Runco LS-5 DLP Projector Page 2
The remote is awesome. It’s small but powerful. It’s backlit, and it provides direct access to inputs, two user memories, and some other critical functions. The Runco’s remote is simple but perfectly effective.
The LS-5’s ViVix digital video processing passed our core tests in converting 1080i to 1080p. Some of our more difficult tests of video-based 1080i material tripped it up a little. However, for the most part, it’s safe to say that whatever comes into this projector will be treated royally. The LS-5 delivered every ounce of detail in the highest frequencies of our 1080p HD resolution test signals. I don’t doubt that this contributed to what I saw with movies, which I’ll give away now and call excellent.
What’s above is impressive on paper, but this projector immediately delivered with program material. After I set up the proper white and black levels and selected a 6500K color temp and 2.2 gamma, the Runco treated me to the best out-of-box performance I’ve ever seen from a projector. Extremely light touch-ups to the gray scale improved the way it measured, but program material looked exceptional pre- and post-calibration. As “HT Labs Measures” shows, my eyeballs didn’t deceive me. The color performance was nearly as good as it gets with CMS-equipped projectors. This was true with the color points and the luminance values of all six primary and secondary colors. It prompted me to ask Runco’s crack PR firm, Caster Communications, if I’d been sent a ringer. Runco replied that the projector it sent me was pulled from the production line, not cherry-picked. Runco also calibrated my sample at the factory just like every other LS-5 that comes off the line. Runco uses an automated test rig with a Minolta CL-200 spectroradiometer (one of the two meters we use for testing here at HT) to dial in the LS-5’s colors and gray-scale performance. An ISF gray-scale calibration will dial it in to that last nth degree. I would also recommend periodic touch-ups as the lamp ages, but I still say wow.
It didn’t stop there. From the gritty sands of the Middle East in The Hurt Locker to the mining station in Moon, the LS-5 showed excellent dimensionality and detail with Blu-ray material. On some material, the Runco even pulled ahead of my reference JVC. I reviewed this projector during the 2009 holiday season, and I was in for some surprises when I revisited The Polar Express on Blu-ray. This is an early single-layer Blu-ray transfer from Warner, and it’s a little softer than the best computer-animated transfers. But some scenes on the train that have a mix of bright and dark material popped like I’ve never seen. During these scenes, resolution and depth that was adequate on my JVC popped right off the screen. It looked sensational. I’ve seen single-chip DLP projectors that were a smidge sharper, but they were also much more expensive (Samsung’s A900B at $13,000 and Marantz’s VP-11S2 at $14,000). This projector runs with the elite in every significant area of performance.
The Runco’s blacks and contrast were excellent and very naturally balanced for a dynamic image. The projector has a lot of snap. As with every other projector I’ve tested, it didn’t match my reference JVC DLA-HD750 ($8,000) in these regards, but it was still exceptional. Even though it costs less, the Runco is clearly in that upper performance tier that’s just below the JVC, which achieves these dark feats without a dynamic iris. The LS-5’s dynamic iris maintains strong contrast on star fields and other challenging material. It avoids any visible pumping artifacts, which are noticeable shifts in overall brightness levels on the screen as the program material moves between light at dark scenes. I only found one torturous scene from The International that induced some brightness compression. Late in the movie, Clive Owen questions Armin Mueller-Stahl in a dark room that has harsh overhead lights. With ConstantContrast engaged, the Runco lost all detail when the intense light hits Owens’ nose. I’ve spent a lot of time with Sony’s VPL-VW85 SXRD projector, which uses a dynamic iris and remains a High End Home Theater Top Pick at $8,000. It’s as solid as the Runco in how it resists pumping, and the Sony sails through that scene in The International without crushing the white details. But when I watched movies (and lots of them) that weren’t hand-picked to trip up the LS-5’s dynamic iris, the projector performed superbly and seldom showed anything suspicious.
Dynamic iris systems are not a cure-all. The better a projector’s native contrast, the less aggressive and less potentially noticeable the dynamic iris system’s operation is. Some video purists object to the gamma processing and other electronic trickery that are involved in dynamic iris systems. But when these systems perform as well as the LS-5’s, I just can’t imagine any users who wouldn’t take advantage of the technology.
Color separation (rainbow) artifacts from the color wheel were occasionally noticeable, but they were never distracting. Overall, if pressed, I prefer the slightly more natural look of my three-chip JVC, not to mention its advantages in blacks and contrast. But I could live with the LS-5 long term and be consistently thrilled by it. I watched enough program material that wowed me on the Runco that I wasn’t itching to get back to my JVC. That’s the first time I’ve been able to say that in a couple of years, and I’ve spent time with most of the projectors that we’ve reviewed in these pages during that time. This one is special.
LCOS designs have dominated front projection news and reviews in recent years. But with LED-based DLPs proliferating and the arrival of an excellent lamp-driven projector that’s competitively priced like the Runco LS-5, it’s apparent that DLP ain’t done yet. We don’t know whether 3D projectors will be in the market this fall—or if they’ll be any good. We do know that 3D content will be scarce. In the here and now, the Runco LS-5 projector has no significant weaknesses, offers exceptional out-of-box performance, and is a really strong value. Well done Runco, and highly recommended!