LG CineBeam HU85LA 4K DLP Projector Review

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $5,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Easy setup and installation
Excellent image clarity
Extensive calibration options for a projector
Minus
Low light output
Limited contrast performance
Middling HDR performance

THE VERDICT
LG's CineBeam HU85LA ultra-short-throw projector has high cool factor, but its limited light output and modest contrast will leave movie fans wanting.

If you're a home cinema nut like me, there's always one thing that makes or breaks the experience: screen size. For the last 15 years, I've owned a front projection system that beams images well over 100 inches diagonal, and once you have that at home, it's hard to turn back! Today's flat panel TVs provide truly extraordinary image quality, and although they keep getting bigger and bigger, models with a screen size above 90 inches remain prohibitively expensive. That creates a dilemma since not everyone can (or wants to) install a system with a projector mounted to the ceiling at the back of their room.

At this year's CEDIA Expo in Denver, Colorado, I encountered multiple projector manufacturers showing alternative solutions. The most popular of these was the ultra-short-throw (UST) projector, an ingenious device that packs the projection system into a compact cabinet that sits on top of a shelf (or even on your floor!) and beams images at an upward angle. This design allows the projector to sit nearly right against the wall and deliver images that are much larger than what you can expect from a typical flat-panel TV. For this review, I had the chance to look at the latest entry in this segment, LG's CineBeam HU85LA. Combining a three-laser light engine with DLP 4K XPR projection technology, the HU85LA beams images that range in size from 90-120 inches with one of the shortest throw ratios on the market. And at $5,999 retail, the price is dramatically less than what you'll pay for the largest high-end flat-panel LCD or OLED TVs.

1119lgcine.side

Off The Wall
The HU85LA is the first UST projector I've tested. Since my projection setup is in a dedicated, light-controlled home theater and USTs are designed for use in a more typical consumer's family room, I reached out to Screen Innovations, a leader in ambient light rejecting (ALR) screens. The company sent me its Zero Edge screen with Short Throw material in a 100-inch diagonal image size. This material is specifically designed to amplify light coming only from directly below the screen and eliminate as much light interference as possible from other directions. The screen does a fantastic job of boosting contrast in moderate to low ambient light conditions, and the Zero Edge design's vanishingly narrow bezel makes it look very similar to a flat panel. One downside I saw with the Short Throw material is its 0.6 gain, which theoretically chops off 40 percent of potential light output. That's common for any ALR screen, however, and is a necessary evil of the technology. Screen Innovations ups the cool factor by adding LED strip lighting along the back of the screen frame that provides a splash of light in different color hues on the surrounding wall, an effect that also helps to bias your eyes when the room is dark to provide more comfortable viewing and higher perceived contrast.

The HU85LA is housed in an attractive white case complete with a fabric front that hides a built-in speaker system. A small glass opening for the image to project through is located on the cabinet's top, along with a small door that conceals a focus adjustment. The back panel features two full-bandwidth HDMI 2.0b inputs, a digital TV antenna input, USB type-C and two USB type-B inputs, and an optical digital audio output. While I was surprised to see a TV tuner built into the projector, it certainly makes sense since the HU85LA can be used as a replacement for a flat-panel TV.

1119lgcine.bac

LG's three-laser light system includes two blue laser diodes (one with a filter to convert to green) and one red diode coupled to a 0.66-inch DLP DMD chip. This is the higher-resolution version of the two DLP XPR options, providing a native 2,716 x 1,528-pixel array that's converted to 4K by an optical actuator in the light path. (Unlike other "shifting" image technologies, these are called true 4K because each pixel is individually addressable, though the pixels have to overlap unlike with a true pixel-perfect 4K imaging device.) Regardless, the XPR solution provides an extremely sharp image that is nearly impossible to distinguish from native 4K projectors on the market. Since the HU85LA uses separate lasers for each primary color, it has none of the color separation "rainbow" artifacts typically seen with single-chip DLP projectors. I did note an occasional color artifact with high motion images, but overall found it to be a non-issue.

