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Join Date: Feb 2002
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It's been awhile since I've had a projector setup. I started with the Sony HS10 maybe 8-10 years ago and moved up to a higher end Sharp DLP that I greatly enjoyed until moving to a house we didn't own I opted not to install cables and bought an LED 55" Samsung to hold us over.
But my wife wanted a bedroom TV for Christmas and I started reading up on cheap LED projectors and ended up taking advantage of the Fry's sale of the LG PA70G. It's off now, but it seems to be a recurring thing.
Warning! I've been out of the projector world and market for so long (probably 7 years) much of my amazement might be just due to catching up with the state of technology. Either way, this is a slammin projector for $399 so I'll post my thoughts.
LED, WXGA Resolution DLP techology, 10K contrast ratio, HDMI, optical, component input, 20K hour bulb life, 700 lumens
It's been awhile, but holy moley, could these specs be for real on a $399 projector? I knew there had to be a "gotcha", but decided to take my chances since it was a bedroom projector anyway. If it outperformed itself, I could always promote it to the main system.
Right Off the Bat:
Before it was even opened, one big wow was that I wouldn't be paying $400 plus a year for bulbs anymore. How cool is that?
On power up several things struck me, ok four.
1) No 15 minute warm up - it fired right up to a bright sharp pretty picture in seconds. How cool is that #2.
2) No noise. Unlike the vacuum cleaner like noise from my Sony and Sharp projectors, nothing - no sound. And that was in default "medium" bulb mode. How cool is that #3.
3) I was worried about ambient light in the room and the projector being only 700 lumens. My other 1200 lumens were badly washed out with just about any a light in the room. In high lamp mode even with all the ambient light, the image was actually watchable. This tells me that the effective lumens of the LG is significantly greater than either of the 1200 lumen projectors I've owned before. (All together now) How cool is that? (#4)
4) Even in ambient light I could tell that this $399 projector had seriously good contrast. 10,000 /1? Very possible, seemed on par with the Sharp. HCIT? #5.
After dark testing:
I was using Apple TV and Netflix streaming as the source. So only hi def material was used. This is significant because I've heard lower resolution material doesn't fair as well on this projector. Of course I'd expect not much from a de-interlacer in a $400 projector.
Once the ambient light was gone things really got interesting. Figuring the quality would be so-so, I never even thought of anything but the bedroom wall to project onto. The image was probably around 130" (significantly larger than my 105" screen).
Focus: This scared me since I saw several reviews where people returned their unit because of lack of focus or focus uniformity. At first I was also disappointed once I dialed the focus bar as closely as I could. But after playing with the settings (quite flexible for a projector of this price), the sharpness and focus was actually phenomenal and better than the other projectors I've owned. Sharpness just was way dialed down by the default settings.
I used "Just" picture mode which I assume means 1-1 pixel mapping. And I'm pretty sure it does since focused seemed sharpest in this mode.
Calibration: As I mentioned the calibration settings were impressive for a unit of this size. There was even a calibration wizard that takes you through the process as simple as an eye exam. Gives you a series of pick the better image screens, and you're done. Plus there are some nice preset picture settings. I kept going between vivid, standard, and custom 1 depending on the material.
Color: Maybe it's the LED technology, but in terms of color pop, all you can is WOW! I didn't test for color accuracy, but with the excellent contrast the colors really popped. My kids who grew up with home theater projectors were amazed at the incredibly colorful, exciting image. One of their friends was along and just sat mesmerized saying "This is as good as a movie theater". All well and good, but the wife and I were laying in bed watching and really just wanted him to leave..lol
Black level: I thought the black level was decent though the blacks were crushed at first. Playing with the gamma settings fixed that to a large extent, and I think a more thorough calibration would also deepen the blacks. However quite good even if you don't consider the price.
Light output: I mentioned with ambient light I had it in max brightness mode where projector noise was clearly heard (though not at the level of my old projectors even in eco mode). When the ambient light went away, the brightness mode was way too bright and I dropped it down to medium where it still seemed on the bright side. But I like a bright image, there's no bulb dimming to worry about, etc so I left it on medium. After more calibration, I'll probably prefer it on the minimum bulb setting. But again, these 700 lumens were significantly brighter than the other 1200 lumen home theater projectors I've owned.
Contrast: As stated before, it seemed to more than live up to it's 10,000/1 spec.
Panning smoothness: I was also concerned about reports from other low priced LED projectors like this that pans tended to be jerky (which would be an annoying deal killer for me). Using high def streaming material from Netflix (via Apple TV) movement was as smooth as silk with no panning artifacts.
Other cool stuff:
Audio: There are actually very good internal 3 watt speakers in the unit. These went loud and were superior in quality to most TV speakers you'll hear. A huge plus for a bedroom system making an external sound system optional. I've never even heard of a projector with decent speakers before - though I've been out of this for awhile...
Media center: Another plus is a nice media center built in where you can add movies by USB to the internal hard drive - or attach a media server via USB. HCIT # lost count.
Did I say it cost $399? Ok I just checked the Fry's website and they're back to $750, but even at that price I'd consider it an amazing deal, and just wait - Fry's seems to run the $399 deal regularly.
You guessed it - my expectations were greatly exceeded by the LG PA70G. My only negative observations about picture quality might be that it lacks the creamy cinematic look of my higher end Sharp DLP. But I don't miss it's costly annual bulb replacements and vacuum cleaner sounding fan. And the lack of smoothness and consistency will be greatly helped by projecting on to a screen. I kept saying over and over that I couldn't believe it looked this good projecting on a wall.
Is it the equal of a $4K projector? On a pure image quality basis no it's not - and I don't think it will approach it even with expert calibration. But it's close enough that I can't see myself ever putting out $4K again for a projector. It's that good. The only thing I really missed was the extra resolution going from 720p to 1080p. If they ever make this unit in a native 1080p I'll be first in line - even if it's over $2K. But I'll be promoting this one to the living room (my kids are bummed that it's in the bedroom) and enjoying all the ooh's and ah's until that time comes. YMMV.