LG PF85U 1080P DLP Projector
Projector Central Highly Recommended Award

Highly Recommended Award

Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.

  • Performance
  • 4.5
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value
Price
$1,299 MSRP Discontinued

The LG PF85U is a brand new, highly anticipated, LED-based home entertainment projector from LG Electronics. It includes a huge variety of home video features that make it a viable TV replacement, including Smart TV capabilities, onboard sound, frame interpolation, both wired and wireless networking, and a built-in HD tuner. And since it is LED-based, it has instant startup and no lamp to replace.

The LF85U is due out in the United States later this month, with a preliminary price of $1299. This makes it only a little more expensive than other 1080p home video projectors and strongly price-competitive in its niche. If you're looking for a TV replacement that doesn't sacrifice the convenience of Smart TV and network connectivity, the LG PF85U is a great option.

The Viewing Experience

Starting up the PF85U for the first time, the image springs to life like it's always been there, just waiting for you -- one of the perks of LED-based projectors is near-instant startup. The projector begins by displaying its source list and, when available, it shows you a thumbnail of whatever content is available for each source you have connected. So our test pattern generator menu screen was visible, as was the home screen of our Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player, right there on the projector's source selector screen.

The PF85U is smart, a word that takes on several meanings depending on context. It is smart in that it saves calibration information and user preferences for each input. It is smart in that it remembers which audio output option you have paired with each input, as well. And it is smart in that it contains LG's Smart TV technology, allowing you to watch Netflix, Amazon Instant, Vudu, and other streaming services directly from the projector. The PF85U can also play media stored on your home network using DLNA. And the projector has both wired and wireless networking built in, so you're ready to go straight out of the box.

The projector's image is high in contrast, richly saturated, and easy to watch. While brightness tops out around 700 lumens, the projector looks great on a 60" to 80" diagonal screen even with some ambient light present. If you can afford to pair the projector with an ambient light rejection screen such as the Screen Innovations Black Diamond II or Draper XS850E, all the better. But these contrast-boosting screens are optional and are mostly handy if you want to drive the image to larger sizes.

The PF85U makes use of a lot of bells and whistles to make the picture look more TV-like. Dynamic Contrast adjusts gamma on the fly in an attempt to provide a compelling, contrasty image without reducing deep shadow detail. Dynamic Color increases saturation when required while attempting to prevent that ugly over-driven, over-saturated effect that can come from saturation being set too high. These features can all be disabled for serious cinema use when the sun goes down, but they do have a positive effect on the image during the day.

Setup and Configuration

The PF85U is best suited for table placement. The projector has no zoom, so the only way to adjust image size is physically moving the projector towards or away from the screen. A flat throw offset means that the bottom edge of the projected image is level with the center of the lens. A ceiling mount would also be possible, though you'd likely need an extension tube.

It can be difficult to obtain perfect focus -- the PF85U's focus ring has some resistance to it, and it is easy to accidentally bump the projector out of alignment when trying to focus it. Make sure to hold the projector in place with your other hand while you adjust focus -- but try not to place your hand over the touch-activated control panel on top of the projector while you do so.

Connectivity is where the PF85U really shines. Because the projector uses LG's Smart TV technology, you don't actually need to connect any sources to start using the projector -- just fire up the Netflix app and start watching. And if you have a media collection on any computers connected to your home WiFi, you can use DLNA to share these files with the PF85U without physically connecting the source to the projector. As for sound, the projector has stereo speakers at five watts each, but it also has both 1/8" and S/PDIF audio passthrough ports for connecting to external speaker systems.

Key Features

LED light engine. Light Emitting Diodes have several advantages over traditional high-pressure lamps. They turn on instantly and come to full brightness immediately. They can be turned off and on again rapidly without causing degradation or reducing lifespan. They have longer life spans than traditional lamps; the PF85U is rated for 30,000 hours of use. They also use less energy and produce less heat than high-pressure lamps.

