LG HU85LA CineBeam ThinQ 4K Projector- Special Features

HU85LA CineBeam 4K Special Features: Smart Capabilities, HDR, TV Tuner, Laser Engine, Wireless, Gaming, Audio system

LG HU85LA AI CineBeam – is Smart

Cutting to the chase, LG is essentially way ahead of pretty much everyone in the under $20,000 range when it comes to building a smart projector. LG simply has incorporated just about everything they have in their smart TVs into this projector.

Understand – most projector manufacturers these days have little or no background in smart TVs. The one real exception other than LG is Sony, who, like LG puts some excellent smarts into their TVs. Sony’s got the experience but hasn’t yet shown us a projector that is “smart tv” like. Maybe they will surprise us next year. Optoma is building up their smart abilities – they support Alexa, and Google Assistant, and have apps, but in previous reviews, they came up short in terms of well-working apps, and limited capabilities, etc. Perhaps their new P1 will be a lot smarter. We’ll let you know when that one arrives – in a couple of weeks we expect.

content store
There are many aspects to the HU85LA's smarts - from voice control to apps store to content store

How smart is this LG projector? I could spend pages (fear not, I won’t). But let’s start with the basics – voice control through Google Assistant, and their own smart remote, which has a microphone. Press the mic button in the center of the remote and hold it down to speak to Google Assistant. Ultimately you can control set-top boxes, the projector, and ask Google the usual stuff you normally do like doing searches. An example of controlling the LG projector with voice would be: “Play the Videos in USB.” Or, “Change Mode to Vivid.” Once you have your HU85LA, you can get more examples of those commands by just holding down the remote’s microphone button!

In my current, temporary rental location, the internet is so weak, streaming is usually a problem, and even enough to affect voice recognition. As such, I didn’t get to have as much fun with the full voice capabilities as I would have liked. But I finally did get them working.  Sure enough, the LG works as advertised – voice wise. The one thing I couldn’t confirm – because my Google Home is packed, is if I could simply command the projector from my Home unit, with the same exact command, or if I need to mention the projector in there.  No matter, either alternative will be fine for everyone.

And, there is LG’s long-established app store just loaded with pretty much everything out there. Smart TVs aren’t our thing, but the LG app store is very well regarded.

The bottom line on smarts: The HU85LA is likely the single most capable projector on the market when it comes to smart tv and AI voice type capabilities. Pages can be written about them.

HDR

The HU85LA CineBeam only supports HDR10 which is most widely used. Many other projector manufacturers have added support for a second HDR standard with their newest models: Hybrid Log-Gamma – usually called HLG. I find this surprising that LG did not include that support, especially since one of the LG’s pretty unique features, compared to the competition, is having a TV tuner built-in. HLG is primarily a solution for broadcast HDR, and some streaming as well, whereas HDR10 is best known for 4K Blu-ray discs.

Passengers HDR image
From the beginning of Passengers - 4K HDR. This image pops - even the photo doesn't do the LG (or the scene) justice!

TV Tuner On Board, Live Menu
Unlike almost all other projectors (except LGs, and a number of low-cost pico/pocket projectors), there is a TV tuner onboard. On the back with the other connectors, you’ll find that old standard 75-ohm coaxial connector used by TV antennas.

The tuner covers the standard range: VHF02to13,UHF14to69,CATV01to135, DTV 02 to 69, CADTV 01 to 135

You can also plug in the coaxial cable signal from a set-top box, although most of today’s boxes will offer the best performance from HDMI.

The Live Menu features one-button jump to TV, It offers viewing recommendations based on your viewing history. There’s also a guide, and TV scheduler, During live broadcasts, you can call up a pop-up with more information, check out what’s on other channels with the current channel still up there… Yep, more smarts!

There’s also an LG channel. I checked that out. At a touch of a button, apparently I get 199 channels (some are essentially commercials). The first one that came up was golf on an NBC channel. Go figure! Of course this is “old hat” to those of you with a smart LG TV.

