Given that America is pretty much the home of modern cinema (cue arguments in the Comments section suggesting Bollywood or the Albanian Arthouse circuit as alternatives!), it’s odd that precious few American AV brands have made it big on the UK home cinema scene. Many have tried, but few have enjoyed true stickability.
One of the exceptions is projector brand Runco - though even Runco’s presence has felt a little hit and miss over the years. The brand seems to have found a really sustained lease of life, however, in the hands of UK AV specialist Pulse Marketing. Resulting in the arrival of the very first Runco projector we’ve ever tested, the unassumingly named LS-5.
Our first feeling towards the LS-5 is one of surprise, bordering on shock. For starters, there’s its £7,500 price. Anyone who’s followed Runco over the years will understand us when we say we initially suspected somebody had missed a digit out of the pricing information. Runco projectors are usually high end with a capital HIGH, with five-figure price tags the norm. But no, the LS-5 really is £7,500. Hardly peanuts, granted, but remarkably affordable for a product with Runco’s pedigree behind it.
The other startling thing about the LS-5 is that it’s not roughly the size of a family hatchback. In place of the usual monster, quintessentially American chassis designs of Runco tradition, the LS-5 sports a relatively diminutive 450 by 523mm footprint that could easily sit on a coffee table without breaking it. What’s more, it could sit on our imaginary - and still intact - coffee table without making it look ugly, thanks to its smart black finish and sort of circularish design.
Of course, for all our mentions of the LS-5 appearing on a coffee table, the reality is that most people who buy an LS-5 will have it professionally installed by a specialist dealer rather than plonking it unceremoniously on a table. But the relative smallness and affordability of the LS-5 at least suggests an interest in Runco’s part on delivering a product that’s considerably more manageable - financially and physically – for relatively ordinary AV fans than its usual no-compromise fare.
Oops, we just said the compromise word. Which Runco probably won’t thank us for, but which we really had to do. For obviously a £7,500 Runco projector is not going to have the same specification level as a £17,500 Runco projector. So we guess we’d better focus briefly on the most obvious reasons why the LS-5 might be so affordable.
One biggie is the LS-5’s use of a single-chip DLP system rather than the more common (for Runco) three-chip approach. This obviously requires the introduction on the LS-5 of a DLP colour wheel, with all the potential for trouble that can introduce.
There are doubtless all manner of optical gear, cooling techniques and basic build quality compromises going on too, but the potentially most important other LS-5 compromise concerns brightness. For compared with the relatively high-end Runco models, the LS-5’s 1,000 ANSI Lumens of output looks pretty low, potentially reducing image ‘punch’ and limiting the size of screen the projector can support.
However, none of this should necessarily make us feel at all despondent for the LS-5’s money – especially when you start to appreciate some of the promising features it still retains.