Over the past decade, LG has been on a roll, developing innovative and durable LED- and laser-based light sources for their single-chip DLP projectors. In fact, if you check out their website, every single one of their home theater projectors features a solid-state light source, something no other projector manufacturer I’m aware of can claim. I think this aspect is one of the main reasons why LG’s projectors have been such a popular choice for consumers over the years.
But while the light-source technology behind their projectors has always been impressive, I’ve always felt picture quality and feature-set were a step behind most of the DLP competition, at least as far as dedicated home theater use goes. At least, that's how I felt until I got my hands on LG’s new AU810PB, which sells for $3,999. LG has taken a number of steps to ensure that not only is their proprietary dual-laser light source put to good use, but that the light-engine design and feature-set for the projector make its image far more competitive, particularly against other single-chip DLP projectors near this price point.
For starters, the AU810PB is using Texas Instruments latest 0.47-inch XPR-enabled DMD. This is a 1080p-native display device that’s capable of quadrupling its resolution thanks to its extended mirror tilt functionality and a specialized actuating optical piece within the light engine. Some of you may be thinking, “1080p native? No thanks.” But that's too reductive, I think. TI’s XPR technology works surprisingly well, with most of the 4K test patterns I threw at it showing surprisingly good results, even beating out some of Sony’s more expensive native 4K projectors on a few tests.
LG’s red and blue laser light source is definitely one of this projector’s main selling points, as it gives the AU810PB several competitive attributes lacking in other lamp-based projectors in this price class. The obvious advantage is extremely long life, with LG rating it to provide up to 20,000 hours of use before noticeable light-loss occurs.
Additionally, LG claims it can provide up to 2,700 lumens of light output, while simultaneously providing 97 percent coverage of the DCI-P3 color gamut without the sort of substantial drop in light output you see with some other projectors claiming this much coverage. The larger gamut is definitely welcome and put to good use for most HDR video content.
Lastly, LG can modulate the power output of the lasers in real time to be used as an extremely fast and accurate dynamic contrast system, with LG claiming a 2,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.
LG’s marketing claims that the AU810PB provides “optimal quality for any image and any environment,” a claim base on the fact that this projector includes an adjustable iris in the lens that allows you to either enhance contrast performance for light-controlled environments by closing it down, or opening it up to let more light out of the projector to fight ambient light in a more traditional living room setup.
Additionally, LG’s advanced video processing suite is one of the best I’ve seen to date, thanks to built-in dynamic tonemapping that automatically adapts the HDR image on-the-fly for more natural colors, a brighter looking image overall, and a better sense of dynamic range.
Of course, I could have written all of the above about LG's HU810P, a virtually identical LG projector that sells for a thousand dollars less. While picture quality between these two modes should be identical, if you opt for the HU810P instead, you lose out on the matte black finish option and most of the custom install features of the AU810P, such as WiSA compatibility, IP and RS-232 system control, the 12-volt trigger output, and the Calman auto-calibration functionality.
The AU810PB is a fairly compact projector, measuring in at 13.3 by 16.1 by 5.7 inches, with a modest weight of 24.3 pounds. The lens offers a decent amount of lens shift (± 60 percent vertical, ± 24 percent horizontal) and has a generous 1.6x zoom range, with its throw ratio specified as 1.3 to 2.08:1. All in all, LG has done a good job of giving owners a decent amount of setup flexibility, and although all lens controls are manual, physical setup of the projector should be relatively straightforward and easy for most installations.
The AU810PB features three HDMI ports, two of which are HDMI 2.0b compliant, with the remaining port being eARC and HDMI 2.1 compliant. It should be noted, though, that the 2.1 compliant port is limited to 24Gbps data throughput, not the full 48Gbps. This means not all input resolutions and frame rates of the full HDMI 2.1 spec will be supported. With that said, I really wouldn’t worry too much about this limitation in 2021, unless you’re a gamer, as there is nearly no video content out there that needs the full 48Gbps data throughput of HDMI 2.1 anyways. Despite this limitation, it still supports the other benefits of HDMI 2.1, such as Auto-low Latency Mode, Variable-Refresh Rate Mode, and Quick Frame Transport, among others.
The remaining ports are a pretty standard affair. There's a pair of USB ports to power connected devices and stream connected media; a single 12v trigger; an RS-232 port for system control; an Ethernet port for internet, system control, and network connectivity; and an optical digital audio output if you want to connect an external audio system to the projector. The AU810PB comes with a pair of Dolby Atmos-enabled five-watt speakers, which could be very useful for an impromptu outdoor movie night. Surprisingly, they actually sound better than most of the in-built speakers I’ve tested. And better yet, this model is WiSA compliant, a handy feature for those looking to add in a wireless surround sound system with lossless audio.