Connectivity. Even attempting to list all of the PF85U's connection options is exhausting. It has two HDMI ports, one of which is MHL enabled. It has two USB ports for flash media or other digital devices. It has both wired and wireless networking built-in (no dongle required), so you can hook the projector into your home network with ease. Once it's on the network, you can also have the projector stream media from any networked devices via DLNA. The projector has both 1/8" and S/PDIF ports for audio passthrough, which is useful when you're using the onboard apps or connecting to a remote server but still want to send audio to a heftier set of speakers than the PF85U's built-ins. And finally, the projector has a coaxial jack for connection to an antenna, allowing you to watch HD and SD broadcast television direct from your projector -- no external decoder box needed.

A quick word about Smart TV: the PF85U is a step or two beyond the onboard media players of yesteryear. Using real first-party apps, you can watch Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, and Youtube videos directly from the projector without an external source or media player. There are also non-video apps such as Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter, and Picasa. These apps turn the PF85U into a home media center rather than a simple display. The projector has built-in access to both a web browser and an App Store, so you can get more content quickly without leaving the device.

Stereo speakers. Onboard speakers are never going to be as good as a real sound system, but the PF85U's dual 5W stereo speakers are better than your average tinny built-in. The speakers are situated on the left and right sides of the projector, so the channels are separated enough to remain distinct. The volume slider goes from 0 to 100, and up to 75 there isn't much in the way of serious distortion.

Warranty. The PF85U includes a two-year warranty on parts and labor, while its closest competitors have only a single year of coverage.

Performance

Light output. Unlike lamp-based projectors, LED-based models come to their full brightness as soon as you press the power button. From that point, they then gradually lose light output for a short period before stabilizing. On the PF85U, the initial light output was 860 lumens in the projector's brightest mode, and output then fell for the next half hour until things stabilized.

Our test sample of the PF85U tops out at 706 stable lumens after the initial warm-up period. This is using Vivid mode with Energy Saving set to Minimum and Peak mode engaged. But even in this mode, the PF85U produces a picture that's perfectly watchable in a home entertainment setting. It can appear a touch exaggerated, though. We found Vivid mode useful for live broadcast TV and any situation that demands maximum light output. Vivid mode has a color temperature of roughly 8000K.

Peak mode causes the projector to get much louder, so some folks will want to disable it. Doing so cuts light output in Vivid mode to 501 lumens, a 29% reduction in brightness.

After Vivid mode comes Standard, at 485 lumens. Standard mode is less exaggerated than Vivid mode, making it ideal for more "serious" television. It retains Vivid's blue tint and roughly 8000K color temperature.

Cinema mode at 346 lumens gives the image a warmer cast (color temperature measures about 6200K) and boosts the projector's contrast and shadow detail performance. However, since Cinema mode is relatively low in light output, it is best reserved for situations where ambient light is strictly controlled.

Game mode, at 426 lumens, is most similar to Standard mode in terms of appearance. But it also reduces the projector's input lag by over half, so it is the go-to mode for gamers who need quicker response times.

Any of the PF85U's modes can be reduced in brightness by using the projector's Energy Save control. The control is normally set to Minimum, but it can be increased to Medium to cut output by 15% or Maximum to reduce it by 35%.

Contrast. The PF85U's contrast performance is highly competitive in its product class. Black level is deep, but if you want to use the projector in ambient light, you can switch the Black Level control from Low to High to keep deep shadow detail from getting lost. Shadow detail, by the way, is excellent, and the default 2.2 gamma setting is sufficient to stave off crushed shadows.

The projector also has a Dynamic Contrast control that adjusts gamma on the fly to maximize each scene's appearance. It works very well, though the higher settings can make the image look more cartoonish and over-contrasty. Leaving Dynamic Contrast on "Low" was a good compromise.

