The general perception of projectors is that, while they have the ability to offer drastically larger image sizes than TVs, they are prohibitively expensive for most people. A $10,000 4K Sony projector is a wonder to behold, but it's an aspirational wonder for most of us. That perception might have been true a few years ago - and for the highest quality home projectors it still can be - but there's been an influx of sub-$2,000 models that are really good options for anyone looking to fill their wall with high-quality video without breaking the bank.
One way that TVs have evolved over the years is by becoming Smart TVs, and projectors are starting to catch up. The LG HU70LA incorporates everything you expect from a smart TV. In fact, it uses LG's TV user interface for its menu system paired with the company's Magic Remote. There's a digital TV tuner, built-in streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, web browsing, and voice control connectivity through Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or the Magic Remote.
On the inside, the HU70LA has a 0.47-inch 4K DLP chip with XPR (Expanded Pixel Resolution) pixel-shifting technology. The chip, which has a native resolution of 1080p, is shifted four ways to quadruple the pixel count up to 2160p. The result is remarkably close to a true UHD image and at a normal viewing distance there's little, if any, visible difference on real-world material. The projector accepts HDR10, but unfortunately is not compatible with Dolby Vision or HLG.
As is becoming the norm with these sub-$2,000 projectors, the light engine is LED-based instead of a lamp (although we are now seeing the introduction of more laser-based systems at this price point). With the HU70LA, it's a four-channel LED system: red, green, blue, and what LG calls Dynamic Green. LG states that the Dynamic Green helps increase brightness and color tone. The HU70LA is rated for up to 1,500 ANSI lumens, and there's no color wheel, so the projector is theoretically free of rainbows that can plague DLP projectors (I didn't see any rainbows, but I'm also not very susceptible to them). A major benefit of an LED light engine is the maintenance, or rather the lack thereof. It has an expected life of up to 30,000 hours with no need to change, or more importantly buy, a lamp.
The projector has a small form factor, especially in comparison to a lamp-based model, measuring in at 12.4 by 3.7 by 8.3 inches (WHD) and tipping the scales at just over seven pounds. The size and weight make it easy to transport if you ever want to move it from your living room to your backyard for an outdoor movie night. The case is a white rectangle with curved corners around the side. The lens is offset and recessed for protection (there is no lens cover). There are two three-watt speakers on either side if you choose to play any audio from them (I'd recommend you don't if you can avoid it). There's also an inlet vent on one side and outlet vent on the other for cooling. On the top of the projector, above the lens housing, is a manual zoom ring adjustment, a focus button, and a directional pad with a power button in the middle.
Connections are expectedly on the back and consist of two HDMI 2.0 ports with HDCP 2.2 (one with ARC), two USB 2.0, one USB-C, optical out, 3.5mm audio out, Ethernet, and a standard SMA coaxial socket for the built-in digital tuner. In addition to the wired connections, the HU70LA also supports Bluetooth connectivity, wireless sharing with iOS and Android devices that have the LG TV Plus app installed, and screen sharing with Miracast.
My ceiling mount is installed just about 11 feet from my Stewart Grayhawk screen. With a 1.25x zoom, I was easily able to fill my screen with a 120-inch diagonal image. The lens was in line with the top of my screen to ensure keystone adjustment was not needed. Focus can be fine-tuned with either the buttons on the top of the projector or using the remote - a far better option so you can check your adjustments up at the screen.
As mentioned above, the HU70LA uses the same menu system found on LG's televisions. There's the home menu, a bar along the bottom that allows you to search, select the tuner or installed apps, a web browser, files (pictures, videos, or music) from an attached USB drive, the LG content store, or the home dashboard where you can see the devices attached to the projector. Pressing the settings button on the remote brings up buttons along the left side of the screen for choosing picture mode, aspect ratio, sound output, projector placement, network connection, or the option to open another settings menu.
That additional settings menu (which covers some of the same information from the menu before it) allows you to select the picture mode to go into another set of menus to customize each individual picture mode. Confused yet? There are a bunch of options available, but for many of them it's a deep dive through the menus.
The projector has eight picture modes for SDR: Vivid, Standard, Cinema, Sports, Game, HDR Effect, Expert (Bright Room), and Expert (Dark Room). Of those eight, four of them -- Cinema, Game, Expert (Bright Room), and Expert (Dark Room) -- have the ability to adjust white balance (2, 10, or 22 points), and the CMS (saturation, tint, and luminance for RGBCMY). When the projector senses an HDR signal, five HDR picture modes become available. Like the SDR options, not all of the HDR modes are able to have white balance and CMS adjusted. That honor lies with Cinema and Game (User).
