Runco Lightstyle LS-5 Projector Review
June 2011 - Art Feierman
First a couple of paragraphs below as an intro about the LS-5 and life in general, before this Runco LightStyle LS-5 review really gets going. -art
Runco LS-5 Projector Overview
Deja vu, all over again, as Yogi would say. (For those of you too young to remember, I'm talkingYogi Berra of Yankees fame, not Yogi who lives in Jellystone National Park.) Well, the LS5 sure looked familiar when it arrived. Yes, it looks just like the LS10d and LS7 we've reviewed in the last year or so, but the real resaon the single chip DLP Lightstyle LS5 seems so familiar is that we reviewed its older alter ego, back in 2008, about two and a half years ago. Back then its earlier incarnation was as the Planar PD8150. Planar bought Runco back then, and since has moved this projector to be Runco's lowest cost 1080p projector. I assume a good deal of refinements over that time period, especially if Runco turned their seasoned high end projector designers loose to make any improvements? I don't, however, have any info about any specific improvements. For the subjective aspects of our review, results should be interesting as I'm viewing the Runco LS5 in totally different room environments as when I reviewed the PD8150, with different screens as well. That's the primary reason I've decided to do a full review of the LS-5 projector.
Point is, I really liked the older version when it was a Planar and $3000 more. I like the current version even more.
Which brings us to our first photo. I picked this one special because I think it symbolizes nicely the beautiful color the LS-5 is capable of!
This LS5 is a single chip DLP home theater projector, with 1080p resolution. Let me say that Runco has two (for them) low cost single chip 1080p projectors. In addition to the LS5, there's the LS-HB - "High Brightness". That's the one I had hoped to review, but Runco says they've yet to set aside a unit for reviewers of that newer Runco projector. Meantime the LS-5 represents Runco's lowest cost 1080p projector.
Let's get to it.
The LightStyle LS-5, as Runco's entry level 1080p projector, competes with the higher end projectors from Optoma, BenQ, Sony, JVC and others. When I say entry level projector, I'm not talking traditional entry level performance. This is a $6995 projector with performance well above those $1000 (give or take) projectors we normally call entry level. In this case, the phrase is only intended to point out that this is Runco's least expensive 1080p projector. Its performance is far, far above those, I assure you.
As has been the case with previous Runcos we've reviewed, if there's one consistent trait, it seems to be superb color and skin tones. This LS-5 is no exception.
For that reason alone, this Runco earns our Hot Product award. That's not to say there aren't other wonderful things about it, as not even my calibrated JVC RS20 on its best day, can claim colors as natural as this Runco. (The JVC was about $1000 more expensive than the LS-5 price, when I bought it two years ago).
Runco projectors are only sold by Runco's network of authorized, installing, local dealers. No internet pricing on this one, and that merits a couple of thoughts I'd like to share, about local installing, vs. internet dealers.
Here goes. As many of our regular readers know, my wife and I had a large internet based projector sales company. As such, I do have a bit of bias for those low prices. On the other hand, we also did local installations in southern California. There are many types of home theater buyers, from DIY types who are fanatical about the performance, to those just as DIY, who just want to build a nice theater that looks good. Then there are plenty of folk who are not into doing it themselves. Some are really into performance, some just want a quality picture (hey, they all impress even the low cost ones). Some have buku bucks while most of us are on very finite budgets.
Runco, till the last few years has been offering projectors starting in the $20,000+ range, not exactly for those faint of heart (or wallet), especially since it seems the typical buyer of the higher end series of Runco projectors (above the LightStyle) spends far more on their room than the equipment. For example, we know some folks who, not that long ago, spent about a quarter million upgrading their theater (yep, it cost even more than that, the first time). I don't know exactly how big their theater is, but it's probably approaching 1000 sq ft. (I mention because I'm so jealous.) I'd guess that all of the cabinetry is custom, and everything is first class. But, their projector, is a mere $60K out of a multi-year spend probably close to 3/4 million dollars.
So, it helps to have a really big wallet with those higher end Runcos. but this one, the LS-5, is downright affordable by comparison. The point however is, Runco customers - as a group, probably spend more on their theaters, than their Ferraris, Aston Martins, and plain old Jags and Bimmers.
That means most of these owners are folks that demand service. They expect great service. As one such person mentioned to me, when his lamp failed (after dealer hours) he called them, and someone drove down and replaced the lamp within a couple of hours. If the whole projector was down, that customer would have expected a replacement projector set up in his theater in time for that evening's guests.
Bottom line regarding installing dealers as it relates to Runco projectors:
Runco projectors perform well, based on our reviews, but be assured, when you buy projectors from high end companies like Runco or SIM2, part of what you are paying for is that peace of mind and top quality support, service, and response times. I suspect most Runco owners buy their extended support programs, so that if any problem occurs - they just don't have to worry. The rest of us should be jealous! In other words, performance isn't the only important thing for a lot of folks, and for many, its not even the most important thing they are paying for! We performance fanatics can't always appreciate spending a part of our projector budget on (hopefully) great local support, so I'm just reminding some of us, that having the best possible performance for the dollar spent, just isn't a priority for some.
