LG Electronics HU80KA Laser 4K Home Theater Projector
The LG Electronics HU80KA is by far the most unique and original 4K projector to hit the market so far - there is quite literally nothing else like it. It does not even look remotely like a projector when you pull it out of the box, but once you get it set up it can produce a dazzling high contrast 4K picture with superb color saturation.
Of course, the HU80KA has attracted a lot of attention simply because it is LG's first 4K projector. It uses the 0.47" 4K UHD DLP chipset, but unlike competing units with the 0.47" chip, all of which are lamp-based, the HU80KA is driven by a laser phosphor light engine that improves its overall black levels and contrast performance and promises 20,000 hours of life without concern for lamp replacements.
In addition, the HU80KA's Smart TV platform makes it set to go with wireless streaming of TV, Netflix, YouTube, and other sources, but it has an HDMI 2.0 input with HDCP 2.2 to accommodate wired Blu-ray and gaming consoles as well.
LG HU80KA Features/Advantages
- Laser driven 4K for high contrast imagery
- 20,000 hour life in brightest mode, longer in reduced brightness modes
- Smart TV with wireless streaming of TV, Netflix, YouTube and other sources
- Extreme portability
- Much better than average on-board audio
- Eight segment RGBYRGBY color wheel with virtually no rainbow artifacts
LG HU80KA Limitations
- No 3D compatibility.
- Video optimized lumen output sufficient for dark room viewing only.
- Menu complicated and difficult to navigate.
LG HU80KA Performance
Brightness. There are a lot of ways to adjust lumen output on the HU80KA, First, you can place it horizontally (or ceilling mount it horizontally) so it projects directly at the screen like a light cannon. Or you can stand it upright in its "tower" orientation, where the image is reflected 90 degrees outward from a mirror. This reduces lumen output by 4%.
Second, the HU80KA has three Energy Savings power options that act like Eco modes on competing models -- labeled Minimum, Medium, and Maximum. The Minimum setting is the brightest option and corresponds to Full or Normal power on competing models. Switching to Medium reduces lumen output by about 28%, and Maximum reduces lumen out by 52% from Minimum.
Third, the HU80KA has four independent Color Temperature settings that you can select with any preset operating mode, labeled Cool, Medium, Warm, and Natural. Of these, Natural is by far the brightest, producing over double the lumen power of the second brightest option which is Warm. Cool and Medium are almost identical in brightness, and both are about 20% dimmer than Warm.
The Natural setting is your choice if you need maximum lumen output. It tends to have a greenish bias, but not as dramatic as the Dynamic modes on many competing models. Nevertheless, it is noticeable enough that those looking for ideal color balance will want to opt for Medium, which is the most neutral of the color temperature options, or get a professional AV specialist to calibrate the unit to your taste.
All of the lumen readings in this table are taken with the projector oriented for direct projection (not using the mirror), the zoom lens at maximum wide angle, and the various color presets below are taken with the projector's Color Temperature option set to Natural:
(Direct projection, Natural Color Temp, Zoom at Wide Angle)
Zoom Lens Light Loss. The projector is at its brightest with the 1.2x zoom at it widest angle setting. It loses 7% of its lumen output when set to the maximum telephoto end of the zoom range.
Mirror Light Loss. The HU80KA loses 4% of its potential brightness when used with the mirror as opposed to projecting directly without the mirror.
Brightness Uniformity. This projector measured a solid 87% uniformity at the wide angel end of the zoom, and 92% at the telephoto end. This is the best we've seen so far from any 4K projector using the 0.47" chip, and excellent uniformity for any projector.
Input Lag. Minimum input lag with processing features like True Motion turned off is 71 ms.
Fan noise. Overall, a very quiet projector even with its Energy Savings option set to Minimum, its brightest option. Audible noise is low in pitch and unobtrusive.