Navigation of the menus is done with the LG Magic Remote. It has a curved shape with the weight in the bottom half that sat comfortably in my palm. Right where my thumb rests is the directional pad with a scroll wheel button in the middle. For my average-sized hand with slender fingers, the number pad at the top of the remote is out of reach without shifting my grip significantly (but honestly, I rarely used the number pad). Other buttons are within reach and intuitively placed. All buttons except the red power button at the top are backlit.
That's only half of it. The remote can also be used as a wand to control a cursor on screen. It works pretty well and there isn't much drift to the cursor, but there are some clunky aspects to it. When the cursor first appears on screen, it's always dead center, no matter the direction the remote is pointing at the time. Which means it needs to be recalibrated by bringing the cursor to one of the screen edges and lining up your aim with the cursor. I found the vast majority of the time I was not pointing the remote dead center at the screen and had to recalibrate. Because of this I usually just defaulted to using it as a traditional remote with the directional pad.
During setup, the projector can sense the source connected to each port and name it. For instance, when I first started up the HU70LA, I had my Roku on through my Pioneer VSX-933 AVR and the projector created a Roku input listed on the Home Dashboard. With HDMI-CEC turned on, my AVR will change inputs to Roku if I select it from the Home Dashboard on the projector. If I select BD Player on the dashboard, it will start up my LG disc player and change the AVR input.
Out of the box, the HU70LA measures respectably well for a projector in its price range. As is the trend, all the different default color modes were a little cool, although none were excessive enough to be deemed unwatchable. The Sports mode, and its boost in brightness, is useful to switch to when watching something in the middle of the day with light streaming in through the windows. For the majority of my viewing, I used the Cinema setting and changed the color temperature from the default Medium (which measured around 8000K) to Warm (just under 6000K). I also kept Energy Saving at Minimum, which is the highest light source setting.
Testing was done using CalMAN 2019 with a Photo Research PR-650 spectroradiometer, VideoForge Classic pattern generator for SDR, and Diversified Video Solutions' UltraHD/HDR-10 Test Pattern Suite for HDR. Grayscale was visibly a little red and became more so the closer to white. Color points were almost all a little oversaturated, except for cyan, but the only visible offenders were yellow and green. After calibration, the grayscale tracked beautifully up to 100 IRE where there was still a slight red tint, but nowhere near as egregious as before calibration.
Color points were also improved to the point of being visibly perfect, but it caused an interesting issue. While the color points were bang on, the post-calibration saturation sweeps were negatively affected. For all but cyan, the 20 percent, 40 percent, 60 percent, and 80 percent points were all very undersaturated, causing a significant loss in vibrancy while watching movies. It's not something that I've encountered before in post-calibration measurements, at least not this drastically. After watching for a bit with the color calibrated in this way, I ended up going back to the default color profile (while keeping the grayscale adjustments) and had a more enjoyable experience. I found the same issues with HDR and instead opted to use the default settings with Cinema (Home) color mode. The EOTF curve for HDR was also under the mark, which is the norm for consumer projectors right now, as they don't have the necessary light output to match what the EOTF curve is telling them to output.
The HU70LA measured 765 lumens in Cinema mode. Vivid was the brightest at 1,031. The Cinema (Home) HDR mode measured 1,010. It's possible to get higher brightness by changing the color temperature to Natural, but it adds a green tint that makes everything unpleasant to watch. The numbers might seem a little off the target of the claimed 1,500 ANSI lumens, but there's an important consideration to take into account. The way we perceive light from a LED light source is different than from a traditional lamp projector due to the Helmholtz-Kohlrausch effect. We perceive more highly saturated colors as having higher luminance, and since LED lights can offer benefits to saturation over traditional lamps, they appear brighter by comparison. The most important thing is that the HU70LA has enough light output to make it possible to casually watch television programs during the day. Pulling the curtains closed for dark movies, though, is still preferable, as the ambient light can still wash out the image and cause a loss of shadow detail.
Having a four-year-old kid, we do a lot of Disney movie watching. His current infatuation, which will probably last another couple weeks, is Up. After wiping away the tears (that opening never gets any easier), I was able to see nice vibrancy in the colors of Carl Fredricksen's house and the collection of balloons that carry him on his journey. But in 1080p from the Blu-ray, there was definite color banding that could be best seen in Russell's face. Switching over to Disney+ and its 4K presentation, the color banding was completely gone and the increase in fine detail was excellent. Colors were just as vibrant in 4K, although the mustard of Russell's shirt bordered on being a bit too much.
The HU70LA had some difficulty displaying the shadow detail in the prison scene near the beginning of Batman Begins. Changing the Dynamic Contrast from Low to Medium helped the shadows have more definition, but it seemed to diminish the range at the other end, limiting the punch of brighter scenes. For a movie like Batman Begins, which is dark in both color and tone, keeping the higher dynamic contrast setting is a good idea, but in a film with more changes in brightness it could adversely affect the overall experience.