The AU810P is also smart-enabled thanks to its WebOS 5.0 operating system. Through LG’s app store, you’ll have access to streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Plex, Showtime, STARZ, and AMC Theatres On Demand, among others. There’s even a built-in media player that allows you to play files stored on computers attached to your home network. Such functionality is pretty rare for home theater projectors and, like the solid-state light source this projector has, it really shows off LG’s commitment to bringing projectors closer in functionality to how most televisions work in 2021. I hope others in the industry follow suit.
If you’ve used any LG display in recent years, you’re going to feel right at home inside the menu system of the AU810PB. There's a whole host of menu options to adjust the image to your liking, including white balance, color, and gamma controls, as well as manual color-space control options. If you own a colorimeter, the AU810PB offers a welcomed software feature making it compatible with Calman’s auto-calibration software, which automatically calibrates the projector in just a few clicks. It should be noted, however, that the auto-calibration software will set you back $145.
Owners have access to multiple picture modes to choose from, with a secondary subset of picture modes available for HDR signals, making it easy to customize settings depending on the type of image being sent to the projector. For the most accurate out-of-the-box viewing experience for SDR video, I’d recommend using Expert (Dark Room) mode. Some of the other picture modes may offer more image brightness, potentially allowing you to project a larger image (if that's what you're after); just know that if you end up using one of these brighter modes, you may notice a green tinge to the image or colors that don't look quite right.
There are several options within the menu system that are useful for getting the most performance out of the projector. Be sure to check out the Brightness Optimizer submenu, where you'll find access to the adjustable lens iris and the projector's dynamic contrast system, labeled Iris Mode and Adaptive Contrast, both of which help increase contrast performance. I chose to set both of these options to Medium during my testing, though you'll have to play around with these settings until you find what looks best on your own screen.
In the Advanced Controls submenu, make sure the Dynamic Tone Mapping option is turned on in order to get a better HDR experience. If this is enabled and you still feel like HDR video appears too dark overall, you can try enabling the Dynamic Contrast option, preferably set to Low. I'd also recommend disabling the TruMotion option found in the Picture Options submenu if you don't want your video to look like a soap opera. In most picture modes, this is enabled by default, so you may have to disable this multiple times. Most other picture options can be left to Off or Auto if you're after the most accurate movie-viewing experience possible from the projector.
Image quality overall is quite competitive for a DLP projector selling in this price range – that is, as long as you aren’t pushing the limits with a screen size that's too large.
In order to get the best image from the AU810PB, I found utilizing the iris in the lens to boost contrast and deepen its black level necessary. As far as I’m aware, no other DLP projector using this DMD offers an adjustable iris in the lens. This gives it a competitive advantage for those seeking a DLP projector with higher-than-average contrast performance. On my 120-inch unity gain screen, I ended up closing the iris down half-way, which raised native contrast from a measly 525:1, up to a rather impressive 1,750:1. This is class-leading native contrast performance from a projector using this DMD.
Using the iris is a bit of a double-edged sword, though. While it helps to boost contrast, it means light output is cut down as well. With the iris fully open, I measured a peak of 1,500 calibrated lumens, but closing the iris halfway like I did lowers light output to 700. While this may seem like a massive drop in light output, I feel that the increase in contrast performance greatly improved the movie-viewing experience overall and was definitely worth it. On your own screen, in your own theater, you’ll want to play around with the iris setting until you strike a nice balance between image brightness and black level.
My favorite feature of the AU810PB has to be its dynamic contrast system. This software modulates the laser output in real time to boost the dynamic range of the image and deepen its black level. I measured a peak contrast ratio of 5,350:1 with this software set to High. While this doesn’t sound like a huge increase in contrast performance, setting the contrast multiplier to a maximum of three, as LG has, means its programming isn't particularly aggressive, which typically means it can work in an undetectable way. And other than some mild blown out highlights caused by clipping, this is exactly what the LG’s implementation provides.
It’s fast enough to engage when it needs to, but also subtle enough during most movie scenes where you don’t notice it working. Best of all, it doesn’t fade to black, something I’ve never seen a DLP projector pull off convincingly anyways, so I'm glad LG has programmed it not to. This means the threefold increase in contrast performance is fully put to use with normal video content on-screen, with none wasted on an all-black image.
