LG HU85LS CineBeam Laser 4K Projector Review

Smarter than your average projector

SRP: £4,999.00

What is the LG HU85LS?

The LG HU85LS is an ultra-short-throw 4K laser projector that uses DLP technology and includes a built-in webOS 4.5 smart platform.

If you want a really big image in your lounge or living room there are a number of options – all of which have pros and cons. The obvious approach is a very large screen TV, but this can often be prohibitively expensive and obviously takes up a lot of space. Alternatively you could buy a projector, which is usually more cost-effective, takes up less space and produce images bigger than the largest TV. However, with projectors there's always the issue of brightness when there's ambient light in the room, along with lamp life on bulb-based models.

LG thinks it has the solution to this dilemma in the form of the HU85; although it should be stressed that the UK version is not a Laser TV as these products are sometimes euphemistically known, because there's no built-in tuner – unlike the HU85LA available in other territories. However, since it uses a laser light source, it can produce images bright enough for day-time use and also avoid issues with lamp life. In addition, it offers many of the benefits of a large-screen TV without taking up as much room, or being as prohibitively expensive.

That's not to say the HU85LS is cheap, and at £4,999 as at the time of writing (July 2020) it costs more than numerous decent projectors and big-screen TVs. But then, it is aimed at a niche in the market where the specific cost-reward ratio makes sense. The real questions are: is it any good, and does it justify the price tag? Lets find out...

Design, Connections and Control

The design of the LG HU85LS is minimalist in the extreme, it's basically a rectangular white box. The construction is largely plastic, but it feels solid and well made. It's also fairly compact, sits on four adjustable feet, measures 680 x 128 x 347mm (WxHxD), and weighs in at 12.2kg. The cabinet is fairly sharp and angular, something that LG is obviously aware of because it includes optional adhesive edge guards to cover the corners at the front to avoid any nasty accidents.

LG HU85LS
LG HU85LS top view

The front of the HU85LS is covered in Kvadrat fabric, behind which there are two speakers, each with 5W of amplification. There's also a status LED in the bottom right-hand corner. At the top is the backward-firing lens, which is angled to project images up towards the wall or screen. This is hidden when viewed from the front, and there are safety features to protect wayward toddlers or pets from damaging their eyes. Towards the centre there's a focus control behind a flip-up panel. On the left-hand side there's an inlet vent, and over on the right-hand side there's an outlet vent.

LG HU85LS
LG HU85LS connections

The connections are all located at the rear of the projector (the side nearest the wall or screen), and here you'll find two HDMI inputs that support 4K/60p, HDR10, HDCP 2.2, ARC and HDMI simplink (CEC). There are also three USB 2.0 ports (two Type A and one Type C), an optical digital output, and an Ethernet port. There's also built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for wireless connections. In certain territories but not the UK, there are also ports for aerial and cable tuners (you can see circles where they would be in the image above).

LG HU85LS
LG HU85LS remote control

In terms of control, there's a small joystick on the underside of the cabinet at the front right (making it tricky even find, let alone see or use). It allows you to turn the projector on and off, change the volume, for models with built-in tuners it can change channels, and you can access the menu.

 

The HU85LS comes with LG's excellent Magic remote, which is nice addition for a projector

The joystick remote is really there as a last resort, because the HU85LS includes a controller that's basically the standard LG Magic remote, but in white to match the projector's styling. It includes the same buttons found on the comparable TV remote, but with a few changes such as adding a control for electronically adjusting the edge of the image to fit a screen and, in the case of the UK version, swapping the EPG button for direct access to the picture modes.

Features and Specs

The LG HU85LS uses a three-channel laser light source rather than a lamp with a colour wheel. The light source is composed of a red laser, a blue laser and a blue laser redefined as green. This approach should deliver brighter images, a wider colour gamut, a 20,000-hour lifespan compared to only 2,000-3,000 hours for a bulb, and instant on/off as opposed to the long start-up and cool-down periods associated with lamp-based projectors. Since there's no colour wheel, the laser light source should also minimise the colour-fringing and rainbow artefacts that often plague single-chip DLP projectors.

