Gaming on the LG HU85LA Ultra Short Throw Projector

The LG HU85LA, being an ultra short throw projector, is sure to be of some interest to the gaming community. Ultra short throw projectors are particularly attractive to gamers because of their ability to produce a large image just inches away from the screen. This allows us to keep all of our gaming systems and streaming cameras in one place – in front of us.

The ultra short throw design also alleviates the mildly irritating issue of your game getting blocked by a human standing in front of the light of the projector, as is often the case with a normal throw or even a short throw projector.

The HU85LA was the subject of one of our most recent reviews, and was featured in this year’s 2019-2020 Best Home Theater Projectors Report. This LG has a feature that may drive many gamers to investigate this LG as a candidate for their next projector purchase. We thought it apropos to discuss the projector’s qualities that will make it a suitable projector for some gamers, and not others. Whether or not this projector is right for you will depend on what kind of gamer you are.

The Basics

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Before we get into the gaming aspects of this projector, let’s talk about the basics. This is a 4K UHD resolution projector that utilizes pixel shifting. That is, it takes a 1080p (1920×1280) resolution image and pixel shifts it four times to get a sharper imager, and reach the pixel standard for 4K UHD resolution. The HU85LA is a laser projector with a 20,000 hour lamp life claim, so you can get about a decade of use out of this projector without much maintenance whatsoever.

As mentioned, it’s an ultra short throw projector, so it sits just inches away from your screen surface to produce and image of up to 120” diagonal. It has 2,700 claimed lumens – it measured just above that in some modes – and Art calls this a “living room” projector, rather than a dedicated home theater projector. That’s fine, as most gamers will either be using this projector in their living room, or in a gaming/media room. It even has a pair of 5-watt speakers, but as with all built-in speakers, if you want any real bass, you’ll want to hook up an external sound system.

This photo was taken from the full review of the LGHU85LA projector.
This photo was taken from the full review of the LGHU85LA projector.

The LG HU85LA is a smart projector. It comes with Netflix, Amazon, Prime, Crackle, and Hulu pre-loaded. LG also provides an app store for the purchase or download of many more applications, just like their TVs. If you already have or have had an LG TV, there will be no learning curve. It also has a built-in TV tuner, media player, and the Magic Remote. The Magic Remote is a gyro-based smart remote that has a microphone built in for voice control. It even has a media player and wireless capabilities, including screensharing for iOS and Android mobile devices.

This photo was taken from the full review of the LGHU85LA projector.
This photo was taken from the full review of the LGHU85LA projector.

This is a projector that has more than enough color modes. There are eight picture modes for non HDR content, and five for HDR content. Some of these modes are able to be calibrated, while others aren’t. As far as picture quality goes, the LU85LA performs well, with out of the box color being just a touch too blue. This is an easy fix in most cases, but you’ll dig that blue for sports viewing. Speaking of sports viewing, there are several smooth motion options.

An HDTV football game, projected by the LG HU85LA in ambient light, using an ALR screen designed for UST projectors.
An HDTV football game, projected by the LG HU85LA in ambient light, using an ALR screen designed for UST projectors.

On to Gaming

Alright, onto the good stuff. You already know that this LG will quench your thirst for a smart projector, but what about gaming? The LG HU85LA has a feature called Instant Game Mode, which would have you thinking this projector is well-suited for all levels of gaming. Before we get into that, we need to talk about input lag.

Input lag, for those of you who need a refresher, refers to the gaming speed performance on displays – in this case, projectors. That is the time between when your game system sends out a signal to when it is received by the projector, measured in milliseconds. 50ms or a little above is acceptable to casual gamers, as its just around 2 frames behind on a 30fps game, and 4 on a 60fps game.

The LG HU85LA projecting Red Dead Redemption 2 via the Playstation 4 Pro.
The LG HU85LA projecting Red Dead Redemption 2 via the Playstation 4 Pro.

No serious gamer will be happy with a 50+ms input lag. We’re talking the hard-core, competitive gamers who are super good at Call of Duty Online, and games like it. They might even be professional gamers – the ones you’ll find at competitions, or who make their living streaming on Twitch. They wouldn’t be happy with the next tier down, which is around 33ms to 40ms of input lag. As far as projectors go, the best of the best measurements for input lag rest in the 16ms to 20ms range, which is what these types of gamers should be looking for.

The LG HU85LA projecting Assassin's Creed Odyssey via the Playstation 4 Pro.
The LG HU85LA projecting Assassin's Creed Odyssey via the Playstation 4 Pro.

For the rest of us, 33ms to just above 50ms should be just fine. That said, without Instant Game Mode activated, the lowest measurement we got for the HU85LA was 75ms. Ouch! No good. After turning Smooth Motion off, and Instant Game Mode on, the lowest input lag we were able to squeeze out was 57ms. Bottom Line – this is not a projector for serious gamers, but for the casual gamer, it’s right at the edge of acceptable.

What's a Casual Gamer?

The LG HU85LA projecting Assassin's Creed Odyssey via the Playstation 4 Pro, in ambient light.
The LG HU85LA projecting Assassin's Creed Odyssey via the Playstation 4 Pro, in ambient light.

We talk a lot in our reviews and articles about “casual gamers,” but rarely go into detail about what that means. For us, a casual gamer is someone who games for fun. This is a person who plays single-player games, online games with friends, and doesn’t stream or does so for fun, rather than as a living. Casual gamers are found in families that play video games together as a way to bond and have fun with each other.

If you’re an Nintendo Switch user, you are unlikely to be bothered by the input lag of this projector. Games like Mario Kart, Mario Party, Let’s Go Pikachu, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and other such Switch games will be unaffected by the HU85LA’s higher input lag. Racing games where you are racing against computer players, or other players that are in the same room as you, should not be affected.

If you’re playing a single-player game such as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Red Dead Redemption 2, your gameplay will not be disturbed. It’s when you get into online gaming, such as playing the online versions of Call of Duty, Battlefield 5, Red Dead Redemption 2 Online, or GTA V Online, that concern arises. This is due to the fact that other players may be using a TV or other such display that has a lower input lag than you, and that 2 to 4 frame per second lag could mean the difference between a successful heist or getting WASTED.

Should you be someone who digs the online gaming world more than playing solo, or who games on a system that is more hard-core than the Switch, there are plenty of other projectors out there that are better suited to your gaming needs. We wrote an article this spring about The World of 4K Gaming that provides insight into what you need for 4K gaming, and some projectors currently on the market that can handle 4K. I’ll be doing a round-up article soon about projectors that are good for gaming, starting with non-4K projectors.

The 2019-2020 Best Home Theater Projectors Report

The LG HU85LA won the Laser TVs (UST)/Bright Room Performance Award in our 2019-2020 Best Home Theater Projectors Report. If you’re interested in this LG for your bright room, living room, family room, or other “common” rooms, check out the LG HU85LA’s Winner’s Page. To dive into what we think are this year’s “best” home theater and home entertainment projectors, start at the beginning and read through the 2019-2020 Best Home Theater Projectors Report.

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