Color. Each of the PF85U's image modes give the projected image a distinct flavor, but none of them have color that is outright terrible. Vivid mode can make the picture seem artificial or cartoonish, but those enhancements are useful when ambient light is bright enough to wash out the projector's more natural-looking modes. Standard, Cinema, and Game mode are all less over-the-top, and though each one has its own color cast, none of the PF85U's modes appear unbalanced or biased in the way that some projectors' Dynamic modes do.

Some of the PF85U's image modes -- namely Cinema and the two Expert modes -- give you control over white balance and color management. The CMS was easy to use, but the projector's white balance controls (each on a scale from -50 to +50) are too fine-grained and don't feel like they go far enough. However, on a living room projector built for ambient light, this is less of a concern.

Input lag. The PF85U measured 166 milliseconds of input lag in Vivid, Standard, and Cinema modes, regardless of any other settings used. This is equivalent to almost ten frames of a 60 frame per second signal. In Game mode, however, lag drops to 66 ms, or four frames.

Limitations

Light output. At only 706 lumens of real light output, it can be difficult to fit the PF85U into a big, bright living room space. Your options are to limit screen size, use a higher-gain or ambient light rejecting screen, or reduce ambient light in your viewing space. With moderate ambient light and no other means of mitigation, we would not push the PF85U above a 60" to 70" diagonal image.

No zoom. The PF85G doesn't have a zoom lens, so the only way to control image size is to change the throw distance. This makes ceiling mounts tricky, but it can also be a pain if you're trying to place the projector on a table that isn't in the right spot and can't be moved.

Input lag. With 66 ms of input lag even in Game mode, the PF85U isn't ideal for gamers who need fast response times. And 166ms of lag over HDMI is large enough that you might need an external audio delay device to match things up again. However, we did not notice as much lag when using the projector's internal sources, such as the included Netflix app. But since these sources are internal, there's no way to measure their input lag.

Color controls. In the PF85U's Cinema and Expert modes, the projector has both white balance controls and a full color management system. White balance can be adjusted in one of two ways: you can use either the standard RGB Gain/Bias (labeled High/Low), or you can switch to a full 20-point independent grayscale adjustment system, giving you the ability to adjust the entire grayscale at 5% intervals. This would be wonderful, except the projector's grayscale controls don't seem to do much.

Here's an example: Cinema mode defaults to the Warm color temperature preset, with a color temperature of about 6200K and slightly too much green. But even after adjusting red and green to their minimum settings and pushing blue to the maximum, final grayscale was still only 6300K. And before someone says "just use another color temperature preset," we tried. They were all either too green (Natural) or far too blue (Medium and Cool). However, super-accurate color isn't as much of a concern on this projector as it would be on a home theater machine, and the default settings are watchable.

The LG PF85U is a unique home entertainment projector that combines the features of a Smart TV with the longevity of an LED light engine. It has connectivity to spare, making it far more than a monitor; it is more akin to a mobile media center, able to link to other devices with ease. And while it does not have the high brightness of most other home video projectors, it is still viable as a television replacement if you are careful with installation and adjust your environment accordingly.

The PF85U has its flaws, most noticeably a lack of light output that limits its use on large screens -- especially when ambient light is present. The absence of a zoom lens can make placement tricky, as well. But if you work within the projector's limitations, what you end up with is a compelling image from a highly capable projector that's well tailored to its intended application.

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our LG PF85U projector page.

Comments (18) Post a Comment
Erik Posted Apr 13, 2014 10:17 AM PST
Finally! A projector that meets my most picky requirements that isn't to much to ask for; 1080p, frame interpolation, and it's LED for low energy consumption. And it's nicely affordable.
ken l Posted Apr 13, 2014 6:23 PM PST
This Projector came out a year ago in europe and asia. The US version is nowhere to be found, its on LG's website but they haven't updated it since last year.
Brandon Posted Apr 15, 2014 6:25 AM PST
Could this handle a 120" screen (1.3 gain) in pitch black theater? I am very interested in this as a hold over until 4k comes down in price a bit. My biggest plus is the low heat production. My theater gets very warm with my Epson 8350 running for 2+ hours.

