Runco LED Home Theater Projector

December 16th, 2009

Runco introduced its LED-based home theater projector at CEDIA earlier this year. Last night, I got a chance to see it at the Stereo Exchange (New York, NY), a CEDIA-channel dealer and installer in Manhattan.

Matt Brennesholtz
Insight Media Analyst

Israel Verchik, manager of the Stereo Exchange, gave me a very thorough demonstration of the unit as installed in one of their viewing rooms. The Runco projector, model Q-750i and known as the Q projector, has good specifications and all the bells and whistles one would expect in a $15K home theater projector. Yet this projector isn’t particularly expensive, certainly not by Runco projector standards where $40K - $75K and up are more the norm. Two zoom lenses are available for the projector: the normal lens with a range of throw ratios from 1.85 - 2.40 and a short-throw lens for an extra $750 with a range of 1.50 - 1.86.

The projector uses LEDs from Luminus Devices and a SuperOnyx 1080p DLP imager. There are several contrast settings: essentially infinity:1 with full dimming of the light source, or with a reduced level of dimming you get 20,000:1, and with even less dimming, 10,000:1. There is no adjustable aperture in the path: dimming is done at the LEDs. The demo was given to me with the 10,000:1 contrast setting and minimum dimming, the setting personally preferred by Verchik.

Insight Media believes the basic optics of the system are built by Delta Electronics in Taiwan, but Runco won’t confirm that. They say they don’t discuss their upstream suppliers although they conceded they do have a relationship with Delta.

The color gamut is said to be 125% of the NTSC gamut and the projector menus gave the user separate choices of the input color space (normally defined by the video signal) the output color space (you could choose a larger space for more vivid colors) and the white point. The end user could also choose the gamma and use the Runco "Personal Color Equalizer" to set the colors to match his personal choice.

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The image was shown on a Gain 1.0 Da-Lite screen in a viewing room with plain dark walls. Verchik said this doesn’t match many of his installations in Manhattan where a dedicated home theater room is rare and more commonly the walls are lighter. In a case like that he would more normally recommend a slightly higher-gain screen, perhaps gain 1.2. The projector was set up so it would fill a 80" x 45" (203 x 114 cm) 16:9 screen. With the anamorphic lens in place, the image filled a 106" x 45" (269 x 114cm) 2.35:1 screen. When the projector was showing a 16:9 image, there were two motor-driven shades to cover the unused portion of the screen. Seating in the viewing room was at 3.3x the screen height.

People don’t buy Runco projectors based on specifications-they want to look at images. Verchik showed me scenes from several movies, including "Barka," "The Dark Knight," "Prince Caspian" and "The Fifth Element." He also showed me photos he had taken with his Nikon digital camera while on vacation in Thailand.

To put it mildly, the images all looked excellent with fine detail, including in the dark scenes or in the shadows of bright scenes, no visible image processing or compression artifacts, and vivid but not overdone colors. Image quality was good right out to the edges of the screen, with every hair visible. The detail in Barka was particularly good. Verchik said it was shot on 65mm film and scanned at 8K resolution. Of course it was down-scaled to 1980 x 1080p for the Blu-ray transfer, but the care the producers had taken showed in all the details. The movie selection showed a number of people with a variety of skin tones and they all looked natural.

I wasn’t the only one who liked the projector-Verchik liked it too. He said he was considering replacing the Sim-2 projector he had at home with one of these. In particular, he liked the fact that there was no need to change the lamp. (Even to people who can afford a $40K projector, a $3K lamp is significant.) He said it would allow him to use the projector all the time, including over breakfast to watch the morning news.

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