Ultra short throw projectors are in vogue and despite the proud selling price, LG is trying to occupy the golden mean with the HU85LS.
With a projector for just under 6000 euros, do we speak of the golden mean? Yes, because slimmed-down, but quite similar models are available for just under 3,000 euros, while high-end solutions reach five-digit prices. The built-in technology shows that the HU85LS wanders between these two worlds. The DMD chip does not provide a native 4K resolution, but more pixels and area than is the case with cheaper DLP projectors. In addition, the DLP-typical color wheel is omitted. Instead, LG relies on laser light and high saturation values in the blue and red tones are achieved, while green tones appear less saturated through a filter. This also limits the measurable HDR color space: We could not achieve LG’s DCI specification in the test. Nevertheless, the HU85LS fulfills the HDR standard, and although the projector does not set any record values in comparison to cheaper projectors, the display is extremely bright. So that the image performance does not fizzle out, you should not just use such a projector with a white wall or a standard canvas. Instead, the light projected from below is to be deflected forward via fine slats, while the light incident from above is blocked.
Suitable screens are often advertised with CLR (ceiling light absorption), ALR (ambient light absorption) or UST (suitable for ultra-short-throw projectors). In our case, an Optoma ALR 101 screen had to be used for just under 1,400 euros, which was supposed to be tailor-made for the HU85LS. Despite a light reflection factor of only 0.6, we achieved a spot brightness of almost 120 nits with an impressive 100 inch screen size. This corresponds to common HDR standards in real cinema halls, but is of course not a comparison to the luminosity that modern flat screen TVs such as OLED TVs from LG achieve. The positive effect of such a contrast-optimized screen is particularly evident in the illuminated room: compared to a white surface, we were able to increase the image contrast by a factor of 10, black image areas showed all the details despite the dark gray rendering. This makes the HU85LS the ideal game partner for modern living rooms, in which huge dimensions beyond the TV standard are aimed for. But as simple as the installation and handling appears, the installation of the HU85LS is complex in the first few minutes.
Even by UST projector standards, the distance between the HU85LS and the screen can be described as ultra-low. This also creates the biggest setup problem: the projection angle is so steep that the HU85LS favors problems such as distortion at the top of the screen, focus differences and hotspot effects. Even our UST screen from Optoma was not optimally suited for the HU85LS, which is why it is best to buy the projector from a specialist dealer, including a screen that is best tailored to it. The installation is also a challenge: Every millimeter decides whether the image appears free of distortion and consistently sharp, and since the focus can only be adjusted manually using a wheel on the projector, the projector must be installed and the screen attached to the specified position a lot of skill – it’s best to book the installation service at the same time. Although LG advertises with subsequent keystone corrections, we do not believe in such digital interventions, because these reduce the image quality. The good news: If everything comes together harmoniously in the end, the HU85LS is possibly the most practical projector in its class, because LG uses all the smart TV tricks of its in-house TV here.
The illuminated remote control, which enables mouse pointer control via hand movements, makes it clear that this projector can do more than a typical home cinema projector. If you connect the HU85LS to the Internet, you can access the most popular streaming apps. In most cases, the HU85LS showed a 4K HDR image quality, only the Netflix app was only able to achieve HD quality in the test (but also with HDR dynamic range). External sources such as UHD players or gaming consoles such as PS4 Pro and Xbox One X can play back in 4K HDR quality at up to 60 frames per second. HDMI sources are automatically recognized by the projector and the HDMI-CEC control makes operation easier. The HU85LS also supports automatic switching to game mode as soon as a video game is started. Unfortunately, the input delay is too high (approx. 72 ms in game mode or 150 ms in TV mode). PC fans can use the connection diagram to switch to PC mode for error-free RGB playback and also use popular intermediate resolutions such as 1,440p. The 120 Hz mode, which can also be activated, showed no positive effects on the image quality and the input delay was still too high. Unlike comparable projectors, the HU85LS unfortunately does not support 3D signals. If you play in HDR quality, a LG specialty comes into play: The HU85LS enables dynamic HDR post-processing that matches the internal HDR tone mapping in real time to the XXL dynamic range of the source (HDR10 format) this scene by scene (also in game mode). If you switch off the dynamic tone mapping, HDR lights burn out significantly, which is why the activation of the function is a must for a faithful reproduction of the image. LG also has effective filters on board for streaming fans, for example to smooth banding artifacts caused by highly compressed video sources and to reduce noise patterns.
Although the handling is hardly distinguishable from a flat-screen TV and the HU85LS can be switched on and off very quickly, it is striking in detail that the description “TV replacement” is still a little too high. The number buttons on the remote control are almost meaningless due to the lack of a built-in tuner, the integrated loudspeakers sound tinny despite the XXL projector housing (it is not possible to integrate the projector as a center channel) and there is no continuous brightness adjustment in the picture menu. Instead, the energy-saving settings reduce the brightness, but the color temperature shifts, which requires a separate image calibration. In general, you should have such a projector optimally calibrated by a specialist if you appreciate a neutral color temperature rendering. In most image categories, however, the HU85LS knows how to convince “out-of-the-box”. The advertised 4K playback is not a marketing phrase, but the DLP-XPR technology is actually able to display almost 8 million pixels in impressive sharpness. The slightly larger DMD chip shows the finest 4K details flicker-free than with cheaper 4K DLP projectors. The moving image sharpness only ranks at 60 Hz level, but the intermediate image calculation enables smoother film images (native 24p playback not optimal in the test) and you don’t have to fear drag effects. Only slightly discolored double contours can occur with very fast object movements. The laser light source and the omission of the color wheel enable lightning-fast color changes despite single-chip projection, which significantly minimizes the DLP-typical rainbow effect. Nevertheless, we were also able to see some color flashes in the test with the HU85LS. The black display is sufficient for rooms with residual light, but not comparable to specialized home cinema projectors, whereas the achievable light output also offers sufficient reserves for 100-inch screens.
New playing field
Seldom has a projector test been so fascinating and refreshingly different: With a laser light source and an ultra-short distance lens, the HU85LS is made for living room use and typical limitations of a projector installation, such as the risk of getting into the light path of the projector and creating unwanted shadows with this technology story. However, as a TV replacement, we won’t let the HU85LS run away, because the HDMI interfaces are too sparingly designed, the sound quality of the integrated speakers is not good enough and the picture quality compared to similarly expensive 77-inch OLED TVs like the LG C9 is simply not at eye level. In addition, the quality of such an installation largely depends on the right screen. However, provided that this is a replacement for a conventional projector, the concept is all the more enthusiastic: LG’s HU85LS shows the large-screen potential for the living room of the future, and it is likely to be difficult, especially in terms of sustainability and energy saving, to do something comparable in the 100-inch class.
Settings for a natural picture
- Picture mode: cinema, game or expert
- Contrast: 90-100
- Brightness: 50 – 53
- Sharpness: 15
- Color depth: 50
- Hue: 0
- Dyn. Contrast: Off or Low
- Dynamic Tone Mapping: On (HDR source only)
- Super Resolution: Medium
- Color gamut: Automatic or Advanced (SDR)
- Color filter: off
- Gamma: 2.2 or 2.4
- Color temperature: standard or warm
- Noise Reduction: Off or Low
- MPEG Noise Reduction: Off
- Smooth gradation: low
- Black level: low
- Real cinema: On (24p content, Trumotion Off)
- Trumotion: Clear or Off
- Aspect Ratio: 16: 9 or Original, Just Scan: On
- Saving energy: minimum
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