LG CF181D – First Look – Home Theater Projector Review


Well, the most frustrating thing about reviewing the LG CF181D home theater projector has definitely been figuring out how to lay my hands on one.  A two and a half month effort finally obtained me an LG to review.  My hanks to the folks at Projector People (an LG dealer), who managed to come up with the contact names I needed to make it happen.

I’ll keep this short, since the full review is only about 48 hours off.  Pictures are all taken, over 50 hours of viewing, including tons of Olympics.  I’m mostly writing up the main review, and checking some facts, etc., waiting to get a couple of answers from LG.  All is going pretty well, so far.

OK, what we have here is an under $3000 LCoS projector.  That makes it somewhat similar to the Sony HW15, the Cinetron HD700 and the more expensive JVC RS15 and HD550 projectors.

But in terms of direct competition, there’s plenty. Not only the Sony HW15 and the Cinetron, but of course the Epson 8500UB/9500UB, and Panasonic PT-AE4000 (just under $2K), and the BenQ W6000, to mention a few favorites that have reviewed extremely well.  There’s also the Mitsubishi HC6800, which is now in house, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

So, there’s plenty of competition – so one  question might be:  What makes the LG CF181D special?

I’ve got a couple of answers to that:

1.  It’s incredibly bright for a 1080p projector in best mode.  At about 900 lumens post calibration, with dynamic iris engaged, Only the BenQ W6000 of the ones mentioned can actually beat it’s best mode brightness.

2. At 1380 maximum measured lumens it’s also right there near the top, in terms of brightest mode lumens – about the same as the Epson’s but, the LG does do a bit better color at maximum. Still, the LG does impressive color in several mode combinations that do between 1000 and 1200 lumens.  The W6000 can best it by about 300 lumens, but when the BenQ does that, it’s color performance is poor – extremely green.  With the next best bright mode, the W6000 is no brighter than the LG, and the LG likely still has the edge in color fidelity. Very nice!

Skin tones are great.

Not so, black levels – black level performance is respectable, but no more than that.  I have only done side by sides with the Epson 9500UB, but will probably also compare the CF181D to the Panasonic PT-AE4000 as well. I don’t have the BenQ W6000 here, which is too bad, because I suspect that in black level performance, the two are probably pretty similar, and since they are both very bright, that should have been rather revealing.  Still, I’ll be pulling out my black level side by side images of the W6000 vs. the Epson, to view when I’m studying the LG vs. Epson images.

When it comes to features, nothing comes close to the Panasonic which is gadget heaven.  The Epson’s not far behind, the LG, however, has CFI (more in a minute) called TruMotion, and a dynamic iris, but not a whole lot of other dynamic controls.  Overall, feature wise, it’s pretty typical of the $2000 – $3000 street priced projectors.

The placement is very good.  a 1.8:1 zoom and vertical only, lens shift make it so.  Yes, others are even more flexible but the LG should work in most rooms.

Brightness – some may even warn, that the LG is too bright.  That may well be the case on a smaller screen, but best I can tell, there’s enough control.  With low lamp, and the iris on Auto 1, you can get down to 600 lumens.  To go dimmer, you’ll have to surrender your dynamic iris and switch it to manual mode, where dim is truly available.  Cinema defaults to manual 3, and is in the mid-400’s and you can lower the iris even more.

I’m getting some flicker off of satellite, on the olympics, every so often.  The same flicker occurs each time I replay the same section of the games.  When I switch to my RS20, no sign of the problem.  But the path is slightly different (right now the JVC is getting its HDMI wirelessly with that Gefen I wrote about). The LG is getting it from about 40 feet of high quality HDMI cable.  Tomorrow, I’ll hook up the Epson or one of the other projectors where the LG is, and see if they show the flicker or not.  I’m getting the flicker, with or without creative frame interpolation turned on.  I’ve seen no such problem when watching blu-ray disc.  And I haven’t watched enough other HDTV to see if it occurs with other content.  Working on all of that.

The LG has CFI, which does produce some artifacts when watching 24fps content.  Save just for sports, not one of the better implementations.  The artifacts are about as noticeable, or perhaps a  little less so, than the Epson 6500UB last year, before Epson fixed their CFI.   CFI is ok for sports, not movies.

Overall, the projector really has a lot of punch.  The lumens are the key, combined with some rich looking content and vivid colors.   One of those “pleasure to watch” projectors, even if black levels could be better.   The CFI, and this possible problem I’m investigating, are potential weaknesses, but, let me put it this way, due to my large 128″ diagonal screen, the Epson would not be practical for me.  I’m now thinking, therefore, that for me it would probably (in that mid – $2000’s price range), be down to the LG or the BenQ W6000.