The calculator show it can, but that is at the 1000 lumen MFG number and not really accurate to your test numbers. Placement is a non-issue for me.
AV_Integrated Posted Apr 15, 2014 7:20 AM PST
Since this model most certainly is considered as a first level home theater projector and has the brightness to deliver, was there any testing done in a dark room (light walls, no lights on) at more typical home theater sizes of 100" to 120" in diagonal?

It seems that this is the sweet spot and this projector has a serious statement to make about what the potential is for LED in the home theater space. You have the $3,000+ Optoma HD81, and you have this model coming in for closer to $1,300.

I will continue to question 'value' ratings as for $800 you get models like the HD131x from Optoma which are far brighter, have zoom, have a better lens, and perhaps are calibratable closer to 6,500K. I don't really buy that having the equivalent of a $60 Roku box built in is worth $500, so the argument must be for the LED engine and no lamp replacements. But, $500 can often buy 2 brand new 5,000 projector lamps and maintains the brightness to fill 120"+ screen, and the zoom, and larger optical system.

I have yet to see a LED driven projector which has matched the color or image quality of a traditional lamp based model, but with the 'highly rated' recommendation, 1080p native resolution, and obvious leanings towards home theater, I would expect that all comparisons are being made towards the top home theater models, not to the junk LED models out on the market. But, does it really hold up that strongly to the W1070 or HD131x considering that it seems far more picky to setup with no zoom, has terrible lag times, and has some color calibration issues that are somewhat inappropriate for home theater use?

I'm thinking this projector really needs a critical eye and instead of "Wow! This is a great LED projector." as a first thought, it may be closer to "This is the best LED model we've seen, but perhaps not the best option for many." is a more accurate statement. It shouldn't need to be guessed as to how this model compares to the ones it WILL be compared against. The Optoma HD131 (or HD25) and the BenQ W1070 are the entry level models of base comparison. How does the LG actually match up?

Would be really nice to know.
Brandon Posted Apr 16, 2014 6:00 AM PST
I think the value of an LED projector comes in several fashions. The obvious not having to buy lamps. I may have been the unlucky person, but I have never had a lamp last over 1850 hrs. On my Panny I bought two both around 1800 mark. Then on my Epson 8350 my first one went in 800 hrs (defect I assume, replaced for free by Epson). Then the second one has 1200 hrs on it now already dimming a little.

The other major plus is heat. A lot of people have trouble cooling a theater. The lamp models produce enough heat to warm a room up 10 degrees. Pay extra to cool the room (if possible depending on your setup) or just watch movies in your underwear with a silent fan on (woot!).

How about some of these? Convenience. Turns on fast, can be turned on and off fast without risk, can run all day (kids), super bowl Sunday and pop the lamp blows and no backup (happened to me, that was the 800 hr one).

If I could get a similar picture out of an LED for a somewhat close price then the pros are worth it. I want a 4k eventually, but not for more then 6 grand (lamp of course).
stolennomenclature Posted Apr 20, 2014 11:09 PM PST
No mention of refresh rate as regards color separation artifacts - presumable because this info was not available from the manufacturer. Shame. Also would have been nice to know the black level in measured terms, i.e. candelas per sq metre, rather than "deep". How does the black level compare to the W1070? I am not too impressed with projectors where you cannot replace the light source. What if the LED's don't last 30,000 hours? How often do the claimed lifetimes match the real ones? In any case, why limit the lifespan of the projector to the lifespan of the shortest lived components? They should make the LED's user replaceable.
Bill Livolsi Posted Apr 22, 2014 2:08 PM PST
Hi everyone -- thanks for reading.

ken - Our contact at LG tells us that they are releasing the PF85U here within a month. I don't know if that date still holds, but that is what we were told before publication.