The HU85 also has a claimed peak brightness of 2,700 lumens, and a claimed on/off contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1. While the latter number is somewhat fanciful, the claimed noise levels are actually spot-on, with the projector hitting 26dB in the Economic mode, 28dB in the Normal mode, and 30dB in the High Brightness mode. So for most usage noise shouldn't be an issue. While the HU85LS is primarily designed for stand placement, LG does offer the option of ceiling mounting the projector using a bracket (not included), and you can flip the image both horizontally and vertically.

LG HU85LS
LG HU85LS front view

The only lens control relates to manual adjustment of the focus, with the zoom and shift fixed and a 120% ratio of upward projection. Basically that means you physically move the projector to adjust the location and size of the image. The ultra-short-throw projected image ranges from 90 inches at 56mm from the wall or screen, up to 120 inches at 183mm. There's also the electronic edge adjustment control that corrects for keystone distortions if necessary. However, using this control will rob the image of fine detail and introduce scaling artefacts, so it's best avoided if possible.

 

The inclusion of webOS certainly helps make this projector a viable alternative to a TV

The HU85 uses a DLP chip with XPR technology, this takes a 2716 x 1528 pixel 0.66" DMD chip and diagonally shifts the image at 120Hz to go from 4 million pixels to a perceived 8 million pixels (3840 x 2160). While technically not true 4K, the resulting image is imperceptible from 4K in most circumstances. The projector supports high dynamic range (specifically HDR10), and can accept up to a 4K (4096 x 2160) at 24/50/60Hz over the HDMI inputs and USB Type C port.

LG HU85LS
LG HU85LS rear view

As mentioned earlier in this review, the HU85 has a built-in sound system that uses two speakers and a total of 10W of amplification. The projector also supports Dolby Surround, DTS-HD and Dolby Atmos, along with LG's Clear Voice III processing. The audio is surprisingly good considering, but if you're going for the big screen experience, you really owe it to yourself to at least invest in a decent soundbar.

One of the HU85's big selling points compared to any other projector is that it comes with LG's webOS 4.5 smart system built-in. Anyone with experience of webOS and the Magic remote will know what a superb operating system it is, and its inclusion on this projector is certainly welcome. The basic layout and interaction is essentially the same as LG's TVs, with the launcher bar and Home Dashboard. However, the selection of streaming services is limited to the usual suspects – Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play and Rakuten TV (no UK catch-up services, Apple TV+ or Disney+). There's also multimedia playback via USB and Bluetooth; and you even have a choice of built-in smart assistants in the shape of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant – which means there's basic voice control thanks to a microphone in the remote.

Measurements

SDR Out of the Box

The LG HU85LS doesn't just use the same operating system as the company's TVs, it also has the same menu system, picture modes and calibration controls. While it isn't ISF-certified, the two most accurate presets remain Expert (Bright Room) and Expert (Dark Room). Unlike most projectors, there's enough brightness to actually use the HU85 in both bright and dark rooms.

LG HU85LS
SDR out-of-the-box greyscale measurements
LG HU85LS
SDR out-of-the-box gamut tracking measurements

The out-of-the-box greyscale is pretty good using the Warm colour temperature setting, with the three primary colours tracking close to each other and the overall DeltaEs (errors) below the visible threshold of three. The gamma is also excellent, and tracking our dark room target of 2.4 precisely.

 

The out-of-the-box greyscale and gamma are excellent, but the colour tracking could be better

The situation isn't as impressive when it comes to the colour performance, and the tracking against the industry standard of BT.709 is patchy. The HU85LS is generally fine at 100% saturation, although slightly under-saturated in blue at 100%. Red is under-saturated at saturation points below 100%, resulting in less punchier reds, and magenta is heavily skewed towards blue, giving flesh tones a slightly cool look. The luminance, which isn't shown on this graph, is fairly good, but I'm used to more accurate colours from an LG display out of the box. It's possible that this might be sample-specific but, in terms of the colour performance, I was disappointed.

