It also boasts high-quality audio from two integrated speakers and LG’s slick SmartTV streaming interface with easy connection via Wi-Fi. For users looking to replicate the cinema experience in the home with a minimum of fuss, an ultra-short-throw projector lets you dispense with ceiling or table mounts by placing the display directly beneath the screen. At a retail price of $6000, the HU85LA delivers superb image quality using an RGB laser, a single DLP chip, and the best part? No color wheel.
LG HU85LA Ultra-Short Throw Laser Projector
- Single-chip DLP with XPR delivers Ultra HD resolution
- RGB laser eliminates the color wheel
- HDR10 with DCI-P3 color
- ThinQ AI video processing
- LG SmartTV streaming interface with Magic Remote
- Projects an image up to 120 inches diagonal from 7.2 inches away
The past three years have seen a surge in the lifestyle projector category. What was once a bulky display that had to be installed by a professional can now be a compact model carried in a backpack and set up on a coffee table for instant movie night. But a small niche has formed in this genre called ultra-short throw. By employing a little optical trickery, it has become possible to place the projector just a few inches from the screen, essentially beneath it in fact. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities where the projector no longer has to be hidden or even draw attention to itself. It’s just another stylish box that can sit on a nice piece of furniture under your screen.
This category is still a premium affair with prices mostly north of $5000 and the LG I’m looking at today is no exception. The HU85LA Ultra-Short Throw Laser Projector retails for $6000. For that sum, it delivers superb image quality and installation possibilities you can’t get with a traditional front-projection display. It includes all the latest tech like Ultra HD, extended color, and HDR along with LG’s well-designed SmartTV interface and a Magic Remote. I’ll tell you more about that below. A laser light engine employs RGB elements to eliminate the color wheel which results in a major image quality upgrade. LG is offering convenience and quality in a tidy package. Let’s take a look.
single-chip .66” DLP with XPR
3840×2160, 16:9 aspect ratio
Max image size:
B/R LD Laser
Light output (mfr):
Lamp service life:
2x 5 watts
2x HDMI 2.0b (1 w/ARC), 1x USB-C
2x USB, RJ-45, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
26.3” x 5” x 13.7” (WxHxD)
lg, hu85la, ultra-short throw, 4k, ultra hd projector, laser projector, dlp projector, hdr, ultra hd, Projector Review 2019
The HU85LA is designed to be seen so to that end, LG has styled it simply and elegantly. It’s a good bit wider than an audio component but it’s still a basic box that stands five inches high. The front is covered in a nice tweed-gray fabric which serves as a grill for the two five-watt speakers. They deliver super-clean sound at a polite level. There is enough volume for a small room, but your favorite action movies won’t deliver a lot of visceral impact. Dialog reproduction is their forte and for that, they are ideal.
An ultra-short-throw projector presents a completely different form factor than traditional two-piece displays. Instead of a front-mounted lens, the image is projected from an angled slit on top. The HU85LA produces a 90-inch diagonal image from just 2.2 inches away. To hit the maximum 120 inches, it must sit 7.2 inches out from the screen surface. Height is determined by the desired image size, but the range is a small one. It takes only slight movements to move or size the picture. Proper positioning is also critical for image geometry. There are four threaded feet to help you achieve a precise level. Further adjustment is provided by an image warping feature with 12-point control. More about that later.
The HU85LA uses the .66-inch version of TI’s DLP chip. Its core resolution is 2716×1528, so it uses XPR technology to achieve 3840×2160 addressable pixels on the screen. This tech is commonplace in consumer DLP projectors and in this case, it achieves results virtually indistinguishable from native 4K displays. The color gamut is DCI-P3 and during my tests, I discovered that it can reproduce a Rec.2020 red primary at 100% saturation. HDR10 is supported as well. I’ll detail all those results in the benchmark section.
The most impressive piece of kit in the HU85LA is its laser light engine. Unlike LED models that use white light with a color wheel, this projector has an R/B LD laser. It’s an array of one red and two blue elements. One of the blue diodes is turned green with what LG calls a “green refiner”. That means no color wheel is needed. Not only is this a boon for those who see DLP rainbows, but it also delivers a sharper picture than wheel-equipped projectors.
