Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
Last year LG set a benchmark by putting out a first of its kind 1080p LED projector at a reasonable price with the full backing of a major manufacturer. The reviews were strong on that model, but LG was just getting started as they now introduce the revolutionary new PF1500. LG has leveraged their long standing research with televisions and brought that technology to front projection.
Coming in at $999, the PF1500 delivers like no other LED driven projector before it. A manual 1.1 zoom range, a rating of 1,400 lumens, 30,000 estimated LED lamp life, Wi-Fi, internal tuner, Smart apps, USB playback, and full 1920x1080 output resolution. Oh, and unlike almost any other home theater model out there, this one is a good deal smaller than your typical loaf of bread.
If you've owned a projector before, you will know right away that this is something different. The LG PF1500 powers on within just a few seconds. The LED light engine puts out a bright image almost immediately. About ten seconds after hitting the power button, the PF1500 went through a number of basic setup steps including a brief introduction to the remote control which acts similar to a wireless computer mouse. Similar to a TV, it asks if the projector is at home or in a store, the time and time zone, then gets the projector on the network. From there, it's right into the Home screen which features a multitude of options, applications, and a video preview window. Any of these different options can be selected using the on-screen cursor from the Magic Remote control.
Being excited to see what this projector could do, my first viewing was not in a controlled space, but just on a wall using the internal speaker. Since LG designed the PF1500 to be extremely portable, it almost makes sense to start things off this way. A WDTV was connected via HDMI and the projector proudly brought up the menu for the media player. Unfortunately, the USB drive with some recent camera footage could not be played back by the WDTV unit. So, the drive was moved to the PF1500's side USB input, which immediately recognized the video files on the drive and playback was started. About a 100" diagonal image was presented on a white wall and the image was excellent. The high definition camera footage, shot skiing on a Gopro camera, had all the high-definition goodness one could hope for. Colors appeared a bit off, but out of the box, with no calibration, the projector was certainly watchable, and it's a great way to show your home movies to friends and relatives.
The projector was put through a basic calibration using the Disney 'WOW!' Blu-ray disc and an image of 108" diagonal was projected onto a 1.3 gain white screen. It took a little bit of work to dial through the different settings of the LG, and the Magic remote took some getting used to, but eventually the LG presented an image with very good color, free of false contouring, with good brightness, and smooth motion. As a DLP projector, it has comparable black levels and shadow detail to other entry level DLP models.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on Blu-ray is an excellent test disc for black levels and shadow detail on a projector. At the screen size in use, the projector really needed to be in high power to deliver a solid punch from the whites, but there was never a point where it felt that shadow details were being lost. The PF1500 delivered a solid image which felt smooth, and put forth sufficient contrast to immerse a viewer in the movie experience. The single chip DLP light engine produces an acceptably sharp image. A better lens might deliver a sharper image, but the small lens on the PF1500 produced no softness from normal viewing distances.
Viewing hockey and other high-motion films was a great experience. The LG PF1500 puts up an accurate image. Sometimes fast motion content is blurry, and the larger the image the more apparent that becomes, but that is true of all large screen projection. But, at over 100" diagonal it was quite the experience to sit down and watch that action. Turning on creative frame interpolation (CFI), which LG calls TruMotion, helps some with fast action, but worked best with slow pans. LG didn't push too much with their implementation of CFI so the image didn't fall apart on fast paced scenes like some other displays are prone to do. It also didn't clean up the motion as much as some are capable of either. This kept CFI from showing too much of the digital video look which CFI often presents, and selecting a level of 2 or 3 for TruMotion yielded very watchable results.
The LG PF1500 is certainly not the easiest projector to setup in a dedicated home theater environment. It has a very limited zoom range which gives about 10" of diagonal for each foot of lens to screen distance and a 1.1 zoom lens which gives very little play in that range. For a 100" diagonal image, the lens to screen distance must be between 121.2 inches and 133.4 inches. This will put the projector at the same distance that most people will want to sit and view the projected image. If mounting the projector permanently, the one foot variance in throw distance may not allow the projector to be mounted to a ceiling joist. It also doesn't allow for much screen size variation, so it's important to double check the distance before pulling wires, or putting a projector mount on the ceiling.
