  • Officially cannot support screens larger than 120″ diagonal, though a dealer reports successful (aka sharp) out to 130″ diagonal!
  • Acceptable for gaming, input lag could be reduced a lot more than it’s current mid 50ms lag