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LG HU80KA Projector LG HU80KA
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150000:1 Contrast Ratio
2500 Lumens
$2,664 Street Price
$2,999 MSRP

LG Electronics HU80KA
Laser 4K Home Theater Projector

Evan Powell, May 23, 2018

The LG Electronics HU80KA is by far the most unique and original 4K projector to hit the market so far - there is quite literally nothing else like it. It does not even look remotely like a projector when you pull it out of the box, but once you get it set up it can produce a dazzling high contrast 4K picture with superb color saturation.

Of course, the HU80KA has attracted a lot of attention simply because it is LG's first 4K projector. It uses the 0.47" 4K UHD DLP chipset, but unlike competing units with the 0.47" chip, all of which are lamp-based, the HU80KA is driven by a laser phosphor light engine that improves its overall black levels and contrast performance and promises 20,000 hours of life without concern for lamp replacements.

In addition, the HU80KA's Smart TV platform makes it set to go with wireless streaming of TV, Netflix, YouTube, and other sources, but it has an HDMI 2.0 input with HDCP 2.2 to accommodate wired Blu-ray and gaming consoles as well.





LG HU80KA Features/Advantages

  • Laser driven 4K for high contrast imagery

  • 20,000 hour life in brightest mode, longer in reduced brightness modes

  • Smart TV with wireless streaming of TV, Netflix, YouTube and other sources

  • Extreme portability

  • Much better than average on-board audio

  • Eight segment RGBYRGBY color wheel with virtually no rainbow artifacts

LG HU80KA Limitations

  • No 3D compatibility.

  • Video optimized lumen output sufficient for dark room viewing only.

  • Menu complicated and difficult to navigate.


LG HU80KA Performance

Brightness. There are a lot of ways to adjust lumen output on the HU80KA, First, you can place it horizontally (or ceilling mount it horizontally) so it projects directly at the screen like a light cannon. Or you can stand it upright in its "tower" orientation, where the image is reflected 90 degrees outward from a mirror. This reduces lumen output by 4%.

Second, the HU80KA has three Energy Savings power options that act like Eco modes on competing models -- labeled Minimum, Medium, and Maximum. The Minimum setting is the brightest option and corresponds to Full or Normal power on competing models. Switching to Medium reduces lumen output by about 28%, and Maximum reduces lumen out by 52% from Minimum.

Third, the HU80KA has four independent Color Temperature settings that you can select with any preset operating mode, labeled Cool, Medium, Warm, and Natural. Of these, Natural is by far the brightest, producing over double the lumen power of the second brightest option which is Warm. Cool and Medium are almost identical in brightness, and both are about 20% dimmer than Warm.

The Natural setting is your choice if you need maximum lumen output. It tends to have a greenish bias, but not as dramatic as the Dynamic modes on many competing models. Nevertheless, it is noticeable enough that those looking for ideal color balance will want to opt for Medium, which is the most neutral of the color temperature options, or get a professional AV specialist to calibrate the unit to your taste.

All of the lumen readings in this table are taken with the projector oriented for direct projection (not using the mirror), the zoom lens at maximum wide angle, and the various color presets below are taken with the projector's Color Temperature option set to Natural:


LG HU80KA ANSI Lumens
(Direct projection, Natural Color Temp, Zoom at Wide Angle)

MODE
Min
Med
Max
Vivid
1802
1297
865
Standard
1772
1275
851
Cinema
1073
773
515
Sports
1800
1295
864
Game
1756
1258
839
TechExpert
1057
765
510

Zoom Lens Light Loss. The projector is at its brightest with the 1.2x zoom at it widest angle setting. It loses 7% of its lumen output when set to the maximum telephoto end of the zoom range.

Mirror Light Loss. The HU80KA loses 4% of its potential brightness when used with the mirror as opposed to projecting directly without the mirror.

Brightness Uniformity. This projector measured a solid 87% uniformity at the wide angel end of the zoom, and 92% at the telephoto end. This is the best we've seen so far from any 4K projector using the 0.47" chip, and excellent uniformity for any projector.

Input Lag. Minimum input lag with processing features like True Motion turned off is 71 ms.

Fan noise. Overall, a very quiet projector even with its Energy Savings option set to Minimum, its brightest option. Audible noise is low in pitch and unobtrusive.

