LG PH30N 720P DLP Projector
  • Performance
  • 3.5
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value
Pros
  • Delivers resolution equivalent to 720p on screen, using a 960x540 micromirror chip and XPR fast pixel shifting
  • Accepts 1080p input
  • Supports Bluetooth audio (in addition to having a 3.5mm audio out port) with Bluetooth AV sync adjustment
  • Built-in rechargeable battery
Cons
  • Some minor shifting of color bias based on content
  • 1-watt mono speaker delivers low volume, making a headset or external sound system required in most circumstances
  • No 3D support
Our Take

The LG CineBeam PH30N delivers somewhat mixed performance for image quality, but the balance of image quality, small size, and brightness is easily good enough for the price to let it serve nicely in a small conference room or for anyone who needs a light, bright projector they can take with them on the go.

The LG CineBeam PH30N is one of only a handful of projectors that share its particular mix of resolution, portability, brightness, and price. Just over a pound, it's small and light enough so you can take it with you easily, and you can run it using AC power or its built-in battery. It's also bright enough, with its 250-lumen rating, to give you a bigger image in ambient light than you can get from a phone, tablet, or laptop. And at $399.99 it's eminently affordable.

LG PH30N front

LG CineBeam PH30N Features

LG calls the PH30N a 720p projector. But it actually doesn't deliver a native 1280x720 resolution. The projector is built around an LED light source rated at 30,000 hours and a 0.23-inch 960x540 DLP chip that uses TI's XPR fast-switch pixel-shifting. According to LG, the chip puts two 960x540 images on screen for each video frame, or just over 1 million pixels.

This works out to essentially the same image resolution—defined as the ability to resolve detail—as a 720p chip, which offers just under 1 million pixels. But the difference in pixel count means there isn't a one-to-one match between the number of pixels in the original image and the number on screen, which requires interpolation from the original image. The interpolation, in turn, can introduce artifacts, primarily in repeating patterns, as demonstrated by one of my test images that's designed to show these artifacts.

That said, whatever detail is lost in the translation may well be made up for by the slight increase in pixel count. And the key point is that the ability to resolve detail is similar enough to what it would be with a true 720p native resolution that any difference would be hard to see. All of which makes the PH30N's native resolution equivalent to 720p, rather than actually being 720p.

Note that the PH30N can accept 1080p input to downconvert to (its version of) 720p, and in my tests, negotiated a 1080p connection both with my Blu-ray player when I set it to Auto resolution and with my Windows 10 PC. For the most accurate detail, however, you should avoid 1080p, manually setting the source for 720p if need be. My testing showed that although the image appeared to have what at first glance looked like more detail with 1080p input, it was the result of an introduction of artifacts that weren't in the original image. They disappeared entirely when I viewed the same image using 720p input.

The projector itself measures 1.5 x 5.1 x 5.1 inches (HWD). You can leave the power block at home. However, you need it to recharge the internal battery, which has only a two-hour life, and the brightness level using the battery is noticeably lower than with AC power—about 40% lower in my tests. The block measures 1.5 x 4.25 x 1.8 inches, and adds 0.6 pounds to the projector's 1.1-pound weight.

LG PH30N frontright

Setup involves little more than plugging in a video source, positioning the projector, and focusing the image. When sitting on a table, the lens offset put the bottom of the image even with the lens centerline in my tests. If you need to tilt it, you can use the +/- 40 degree auto or manual keystone to square off the image. You can also take advantage of the tripod mount screw hole on the bottom to mount the projector on either a tripod or a ceiling camera mount. There's no manual setting for mounting in an inverted position, but if you flip the projector over, it automatically flips the picture to the right orientation.

As with most projectors this small, there is no zoom. To adjust image size, you simply move the projector. Very much on the plus side, the focus control offers enough resistance to make it harder than typical to overshoot the right position.

The full story behind the PH30N's brightness is a little complicated. LG rates it at 250 ANSI lumens, with a note that the rating is based on perceived brightness compared to a lamp projector. Rating LED projectors this way comes from the well-established observation that the perception of brightness is influenced by the more saturated color produced by LEDs, at least in a dark room and at low levels of ambient light. (For more details on the perceived brightness issue see the ProjectorCentral article Are "LED lumens" a Real Thing?)

The measured brightness for most projectors that are rated this way is far below the rating. However, I measured the PH30N at 90% of its rating: 226 ANSI lumens. To get that measurement, I had to use settings that added a noticeable green bias. But that's true of most projectors.