Brandon - In a pitch black room? Maybe. Cinema mode (346 lumens) is a little too dim, giving you only 10.4 foot-Lamberts, but Standard mode gets you up to 14.6 and that's a little more doable.

AV_Integrated - I agree that this projector isn't a great value for someone who wants an entry-level home theater projector. However, I think it's a great value for someone who wants an entry-level home entertainment projector and thinks that LED is important.

We have received questions from our readers about LED and other solid-state technology for years now, usually some variation of "when will it get here?" or "why isn't it here yet?" So it's clear that plenty of people consider LED to be a make-or-break issue, and those people are willing to make purchasing decisions based on that issue alone.

Is the PF85U a good LED projector? I think so. Is it a good home theater projector? Not necessarily. You'll note that we reviewed the projector as a home entertainment model, in part because that is how LG is marketing it. We try to listen to the manufacturers when deciding how a projector should be used, and in this case it's clear that LG is pushing the PF85U as a home entertainment/living room projector and not as a theater product. This keeps us from criticizing a projector for failing to perform in an environment for which it was never intended.

In the home video niche, the PF85U's only serious shortcoming is lack of light output. In a home theater context, though, the projector's inability to produce truly accurate color and lack of zoom put it at a serious disadvantage compared to lamp-based models.

I published this article immediately before leaving for vacation, but now that I'm back, the first thing on my schedule is a comparison between the PF85U and the BenQ W1070. Look for that article later this week.

Brandon - I would caution against trusting too completely in manufacturer specifications for LED lifetimes. These projectors are relatively new, and if the first-gen Casio hybrid projectors taught us anything at all, it's that sometimes there are flaws in implementation that don't crop up until later in a product's lifetime.

It is entirely possible that consumers will start reporting problems with LED projectors as the technology becomes more popular and widespread. Until that happens (or doesn't happen), take those massive LED lifetime estimations with a grain of salt.

stolennomenclature - Correct, that information was not available. We are currently working on a way to test refresh rate independently, but progress is slow and it takes a backseat to our actual product reviews.

Our comparison piece, due later this week, will explore the PF85U in comparison to the BenQ W1070, so stay tuned for that. I apologize for not getting it published before I went on vacation, but I wanted to take the time to do it right rather than rush to press just so I could be "done."

As for your concerns about LED lifetimes, see my above comments to Brandon. It's something to consider, certainly.
Rodney Posted Apr 23, 2014 1:49 PM PST
I really wish they would make a model without the "Smart" features with a lower price. Most people that are even on the market for projectors have a full setup already. I am glad they were smart and included a SPDIF out otherwise the smart features would only be useful while using it as a portable PJ.

The 1000 lums is disappointing and was really hoping for 1500 or more. This can't compete with cheaper priced bulb PJs. Is there going to be a comparison with other LED models? (i.e. PRO9000, HD91, Acer K750)
Josh A Posted Apr 24, 2014 11:52 AM PST
My tax return would have gone to this if it had a zoom. My living room is long, but has a perfect place for the project on the far back wall. Someone will make one that's just right eventually. Anyways, Bill is very correct on being cautious of the LED lifetimes. The lifetime is very dependent on the heat dissipation. While it generates less heat than a bulb, it is more sensitive to the heat it generates. You see this in the warming up period where the light output drop as opposed to increasing as with a bulb. All this means is that it depends on the manufacturers implimentation, so theoretical lifetime are high, but the real one can be very different. LEDs also have more tricks in how to power them. The various methods and controls affect light output, temperature, color, and lifetime of the LED, so there is real motivation for the manufacturers to do it differently.
AV_Integrated Posted Apr 25, 2014 9:43 AM PST
Bill - that's great that PC will be following up with a head to head of the W1070 vs. the LG. The W1070 has really set itself up as the gold standard of entry level projection it seems. Despite it's age, the faster RGBRGB color wheel has done a great job in the head-to-head comparisons I've read against the Optoma models. I certainly don't mean to imply this as the competitor for the top shelf home theater projectors like the LCoS units from JVC and Sony or the better Epson/Panasonic models. But, the entry level theater space. The one that may have a 100" screen and either after dark viewing, or be setup in a basement. Home entertainment? I think this design goes beyond that. It certainly is a fair bit pricier than many of the true entry level models, and it is a first in delivering 1080p from a LED model, with (relatively speaking) high level brightness.