The HU85LA is also a fully functional television with LG’s SmartTV interface and an HD tuner with antenna input. Once you connect to the internet via Wi-Fi or the provided RJ-45 input, you can download apps for your favorite providers and have access to literally thousands of streaming channels. If you wish to connect traditional source components, there are two HDMI 2.0 inputs with HDCP 2.2. Video can also be fed via a USB-C port and there are two additional USB 2.0 jacks for external hard disks or thumb drives. To interface with external audio, an optical S/PDIF port is also included and one of the HDMI ports has Audio Return Channel (ARC).
The HU85LA’s remote goes far beyond the typical projector handset. It’s LG’s Magic Remote which will be familiar to LG TV owners. It connects to the projector via RF and includes an onscreen cursor that moves when you wave it about. It can be a bit difficult to control at first but once you acclimate, it’s an easy and quick way to navigate menus and the LG SmartTV screens. The remote also has a click wheel for scrolling through lists of options. RF means you don’t have to point which is a plus. And it’s shaped so you can stand it on end if you like. And of course, it’s backlit.
Installing the HU85LA is simple but quite different from traditional projectors. If your screen is fixed in place like mine, you’ll need a way to control the projector’s distance and height in relation to the screen. Luckily, my theater’s center channel speaker stand is the perfect height, so I just needed to slide it in towards the wall to fit the image to my 92-inch Stewart Filmscreen Luminesse. Placement is critical because even a slight variance can warp the picture. Thankfully, there are four threaded feet which helped me things image nicely.
If you can’t get it perfect by physically moving the projector, LG has included a 12-point warping adjustment. I tried this feature and was impressed at how much you could tweak the image without reducing resolution, which I checked with a test pattern.
Once set, I hooked up a pattern generator and an OPPO UDP-203 and began exploring the menu system. If you already own an LG TV, the HU85LA’s menu will be familiar. There are seven picture modes of which Expert Bright and Expert Dark provide the best starting point for calibration. When HDR signals are present, you get five more modes with their own independent settings.
The HU85LA is a DCI-P3 display but it will dial down to Rec.709 for HD material if you set the color gamut option to Auto. The Expert modes turn off most of the image enhancements in favor of accuracy, but you’ll still need to calibrate the grayscale. LG provides 2, 10, and 22-point controls for this purpose. I was able to get great results with the 2-point feature. Color management is also included which I used to positive effect. There are four gamma presets including one labeled “BT.1886.” That’s the one I chose, and it gave me results closer to 2.2 power. More on that in the benchmark section.
Once image adjustments were complete and copied to all inputs, I turned to the SmartTV interface. Like others, it’s app-based so all you need to do is download the apps for your desired carriers and they’re automatically added to a line of icons at the bottom of the screen. The HU85LA’s internal processing ensures a responsive experience with superb video quality. I was using a Wi-Fi connection only and the image easily rivaled what my Apple TV delivers over a hard-wired interface. For my review, I installed Netflix and Amazon Prime.
The projector’s internal speakers are of good quality with very clean reproduction. They’re well-suited for dialog and light music listening. If you want more impact though, the optical output can feed an external sound system, or you can use HDMI ARC with a compatible receiver or processor.
With my calibration and setup complete, I turned to spending a few days watching discs and streaming shows with the HU85LA.
I knew I was in for a treat after watching a few clips from the Spears & Munsil Ultra HD Benchmark disc. The HU85LA’s picture is extremely sharp and even though the contrast isn’t quite in LCoS territory, black levels are pretty good with excellent detail throughout the brightness range. And the color is exemplary with a caveat which I will explain.
Since I had already run my HDR benchmarks, I knew the red primary would be very saturated. Luckily though, only the reddest of reds were a bit too intense. Shades of orange, like those found in the Planet Earth II episode, Deserts, were simply brilliant. And the detail in grains of sand and cactus needles was on a visceral level. You could just reach out and touch everything, it was so clear. Optically, the HU85LA is on par with the best projectors I’ve seen like the JVC RS4500 and the BenQ HT9060. Obviously, LG’s high-quality lens array coupled with the elimination of the color wheel has really made an impact.