What this adds up to is that LG really doesn't need to put an asterisk on this rating. On the other hand, the perception advantage for LEDs didn't apply in this case either. Using default settings for the brightest color mode, I measured the PH30N at 157 lumens. For lamp projectors, this would be bright enough for comfortable viewing in a dark room on a 55-inch diagonal 1.0 gain screen, so the right size for the PH30N should be larger. But when I judged image brightness subjectively, I wound up with a virtually identical size—56 inches. In dim lighting, I wound up with a 47-inch image and a throw distance of 5.2 feet.

Finally for setup, one small, but important, issue is that the onboard 1-watt mono speaker delivers too little volume for most purposes. The good news is that the PH30N offers both a 3.5mm audio output and wireless support for Bluetooth speakers. Even better, the Bluetooth support includes an AV Sync adjustment.

Here's a more complete list of the PH30N's key features:

  • Slightly better than 720p resolution on screen using a 960 x 540, 0.23-inch DLP chip and TI's XPR fast-switch pixel shifting
  • Downsamples 1080p input to 720p
  • Small and light: 1.5 x 5.1 x 5.1 inches (HWD); 1.1 pounds, power adapter 0.6 pounds
  • Auto and manual +/- 40 degree vertical keystone correction
  • Supports Miracast for screen mirroring of mobile devices
  • Plays movies, photos, and music from USB memory
  • 250 ANSI lumen rating
  • 100,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio rating
  • RGB LED light source with 30,000-hour lifetime
  • One HDMI 1.4 (HDCP 1.4) port
  • Four predefined color modes plus one Expert mode
  • Onboard 1-watt mono speaker; Bluetooth sound out with AV sync adjustment; 3.5mm audio output
  • Built-in rechargeable battery with 2 hour battery life
  • Comfortably sized remote (larger than credit-card size)
  • Kensington lock slot
  • Tripod hole for tripod or camera ceiling mount
  • 1-year warranty, includes light source

LG CineBeam PH30N Performance

Four of the PH30N's five predefined color modes—Vivid, Standard, Cinema, and Game—allow no adjustment beyond the Color Temperature setting. The Expert mode adds five settings adjustments: Contrast, Brightness, Color, Sharpness, and Tint. For graphics, all five modes offer vibrant, saturated color straight out of the box. Color for photos, movies, and video varies from neutral with good color accuracy to having a slight green bias, depending on the content.

LG PH30N top

For any given color temperature setting, there is very little difference in color from one picture mode to the next. Most colors don't change at all, and those that change, change only slightly. Using the default Medium color temperature, for example, colors in Standard mode were slightly warmer than in Vivid mode. But in my tests, the difference showed only in photorealistic images, and even then were easy to spot only with skin tones.

Cinema mode delivered virtually the same color as Standard mode. The biggest difference between the two was that Cinema mode was dimmer. In a dark room, it also maintained more subtle shading. However, that advantage was washed away in even dim ambient light.

Game mode is so dim that you're unlikely to use it. The only time it might come in handy is if you need such a small image that the other modes are too bright to look at comfortably.

Straight out of the box, Expert mode was a little dimmer than Vivid and Standard modes but otherwise all but identical to Standard mode. When I boosted the Contrast setting from its default to the maximum 100—which is the permanent setting for Standard mode—it was also just as bright. And I was able to improve shadow detail in dim and dark scenes without washing out brightly lit scenes by boosting the Brightness setting just a bit. If you want to tweak settings for the best image possible, Expert mode is the obvious choice.

 

In addition to the default Medium setting, you can change color temperature to Cool, Warm, or Natural. The first two had only a small affect, making colors a touch warmer or cooler to match the setting name. However, Natural changed color significantly, adding a noticeable green bias, particularly in skin tones, to content that offered neutral color when using the Medium setting. It also increased brightness significantly, which can make it useful for presentations. It's less likely you'll be willing to put up with the green flesh tones it produced when watching movies or TV.

Viewing. No projector as small and light as the PH30N will give the level of color accuracy you would expect from even an inexpensive home theater projector, but the PH30N does well for its category.

Color accuracy varied with content, changing from one disc to another for Blu-ray discs and even from scene to scene in a single movie. This is highly unusual behavior for a projector, and I didn't see any pattern that might explain why the accuracy varied this way. With some movies, including La La Land and the 2D version of The Ultimate Wave Tahiti, for example, color was suitably neutral in all the scenes I looked at. And in Casino Royale, in a scene where Bond is driving by the ocean, the sky showing through his car window stayed definitively blue at a point where it has a tendency to turn green with some projectors.