The HU85LA's image size is determined by how far away it's placed from the projection surface. With a throw ratio of 0.19—one of the shortest on the market—LG's projector can beam a 90-inch diagonal image when placed just two inches from a screen, and a 120-inch image at around seven inches. To align image geometry, you twist the cabinet from left to right, though you still may see some minor geometric distortion depending on the surface you place the projector on, or how plumb the wall is with your screen. LG allows for further adjustment using "warping," a feature that gives you the ability to dial in up to 12 points of edge correction using a handy onscreen display. This process applies some scaling to the image, but I found that the benefits of getting proper geometry outweighed the cons of scaling artifacts, which were minimal.

LG's onscreen interface should be very familiar to anyone who has experience with one of its flat-panel TVs. I have an LG OLED set in my family room with a nearly identical "webOS" interface, so setup was straightforward. The "Magic" remote control that comes with the HU85LA is also similar to the ones supplied with the company's TVs. This allows you to navigate onscreen menus using either directional arrows, or an onscreen "wand" with a floating arrow.

COMPANY INFO
LG Electronics
(800) 243-0000
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Billy's picture

While this is a nice idea, I feel the era of the projector is almost over. I was at BB today, saw an LG 4K that was 75 inches and like 700 bucks. I am willing to bet the picture looked at least as good, if not better then this. I sure found it acceptable, and I had just seen an 85 inch 13K Sony 8K playing, and I still found the $700 LG more then acceptable. When the 100 and 120 inch flat panel 4Ks get under five grand, projection is dead unless you just gotta have a 200 inch screen to show off, and even then it is not going to be as bright or have the contrast. And that comes with a fella who has a dedicated theater with a 123 inch screen. I have thought about upgrading to 4K from my 1080P, but the more I think about it, I am going to wait a few years. My only problem is getting it downstairs into the theater. Maybe they will have roll up flat panels by then.

drny's picture

The modern 4k Laser UST projectors coming out now (LG, Optoma, Epson, VAVA, Xiaomi, others soon to join the crowd) are marketed as Large screen Laser TV.
They are not a true replacement for a TV, at least not yet. Day time viewing quality even with a great ALR screen is circa 2005 LCD TV.
However, when the lights are turned off and it's dark outside.
These 4k UST projectors are an excellent option for those who can not have a dedicated Home Theater set up with a ceiling mounted Far Field Projector.
The problem with the HU85LA it's the price tag. $6,000 for the projector and an additional $800-$4,000 + for an ALR screen (SI's ALR is great but they cost double their competition). makes the combination not viable for most folks.
The prove is in the pudding LG's HU85LA are not moving as expected, while the newly released Optoma X P1 (4k UST projector) at $3,200 is sold out and supplier have a back log of orders. The Optoma doesn't have the quality processing and three Laser technology of the LG, but it's significantly brighter. Additionally within six months the P1 will be 10-20% lower in price (based on Optoma's track record for trying to keep market share compared to Epson, the market leader). The upcoming Epson UST 4K projector will probably look better than the Optoma P1, but they are being marketed as a Projector and ALR screen combo and that will turn off some buyers. Also the Epson's throw distance is double the LG's and almost 1/3 more than the Optoma. For those looking at bottom dollar choices the Xiaomi Mijia UST 4k and VAVA projectors might be their better option ($2,000 & 2,600 respectively). However these two have substantial image quality downfalls.
So far it seems that Optoma P1 is the goldilocks choice for those seeking to purchase a 4k UST laser projector. I myself, will keep my current 65" 4k TV in my family room and my good old ceiling mounted Epson UB5040 in my Theater room. I am hoping that by 2021 model year I can afford to upgrade both, maybe even with a 4k UST projector.

Kevinh1's picture

This projector has not way for a third party to control the unit. There is no IR or RS-232 inputs, it does have Ethernet but there is no option for IP control. So as far as this projector being utilized in a home theater or an application where the end user would want to use an universal remote, it is not a good option.

JL's picture

According to LG, HU85LA supports IP control by Crestron, Savant and Control4.

X