I popped in the UHD Blu-ray of Blade Runner 2049 and the increase in detail over 1080p material was immediately apparent. There are some phenomenal color palettes throughout the movie, and the LG handled them very well. The contrast of the pale blue, rain-soaked streets against the pop of neon signs was striking. As is a general rule with projectors currently, they have difficulty with the dark end of the HDR spectrum. The LG has a Dynamic Tone Mapping option that, when turned on, analyzes the HDR content frame by frame and adjusts the image, much like dynamic metadata with HDR10+.
I've seen this in action on LG TVs and it's nothing short of remarkable. On the HU70LA, it instead caused dark scenes to be even darker and I noticed a significant loss of shadow detail. When K returns to the orphanage to find information on the boy who was there 30 years previous, the subtle details of the toy horse's hiding place are lost, as is the emotional impact of that scene. By turning Dynamic Tone Mapping off and playing around with the Dynamic Contrast, I was able to enjoy the dark delicacies more throughout the movie. It's a compromise, though, as I did lose detail in the bright sections.
Eager to test the HU70LA's prowess with video games, I started up Sea of Thieves, a game that has some of the most beautiful water effects I've seen to date. Immediately, like a slap across the face, I was reminded that I was in Cinema mode. The input lag caused me to completely mistime my jump off the dock and, instead of landing on the deck of my sloop, I plunged into the waves below. I switched over to Game mode and had a much easier time moving around and swinging my sword. That's not to say input lag was no longer an issue, just that it wasn't as much of an issue. I don't have the ability to test input lag of 4K signals, but with a 1080p signal in Game mode, the LG measured a lag of 55.3ms. Outside of game mode that number ballooned to 120ms (which explains my character's unexpected dip in the ocean). 55.3ms is still a significant amount of lag, especially for someone who plans on playing games that require fast reflexes like Overwatch or Mortal Kombat. With Sea of Thieves it's okay, but when I tried some of the jumping puzzles in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order I could only play for about 20 minutes before frustration took over.
While the use of an external power brick helps save weight on the projector itself, it poses an extra problem to solve if it's mounted on the ceiling. The lead from projector to power brick is only around five feet long. Unless you're living in Bag End, that's not long enough to reach a power outlet nearer the floor. For some with a dedicated theater, there might be a power outlet for the projector installed near the ceiling mount but in my apartment setup the closest outlet is at the bottom of the back wall of my living room. With a normal power cord, this wouldn't be a major problem. Simply add an extension cord. Given the bulk, though, I had to figure out a way to secure the power brick to the cable runner on my back wall that normally hides the power extension cable from the projector to the outlet, and then cover it with some art.
There are certainly other drawbacks to the HU70LA, many mentioned above, but most are in no way exclusive to this projector. To reiterate, there are issues with the projector properly displaying the full range of HDR signals due to its inability to meet the EOTF curve, and the Dynamic Tone Mapping isn't as impressive as I've seen it when used on LG televisions. There are ways to improve the shadow detail in HDR by adjusting the Dynamic Contrast setting, but it is at the expense of some detail in the bright parts of the image.
If you're a gamer, the input lag in Cinema Mode (the best looking) is a concern. Even in Game Mode if you are a competitive gamer, you're going to feel every millisecond of lag. But to be honest, if you're a competitive gamer you're likely playing your games on a TV or monitor at 1080p to lower the lag as much as possible. And while you lose the color accuracy of Cinema Mode, Game Mode still looks pretty good and has the options to white balance or adjust CMS. Except I found that color calibration, while improving the individual color points, made the overall image lose its vibrancy.
Comparison and Competition
The $1,000 to $2,000 projector price range has become relatively crowded. BenQ has the HT3550 (reviewed here) and TK850, which are traditional lamp DLP projectors with color wheels that are slightly less expensive than the HU70LA. The TK850 in particular offers a significant increase in brightness over the HU70LA although it loses some color accuracy. Input lag across all three are within 5ms in Game Mode, which is to say not particularly bad, but not great either.
There are a few projectors that are meant to be easily moveable for multiple setup locations, like the ViewSonic X10-4K, which has a better built-in stereo speaker system than the LG but worse out-of-the-box color and higher lag times. The ViewSonic is also not as bright as the LG HU70LA and I prefer the LG interface.
The LG HU70LA 4K UHD LED Smart Home Theater CineBeam Projector is meant for the less critical viewer who might want to move the projector around the home into different viewing environments, and for that person it's a great choice. Color and grayscale accuracy out of the box are good, it's compact and light, and the user interface, while a bit convoluted when looking for image adjustments, has plenty of easily accessible options for basic color modes and streaming options. Add to that the built-in digital tuner, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa compatibility, and high-enough light output for daytime and sports viewing and the HU70LA has a strong collection of features. I wouldn't recommend it for use in a dedicated home theater due to black levels and color accuracy considerations, but for casual viewing in a family room it's a great option.