Having a well-implemented dynamic contrast system is pretty rare in the home theater projector market, especially at this price point, and I really hope LG continues to use this implementation on future models. I really think this is one of those features that elevates a good home theater projector to a great one. It means you'll be able to enjoy watching your movie or TV show without annoying changes in the image.
I ended up watching Blade Runner 2049 on Ultra HD Blu-ray while the AU810PB was here. This is a movie I love to use to test image performance, particularly because of how dark and gritty most scenes are. Engaging and disengaging the iris and dynamic contrast system revealed a night-and-day difference in terms of black level and subjective dynamic range. The opening scene in particular showed the biggest difference, with the opening credits looking far more dynamic thanks to the image’s black level going from a light shade of gray to a shade far more reminiscent of black.
With that said, contrast and black level performance still isn’t up to the same level you typically see from Sony, JVC, and Epson around this price point, but the AU810PB is one of only a handful of DLP projectors selling today that gives these projectors a run for their money.
Image sharpness and resolution are also amongst this projector’s major strengths. Other than some mild chromatic aberrations added by the lens, which were only visible close up to the screen, single-pixel Ultra HD test patterns reveal a good level of image resolution, focus uniformity, and pixel delineation. Movies like Mortal Engines and Midsommar on Ultra HD Blu-ray revealed oodles of fine detail, particularly in outdoor shots where objects like trees and buildings can be found in abundance. If you’re stepping up from an older 1080p projector, you’re going to love what you see in this regard.
For the videophiles out there, if you opt for Expert (Dark Room) mode, out-of-the-box white balance and color performance of the AU810PB gives you a good starting point, closely matching what’s needed for most SDR video sources. Using the included 2-point white balance controls, I was able to tame an excess of red and blue found in most IREs across the greyscale range. And other than some uncorrectable hue shift in blue and a bit of oversaturation in red, color performance tracked quite nicely as well. Gamma was also spot on, which gave the image a nice sense of dimensionality and good shadow detail in all but the darkest of movie scenes. All in all, if you plan on watching a lot of older SDR Rec.709 video content, the AU810PB offers a fairly accurate image with natural looking colors and a good sense of depth to its image.
For HDR10 video content, the AU810PB offers a Rec.2020 color compatibility mode. And thanks to its laser light source, it's able to provide enhanced color saturation for a more vibrant and color intense viewing experience. I measured 97 percent coverage of the DCI-P3 color gamut within the Rec.2020 triangle. This is very good performance that at least matches some of this projector’s main competition at this price level. This means movie titles that go all-in on deep, punchy colors, like Pixar’s Inside Out or the recently remastered Matrix Trilogy, greatly benefitted from this extra color performance.
Another standout feature is this projector's dynamic tone mapping feature. Software like this is important for projectors because most lack enough image brightness and dynamic range, relative to most flat panels selling today, to provide a subjectively pleasing HDR experience. With this software engaged, you can expect an HDR image that has a far better sense of brightness, dynamic range, and more natural colors. Overall, LG’s software performs well, genuinely making HDR10 video a subjectively better experience.
With that said, I do wish LG would give owners a bit more control over how the software functions. It would be nice to be able to tell the projector how much brightness you’re getting off of the screen, or, at the very least, provide owners with a Brightness slider tool in the menu to approximate that value for those who have no means to measure it. Telling the projector how much image brightness you're actually achieving on screen would dramatically help the dynamic tone mapping software provide an even more pleasing HDR viewing experience overall. But I can’t complain too much, because LG’s HDR video processing is still leaps-and-bounds better than what you’ll find in almost all other projectors sold today.
It’s also worth pointing out how quiet the AU810PB is. Most projectors I demo sit on a shelf a couple feet behind me while I test them out in my theater. So, if I’m playing a quieter movie scene, even moderately loud projectors stick out like a sore thumb. Even with the projector in its highest laser output mode, noise was never a distraction, and that’s very impressive when you consider how much output this projector is capable of.
Another area where the AU810PB excels is with how it handles the color breakup artifacts (more commonly referred to as rainbows) that nearly all single-chip DLP projectors are prone to. Sequential color provided by LG’s dual laser light source appears to be fast enough to almost completely avoid the phenomenon. During a typical two-hour hour movie, I personally only notice it happening a handful of times, and when it happens, it’s typically gone as soon as it’s noticeable. Most other single-chip DLP projectors selling near or below this price point are noticeably worse off in this regard, so I think those sensitive to these artifacts would be happy with this projector.
