LG HU80KA 4K Home Theater Projector Review - Picture Quality Page 2

September 29, 2018

/ By Art Feierman

LG HU80KA 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Picture Quality 2: HDTV and Sports, 1080p Movie Viewing, 4K with HDR, Overall Picture Quality

HDTV and Sports

Being a “hard core” enthusiast looking for very accurate colors, etc. when watching movies, I’ve always been far, far, more forgiving when it comes to my sports viewing. Here, I want a very sharp and bright image, that can still have some decent contrast even with more than a little ambient light.  I don’t mind slightly incorrect colors, or a touch over oversaturation, or a too cool picture. Truth be told I’m much happier watching my football with color temps between 7000K and 7500K, rather than the “ideal” 6500K.  Not huge differences, but in this case, the LG HU80KA tends to be on the cool side, with mid 7000K temps after Eric adjusted the projector.  Standard mode starts out averaging over 10,000K color temp, way, way too cool, but the adjustments brought it down to pretty much the way I like my sports viewing, although for most other HDTV such as sitcoms and drama, etc. a little warmer still would have been better.

Works for me.   I also played with both Vivid and Sports modes.  Sports in particular is dramatically oversaturated, which only works if dealing with a whole lot of ambient light. Vivid is next in that regard. If your lighting control is decent though, you can stick to our adjusted Standard mode, which looks really good.  Use the others when there’s more ambient light around, enough to start washing out Standard mode.  It’s that easy.  Then you only have to deal with other aspects – do you want creative frame interpolation running for your sports, etc.

The player above shows the three modes on the same frame to show you the difference in saturation…

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1080p Movie Viewing

In my early attempts at viewing typical 1080p movies, I used Expert Dark Room, which Eric calibrated.  Initially I was rather disappointed but, I later discovered why, and it’s an important “cautionary tale”:  If you recall from the hardware pages, the two HDMI inputs are located at different parts of the projector. They are also separate in another way. You can put in settings, such as for the CMS, to only affect one HDMI port.  Apparently, I chose the other HDMI, and therefore never got all the benefits of Eric’s calibration. Mind you, at some point or another, when saving some settings it will ask if you want to also save to the other HDMI.

Bingo, I discovered Eric’s settings were not appearing, so I re-entered them, to the other HDMI and voila’:  Far better color.

The usual four bond images we use to show how the “director’s intent” and the environment, can dramatically affect, what skin tones look like, show that the Expert Dark Room mode produces some very good color. The color temps vary a good bit more over the brightness (IRE) range more than most home theater/home entertainment projectors, but the end result, not as highly accurate as some others looks very good.

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4K with HDR

The same Standard mode we used for bright room (sports, etc.), Eric chose to set up also for our 4K content with HDR (and BT.2020/P3 color space).

As I've discussed previously, he chose Standard despite not being one of the “Expert” modes that provides access to the full CMS system.  Eric opted for the brighter mode, since HDR demands lots of brightness, and Expert Dark Room is only going to provide about 700 lumens, vs over 1000 lumens.

I’m on the fence, in this case.  The brightness is needed, but better color accuracy would be nicer.  Tough call.  This is not an unusual situation. Consider, the Epson 5040UB I use, is calibrated by Eric for 4K HDR, and yields just over 1000 lumens.  I agree that’s definitely “thin” on brightness when watching 4K HDR movies at my full 124” diagonal, widescreen Studiotek 130 (1.3 gain) screen.  But I get the full P3 color space.

Many calibrators, instead, sacrifice full P3, by using Epson’s Bright Cinema mode which delivers a lot more lumens – around 1800.  Even Epson, demoing at CEDIA two weeks ago, had the 6040UB they were showing against the $8K, now just discontinued, Sony VW385ES, chose to use their Bright Cinema mode, to go for the lumens, vs the wider color.  Call it personal choice.

I would have liked to play with a fully calibrated Technicolor Expert mode, with only the 700 lumens, if for no other reason, to try observe the differences between REC709 (the old standard) and the better P3 (same as at your local movie theater.

More brightness with the LG comes with less color accuracy in Standard mode, The extra 50% brightness is a positive (1038 lumens), but the color accuracy is lower.  The average color temp across the brightness range, is over 7500K although 10 IRE (almost black) is 5000K so a virtually black background may show a trace of dark red.

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Here’s an important thought.  If I was recommending this projector for dedicated home theaters and to hard core enthusiasts demanding the most accuracy, that would be one thing, but since I’m not, consider:

Bottom Line:  LG is marketing the HU80KA as a rather unique and smart projector and they seem to especially be taking aim at millennials, and apartment dwellers, etc.  While we home theater folks tend to think that projector image sizes should start no lower than 100” diagonal, many owners of the LG may well, be projecting smaller picture sizes.  Hey, if you have an 8 foot ceiling, and want to shine the projector on the ceiling as LG does in some of their ads, you are limited to about a 70” wide image.  Now that size image would be a good bit brighter in the less bright Technicolor Expert mode, than a 100” screen would be with Standard mode.

So what you are watching, and where, and your own tastes, should determine which way to go, if you are calibrating this LG projector to choose between brighter, with more pop, but less accurate color, or less bright, with pretty accurate colors, suitable for a smaller screen.

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Overall Picture Quality

One more time.  Although not the most accurate projector, it does have very good color post calibration. Since black levels are not impressive, it can't take advantage of a dedicated home theater, but, overall, sports is a lot of fun to watch, and 1080p movies come out looking pretty great, if not overly bright, but with very good color.

And then there’s watching 4K content with HDR. BTW, another option is to simply not watch using HDR, which delivers a a much brighter, overall, image.  But one with less “pop”, that is with out all that HIGH dynamic range.  Of course all these projectors compromise on HDR to begin with.  LG’s design, which allows some (a little) control over the EOTF, which relates to gamma, and deals with those mid-ranges’ brightness.

Myself, I’m often torn between watching with HDR, and not, but I almost always do use HDR when available.  Only on a rare movie where I can’t remove enough dimness, will get me to bypass. HDR.

I would have been far happier with the LG, if it would have delivered more of it’s claimed 2500 lumens with some very good color, but, the projector is somewhat limited to very good color not being much about 1100 lumens.  Still, those reading my reviews are well aware, that with many/most DLP projectors you do have to give up 40-50-sometimes even 60% of max brightness to get really excellent color.

Picture quality is just fine for most folks, just not us hard core when we want to watch high quality movie content, and have the best picture our money will by. The LG having the laser engine helps overall, because further dimming of brightness will take place over years, not months (as with lamp “powered” projectors).

Very bottom line on picture quality:  Pretty good, not great.  More accurate color and better black levels hold this otherwise very interesting projector back.

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