So far, “issues” notwithstanding, I really am impressed!  And I like the remote, too, as an added bonus.

Stay tuned.  I’m going to try to have the full review up Friday night, but that will be tough, as my wife still hasn’t told me what plans (besides more Olympics) we have for the weekend!  -art

News and Comments

  • Sully

    The LG looks promising! I am in the market to replace my Infocus In76. Am waiting for Arts’ review and comparison on this PJ to for my final decision. I have the chance to buy a new X10 for a reasonable price! Also looking at the budget priced Mit HC3800. I’ve always had DLP projectors and willing to try this LCoS as it is priced about the limit of my budget. Can’t wait for the upgrade! Thanks Art for the great reviews!

  • SauceXX

    Awesome, I’ve been waiting a long time for your review. One question, would you say the black level is equivalent to most DLP PJ’s?

    • SauceXX – based just on viewing it by itself, and only doing the side by side photo shoot with the Epson UB, my initial take is that it’s black levels (as I thought I had indicated) should be roughly similar to the BenQ W6000, which price wise is right in the mix.

      There are a limited number of DLP projectors in the $2000 – $3000ish range, these days. And, as many of you know, the Optoma in the price range has iris issues I didn’t like. While I addressed it to Optoma it isn’t like pointing it out to Epson (who takes everything seriously). I don’t know if Optoma is going to do anything about the iris in their 8200 or related models for other channels, but, if I recall correctly, I had sufficient dislike of the iris that I couldn’t see trying to use it, and without it, there go black levels…

      The InFocus which someone mentioned has respectable blacks, but my guess is that the LG might just best the X10 – it’s been a while. And remember, dynamic irises aren’t just about the blackest blacks. Each one performs differently depending on what each frame looks like.

      But, the bottom line, yes, I’d say the LG is about as good as any of the lower priced DLP’s in terms of blacks. In the review, after I’ve stared at LG vs. Epson, and the same image Epson vs. W600, etc. I’ll be able to make a better assessment – you’ll have to wait, about 48! -art

      PS. I certainly consider the LG to be direct, and serious competition for the W6000, something the LCoS Sony VPL-HW15 couldn’t be, due to the drastic difference in brightness. I’m a bit concerned over one or two “issues” I’ve encountered. This anomaly I’ve seen while watching Olympics has me nervous. But, I will be further testing, as noted, to determine if it’s a real issue. (the fact that my JVC doesn’t show the same breakup, isn’t definitive, because the signal, (passing through switch boxes) takes a slightly different path, getting to my JVC (goes through a wireless, rather than a long hdmi cable). I will, however, simply put an Epson, other JVC, or InFocus where the LG is now. If they show the same problem – I have to look to my complex wiring as a potential problem, but if they don’t exhibit it, then, it would seem the LG has a flaw, and then, It’s a matter of figuring out what causes it, and how often.

      I had only noticed the problem once in a while a couple of nights ago, but last night, it was flickering off and on, all night, rarely going more than a few minutes without doing it.

      That said, haven’t seen the same problem during any movie watching… Could it be something in the broadcast? Possibly. That’s what you guys pay me the big bucks for, to try and figure some of that out, and then tell the manufacturer if they need to fix something. -art

  • SauceXX

    Sorry for the vague/redundant question, I’ve been VERY anxious to read your review. Although if the black levels are no better than an X10 I might not be so excited. Not to mention the other issues you may have found.

    I recently sold my W5000 and I’m trying to find the best replacement. I was never real pleased with the blacks on the BenQ so I’m looking for an upgrade. It’s hard picking a PJ because I’m not able to audition most of them, I have to work off of reviews and feedback. I have the LG on a short list with the HW15, Vivitek H5080, SP8602 and maybe the W6000 (potential RBE scares me).

    Excuse my long post and keep up the good work. Can’t wait for the full review. Thanks.

  • Steve Atkinson

    Thanks Art for the update… we are all looking forward to your full review.

    I also have always had DLP and am “window shopping” for a suitable large screen replacement for my Infocus 7210, but as many… down in the “reasonable” price range.

    I had been seriously considering the BenQ, but am troubled by some of the things I have read. Interestingly enough… one of the W6K owners that sent his projector in for replacement (which had firmware version 1.0) received a replacement projector sporting firmware version 1.01… according to his personal evaluation the iris operation is much much more refined with the newer firmware. I don’t suppose you recall (or wrote down) which version the “fixed” W6K that you re-reviewed had did you?

  • Steve Atkinson

    Darn… sorry I forgot to ask…..

    It will be “very interesting” to see how responsive LG is in reporting on and addressing any short-comings you discover.

    I hope they will follow Epson’s lead on responsiveness.