HU85LA Laser Light Engine

The HU85LA sports a dual laser light engine. In the case of this LG, they are using a red laser and a blue one. Single laser projectors usually are blue, and most dual lasers I’ve encountered use two blue lasers, however it looks like the red and blue laser combination will be the most common one on these new 4K UHD projectors with ultra short throw design.  As Eric points out in the calibration section, this projector fully achieves P3 red, unfortunately overall it doesn’t tackle P3 color especially well.

laser projector concept
The LG's dual laser (red and blue) design means no color phosphor wheel like those found on single laser projectors

This design, however, has the advantage of not needing a spinning phosphor wheel. Most laser projectors rely on phosphors to create green, (and red – if only blue lasers). This LG does use phosphors too but doesn’t need the spinning wheel to accomplish its task. Less moving parts is good. And dual laser is inherently better than single.  That will be a differentiator from the competing Optoma P1 which has a single blue laser.

BTW. I want to shout out to Robert, over at Value Electronics. He was good enough to point out an error, and also provided me the info that the LG is a 2716x1528x2 pixel shifter – using the larger .66″ chip. This provides for a higher-res image than most of the low cost 4K UHD DLPs which use the lower 1920x1080px4 pixel shifting setup. LG’s preliminary documentation never mentions which chip. -art

Overall this light engine is rated 20,000 hours. As with lamps, that is not a spec to how long before failure. Rather it is how long until the laser engine will have lost 50% of brightness.

HU85LA Wireless Networking

No surprises setting up wireless. Setup was easy, the only complaint, of course, is using an on-screen keyboard. Sadly, I set up wireless first – (well it is needed), before setting up the Voice Recognition. Would have liked to put in the information by spelling it, to the remote, instead of typing it with the remote’s pointer.

Along with getting the wireless going, I got streaming going. I was going to start by signing into Netflix, but noticed LG’s on channel. That was a couple of clicks, faster than signing in. And, voila, I’m watching a golf tournament, and it looks great up on the screen even with the room moderately bright. Nice! I got to Netflix eventually. (I can access it also from a couple of other devices including my Sony 4K UHD player.

Bottom Line on Wireless – Easy to set up, works as expected. “no muss, no fuss”

HU85LA As A Gaming Projector

Two things to get you started. First, LG didn’t do so great in terms of input lag on the less expensive HU80KA laser projector. 71ms there, is a bit too slow for most folks idea of serious gaming. (We figure no higher than 55ms. – 15ms or so is preferred, but 30’s is pretty good.)

Now let’s turn to the HU85LA. First thing I noticed, before testing, is that they have a mode called Instant Game Response. (Sounds intriguing doesn’t it?).  I found the HU85LA’s input lag to be lowest in Game mode with CFI turned off.  It clocked in, in the 57-58ms range.  I’ll call that close enough to our target 55ms for “acceptable.”  Games look great. I shot some images for an article on projector gaming Nikki is writing.

HU85LA Sound System and Audio Quality

LG HU85LA home projector
The HU85LA home projector has a minimalistic design, but there's nothing minimalistic about its picture quality or features. Dual 5 watt speaks are hiding behind the cloth.

Essentially LG gives you the ability – of course – to hook up to an external sound system. Most projectors do, but most won’t let you do that, and still play the internal speakers.

LG lets you do just that with multiple options. Here’s why that can be important to you: If you aren’t about to blow a bundle on a separate sound system (which is always a good idea), we can make the internal speaker system dramatically better by hooking up a powered sub-woofer. That can be done, by Bluetooth, or digital optical out. Sweet! And again, it can be a full sound system just as easily. I have an old “junker” subwoofer, I bought for $50 a decade ago. It isn’t Bluetooth or digital optical, but I was able to work around that easily enough. It made a real difference. Try to buy a decent one though, this “junker” has a bad resonating “honk” at a certain frequency. I mostly only use it for checking out projectors outputs these days.

I’m an aging audiophile, the accuracy of the internal speaker system isn’t anything to write home about (none of them are, so far), but I’ve played assorted music through the system. You can turn off the projector’s light engine when listening to music, so as to dramatically reduce power consumption.

Bottom line on Audio – Outputting options are great, the internal speakers can be left on, so feature wise, great. Sound quality – about what you expect. One of the other forthcoming UST projectors however, is claiming great sound quality. We’ll see about that.

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