On board audio. The HU80KA has an exceptionally good on-board stereo audio system as far as projectors are concerned. The two 7W speakers put out sufficient volume to fill a typical home theater room. As you would expect, the deep rumbling bass range is missing, so for permanent use a more substantial external sound system would be required to complement the large screen imagery. But this unit is designed for portability, and the sound it produces is plenty adequate and enjoyable for occasional back yard movie nights or other portable uses where a separate sound system might not be at hand. LG HU80KA

LG HU80KA Set Up / Install

The HU80KA can be set up in a variety of ways - you can ceiling mount it and point it directly at the screen, you can stand it in front of the seating area and bounce the picture via the mirror onto the screen, or you can even shoot the picture directly upward onto the ceiling if you want. You can also place it on a stand or rack behind the seats and project over the heads of the viewers. Due to its long tubular shape, it won't fit in a typical rear wall bookshelf.

Be aware that the throw ratio of the 1.2x zoom lens is in the range of 1.32 to 1.58. In other words, this is NOT a short throw projector. The projector will usually be placed at about the same distance as the seating area. For example, a 120" diagonal screen is 105" wide, and if you want to sit at a distance of 1.3x the screen width (a comfortable distance for a lot of people), that would be about 11.5 feet from the screen. Now in order to get a 120" picture from this projector, it needs to be placed in the range of 11.5 to 14 feet from the screen. So in this case you would need to place it upright between the seats or on a stand immediately behind the seats.

We mention this because it is easy to imagine that you'd set the projector upright in front of the seats in order to get maximum advantage of the audio output. However, if you do, this may require you to sit farther back from the screen than you would want.

For the actual throw distance needed to fit your desired screen size, see the LG HU80KA Projection Calculator.


Our Take on the LG HU80KA

Overall, the HU80KA is the most exciting projector we've seen from LG Electronics, and certainly the most unique and innovative 4K projector to hit the market so far. It is non-traditional in every respect, from its very odd form factor to its wireless Smart TV features and design for extreme portability. The laser-based light engine gives it a substantial boost in contrast for a rich, well saturation, engaging picture in both HDR and, remarkably, even in SDR where the picture's dynamic range can rival that of its HDR performance.

The selection of Medium as the Color Temperature yields overall the best color balance of the four temperature options, and this reduces lumen output by about 50% from the Natural setting. This in turn tends to render the Cinema mode too dim for very large screen use. Though Vivid is the brightest preset, it is a bit harsh for film/video. The Standard preset shows a more refined picture with just a slight drop in brightness from Vivid, and when you select Standard combined with Medium color temperature you end up with about 850 lumens of very high contrast light, excellent for use with a 120" screen in a dark theater room.

If you need more light you can switch to Natural color temperature, but this adds a modest greenish bias to the picture that you may or may not want to live with. It is not screaming green like some competing projectors produce in their Dynamic modes, but it is enough to compromise ideal flesh tones and the overall balance of the picture if you're paying attention. So for us, selecting the Standard preset and Medium color temperature was the key to a quick and optimized picture of sufficient brightness.

One of the most impressive attributes of the HU80KA is the high contrast and saturation the projector delivers with standard 1080p SDR sources. Since there is and will continue to be a lot more of this content than 4K for quite a long time, excellent performance for this type of material is a key advantage.

Beyond this is the super-portability of the unit, with a carrying handle integrated onto the unit. The mirror easily folds closed so the mirror and lens are both fully protected, and one can move it from place to place with ease.

The HU80KA's wireless Smart TV connections mean you don't have to run cables once you move it. The only connection is an on-board power cord which retracts into the unit when you want to transport it. So you don't have to think about carrying an external power cable like you do with all other portable projectors-a nice touch.

The LG HU80KA is offered for $2999, which is an aggressive price for a laser-driven 4K projector with wireless Smart TV features built in. Beyond this, if you want easy portability to set up occasional backyard movies or for other multi-location uses, there is simply nothing else on the market that will do it like the LG HU80KA does. For its originality and excellent performance for dark room home theater use, we are happy to give it our rare Editor's Choice Award.


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Reader Comments(12 comments)

Posted Jun 19, 2018 11:54 AM PST

By David Scott

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Does it have any lens shift? I can't find any details on that

Posted Jun 19, 2018 12:05 PM PST

By Evan Powell, Editor

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David, it has what you might think of as "mirror shift." In its vertical orientation, the angle of the mirror determines where the picture hits the wall--tilting the mirror up and down makes the picture go up and down. However, there is only one mirror position that produces an image with 90 degree corners. If you don't angle it just right to get a 90 degree corners on your rectangle, you can use keystone correction to square it up.