SDR Calibrated

As with LG's TVs, there are expert controls for calibrating the greyscale, gamma and colour gamut. The White Balance controls offer 2- and 20-point adjustments, and the colour management system allows control of the saturation, hue and luminance of the three primary colours (red, green and blue), along with the three secondary colours (cyan, magenta and yellow).

LG HU85LS
SDR calibrated greyscale measurements
LG HU85LS
SDR calibrated gamut tracking measurements

Given the initial accuracy of the greyscale and gamma, it was easy to get a reference performance in this area from the HU85LA. As you can see in the graph above, after a few tweaks on the controls the errors are all below 0.5 and essentially perfect.

 

The calibrated greyscale and gamma are reference, but the colour tracking still has minor issues

Once again, the colour performance isn't as impressive, and blue is still undersaturated at 100%. However, red is now tracking more accurately, and most of the other colours are also good; although despite extensive efforts, it was impossible to improve magenta beyond what is seen above. It's not as skewed as before, but there is still a shift towards blue. As with the out-of-the-box measurements, these days I'm used to seeing reference colour performances from LG displays after calibration. So I was a little disappointed, although I had a suspicion that given its initial size the skew in magenta wouldn't be completely correctable.

HDR Results

The HU85LS supports high dynamic range in the form of HDR10, and its performance was both expected and surprising. As with LG's TVs, there is a dynamic tone mapping feature, which is actually quite effective and worth engaging.

LG HU85LS
HDR peak luminance
LG HU85LS
HDR DCI-P3 coverage

For a projector the HU85LS is bright, and in the High Brightness mode it approaches LG's claims of 2,700 lumens. The laser light source is also fairly consistent, and shouldn't dim much over its lifetime, unlike a regular bulb.

 

The tone mapping is good, but the gamut measurement wasn't as large as expected for a laser light source

What was more surprising given the laser light source is that the DCI-P3 wide colour gamut coverage was considerably less than I was expecting. It would appear that despite sending the projector a DCI-P3 signal, it wasn't able to go much wider than BT.709 at 87%. In addition, magenta was now skewed towards red rather than blue. As with SDR measurements this might be sample specific, but given the three laser light source I was expecting this projector to reach around 97% of DCI-P3 if LG is to be believed.

LG HU85LS
HDR greyscale measurements
LG HU85LS
HDR DCI-P3 tracking

As with SDR, the out-of-the-box greyscale measurements were impressive, with equal amounts of red, green, and blue, and good tone mapping until the projector rolls off at its peak brightness of around 120 nits.

Given the limited colour gamut coverage, the saturation tracking of DCI-P3 within the BT.2020 container was better than I expected. The tracking wasn't too bad considering the overall colour space, aside from the skew of magenta towards red, which resulted in skin tones looking slightly flushed. It was definitely a mixed bag, although I should point out that the actual experience of watching HDR content was considerably better than some of these graphs might suggest.

Performance

The LG HU85LS proved to be a generally impressive performer, regardless of some of the dodgy colour measurements shown in the previous section. Once setup properly and correctly focused, the image is sharp and detailed. The single-chip nature of DLP is the reason why the picture often looks so sharp, even with cheaper lenses, and while it might not technically be native 4K, you really wouldn't know from looking a it. Put on a native 4K disc like Blade Runner 2049 and the level of detail is often astonishing, and sure to please pixel junkies.

The images are bright and free of unwanted artefacts (as long as you avoid using any keystoning), and this projector can certainly be used in rooms with ambient light. However, a degree of expectation management is needed here, because while the images are perfectly watchable in daylight, the experience is certainly diminished. Pull the curtains and suddenly the images come to life in a way they simply can't when competing with ambient light in the room. Ultimately, when it comes to watching content in a bright room, a TV is obviously superior.

