LG HU80KA Review - A Laser Powered, Smart, Home Entertainments Projector - Special Features

September 28, 2018

/ By Art Feierman

LG HU80KA Home Laser Projector - Special Features: Laser Light Engine, 4K UHD DLP Resolution, HDR and BT.2020/P3 Support, Color Controls, Smart Features

Laser Light Engine

Projectors with laser light engines typically cost more. In this price range, typically it adds about $1000 or so, to the cost.  In exchange, no replacement lamps to buy, at $100 - $400 (the lower cost projectors usually have the lower cost lamps), and no headaches, dealing with all of that.

There's a lot more though. Laser projectors - all else being equal, can produce superior color, thanks to a wider color gamut. Not all laser projectors, however, do that well.

LG rates their laser light engine life at 20,000 hours. You will almost certainly be tired of this projector long before then, if the LG's technology isn't completely obsolete first.  A lot changes in a decade.   20,000 hours should represent how long you have on average until the laser engine has lost 50% its brightness (same way we talk about lamp life). They do not indicate that running in one of the lower power modes has any effect. It is a laser phosphor design, which is the type used in almost all laser projectors.

Laser light engines will slowly lose brightness, and also have some color shift over time. In both cases, that happens extremely slowly compared to projectors using lamps, and is considered a major improvement. The laser light engine also can support a wider color space, for overall improved color.

At 40 hours a week, that 20,000 hour light engine claim works out to roughly a decade!

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4K UHD DLP Resolution

The HU80KA is the first 4K UHD laser projector we’ve seen using the smaller, and slightly lower resolution, 0.47mm DLP chip: 1920x1080 x4 pixel shifting.

4K UHD simply means a device can display 8.3 million pixels, 4K UHD projectors differ from native 4K projectors, in that they use larger pixels and overlap them. That’s the short version. There are two different resolution DLP chips. Both get to the 8.3 million, but this projector uses the one with the larger pixels and more overlapping.  Let's not quibble over that.

That's because the HU80KA produces a very nicely sharp image that easily does a great job on anything 1080p (Blu-ray disk) or lower resolution content.

Sit close, and higher resolution 4K UHD and native 4K projectors should prove to be a touch sharper. But we're talking slight. Sit, say, 15-20 feet back from a 100” screen, and you’ll likely never tell them apart in terms of sharpness.

There will be more close-up images and similar ones from competitors, in our Sharpness section on the Performance page.

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HDR and BT.2020/P3 Support

The HU80KA supports HDR in most modes, and tackles BT.2020/P3 color space. Nothing like having a laser projector to achieve the expanded color space known as P3, which is what the big movie theater projectors use.  This LG manages to reach P3 on some of the primary and secondary colors, but comes up well short (more like REC 709) on the others.

See Eric's HU80KA calibration pages if you want more on this aspect.  Note, while laser light sources have the advantage over lamps, there are a few lamp based projectors that achieve P3 on all primary and secondary colors, including some Epsons and JVCs, so this this comparison, those lamp based models have the advantage, even if lasers are better in general.

When it comes to HDR, the support is for HDR10 the best-known standard (Blu-ray UHD, more). HLG, another HDR protocol intended for broadcast 4K with HDR, is not supported at this time.

The LG is pretty smart, and has all the networking needed for LG to send out firmware upgrades although, I have no reason to believe they will add HLG. Just know they can, should there be sufficient demand.

(Of course, more often than not, manufacturers add major new features when they release replacement products, rather than constantly upgrading them.)

There is no gamma control for HDR, or full tone mapping, but the Dynamic Contrast Control affects EOTF – essentially the gamma, and allows you, to some degree, to impact the look of HDR, removing dimness, etc.

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Color Controls

Eric’s (our calibrator) setup of the projector used Standard mode, for 4K with HDR because it is about 50% brighter than the Technicolor Expert mode. He calibrated Expert Dark Room for 1080p movie viewing, and also used Standard mode as our "brightest" mode, because is that much brighter than any of the Expert modes.  It's the Expert modes (those two, and Expert Bright Room), that can be fully adjusted.

The brightness is needed for HDR, which is unfortunate, because it is the Technicolor Expert mode that offers a full Color Management System and works with 4K HDR.  That CMS is for calibrating the primary and secondary colors, aka, ending up with the best, most accurate color. That mode would have provided more accurate color, a real trade-off against the brightness. Eric chose to go for the brightness.

Fortunately, per Eric, initially Technicolor Expert is almost identical to Expert Dark Room.

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As a result I copied in all the same calibration settings from the Expert Dark Room mode that Eric calibrated into the Technicolor mode.  It definitely was not as bright when I was switching back and forth between it, and Standard, for that 4K/HDR content, such as watching Passengers, but I was more pleased with the color.  (I'd guess that as I had it set up, my Technicolor Expert (T/E) mode would be about 30-35% less bright than Eric's Standard mode.  Note, in the T/E mode on HDR, I found he picture colors oversaturated.  I lowered the setting to 65 (from 75).

So, which to use?  Personal taste, but pretty importantly, screen size comes into the decision process. Consider:

At 100" diagonal, I did want more brightness, but, I realize the way LG markets this projector many apartment and condo dwellers might be proud owners, And those of you who don't have large rooms may be fine with 80 or 90 inch diagonal images.  If you have an 8 foot ceiling, and want to project to it, you are probably looking at 70 inches or so.

Well, compared to projecting onto a 70" diagonal area, if you want an image just as  bright bu at 100" diagonal size, you'll need just slightly more than double the lumens.  So, using the T/E mode should work out fine (and deliver more accurate color) than Standard mode when watching 4K content with HDR.

The individual CMS color controls are found on the Picture Options menu (to the right). Once in there, you can adjust the Saturation Hue and Brightness of each of Red, Green, Blue, Cyan, Yellow, and Magenta.

Smart Features

Think smart TV. Let’s start with the Home Menu. The first thing you see that isn’t on 98% of projectors, are lots of apps, including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Channel Plus, Sling TV, UFC.TV, and Accuweather, to name a few, and of course, you can browse the web. Naturally, some require subscriptions.

But there are other smart capabilities, such as an onboard Web browser, Photo Viewer, Video Player and more.

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