Posted Sep 5, 2018 9:00 AM PST

By Barry Koehler

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To David Scott's point, no lens shift is a HUGE missing feature if you want to ceiling mount this projector. It seems odd that such a great projector would be geared more for temporary placement than permanent. Others have commented on LG's site that it's very difficult to find a good mount and LG doesn't make one. It would seem you'd need a mount with the ability to easily shift the cannon up/down or left/right, independent of each other.

Posted Sep 13, 2018 12:15 PM PST

By Kevin N

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I purchased this about a month ago and to follow up on ceiling mounting, yes it was a pain. I almost opted to build my own mount. I did have to reposition the new mount and drop it pretty low from the ceiling to accommodate the lack of lens shift and minimize the auto keystone use. Overall, it is a great projector and 4k images look surprisingly good for the price point.

Posted Sep 17, 2018 10:02 PM PST

By Pedram

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Is there anything inherent in the design of this chip that prevents it from supporting 3D? I'm hoping maybe next year's model will have 3D support, then I'd be in.

Posted Sep 18, 2018 6:46 AM PST

By Rob Sabin, editor

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Some of the budget 4K projectors using this DLP chip set, including the Optoma UHD51A, do support 3D. This is of course 1080p/2K 3D, as there is no standard for 4K 3D and no 4K 3D content commercially available. So it's not the inherent technology that prevents projector manufacturers from including 3D compatibility, but rather the now-proven lack of interest from the broader market. I wouldn't expect to see LG adding this feature back anytime soon, but you never know.

Posted Nov 20, 2018 8:05 AM PST

By Steven J

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With Black Friday specials, this LG projector is roughly available for the same price as the Epson 5040UB. Given I have a completely dark theater and get overly excited about inky blacks, which of these two projectors would you recommend? The review doesn't offer a lot of insights against other projectors, and being a strikingly different design, I'm interested in how this design stands up. Does the LG truly excell against other projectors at its price point, or did it garner the Editor's Choice because of the laser light engine at its price point? Thank you :)

Posted Nov 20, 2018 10:02 AM PST

By Rob Sabin, Editor

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Steven, I checked in with our co-founder Evan Powell on this as he's familiar with both projectors, and as you suspected these are two different types of products. The Epson 5040UB is the better option here for your dedicated enthusiast, dark-room home theater application. This LG earned its Editor's Choice designation based on its combination of 4K resolution, laser light engine, and very unique portability features.

Posted Nov 22, 2018 9:32 AM PST

By J slovak

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Currently running a Panasonic AE8000 ( 6 years). Want to step up to 4k. I have a dedicated home theater without any ambient light issues. Deciding betteeen the lg HU80KA and the optoma UHD65 or the hd65 ( although that could land me in the doghouse)! Using a Screen Innovations 110” acoustic screen. Any suggestions?

Thank you

Posted Nov 26, 2018 10:53 PM PST

By Dan

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I have the same dilemma. Any expert input would be appreciated.

Posted Nov 27, 2018 7:46 AM PST

By Rob Sabin, Editor

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Guys, I think Evan's comments about this being more of a specialty/portable projector, albeit a brilliantly designed and well-performing one, should be taken with more than just a grain of salt. Unfortunately, we've never done a direct face-off between the LG and any of the popular, well-regarded entries from Optoma, Epson, BenQ or others in this $2,000-$3000 range that I can point you to. What I will say is that you should look closely at all the features. Keep in mind that you're paying extra for a laser light engine and to some extent a smart-TV platform in the LG, but perhaps giving up some flexibility in set-up and placement or day-to-day adjustability compared with more traditional projectors. Also, to the extent it has any bearing, the LG uses the 0.47-inch DLP chip, which uses a 4-phase pixel-shifting scheme to deliver 4K to the screen, vs the UHD65, which uses the 2-phase 0.66-inch DLP chip.

Posted Nov 29, 2018 3:49 PM PST

By wialeyard

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Mounting is not an issue. Chief Mfg RPMAU RPA Elite Universal Projector Mount with Keyed Locking works perfect for a 4-point solution, and if you use the 1/2in standoffs, you can flip/rotate the mirror out of the way. The 6-9" Adjustable Extension Column CMS006009 drops it from the ceiling as needed, and Structural Ceiling Plate CMA345 isolates some of the vibrations from it if people are walking above you.

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