The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Runco! Finally Our First RUNCO Projector Review – LS7 First Look

Greetings and OMG,

No, this won’t be a religious discussion, despite the OMG.   It’s been a 4 year struggle to convince Runco to let me review one of their projectors.  Oh, I did review the top of the line (at the time) Planar a couple of years ago (the 8150, a single chip), but never a Runco – or Vidikron three chip DLP.  In fact, the only 3 chip DLP home theater projector I’ve ever reviewed is the SIM2 C3X several years ago. That was a 720p projector.

Well, guess what?  The RUNCO LS-7 is a three chip, 720p resolution DLP projector.  I can tell you that I was rather dazzled by the SIM2, and one of the most dazzling things about the SIM2 wasn’t amazing color, nor great black levels, but awesome power, combined with excellent color.  It was the sheer lumen output that made everything else quite literally pale by comparison.

Funny thing.  That’s how I would start off describing the the RUNCO LS-7.  (Hey, they are the ones who insist on all CAPs for their name.)  All I’ve done so far is one quick measurement of brightness.  RUNCO doesn’t provide a bunch of preset modes.  It is ISF certified, and when you power it up, a white opening screen appears, that says basically:  ISF Certified, this projector has been calibrated for:  (the calibrator will insert your name there).

This makes things interesting.  This RUNCO arrived with some seriously accurate colors based on first viewing.  No doubt it has been calibrated before it was sent out to me.

Remember, it is very unlikely you could buy (at least in the US) a new RUNCO projector and not have the calibration be part of the purchase.  In other words I don’t think RUNCO is going to let you buy one in a sealed box and have fun playing and adjusting it yourself.  (And remember, those ISF modes are password protected to keep you and I out of there.)

From watching this RUNCO, I don’t see any need to have Mike haul it to his place to calibrate it.  The picture looks too good.  (The LS7 projector is “substantial” – although not dramatically bigger (it is a lot taller) than a JVC, it is a bunch heavier at 41 pounds.)

Instead, I’m going to have Mike drag his gear here, just to get me a set of IRE measurements to see how good it is.  I’ll handle the brightness measurements, I don’t mind that.  The reason Mike’s been doing all our calibration the last year and a half, is that I hate calibrating projectors because when I used to calibrate projectors,  I was rarely satisfied with just good readings, but often end up  starting over again looking for a better overall picture, even if it doesn’t measure quite as good.

But brightness is easy!  As I said, a first quick look doing the math in my head, this RUNCO LS7 produced at least 1400 lumens!  RUNCO claims 1708 lumens after calibration.

And guess what – this projector has a dynamic iris.  It’s actually pretty good.  Not the best, and it does yo-yo just a little on those close up people talking scenes with the room is moderately dark, as the people move just a little.  It does snap pretty quickly adapting to new scenes, but once in a while the lag is just a tad too much.  Still, not bad, one of the better irises I’ve seen, but there are less noticeable ones out there.

Here’s a surprise – black levels are really good.   The brightness difference between the LS7 and my JVC RS20 with over 1300 hours on the lamp, is close to night and day.  I doubt my JVC is even putting out 500 lumens at this point, certainly not much more than that.  So, the RUNCO may well be 3 times as bright.  How good are the blacks?  Very good question.  It may well do better than the better single chip DLPs I have here, like the InFocus SP8602.  You better believe the RUNCO and the InFocus will go head to head before I ship the InFocus back.  Getting two big projectors set up in my small testing room is challenging, but, what a test.  If I position them right, using maximum lens shift for the InFocus, I should be able to get the two on the screen with similar brightness.

BTW, I don’t think that the LS7 blacks are as good as my RS20, but I’m pretty certain that they can match or beat the Epson 8500UB / 9500UB projectors, and any projector with blacks that good, is starting from an excellent place where other things start becoming more important – such as gorgeous, accurate color.

And did I mention that this big beast is virtually silent.  I’m not sure how quiet, but I doubt it is more than 21-22db with lamp at full power!   Impressively quiet.

Hmm, my biggest concern about the RUNCO is that they will want me to give it back. Darn.

I have split the screen, between the LS7 and my RS20.  I set up both in my main theater, RS20 on its high shelf, RUNCO on table top.  I zoomed out the JVC down to about a 100″ diagonal image (from 128), and used about the same size for the RUNCO.  The RS20 image was above the RUNCOs, and I was able to have about 80% of both projectors’ image heights on the screen when watching 2.35:1 content.  I’ll have some images for you, but my RS20 looked absolutely, positively – pathetic!   It felt like the 98 pound weakling hanging around Muscle beach with all the weightlifters.  Now, I know how good my RS20 looks. Turn off the Runco, and in a few minutes the JVC looks great again, but the sheer brightness, makes the JVC look almost busted by comparison. Dull, dim, lifeless – terms that normally don’t come to mind, with the projector I named best overall last year!

And to think, by RUNCO’s standards, the LS7 is fairly close to being entry level, selling for a mere $14,999

Anyway, stay tuned. Despite this being only 720p, it looks sharp. (the pixel convergence wasn’t that impressive) At first glance, my JVC wasn’t noticeably sharper at all. I’ll have to take a closer look tonight.

Before I fired up this LS7, had you asked if I thought it would compare, to say an RS25,  I would have guessed: Everybit as good in terms of color, and a lot brighter, but with noticeably inferior blacks and a very soft image. I was apparently wrong, at least as far as “noticeably inferior blacks”, and softness. Darn, I wonder how much the 1080p version is? And for the rest of you, ya gotta start wondering – if this sucka looks this good for $15K, what do RUNCO’s serious projectors look like?  (For most of us, wonder is all we get to do, as most Runco’s cost more than most BMWs.