LG PH30N CasinoRoyale
For much of Casino Royale, the LG PH30N's color stayed true, but there were times a green bias crept in.

Other scenes in Casino Royale showed a slight green bias that I couldn't remove with either the Color or Tint settings. I also saw a similar bias on and off when watching live news on TV, the Homeland series finale on Showtime, and Lucifer on Netflix. How often it showed varied from one movie or show to the next, but it was always little enough that most people would consider it at least tolerable. That said, it's best to buy from a vendor who allows easy returns, so you can test the projector out for yourself.

We usually offer the same advice in reference to rainbow artifacts, but there's little need to follow that strategy here. I didn't see any in my tests, even in contrasty scenes that tend to cause them, and even when shifting my gaze quickly in those scenes to try to force them to show.

Also very much on the plus side, in scenes that don't show a green bias, the PH30N delivered good color accuracy even for vibrant, saturated colors like the ones in the scene in Mia's apartment in La La Land with lots of brightly colored clothing, throw pillows, and wall colors. Darker scenes—when Carry walks from her car to Saul's house at night in the Homeland finale for example—retain surprisingly good contrast and shadow detail for this class of projector. They even deliver a good sense of three-dimensionality. In short, despite the occasional green bias, the PH30N scores well enough on image quality overall for most people to find it acceptable.

Conclusion

The LG CineBeam PH30N is of obvious interest if you want a highly portable, bright-for-its-size projector. Image quality on our tests was a bit of a mixed bag, but with more positives than negatives. For business presentations and other graphics, it delivered eye-catching color. For movies, video, and photos, color accuracy varied depending on the content, but contrast was good enough to bring out most shadow detail in dark scenes.

Beyond that, the PH30N's features include a built-in rechargeable battery, quick and easy setup, essentially 720p resolution, and the ability to accept 1080p input. If you need this size projector, the LG CineBeam PH30N easily qualifies as a solid value at $399.99 and a good fit for personal use, business use, or both.

Measurements

Brightness. The PH30N offers three power levels both when using AC power and when using its internal, rechargeable battery. Our results for AC power for Minimum Power Saving (full power), Medium Power Saving, and Maximum Power Saving were as follows for each color mode using the default Medium color temperature setting.

LG CineBeam PH30N ANSI Lumens (AC Power)

Mode Minimum Power Saving Medium Maximum Power Saving
Vivid 157 96 58
Standard 157 96 58
Cinema 100 61 37
Game 35 22 13
Expert 100 61 37

Our results when using the internal battery were as follows for each color mode, also using the default Medium color temperature setting.

LG CineBeam PH30N ANSI Lumens (Battery Power)

Mode Minimum Power Saving Medium Maximum Power Saving
Vivid 98 60 29
Standard 97 59 29
Cinema 62 38 18
Game 20 12 6
Expert 63 39 19

Note also that the color temperature setting affects brightness as well as color. The Normal color temperature mode gives the highest brightness readings, but also adds a noticeable green tint in every color mode. Our measurements using AC power and Normal color temperature were as follows for each color mode.

LG CineBeam PH30N ANSI Lumens (AC Power & Normal Color Temperature)

Mode Minimum Power Saving Medium Maximum Power Saving
Vivid 226 138 84
Standard 226 138 84
Cinema 147 90 55
Game 48 29 18
Expert 147 90 55

Brightness Uniformity: 92%

Color Brightness. The measured color brightness came out to 100% of white brightness in every mode, which means color images will be as bright as you would expect from the white brightness measurement.

Lowest Measured Input Lag (1080p): 42.5 ms

Fan Noise. LG rates the PH30N fan noise at up to 30 dB for full power, up to 28 dB for Medium, and up to 25 dB for Maximum Power Saving (Eco). At all three levels it's the kind of steady sound that tends to fade into the background unless you're particularly sensitive to fan noise. High Altitude mode, which LG recommends using at 4000 feet and above, is louder, but still quiet enough that most people shouldn't find it bothersome.

Connections

LG PH30N connections
  • HDMI 1.4 (with HDCP 1.4)
  • 3.5mm audio out
  • USB 2.0 Type A (Reads photos, video, and music files from USB memory key; plays photos as slideshow)

Also supports Bluetooth audio out with AV Sync

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our LG PH30N projector page.

To buy this projector, use Where to Buy online, or get a price quote by email direct from Projector Central authorized dealers using our E-Z Quote tool.

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