On the plus side, the PF1500 has multiple mounting points, which is very rare. It can be mounted to a standard tripod mount, which makes it easy to setup on the fly when portability is a requirement. It has three mounting points for a standard projector mount, and the very low weight of just 3.3 pounds means that it can be mounted almost anywhere, using almost any projector mount. The projector itself has 0% offset from the screen bottom. This means that the centerline of the lens will intersect the bottom edge of the projected image when the projector is right side up. If ceiling mounted, the projector must be upside down, and the top of the image will be even with the center of the lens. There is no lens shift to raise or lower that image from the centerline of the lens, so measure three times, hang once.
If you can't hit the center of the screen, then the PF1500 has some nice features to help in a less than perfect setup. First and most noticeable is that when the PF1500 is upside down, it automatically recognizes this and flips the image for you. Beyond the standard right side up/upside down mounting, it includes the typical ability for rear projection. If the projector is tilted up or down, it can automatically use digital keystone to keep the image appearing square. Since this is typically a feature that should not be used for best 1080p video quality, LG ships with this automatic feature disabled. If the PF1500 gets off center, additional keystone features can be used to help to square the image up. This is accomplished using a feature called four-corner keystone. It allows for corrections in all four corners of the projected image to get that image right where it needs to be on screen. While LG does an excellent job maintaining video quality, the use of four-corner keystone does impact image quality, brightness, and resolution and should be avoided in favor of just putting the projector where it belongs.
The PF1500 offers several more ports than most of the competition. It has two HDMI ports, one of which is Audio Return Channel (ARC) enabled for supported HDMI devices, the other is Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) enabled for compatible phones. It has a 1/8" mini A/V connector that allows for composite video and analog audio to be fed to the projector through an included cable. It also has a matching 1/8" connector for component high-definition video through another included cable. Additional connectors include a headphone jack, a digital audio output connection, a pair of USB ports, a LAN connection, and an antenna connection.
All these connections means that if hard-wired Ethernet is desired, and audio needs to be fed from the projector back to an A/V receiver, additional cables may need to be run. If over-the-air broadcasts will be fed directly to the projector, then a cable will need to be run for that as well. On the other hand, if the projector is to be used for Netflix or viewing from a USB drive using the internal speakers, then all that is needed is power which is fed from an external power supply about the size of a typical laptop charger.
The PF1500 sports a remote control that is extremely unique for projectors and may take some getting used to for many. The LG Magic Remote allows you to operate the projector by putting a cursor on screen which you can then move around and click on features you want with the remote. Similar to a Wii remote, it can be a bit tricky to get used to. There are additional buttons on the remote control to adjust channel, volume, and to go to the home screen, or navigate. There were times when using the up/down/left/right functions were much easier to use than the on-screen cursor controls, and the remote handled those functions very well. But, the remote is not backlit, so key functions, such as the Home button, could be difficult to find in the dark. The remote accepts voice commands as well, but this didn't appear to hit some of the key functions, such as input control, and often opened a web page with search results instead. It did an accurate job of recognizing words, and was far easier to use than trying to use an on-screen keyboard.
Picture controls are ample on the LG PF1500. Not only were the basic controls available, with some preset picture modes, but advanced settings including a Color Management System (CMS) are provided for tweaking the image as desired. A real plus to the projection newbie is the Picture Wizard III. This is a built-in image optimization tutorial that sets the projector up for viewers based upon a series of questions. Once the wizard is completed it stores the settings into one of the two available expert presets and is used for viewing.
Everything But the Kitchen Sink. LG hit a home run on what they put into the PF1500. Most projector manufacturers don't make televisions, but LG has been putting out some top shelf televisions for years and they've leveraged their television Smart platform with the PF1500 to include a long list of bells and whistles. Streaming, wireless, PC connectivity, Netflix, Vudu, Hulu+, web browsing, voice searching, direct USB playback, and more is all included. Onboard speakers are small, but they are there if you need them. Connectivity for standard HDMI is there along with legacy connectivity for analog video sources. Other than zoom range and lens shift, there is very little in the way of features which this projector lacks. If you have any questions, the 139 page manual included on a CD was detailed and walks through the features that the PF1500 offers. Still, the projector is so easy to use right from the start, that the long manual may not be needed at all.