Looking forward to the comparison as I think that this writeup will be considered one of the most meaningful pieces of comparison for what this projector represents in the next year.
Nabi Posted Apr 27, 2014 8:16 PM PST
Pleased, Bill, to see your cautions on the longevity claims of LED projectors. I've had two and my experience is that, yes, the light source does not blow up on you but they lose their mojo at only a fraction of the claimed 20 or 30 thousand hours. Imagine my shock when my Acer (which I perceived to be getting gradually dimmer) popped up a screen notice (comes up every time I turn it on) indicating the 'useful life' of the light array was at an end and suggesting 'replacement' at about 2,000 hours--and as if that's even possible! It's all been enough for me to give my two LED projectors to relatives, look with renewed affection at my stalwart BenQ,and order a new Viewsonic, needless to say NOT LED.
madBoP Posted May 20, 2014 10:11 AM PST
It is hard to find out what the difference between the PF85U und its predecessor PF80U (not sold in the US) is. It seems that with the newer model mainly software features like LG Smart TV have been added. - Most probably this enhancement is caused by their recent WebOS integration. → Obviously this makes one wonder if there will be an upgrade option for the "firmware"/operating system, or whether there are some hardware differences that might render the older device incompatible.
ciwan Posted Jul 16, 2014 2:41 PM PST
hi, i live in sweden but i cant fint it here in Sweden, i want to really buy but idk how :(( PF80G is not like PF85U , not tv out, not smart tv and like 2000$ :S
Ken Kline Posted Jul 29, 2014 3:16 AM PST
I am looking at both the lg pf85u and the Pa70g, what is the main difference, are the black levels better or much better, deeper on the pf85u, besides being full HD and twice as much money, what are the main differences please
John M Posted Aug 3, 2014 3:14 PM PST
I'd be interested in noise levels which I previously believed would be a key advantage for LEDs. But the comment seems to be that at full output the PF85 is noisy.

Can that be true? Are there any measurements or comparisons?
Daniel Posted Sep 4, 2014 11:42 AM PST
There are projectors with much better led or led/laser hybrid lamps, yet they are not 1080p. I do not understand why those companies do not put out a 1080p product. Casio comes to mind. They have been doing led lamps the longest for the consumer market from what I see. Why don't they simply put in a better DLP system that allows for 1080p. I just do not get it. The Casio projectors led/laser hybrid lamps have well over twice the brightness compared to the lamp in the LG projector. I keep waiting for the logical evolution, but the projector companies that can simply don't.
maxwel Posted Oct 9, 2014 7:11 PM PST
i feel your frustration but i think there are still copule of reasons why there is lack of decent Led FHD projectors

The Casio model you mentioned, which i owned, has terrible green tinge due to the limitations of the hybrid tech they are using for light source.

My conclusion is that they can't produce Blue LED light source that is durable enough for high brightness in long term.

this has been a trouble for a long time evident from this year's Nobel prize laureate for creating bright blue LED...
Ken Posted Oct 11, 2015 1:15 PM PST
I have since purchased the LG led pa70g and am very happy with it, bought it used from Amazon for $350, focusing issues are solved by increasing the horizontal and vertical sharpness, the picture is gorgeous overall, very sharp, detailed with excellent color, honestly one of the best tv's I have ever owned. However the black levels are fair at best, poor shadow detail, especially in dark scenes, black being a dark grey,I am looking to upgrade to the LG led pa85u which got a excellent review from Projector Central, praising the blacks, until then happy shopping my friends

Post a comment

 
Enter the numbers as they appear to the left