On board audio. The HU80KA has an exceptionally good on-board stereo audio system as far as projectors are concerned. The two 7W speakers put out sufficient volume to fill a typical home theater room. As you would expect, the deep rumbling bass range is missing, so for permanent use a more substantial external sound system would be required to complement the large screen imagery. But this unit is designed for portability, and the sound it produces is plenty adequate and enjoyable for occasional back yard movie nights or other portable uses where a separate sound system might not be at hand.
LG HU80KA Set Up / Install
The HU80KA can be set up in a variety of ways - you can ceiling mount it and point it directly at the screen, you can stand it in front of the seating area and bounce the picture via the mirror onto the screen, or you can even shoot the picture directly upward onto the ceiling if you want. You can also place it on a stand or rack behind the seats and project over the heads of the viewers. Due to its long tubular shape, it won't fit in a typical rear wall bookshelf.
Be aware that the throw ratio of the 1.2x zoom lens is in the range of 1.32 to 1.58. In other words, this is NOT a short throw projector. The projector will usually be placed at about the same distance as the seating area. For example, a 120" diagonal screen is 105" wide, and if you want to sit at a distance of 1.3x the screen width (a comfortable distance for a lot of people), that would be about 11.5 feet from the screen. Now in order to get a 120" picture from this projector, it needs to be placed in the range of 11.5 to 14 feet from the screen. So in this case you would need to place it upright between the seats or on a stand immediately behind the seats.
We mention this because it is easy to imagine that you'd set the projector upright in front of the seats in order to get maximum advantage of the audio output. However, if you do, this may require you to sit farther back from the screen than you would want.
For the actual throw distance needed to fit your desired screen size, see the LG HU80KA Projection Calculator.
Our Take on the LG HU80KA
Overall, the HU80KA is the most exciting projector we've seen from LG Electronics, and certainly the most unique and innovative 4K projector to hit the market so far. It is non-traditional in every respect, from its very odd form factor to its wireless Smart TV features and design for extreme portability. The laser-based light engine gives it a substantial boost in contrast for a rich, well saturation, engaging picture in both HDR and, remarkably, even in SDR where the picture's dynamic range can rival that of its HDR performance.
The selection of Medium as the Color Temperature yields overall the best color balance of the four temperature options, and this reduces lumen output by about 50% from the Natural setting. This in turn tends to render the Cinema mode too dim for very large screen use. Though Vivid is the brightest preset, it is a bit harsh for film/video. The Standard preset shows a more refined picture with just a slight drop in brightness from Vivid, and when you select Standard combined with Medium color temperature you end up with about 850 lumens of very high contrast light, excellent for use with a 120" screen in a dark theater room.
If you need more light you can switch to Natural color temperature, but this adds a modest greenish bias to the picture that you may or may not want to live with. It is not screaming green like some competing projectors produce in their Dynamic modes, but it is enough to compromise ideal flesh tones and the overall balance of the picture if you're paying attention. So for us, selecting the Standard preset and Medium color temperature was the key to a quick and optimized picture of sufficient brightness.
One of the most impressive attributes of the HU80KA is the high contrast and saturation the projector delivers with standard 1080p SDR sources. Since there is and will continue to be a lot more of this content than 4K for quite a long time, excellent performance for this type of material is a key advantage.
Beyond this is the super-portability of the unit, with a carrying handle integrated onto the unit. The mirror easily folds closed so the mirror and lens are both fully protected, and one can move it from place to place with ease.
The HU80KA's wireless Smart TV connections mean you don't have to run cables once you move it. The only connection is an on-board power cord which retracts into the unit when you want to transport it. So you don't have to think about carrying an external power cable like you do with all other portable projectors-a nice touch.
The LG HU80KA is offered for $2999, which is an aggressive price for a laser-driven 4K projector with wireless Smart TV features built in. Beyond this, if you want easy portability to set up occasional backyard movies or for other multi-location uses, there is simply nothing else on the market that will do it like the LG HU80KA does. For its originality and excellent performance for dark room home theater use, we are happy to give it our rare Editor's Choice Award.
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