LG HU80KA laser projector review

LG rewrote the rules for projectors with the portable, dead-simple HU80KA

To build a true home theater easily, grab LG’s HU80KA and don’t look back.
To build a true home theater easily, grab LG’s HU80KA and don’t look back.
To build a true home theater easily, grab LG’s HU80KA and don’t look back.

Highs

  • Easy to set-up
  • Built-in smart TV functionality
  • Clear, beautiful 4K HDR image
  • Easy to transport

Lows

  • Laser projection means finite use time

There are many joys that come with ownership of a modern 4K projector, namely gorgeous image quality and massive screens that provide your home with the kind of immersive viewing experience you typically shell out for at the movie theater. That said, they do have their drawbacks. In addition to requiring a dark room, a separate sound system, and a decent projection screen (not to mention a streaming device or a Blu-ray player), many projectors also require professional mounting.

With the HU80KA projector, LG circumvents many of these hassles, providing a theater-style viewing experience, a beautiful 4K HDR image at up to 150 inches, and on-board streaming content, all without the need for mounting. After a few weeks spent with the HU80KA, we’re convinced this laser projector is nothing short of a revelation. It’s easy-to-use, quick and painless to set up, and can easily go virtually anywhere to display your favorite TV shows and films.

Out of the Box

The HU80KA doesn’t look like your average projector. A charcoal, rectangular monolith, it looks like a smaller version of the metal pillars you find outside sports stadiums to prevent people from driving onto the sidewalk.

Riley Young/Digital Trends

On top of the projector is a pop-up mirror that redirects the image when it is placed vertically on the ground. This same mirror can also be flipped all the way up when the HU80KA is placed flat on a traditional projector mount for versatility in setup.

Need to take it with you? Just grab the remote and handle and you’re good.

A metal handle around the upper section of the device makes the projector easy to transport and put in place (if feels a bit like carrying a big construction thermos), and the same handle doubles as an adjustable “foot” when the projector is placed on its belly on a traditional mount.

Inside the box, you’ll find the same LG Magic Remote that ships with the company’s 4K TVs. One cool aspect of the HU80KA is that the power cable is actually wound inside its lower section — a nice touch that makes it even easier to pack up and move. Need to take it with you? Just grab the remote and handle and you’re good to go.

Ins and outs

On the HU80KA’s lower section, you’ll find the same assortment of inputs and outputs you’d expect from any modern projector, including dual HDMI inputs (one with ARC for sending audio signals to your receiver), 3.5mm and digital optical audio outputs, two USB ports, and an ethernet port. It also has built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, though we always recommend a hard-wired connection for increased stability when streaming video (depending on your distance from your wireless router). There is also a built-in speaker system — a stereo setup that offers a paltry 7-watts per channel — but we’d opt for outboard sound whenever possible.

Features and specs

LG’s hyper-portable laser projector offers a 4K resolution and a screen size of between 40 and 150-inches with up to 2,500 lumens of brightness. It supports HDR10 (the most common version of HDR), but no Dolby Vision. The contrast ratio is a claimed 150,000:1 in the right conditions.

Would-be buyers should note that because it uses lasers instead of a traditional bulb to light up its image, the projection system itself isn’t replaceable (where bulbs typically are). LG claims you’ll get up to 20,000 hours (4 hours a day for 14 years) out of the HU80KA, but once the lasers burn out, you’ll need to pony up for a new projector. This shouldn’t be an issue for most buyers, as virtually everyone gets a new viewing device more than once a decade, but it is something to bear in mind.

Due to its unique design, it can be placed a few feet closer to the screen than more traditional options. We achieved a 100-inch image at a little under ten feet, which is a few feet less than we’ve seen from other 4K projectors. The projector also features a 1.2x optical zoom, which makes it easy to place if you need it a bit farther away from your screen for mounting reasons. As with most modern projectors, automatic keystone correction keeps everything lined up, though we did have to minutely adjust these settings on occasion when we moved the projector around.

Those who have used a late-model LG TV will immediately be familiar with the smart TV functionality built into the HU80KA. The projector uses the latest version of webOS, offering the same assortment of app integrations and intuitive setup interface we’ve raved about from LG’s TVs for years. The Magic Remote is particularly handy, allowing you to simply point the remote at your selections on screen, rather than having to click through with various arrows. For testing, we also connected a Macbook Pro and Roku Ultra, and had no issues quickly setting up with those options.

LG’s TruMotion technology means quick-paced action always flows very smoothly.

Speaking of setup, though we deeply appreciate the fact that the HU80KA can just sit on the floor, we do think that those with small children, animals, or other reasons to keep something this expensive off the floor for anything other than a short period of time should invest in a long-term mounting solution.

That said, the fact that we could simply drag it upstairs from our normal testing room for a movie night in the living room was awesome, and if we owned an HU80KA, we imagine it would occasionally leave the house or change rooms for such purposes. For example: Want a cool impromptu lightshow outside during a summer barbecue? Set up the HU80KA on a table facing the wall of your house, find something cool on YouTube, and you’re good to go. Want to share some photos? With LG’s Screen Share you can quickly display photos over Wi-Fi with an Apple or Android phone. That’s a level of usability you just won’t find on most projectors.

Video Performance

In terms of both image quality and brightness, we love the way that the HU80KA looks on screen. We spent most of our viewing time watching 4K HDR content on Netflix and YouTube, with everything from Stranger Things to various RED camera demos looking simply astonishing.

LG HU80KA projector screen
Riley Young/Digital Trends

The inclusion of LG’s TruMotion technology means quick-paced action always flows very smoothly on screen, and picture modes like Vivid, Standard, and Cinema each offer great picture quality out of the box. In fact, unlike many projectors we test, where Cinema mode is almost always the highest-quality projector setting out of the box, we actually preferred the LG projector’s Standard mode, which allows brighter colors to pop a bit more than in Cinema mode.

One thing we loved about the HU80KA is how quiet it is, easily ranking as one of the quietest projectors we have ever tested, and we could barely tell it was on when no audio was playing (a true rarity).

We loved how quiet it is, easily ranking as one of the quietest projectors we have ever tested.

All in all, while we can’t say that the HU80KA looks dramatically better than more affordable 4K favorites like the Optoma UHD50, it certainly offers a bit of a step up, thanks in no small part to the better contrast offered from LG’s CineBeam laser system. For twice the list price of the Optoma, you’re also paying for a significant number of features that improve usability, so that’s to be expected.

Bottom line: This is easily one of the best-looking projectors we’ve seen under the $5,000 mark and will thoroughly wow those who have not seen a 4K image in such grandiose sizes before.

Warranty information

LG offers a one-year warranty on parts and labor for the HU80KA.

Our Take

LG’s HU80KA is an extremely beautiful and intuitive projector that has a wide variety of applications in your viewing space, and well beyond it.

Is there a better alternative?

While there are projectors at the $3,000 price point that offer beautiful 4K picture quality, we’ve yet to see one that combines the ease of use of the HU80KA with such dazzling laser projection technology, making it a unique option.

How long will it last?

Because it is a laser projector, viewers will only get up to 20,000 hours of viewing time out of the projector before it will need to be replaced. That said, given the build quality and LG’s history as a high-end TV manufacturer, we fully expect the projector to last through that entire period.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you’ve got the wiggle room in your budget, the HU80KA is among the most dazzling — and easiest to use — projectors you’ll find at its price point. Looking to transform your viewing space into a true home theater? Grab one of these bad boys and don’t look back.

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