Projectors are the ultimate flat screen display that can transform a blank wall into supersized video viewing nirvana. Sure, the setup and maintenance of a video projector is more involved compared to a regular television, but the visual reward is almost always worth the effort. The LG Portable LED Projector with Smart TV (PF1500) is a compact wonder of a display device that features useful multimedia capabilities and technologies that help ensure long-term, hassle-free enjoyment.
Size, style, and setup
The compact design of the LG PF1500 measures about 5.25" x 3.5" x 9.25" (WxHxD) and weighs in a 3.3 lbs. The projector’s stylishly well-ventilated exterior is textured to resist fingerprints and mask dust while improving grip when handling. The PF1500’s exterior controls are simple and effective with a chromed 4-way joystick, a matching lens focus ring, and a slide for adjusting the relatively limited zoom control (1.1x zoom ratio).
The PF1500 projects its image slightly above the plane of its lens so it can be placed on flat surface and pointed at a nearby wall or screen. The projector’s wide front foot is height-adjustable with the press of a button, and automatic vertical keystone correction ensures a square picture no matter the angle of the projector. A 4-corner keystone adjustment is also available for when the projector is placed in a less than optimal location.
The bottom of the PF1500 features three points for connecting a standard ceiling mount, and a fourth centralized point is compatible with tripod adapters. Use of a tripod made it easy to quickly square the PF1500's image without resorting to digital keystone correction that sacrifices picture resolution. Use of a tripod also made it easier to live with the PF1500's limited zoom (and related throw range) when filling a fixed-size screen. In the case of using an 80-inch portable screen that I'm particularly fond of, the PF1500's zoom control left less than a foot of throw distance to work within. For fixed installations with the PF1500, carefully consult a projection calculator before finalizing a potential mount location.
Power for the PF1500 is supplied by a brick-style switching adapter with a rated output of 19V at 5.79A. Input voltage compatibility is listed as 100V-240V at 50/60Hz (1.5A maximum). During operation, the power brick became very warm to the touch and measured up to 130F (54C) according to my infrared thermometer.
A lamp module is a key component of any projector, and its eventual failure is all but guaranteed to occur immediately prior to an important viewing event. The LG PF1500's lamp module ditches the old school bulb in favor of an array of RGB (red, green, and blue) LEDs that are rated for 30,000 hours of operation - about 5-7 times the longevity of a typical lamp module. The projector's LED array also enables very fast start up and shutdown times - less than 7 seconds before a usable picture appeared! The only downside to the projector's LED system is that it isn't user replaceable. LG rates the light output of the PF1500 at 1400 Lumens making it ideal for screen sizes up to 120-inches with adequate ambient light control.
The PF1500’s imaging system centers around a single Texas Instruments DLP chip. Traditional single-chip DLP projectors utilize a segmented spinning wheel to generate color from a white light source, and increasing the rotational speed of the wheel as well as the number of segments help reduce the perception of a distracting artifact known as color breakup (aka rainbows). The use of fast-switching RGB LEDs in the PF1500 eliminates the need for a color wheel, and another potential source of unwanted noise, while minimizing rainbow artifacts as well as I've seen with any single-chip DLP projector.
The speakers built into most portable projectors are there for convenience rather than epic audio quality, and the dual 3W speakers of the PF1500 are certainly convenient. I appreciated having sound without the added bulk of external speakers, and the projector's stereo output had enough volume to overcome modest amounts of background noise in indoor and outdoor environments.
For augmented listening, the PF1500 provides several audio output options including an HDMI-ARC port (Audio Return Channel), optical, Bluetooth, and a headphone jack. Bluetooth streaming to a quality portable speaker like the RIVA Turbo X (read my review) greatly improved the listening experience, however, Bluetooth output had the unfortunate side effect of disabling the projector's game mode feature that reduces video lag.
Inputs and networking
The selection of inputs on the PF1500 gave me everything I could ask for in a projector of any size. Ports included dual HDMI (MHL/ARC) and dongle adapters for component/composite video with analog stereo input. Dual USB ports support a lengthy list of popular multimedia file formats as well as office documents including PDF files, spreadsheets, and text files.
The projector's Ethernet and WiFi networking gave a solid performance for accessing local files and streaming content via its built-in apps, and an RF input feeds the projector's ATSC/QAM tuner.
The projector's Freespace-enabled Magic Remote provides Nintendo Wii-like cursor control for fast and precise menu navigation. The remote's contoured shape and simplified button layout with a clickable scroll-wheel made it easy to orientate and operate, and its RF link eliminated the need for line-of-sight to the projector. The on-screen cursor appreciably enhanced the use of virtual keyboards and interactive apps, and its built-in microphone proved adept at responding to a variety of spoken commands including search queries, channel selection, and changing inputs.