LED Life With No Rainbows. The LG PF1500 has at its core a separate red, green, and blue LED. When combined with the DLP chip inside the projector, it delivers a stunning long lasting projection light engine that does not use a spinning color wheel like traditional DLP projectors use. The LEDs flash on and off at a sufficiently high rate of speed that it virtually eliminates rainbow artifacts that are common on many DLP projectors. In viewing, every now and then some color separation did occur but it was extremely minimal and comparable to what a high quality home theater projector with a 6x color wheel may deliver. For those who are very sensitive to DLP rainbows it may be worth checking the PF1500 out prior to purchase, or buying from a store with a good return policy. But for most people, the PF1500 will deliver a rainbow-free image that's about as good as it gets.
Bright Enough to Play in the Big Leagues. The number one problem with LED projectors for years has been their lack of brightness. Our test unit pushed out 763 lumens in the brightest mode after calibration. This is ample to fill a 120 inch screen without any problems at all. While listed as a portable projector, the PF1500 is a solid option for home theater. It not only raises the bar for LED projectors, it sets a new benchmark for performance. Sure, bring it over to a friend's home for a quick viewing from Netflix using the internal speaker. But, when the fun and games are over, bring it back home for a serious viewing in your home theater setup on a nice 120" screen using the good surround system. The PF1500 delivers like no portable LED projector before it has been able to.
Image Quality Controls. The LG PF1500 has an extensive set of image optimizing features that should leave most people thrilled with what they are seeing. While some projectors out there only give basic contrast, brightness, and color settings, and others give a few more options, the PF1500 stacks options on top of options. This includes dynamic contrast, dynamic color, super resolution, gamma adjustments, and a full color management system to adjust saturation, tint, and luminance of colors individually.
For those looking to make the most of their viewing experience right out of the box, start things off with the Picture Wizard III. This is a very nice tutorial and set of screen shots that helps owners get an image they are happy with right from the outset. Calibration was performed using the Disney WOW! Blu-ray Disc and while contrast was pushed to a very high 89 out of 100 setting, this didn't crush the blacks or blow out the whites, but was needed to get an accurate image on screen. Brightness was left towards the middle of the range (51), while tint needed a bit of a push towards green to even out skin tones and provide the most natural looking image. From there, it all seemed to be user preference. Some controls have a subtle impact -- dynamic contrast, dynamic color, and super resolution require close examination to see any change from them at all. On the other hand the edge enhancer shows a clear difference when enabled. TruMotion, LG's implementation of Creative Frame Interpolation, did a better than average job of knocking down judder and motion artifacts without causing too much of the digital video effect, and without falling apart when the action got intense.
Brightness. Our test sample delivered over 900 lumens in its brightest setting with the lens at its widest angle position. This is quite a shortfall from its 1400 lumen spec and produced a very green image that was not enjoyable to watch and would not be recommended for normal use. Light levels dropped about 10% when the zoom lens was set to maximum telephoto. In practical use this drop is not visible but it is more than we'd expect from a 1.1x zoom lens.
After calibration, the calibrated brightness achieved was 763 lumens in brightest mode. This was plenty to light up a 120" diagonal image on a 1.0 gain screen in a darkened room with very good color, contrast, and shadow detail. Lowest brightness mode cut lumen output by about 45% to 422 lumens. This is still plenty for a 92" to 100" diagonal image if a low gain screen is used. The medium brightness setting falls right between the two with 583 lumens falling on the screen.
Brightness uniformity. The PF1500 has less than 10% brightness roll off throughout most of the image. The exception is the upper left corner which dropped off just over 20% in brightness. In a pure white field, this produced a visible dimming in the upper left corner of the screen. Fortunately, most viewing has a mix of different shades so no issues with image uniformity were noticeable during normal viewing.
Contrast/black level. The black levels of the PF1500 appeared to be average for an entry level DLP projector. They weren't particularly black, yet were not so grey as to objectionable during normal viewing. The PF1500 uses the brand new Pico class .47" DLP chip from Texas Instruments and this chip has no problem competing with the large DLP models when it comes to putting out good black levels in an entry level model. After adjusting contrast of the projector, black level performance was very good and whites appeared pure and natural without crushing in dark areas, or blooming in bright scenes.
Image sharpness. No visible image or sharpnes problems were caused by the lens throughout the zoom range. The PF1500 delivers a clean image with visible pixel structure upon close examination, and a 1:1 pixel grid showed solid definition between pixels on screen. The lens itself could be a bit touchy to focus, so it took longer than average to get the image dialed in on screen, but once in place, a quality image remained without any drifting of focus.
Input lag. The LG PF1500 measured in at a full 70ms of lag time in its fastest Game Mode setting. In all other settings the projector was steadily delivering 170ms of lag. Multiple tests were run to determine if these times could be improved upon, but times were locked in at 70ms and 170ms.
