When trying to describe a truly superior projector perfomance, one of the most useful words we’ve found is ‘insight’; the sense that a projector’s optical quality and command of brightness and contrast are so impressive and assured that they allow you to see more subtleties in a good quality source image than you otherwise would. The sort of stuff we’re talking about includes greyscale and subtle colour information in dark parts of the picture; tiny but telling colour gradations (always crucial in helping a picture look solid and deep); fine details down to the tiniest pixel level of an HD source; and apparently more diverse colour palettes, which help make images look more in keeping with your experience of the real world.
The LS-5 delivers on all these areas versus even really high quality ‘classic’ mid-level projectors like JVC’s £3,000 HD550 and Epson’s £4,000 TW5500. The insight level is even on a par with JVC’s outstanding HD950 D-ILA model – except that the Runco’s colours actually look slightly richer and more dynamic.
On the other side of the coin, the LS-5 falls a little short of the JVC when it comes to native black level response. But not by miles, and not nearly enough to stop the LS-5 from being an utterly convincing portrayer of the darker scenes of home cinema life.
At this point it occurs to us that all of the superb image traits we’ve been describing are coming from a single-chip DLP projector – a pretty remarkable effort given the problems in terms of motion clarity and general noise that can be caused by single-chip DLP’s inevitable colour wheel.
Even the dreaded rainbow effect (near-subliminal coloured striping visible in your peripheral vision, if your flit your eyes over the screen, and over very bright objects) is hardly ever a problem – and that’s coming from people naturally susceptible to seeing rainbowing and who are trained to look out for it.
While overall a pretty incredible projector, though, the LS-5 isn’t perfect. For even Runco can’t get rid of absolutely 100 per cent of the rainbow effect or dot crawl during dark scenes connected with single-chip DLP tech. There’s also no doubt that the LS-5 kicks out quite a bit of running noise despite the apparently substantial efforts of its chassis design to keep noise levels down.
But the first two of these ‘issues’ with the LS-5 occur but rarely, and even then are so subtle – provided, at least, the picture has been well calibrated – that you usually only see them if you are actively looking for them. And as for the running noise, a good installation job should be able to negate it via screening or sensible positioning of the projector relative to your seating position.
Whenever a traditionally very high-end brand steps a few rungs down the ladder, we half expect the worst. After all, usually such brands just don’t have experience with the different demands of lower market sectors, or a real sense of how aggressive pricing can be once you step out of the ‘money’s no object’ stratosphere.
But with the LS-5, Runco exhibits precisely none of these naiveties. Instead it’s turned out a truly outstanding projector that does just enough better than the competition to preserve Runco’s good name while only costing a little more. And if that isn’t enough to get your aspirational AV juices flowing, we don’t know what is.