 

The images are sharp and detailed, but while this projector is bright it will still struggle in a room with ambient light

It is possible to simply project onto a white wall, but for the best results you would be better off using a proper screen. There are negative gain screens designed to reject ambient light that can improve the perceived image and contrast, but these are expensive. If you decide to go for a pull-down or motorised screen, make sure it's tensioned because any undulations will become incredibly annoying every time the image pans.

LG HU85LS
LG HU85LS left side view

I wasn't surprised to discover that even in ideal conditions the black levels are mediocre, and really more of a dark grey. This is fairly typical for a DLP projector, and LG's lofty contrast ratio claims are based on turning the laser light off, which is hardly representative of actual viewing. The contrast performance certainly isn't as good as recent Epson LCD projectors, and a far cry from the Sony SXRD and especially JVC D-ILA models. However, while there are better alternatives in terms of contrast, given the types of rooms the HU85LS will be used in this is less of an issue, and it's worth remember that it's really designed for convenience.

Contrast aside, the other issue when it comes DLP technology is the possibility of colour fringing or rainbow artefacts. The laser light source should mitigate this, but since I don't suffer from rainbows I can't say for sure if this projector completely eliminates them. So if rainbows are an issue for you, this projector might not be appropriate and you should definitely demo before buying.

 

The HU85LS delivers bright and punchy HDR images with excellent tone mapping

If it sounds like I've been fairly down on the HU85LS so far that's only because I'm getting the negatives out of the way. In fact, watching content in the ideal conditions of my home cinema this projector generally delivered an excellent performance. Although getting it setup was an ordeal, primarily because my home cinema isn't designed for an ultra-short-throw projector, and necessitated removing the centre speaker and fabricating a stand that was at the correct height for my screen.

However, after some effort and more than a little swearing, once I was able to sit back and actually watch something I was impressed. Along with image being pin sharp, the other big strong-point of DLP is motion, and here the LG really delivers the goods. There are a number of TruMotion settings, but in reality, even with fast paced sports content, you really won't need them. The motion on the HU85LS is smooth, clean and free of judder, with movies looking suitably film-like. It's also great for gaming, although even in the game mode the lag is quite high at 78ms. Having said that this projector isn't really aimed at hardcore gamers.

LG HU85LS
LG HU85LS right side view

I watched scenes from my trusty Blu-ray of Samsara, and the images looked gorgeous. Yes the blacks could have been deeper and the shadows more detailed, but the colours popped and the level of detail was such that I could have convinced the unsuspecting they were watching native 4K (it's a particularly good Blu-ray, and I have pulled this trick on occasion). The upscaling is also excellent, squeezing every last pixel out of the 1080p source. Any concerns I had about the colour accuracy related to magenta, really didn't manifest in actual viewing, aside from a very slight blueish tinge to flesh tones.

When it came to HDR the HU85LS remained impressive despite my misgivings about the size of the colour gamut. Watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 revealed a riot of colour just as I expected, suggesting the measurements don't reflect the actual viewing experience. The tone mapping was very good, with the display handling the brighter parts of the image without clipping the highlights. The projector did a great job of mapping the HDR content to its limitations, especially in a darkened environment, and the dynamic tone mapping is a worthwhile feature. But depending on the specific HDR content, the HU85 might struggle in a room with ambient light – as I discovered when using this projector in my lounge with its white walls and ceiling.

However, overall the HU85LS proved to be a very capable projector with HDR, and watching Planet Earth II the image was bursting with detail and the highlights were nicely rendered. The limitations with blacks were obvious in the nighttime scenes with the hyenas, but in most regards the HDR images produced by this projector will please. In a darkened environment it certainly produced impressively bright snowy landscapes in The Revenant, and the excellent greyscale ensured the whites remained suitably accurate. Having said that, it's worth remembering a projector will never be able to fully compete with a TV when it comes to HDR.