Remember most of RUNCO’s projectors are $39K to well over $100,000! Yes, you can spend more than 10 times as much for a top of the line RUNCO. OK, salivating yet? (I still am). I’ve got to bang out the Mitsubishi HC6800 review next (it only needs to be written up (20+ hours). By the time I have the Mits published early next week, I’ll have completed most of my non-writing work with the RUNCO LS-7, so its review may manage to publish before end of May. While you shouldn’t wager on that (unless you are betting against a May release), you can bet that it will be finished and online well before I leave for the Infocomm show on June 8th.

One last thought for all to consider – you know me – I’m always asking the manufacturers for more lumens.  I scold them regularly.  I mean how many home theater projectors out there can put 12 ft-lamberts on a 120″ diagonal screen, when their lamp has already reached 3/4 of its life?   I don’t know?  Maybe half a dozen out of 50+ projectors (under $10k)  in their best modes?

So, here I’ve got a RUNCO LS-7, that a quick measurement clocks it at over 1400 lumens in best mode!  The point being that RUNCO recommends a projector this “dim” (my words) for screen sizes from 72″ diagonal up to 120″ inches.  You want to go larger?  It would seem that RUNCO would say, no problem, just buy a bright RUNCO, not one of our low power, entry level, LifeStyle (LS) projectors!

That’s it, enough for now.  Lord of the Rings – Fellowship, (the Blu-ray edition of course), will be first up on the LS-7, this evening.  Wife!  make some popcorn!  -art

News And Comments

  • http://www.umeshb.com Umesh Bansal

    Wow thanks for the write up. Are Runco’s prone to frequent breakdowns and problems as I have read on some forums.
    Also any Idea if the LS-3 is any good compared to the JVC HD 550????
    Cheers

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Umesh, I have no idea about Runco reliability. I’ve never heard anything myself leading me to indicate that. I know very few owners of Runco’s or Vidikrons (essentially the same products), but I do know a number of Runco dealers. Haven’t heard anything to indicate such, from the dealers.

      That said, forums always tend to make manufacturers seem like they have problematic projectors, even when not. and that’s because when you encounter a problem, you will do one of 3 things – 1. call dealer or manufacturer, 2. search online for your product and a problem phrase, or 3. both of the above.
      As a result – forums are magnets for people with issues. I also suspect that since models don’t change as quickly as with lower end projectors, that they would be more stable. And that there is a used market for Runcos and many of them are old. Remember Runco was the dominant “home theater projector” manufacturer in the ’90s. Today’s modern “lower cost” single chip DLP’s and 3 chip LCD home theater projectors didn’t even hit the market until the last decade, and really there was no “low end” (under $5000 market) until about 2002 or 2003. One of the very first popular LCD home theater projectors was Epson’s TW100 – at $4499 MSRP, launched July 2002. It was 720p, had 800:1 contrast, and rated 700 lumens. My point being, there are a lot of ancient Runco’s out there, CRTs as well as DLPs…

      At any rate, RUNCO has always been about having highly trained dealers and maximum support, so it is strange to hear, unless a lot of it is coming from the used market. Runco owners, I would think, are often the “check writing” type. That is, they buy Runco’s because they are “the best” and they can afford them, not because they themselves are necessarily enthusiasts. It’s just like going to the Eagles concert recently. I’d venture to say that most of the people in the first 10 rows, were less likely to be Eagles fanatics, than people who simply like the Eagles, but don’t have a problem paying $500+ a ticket, because they have the money.
      Well, enough rambling, for an answer that really answered nothing. -art

  • PatB

    I’m glad to see the Runcos included. I don’t imagine I will ever own one but I notice that I always buy Road & Track on the news stand when there is a red half million dollar Ferrari on the cover.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi PatB,
      Me too! Actually I’d like to bring in one of the more expensive 3 chip 1080p Runco’s or Vidikrons – you know the $40K – $100K variety. It’s been a 3+ year effort to convince RUNCO. Perhaps their change of President’s last year, had some effect. Well, in our case, that would be for the good.

      This RUNCO has been a revelation. I imagine the optics are superb because, despite being 720p it appears every bit as sharp as my JVC RS20. Also because they don’t go with zoom lenses with excessive range (like 2:1), since they offer 7 different lenses, and none have more than a 1.6:1 ratio, one’s even fixed)
      And, OMG, 1400+ juicy lumens in best mode… Makes me want to sing that old Belinda Carlisle song – Ooh, Heaven is a Place on Earth. Now when a movie goes from a dark scene to a bright one, I wince. It’s like stepping outside, my first thought is sunglasses. Of course, the eye’s iris shuts down to compensate. I don’t care what others say. 1400 lumens on a 128″ Firehawk G3 works just dandy for me, for movie watching. And voila’ a 3 chipper, a dlp projector without a rainbow in sight. And it was also nice to see a dynamic iris implementation and very, very, good (definitely “ultra-high contrast”) blacks. Boy am I having fun.

      BTW the Mitsubishi HC6800 is just about ready to post. I only have the summary page and the competitors pages to go, and, as always, I’m willing to post before I’ve written the competitors page. Hopefully, this evening, tomorrow for sure. Hey, it’s Memorial Day weekend, my daughter’s birthday weekend (party was last night), and plenty of other things going on. My wife thought I should see daylight this weekend. Hard to say no to her! -art