Much of the commentary in this review will try and position this projector in terms of how it compares to less expensive projectors, which is why I wanted to provide more than a line or two about local support and dealers.
Enough let's talk LS-5 projector!
LS5 Projector Highlights
- Very good color out of the box
- Superb color post calibration
- Very good brightness in "best" mode
- Really good black level performance (despite the low contrast numbers)
- 1080p resolution
- Extensive selection of inputs
- Relatively quiet projector
- Cable cover
- Runco has a reputation for exceptional support, highly trained local authorized installing dealers
- Although price is somewhat premium, performance and support rise to the occasion, a very reasonable value proposition
Projector Specs for Runco LS5
Technology: Single chip DLP
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: 1000 lumens (754 lumens rated post calibration)
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.3:1 ( zoom and focus manual) a wider angle optional lens is available
Lens shift: Vertical and Horizontal (manual)
Lamp life: 4000 hours (does not specify beyond that)
Weight: 22lbs. ( 9.8Kg)
Warranty: 2 Year Parts and Labor, advanced warranties available
Click for more complete projector specifications of the Runco LS5 projector.
Runco LS5 Special Features
Not a whole lot to report here. The LS5 does take 24 fps and up it to 48 fps, but as Runco states, the LS5 says it simply repeats the frame if you use that setting. This is the same configuration as used in Runco's more expensive 3 chip DLP projectors. The difference being that there is no significant advantages between 24 and 48 fps on a 3 chip projector, but on this single chip projector, the frame interpolation increase is likely to provide a smoother looking image to some folks susceptible to one type of motion blurring.
This Runco projector does not offer any form of creative frame interpolation (motion smoothing, smooth video, or other phrases are used to describe). That means it DOES NOT create a new frame with different content between two existing frames. Those projectors that do, tend to provide smoother fast motion, especially appreciated on sports. The downside is that when engaged when watching traditional movies, the result is often described as looking artificial (soap opera look). Since the Runco Lightstyle LS-5 lacks CFI, obviously no such issues to report.
Picture in Picture
You can view two different sources. You can determine which is the larger, and how to position the smaller one. They must be using two different input types. You can't use HDMI 1 and 2, because as with most projectors it's only one circuit. Thus, most likely HDMI and Component. (That's standard PIP stuff!)
Runco LightStyle LS-5 Dynamic Features
Constant Contrast - Dynamic Iris
Constant Contrast is Runco's name for Runco's dynamic iris function. The Lightstyle LS-5's dynamic iris action is very nicely smooth compared to most lower priced projectors, but there are several (at various prices) at least as good. This is, however, a "very good" dynamic iris, in terms of being rarely very noticeable. With almost 100 hours logged on this LS-5, performance was very good, even on those dark conversational scenes with the camera cutting back and forth between two people speaking in a fairly dark room without a lot of very bright areas. It responds rather smoothly when there are radical brightness changes between scenes. Detectable, if you are looking for it, and only on occasion, but rarely will it show up on your radar.
The LS-5's lack of CFI is probably only an issue for some sports fanatics, and most of us, can get by just fine without creative frame interpolation - even when viewing sports.
Runco Adaptive Contrast
This is a pretty standard Runco feature found on their 3 chip DLP projectors as well as single chip projectors like the LS5. This is a dynamic contrast control. Engaging it increases the "pop and wow factor" of this projector. At the same time, the adaptive contrast does take a slight toll on image quality. Skin tones are likely to be a touch more contrasty...
This is a feature I mostly leave engaged. If I choose a very artsy film without impressive, dynamic scenes, I would probably run it turned off (the black and white original "The Day the Earth Stood Still" certainly doesn't need Adaptive Contrast, and nor do most movies that are primarily non-action interactions between people - like the new Woody Allen film which I haven't seen). On the other hand, Iron Man II and the newer Narnia - Dawn Trader, are more fun with the upped dynamics of engaging Adaptive Contrast.
Many projectors have dynamic controls these days, and for that matter, Brilliant Color, found on most DLP projectors, seems to be at least in part dynamically adjusting the picture in terms of contrast and saturation. Runco calls TI's Brilliant Color: SatCo.
Runco manages to not have SatCo be "over the top" yes, it's not as smooth on skin tones as without, but the Runco handles it better than a couple of lower priced DLP projectors we recently looked at.
LS-5 Long Lamp Life
The Runco Lightsyle LS-5 claims 4000 hours for its lamp. Runco does not specify if this is for both modes, or just eco mode. Without more info assume 4000 hours is when in low power operation. While it might also be 4000 hours at full power, few projectors claim the same brightness for both modes (Epson's Cinema UB projectors do, as a couple of others, but they are the exceptions). So, figure probably 2500-3000 hours, at full power, but, maybe longer... No way to guess any better than that.