The AU810PB is not without fault. In fact, it only took me a few minutes after unboxing the projector to see something not quite right with how this projector handles 24p, aka the framerate of pretty much all Hollywood-style TV shows and movies. After a few emails back and forth with LG, I've come to the conclusion that this projector does not accurately render 24p motion correctly.
Unfortunately, this means all video content displayed on screen is forced into 3:2 pulldown, resulting in a fixed 60hz image and judder in motion on occasion, particularly with camera pans and other types of moving shots. While LG is aware of this issue, I couldn’t get an answer as to whether this issue is something that can be fixed with a software update or not. If you plan on using the AU810PB mainly for movie watching, this may be a deal breaker for some, since it won’t be able to faithfully recreate motion as it was shot.
While I found LG’s laser light source largely beneficial, it also has one noticeable drawback – laser speckle. This is the same phenomenon that occurs when you shine a laser pointer on the wall, where dots of red light bounce around the main laser beam. Thankfully, it's fairly subtle overall, at least on my Stewart StudioTek100 screen. But I suspect keen-eyed viewers may notice this artifact in any all-white image or one in which large portions of the picture are grey. And if you’re using a screen with lots of optical coatings, like an ambient light-rejecting screen, it may exacerbate the issue a bit more.
For all the gamers out there, I have bad news for you. Even with this projector’s low-lag input mode engaged, I measured 48 milliseconds of input lag when feeding a 4K60p input signal with my Leo Bodnar input lag tester, which still isn't fast enough to be considered a good option for those who play competitive online games.
While the AU810PB may have class-leading contrast for a DLP projector near this price point, it isn’t class leading among all projectors. Notably, Epson’s 5050UB, which I reviewed last year, does a much better job in terms of contrast performance and perceivable dynamic range. It’s also quite a bit brighter than the AU810PB when it’s set up to provide higher contrast with the iris closed down. With that said, the 5050UB’s PRO-UHD pixel shifting technology is a step behind the AU810PB's XPR pixel shifting technology. You’re going to get more image detail and resolution if you go with the LG.
The 5050UB also offers more manual control for HDR video, particularly if what you’re watching is graded to be excessively bright (1000+ nits). But with most of the HDR content I watched, the AU810PB did better overall with its set-and-forget dynamic tonemapping software engaged, so this may be a moot point.
If you're looking to stick with DLP as your display technology, the only real competition out there near this price point and in overall picture quality is Optoma's UHZ65 . Both projectors feature a long-lasting laser light source and similar light output. But because the UHZ65 uses a higher-performance DMD, it doesn’t require the use of an adjustable iris to get similar contrast performance. This means you'll be able to fill larger screen sizes with the UHZ65 with comparable contrast performance to the AU810PB set up for enhanced contrast. With that said, the UHZ65 doesn’t have a comparable dynamic tonemapping solution, so this may be a deal breaker for those looking for that feature.
You also have the option to choose between the AU810PB and LG's nearly identical HU810P for a thousand dollars less. Choosing between these models is easy. The AU810PB is geared more towards custom install, so it adds in features like external system control, WiSA wireless audio support, Calman automatic calibration, and a black-colored chassis. So, if these are features you absolutely need in your home theater, go with the AU810P. And if not, save yourself a decent chunk of change and get the HU810P instead. The image performance and others features is the same between these two models.
Overall, I really like LG’s AU810PB, thanks in part to one of the best dynamic contrast systems I’ve seen in any projector to date, and how it handles HDR10 video content relative to other home theater projectors selling at or below this price point. Whether you’ll feel the same way will ultimately depend on where and how you plan on using this projector. If you have a light-controlled space and a modestly-sized projection screen that allows you to close down the iris in the lens, this projector can deliver a nice balance of image brightness, contrast performance, image sharpness, and color reproduction for movie or TV show viewing. But outside of this use-case, I feel that the AU810PB is a bit of a hard sell. On the other hand, the consumer focused HU810P's value proposition at the reduced price of $2,999 is much greater.
There are also a few other drawbacks I feel LG needs to address either via firmware update or possibly on a new model. Namely the AU810PB's lack of support for proper 24p motion and red laser speckle that may be distracting for those with certain types of projection screens. It might also benefit LG to use a brighter laser light source, so those with larger screen sizes don't have to choose between a good level of contrast or a good level of image brightness.
Addressing these issues will make this projector far more appealing to a wider range of potential buyers. And that's something LG should look into because I think the platform the AU810PB is built upon has a lot of potential waiting to be taken advantage of and I can't wait to see what LG does with it.