Verdict

Pros

  • Bright laser images
  • Sharp and detailed
  • Great motion handling
  • Easy to setup
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • webOS smart platform

Cons

  • Mediocre blacks and contrast
  • Colour gamut issues
  • High input lag
  • No 3D support
  • Expensive

LG HU85LS CineBeam Laser 4K Projector Review

Should I buy one?

The LG HU85LS certainly makes an interesting alternative to a large-screen TV, especially as there are virtually no models with panels from 90 to 120 inches in size. The use of a laser light source results in a brighter image, instant on and off, a longer lifespan and better consistency. LG has also included its webOS smart platform and Magic remote, which also helps make the HU85LS a viable alternative to a TV. In some territories, although not the UK, there's even a built-in tuner, which would technically qualify the HU85LA as a TV.

There's a built-in speaker system, which is passable, but if you're going for a big screen experience you really owe it to yourself to invest in a proper outboard sound solution. The use of DLP ensures a pin sharp image, even though it's not technically native 4K, and the motion handling is excellent. Of course being DLP the blacks and contrast are mediocre, and there's always the possibility of rainbow artefacts. The HU85LS also didn't produce as big a colour gamut as I was expecting in measurements, although with actual content the images were generally very impressive.

This ultra-short-throw laser projector is easy to setup, although the installation options are limited; and while you can use a wall, a screen will deliver better results. The HU85 can produce a bright image in a room with ambient light, but it does lose some of its impact and really benefits from making the room darker. The LG certainly could be used as an alternative to a TV, and it can deliver a larger image for less cost, but ultimately a TV will handle ambient light better, and deliver a superior HDR experience. However, if you're looking for an ultra-short-throw laser projector, the LG HU85LS is certainly worthy of recommendation.

What are my alternatives?

The big problem with the LG HU85LS is that while it's cheaper than a massive 4K TV, it's relatively expensive for a projector. So unless you really need an ultra-short-throw projector with the convenience of a laser light source, built-in smart platform and enough brightness to use in a room with ambient light, there are better and cheaper alternatives. In the case of the projectors listed below you also get 3D support, which the HU85 lacks.

In terms of DLP projectors, the BenQ W5700 (£2,399) is an excellent choice with an impressive SDR and HDR performance, combined with really accurate out-of-the-box images. The BenQ still suffers from the usual DLP limitations such as black levels, contrast, and rainbows, but in a similar price range is the awesome Epson EH-TW9400 (£2,499). This three-chip LCD projector not only delivers better blacks and impressive SDR/HDR images, but also includes plenty of high end features like motorised lens controls and memories.

While both these projectors can project 4K images using pixel-shifting technology, if you want a native 4K projector the look no further than the Sony VPL-VW270ES (£4,999). This impressive beamer is a great example of the kind of exceptional performance possible if you're prepared to draw the curtains, make the room darker and sacrifice some convenience. It might not have a laser light source, but in most respects it's superior to the HU85LS and costs the same. In addition, all of these projectors offer greater flexibility in terms of installation, and can produce much larger images.

In terms of direct competitors there are ultra-short-throw 4K laser projectors from Optoma and Vava. However, in terms of alternatives to large screen TVs the obvious choice is Hisense's range of 4K HDR Laser TVs. The Hisense H100LDA (£6,999) produces an 100-inch image, and comes with its own dedicated screen, built-in smart platform, TV tuners with Freeview HD, and JBL sound system that includes a wireless subwoofer.

Recommended

Scores

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels

.
.
.
7

Colour Accuracy

.
.
.
7

Greyscale Accuracy

.
9

Image Uniformity

.
.
8

Video Processing

.
9

2D Picture Quality

.
.
8

Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box

.
.
8

Picture Quality Calibrated

.
9

Features

.
9

Ease Of Use

.
9

Build Quality

.
.
8

Value For Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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