Next up was Pixar’s The Incredibles 2. Of course, CGI animation always makes a display look good but with this example, I wanted to see red, and boy did I. The opening scenes feature the Parr’s red costumes and they took on a shade I have never seen on any display. It took a moment to get used to but once I realized that there were no banding artifacts and the detail was very fine, I found I quite enjoyed it. In the olden days, we crusty videophiles would lament that no display could reproduce the color of a Coke can. Well, this one can.
To check out some vintage colors and deep contrast, I turned to First Man. This film is shot with a healthy dose of grain using a classic color palette that harkens back to the Sixties and Seventies. There were no color issues here, just natural hues that made me think I was truly looking back in time; just beautiful. The space scenes were rendered in a proper shade of black with a wide dynamic range. Shadows were deep and highlights were bright without being too harsh. Flesh tones remained natural throughout.
My final test of that over-achieving red primary came with a viewing of The Martian. Once again, the orange landscapes of Mars washed across my screen in all their natural splendor. OK, it’s not actually the surface of Mars but who can say what it really looks like, right? The HU85LA produces the most beautiful and warm shades of orange I’ve ever seen. Granted, it’s not perfectly accurate according to a meter but I doubt any viewer will complain. It’s simply gorgeous to look at.
I also watched some content using the SmartTV interface, particularly Amazon Prime which varies quite a bit in quality with different displays. The HU85LA delivered the sharpest streamed image I’ve seen on any projector to date. While color looked a bit drab at times due to the compression (not the projector’s fault), the picture was always razor-sharp without the slightest hint of breakup or macro-blocking. This was over a Wi-Fi connection which at my house ranges from 80-100mb/s. Netflix was equally nice though I’ve found it to be more consistent on different platforms and it delivers better quality at lower bitrates. The takeaway is that you will most certainly enjoy streaming your favorite shows on this projector. It can easily and handily replace your television in every way that counts.
To test the LG HU85LA’s color accuracy, I measured from the screen at close range with an X-Rite i1 Pro spectrophotometer. Luminance readings were taken with a SpectraCal C6 tri-stimulus colorimeter facing a 92” diagonal Stewart Filmscreen Luminesse with Studiotek 130 material, gain 1.3, from a 10-foot distance. Patterns were generated by an Accupel DVG-5000 and controlled with CalMAN, version 5.9.
The HU85LA ships in its Standard picture mode but I went straight for the Expert Bright preset to begin my tests. It turns off things like dynamic contrast and dynamic color. I also set the color gamut option to Auto to ensure proper rendering of Rec.709 with HD material.
The medium color temp preset is decidedly cool in tone with errors visible across the entire brightness range. The good news is that gamma is nearly spot-on with perfectly linear tracking from the get-go. This will make all subsequent adjustments easier. With an average error of 5.22dE, the HU85LA will certainly benefit from calibration.
I chose to calibrate the warm color temp preset and it took a fair amount of adjustment to achieve the above result. The controls are very fine and precise which is a good thing. I set gamma to the BT.1886 preset to keep tracking just above the 2.2 line. Resulting intra-image contrast is excellent with reasonably deep blacks, bright highlights, and well-detailed mid-tones. Grayscale errors are now eliminated with nearly all levels under 1dE. This is an excellent performance.
In the unadjusted Expert Bright mode, the HU85LA follows the Rec.709 standard reasonably well. Primary colors are on-target at their 100% points but red is slightly undersaturated in the 20-80% range. Magenta is off in hue and looks slightly blue. Luminance levels are only a tiny bit low so overall errors are low at just 3.41dE.
After calibration, red tracks a little better though it’s still a bit under from 40-80% saturation. Magenta is also slightly under but that is an invisible error. I adjusted the luminance levels using 100% saturation fields which over-tweaked red somewhat. That helps compensate for the undersaturation though. Blue had a similar reaction in the opposite direction. Overall errors are below the visible threshold, however. An average of 2.02dE is an excellent result.