Every television sold today includes a built-in digital tuner that enables the free reception of local stations using an antenna. The PF1500 marks the first projector I've used that also incorporates an over-the-air (OTA) digital tuner. Using a quality indoor antenna, the projector's impressively sensitive tuner captured my local stations with ease and stability. The PF1500 lacks a channel guide, but station and program information is displayed at the top of the screen along with the time and date. Also, the remote's scroll-wheel made it easy to quickly zip through and select available stations.
With its selection of analog and digital video ports and input signal support up to 1080p at 60Hz, the PF1500 would seem to be a near-perfect companion for any game console made in the last 20 years. However, video lag measuring 170.2ms with my calibrated picture setup was certainly less than ideal for any game that requires precise timing, and the 70.2ms of lag using the projector's Game picture mode translated into more than 4-frames of delay with 60Hz video input - some of the best gaming TVs feature sub-20ms lag measurements.
Another feature of the PF1500 not typically associated with video projectors is its selection of popular apps. The PF1500's menu of apps was limited at best, but some of the must-haves like Netflix and YouTube were there. Other apps included MLB.TV, VUDU, Spotify, and Google Maps. Obviously absent from the lineup is Amazon Instant Video and Hulu. App performance was very good, and consistent integration with the Magic Remote's cursor control made the projector's app experience all the easier.
Projectors require active cooling to prevent a meltdown, and the PF1500 brightest picture configuration produced audible fan noise that thankfully wasn't overly annoying. Moderate amounts of volume from the projector's speakers easily masked fan noise, and reducing light output using the mid or low power settings all but eliminated cooling-related sounds.
With all keystone correction features disabled and the projector focused on an 80-inch screen, the PF1500 breezed through my suite of 1080i video tests. The classic HQV benchmark revealed terrific deinterlacing and 24p source detection, and results from the Spears & Munsil Blu-ray test disc further confirmed solid video processing with only a slight roll-off noted in the benchmark's chroma tests.
Grayscale optimization using the PF1500's 2-point white balance setup proved effective at taming the default response that was too blue and lacking green in the brighter shades. However, I found that the white balance controls for the darker shades of gray were ineffective, and a 20-point white balance setup was available but I didn't use it.
Color measurements showed that red at 100% saturation was very oversaturated compared to the HD video spec. Also, yellow and cyan exhibited the most obvious chromaticity errors. The PF1500's color management system (CMS) proved effective at optimizing primary and secondary colors, but it was unable to reign in the overly saturated 100% reds and blues. Also, unlike the white balance calibration that could be copied to other inputs using a menu option, CMS adjustments required tedious manual entry on a per-input basis.
My time with the LG PF1500 included many hours of enjoyable video viewing. Having live TV and some of my favorite video streaming apps built-in was further enhanced by the speed at which the projector could achieve full brightness and produce a viewable picture. Using the PF1500 on a tripod mount, it was easy to relocate the projector to different rooms and have it quickly up and operational.
Local HD stations broadcasting in 720p and 1080i looked crisp and detailed. Sports on the big screen looked great with no signs of issues related to fast on-screen action. Likewise, prime time HD programming revealed excellent post-calibrated color and detail. Netflix and YouTube content at up to 1080p resolution loaded quickly and looked as good as expected. The red-heavy logos of these particular streaming services did appear a touch too colorful, but this characteristic of this LED projector didn't obviously taint the content I enjoyed.
For Blu-ray movie exams, I configured a player for 1080p/24Hz output and switched off the projector's video motion smoothing feature (aka TruMotion) for faithful cinema reproduction. Loading up The Dark Knight revealed excellent picture detail with this classic Blu-ray title. Skin tones among the movie's wide variety of characters appeared natural and properly represented in the many bright and dark-lit scenes. However, the Joker's painted smile did appear a bit too colorful with the projector's RGB LED light source.
The audio and visual treat that is the Blu-ray edition of Samsara takes the viewer on a worldwide journey exploring people and places in exquisite film-captured detail. The PF1500 adeptly recreated the cinematic viewing experience with careful preservation of fine detail and naturally colorful imagery that avoided the projector's tendency to over-saturate some red and blue hues.
The LG Portable LED Projector with Smart TV (PF1500) impressed me with its useful integrated features including compatibility with a wide variety of multimedia and office file formats. Its LED lamp technology gives this portable 1080p projector impressive light output for its size as well as hassle-free longevity and fast start up times. A good 720p projector can be had for half the price of the 1080p PF1500, but none incorporate a DTV tuner and smattering of popular streaming applications. The projector's Magic Remote brings everything together with precise navigation and functional microphone control. A dedicated home theater room may be better served by a projector with greater zoom range and installation-friendly lens shift capabilities. However, the PF1500's light weight, good video performance, and feature-rich functionality make it a great option for less than $1000.