Input lag. Perhaps the biggest failing of the PF1500 comes in the form of input lag. Throughout multiple tests and different modes, the PF1500 couldn't get faster than 170ms of lag time in optimized image modes. Switching the projector to Game mode knocked a full 100ms of lag time off and brought it down to 70ms. Care was taken to remove any additional video processing which could impact lag time, but nothing helped. Not only is this time weak, equating to over four frames of video in fastest mode, in a more typical viewing session it works out to over 10 frames of delay with 60hz video. That amount of delay produces lip sync issues when watching television. An A/V receiver with lip sync correction was required to match up people's lips with the dialog on screen.
Where is My 3D? No 3D, simple as that. It is almost unheard of to deliver a projector these days that doesn't include 3D. It becomes even more shocking when considering what the PF1500 delivers in so many other feature packed areas. It has been confirmed that there is a Korean version which includes 3D, but this version doesn't have it. The LG website states that 3D is not planned to be added to the PF1500.
Ring Around The Image. The LG PF1500 has a band of light around the image itself, which is not unusual for inexpensive DLP projectors. This band does match the black that the rest of the projector produces, but is about one inch wide on a 100" diagonal image and on all projected material, this band of near black would be visible at all times. This ring has no visible impact on the image, but is a bit of a distraction when watching a more serious movie in a good dark room. While there is no way to remove the black ring, a projection screen with a black fabric frame will go a long way to hiding the ring and increase perceived image contrast.
Weak Onboard Audio. A couple of 3-watt speakers isn't going to cut it for most viewers. It sounds similar to what a laptop may produce. While it can fill a room, the sound quickly begins to get worse as volume is raised. The PF1500 doesn't deliver a quality room filling sound, but it does have sound that works in the right situation. That situation isn't going to be movie night with the family or game day with some friends. Certainly a nice home theater audio setup will deliver the best in audio quality, but even a set of decent computer speakers plugged directly into the projector will deliver a great deal more audio quality for any listening environment.
Fan Noise Disparity. If you are running in full power mode, fan noise may be an issue. The PF1500 doesn't get loud compared to other projectors, but in full power mode it is significantly louder than either of the lower power modes. The fans are low in pitch, so not particularly intrusive. But the projector is suddenly heard during quiet scenes, or during dialog. If the PF1500 is kept in low power all the time, nobody will ever care. If action flicks are always on screen, then nobody may notice. If high power is called for, then some care should be taken to mount the projector at least a few feet away from those seated nearby to reduce fan noise a bit. In the lower power modes, the fan noise is nearly inaudible and in a class by themselves. Compared to them the jump to high power mode comes as a shock.
Very Limited Placement Flexibility. In the world of micro projectors having any zoom capability at all seems like a gift, but the LG PF1500 is pretty chintzy with that gift. The 1.1 zoom range is similar to what bottom of the line business class projectors often offer. For use as a portable projector, this may not have much impact on things, but it's a shame that placement flexibility is so restricted. The lens has zero offset, which places it dead even with the top edge of the screen when ceiling mounting. For low ceilings this may be perfect, but for a more typical eight foot ceiling it means the projector will likely need to be dropped several inches, or perhaps a couple of feet, to be even with the top edge of the projected on screen image.
There is no question that the LG PF1500 has set a benchmark for features which no other manufacturer of LED projectors has been able to touch (arguably, no other manufacturer of any type of projector has been able to touch it). It is priced right, is feature packed, has a lamp that never needs replacing, and is still small enough to take over to the relatives for some quick movie viewing. When that movie is done, you can bring it home and fire it up in your home theater space and watch to your heart's content knowing that the 30,000 hour lamp life will let you enjoy 8 hours of viewing, every single day, for the next ten years, while maintaining an image that is bright enough to be enjoyed on a screen of about 120" diagonal without any problems.
For years the micro and Pico projectors have been a bit of a fish out of water. With brightness that has ranged from low to very low and resolution that has been about half, or less, of what is considered standard for home theater, it has been hard to find a place for these models. But the LG PF1500 brings brightness up and prices down. It is clear that right place to store this projector is right up there on your ceiling so it can light up the 120" screen on your wall. Add in a thundering surround sound system, and the LG PF1500 will put a smile on the faces of you and all of your family and friends.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our LG PF1500 projector page.