To simulate an HDR10 signal, I added an HD Fury Integral into the signal path. It creates the proper tone map to allow HDR measurements using CalMAN’s special workflow.
LG offers multiple HDR picture modes but none of them allow a grayscale calibration. I narrowed the choices down to Cinema and Cinema Home and chose the latter as the best compromise. It’s a tad cool in the brighter steps, but the errors aren’t too bad. The EOTF tracks almost perfectly with tone-mapping beginning just below the 60% brightness level.
With Rec.709 signals in HDR mode, the HU85LA tracks all colors correctly except for red which is over-saturated. In fact, the 100% point is near all the way to a Rec.2020 red. This will affect material with a lot of red shades. For example, Mars’ landscape in The Martian will be really warm. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not entirely accurate.
With DCI-P3 material, the projector exhibits much the same behavior. The green primary runs out of juice at around 80% but red is, well, really red. I calculated the HU85LA’s DCI gamut volume at 76.5%.
Just to reiterate the point, here’s the Rec.2020 gamut. Red is over-saturated from 60% and up. In fact, the 80 and 100% points are nearly the same. When I watched the tulip clip from Spears & Munsil’s UHD Benchmark, they were an intense red but there was no obvious clipping. This won’t be a problem in most material, but a few things may look overblown.
The HU85LA achieved a perfect score in all tests. RGB signals will deliver the best resolution but component formats are only slightly rolled off. DVD watchers will be pleased to see that the projector properly processes all video and film cadences with almost instant lock-on. The ship clip I use for the jaggies test showed almost no line twitter and no signs of anti-aliasing or edge enhancement.
All luminance values are expressed here in nits, also known as candelas per square meter (cd/m2). For those needing a frame of reference, 1fL equals 3.43 nits, or 1 nit equals .29fL.
The HU85LA is quite bright and can easily compete with an average level of ambient light. The best results will be achieved with a lenticular screen like the SI Short Throw. I used a Stewart Luminesse with Studiotek 130 and recorded some impressive results.
After calibration in the Expert Bright mode, I recorded a peak light output of 147.4401 nits with a black level of .0992 and 1486.7:1 contrast. If you need maximum brightness, the Vivid mode produces 216.4584 nits peak with .0984 nit black and a contrast ratio of 2198.9:1. In HDR mode, the peak white is 215.4602 nits with a black level of .0984 and 2188.6:1 contrast.
- Cinema Home
- Color Temp Warm
- Color Gamut Auto
The LG HU85LA ULTRA-SHORT THROW LASER PROJECTOR delivers great image and sound quality for $6000. It is the best UST projector I’ve reviewed to date.
- Sharp, bright image
- Vivid color with excellent contrast
- Slick SmartTV interface
- An auto-iris for better contrast
- More calibration options for HDR content
- Better balanced red primary
Though projectors like the LG HU85LA are designed more as lifestyle products, this one can serve as a home theater display. I found it very accurate with SDR content, once calibrated, and accurate enough in its HDR mode. I thoroughly enjoyed watching movies thanks to its fantastic picture and clean sound. And the SmartTV interface and excellent Wi-Fi provided hours of entertainment from my Amazon Prime and Netflix feeds.
While the price is a bit high when compared to other convenience-oriented displays, LG delivers enough technology and image quality to justify it. The .66-inch DLP chip offers good contrast and coupled with the wheel-less tri-laser light engine, it projects an image rivaling projectors with much higher price tags. My only wish on that front is for a little better balance of the red primary. But honestly, my enjoyment of the HU85LA was not reduced one bit.
Ultra-short throw offers an easy way to replace a more traditional television or to anchor a small to medium home theater. 120 inches is larger than any TV and even at the 92-inch size I watched, the cinema experience can be fully enjoyed. Obviously, I was very impressed by LG’s HU85LA and I give it my highest recommendation as an ultra-short-throw projector, television replacement, or home theater display.