- Exceptionally bright pictures work well in ambient light
- Good looking unit
- Can adapt well to different room set ups and sizes
- Pictures less convincing in the dark
- Not enough picture flexibility
- It’s expensive
- Review Price: £7500.00
- Single-chip DLP projector
- 2700 Lumens output
- Colour management system
- Multiple lens options
- motorised focus and zoom
The upcoming summer of sport seems to have whipped the home projection world into the nearest it’s ever likely to get to a frenzy. We’ve recently tested the daytime-friendly Epson MG-850HD projector, and the Black Diamond projection screen from Screen Innovations, designed to let you watch any projector in daylight. Plus we’ll soon be looking at Panasonic’s new daylight-viewable projector, the AH1000.
Today’s “casual use” projector, though, is on paper the most interesting of the lot. For the LightStyle LS-HB from US brand Runco costs a cool £7,500, and as such must surely claim the high ground of the daylight projection marketplace.
It sets about justifying this claim right away, thanks to an unusually attractive but still promisingly ‘serious’ design. Its main claim to fame is its roughly circular shape, with high-gloss finish. The standard LS-HB colour is black, but Runco can conjure up other custom colours if something in particular takes your fancy.
It’s a big, heavy bit of kit too, raising hopes of good quality innards and exactly the sort of uber-powerful ‘light engines’ potential daylight projectors need as their starting point.
In fact, the LS-HB is rated as being able to output a maximum brightness of 2700 Lumens – a seriously powerful effort that, together with Runco’s ultra-efficient SuperOnyx technology, should give the LS-HB a very good chance of delivering genuinely watchable projected images in even quite strong levels of ambient light.
One little word of warning here, though; don’t feel tempted to try and boost the LS-HB’s brightness even more by using it with a high-gain screen. Runco is adamant that the LS-HB has been calibrated to work best with a contrast-friendly, neutral-density screen, and our own experiments entirely bear this advice out.
The LS-HB’s optics are built around a single-chip DLP system, with Runco’s ConstantContrast dynamic iris system and ViVix video processing on hand to hopefully give its pictures a suitably high-end seal of quality.
As you would expect of such an expensive projector, the LS-HB has enough calibration aids – including a full colour management system – to earn the endorsement of the independent Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) group, making it very likely indeed that when your LS-HB is installed professionally in your home it will be fine-tuned by an ISF-approved technician.
The LS-HB’s ‘custom install’ appeal is further enhanced by its ability to fit into almost any size or shape of room. Different lenses are available to adjust its fundamental throw distance, and it also has a good amount of motorised optical zoom available for whatever lens you go for. Plus you can shift the image horizontally or vertically, making the distorting horror of digital keystone correction entirely avoidable.
Die-hard movie fans who fancy using their Runco LightStyle LS-HB projector with a Cinemascope 2.35:1 ratio screen will also be pleased to note that the projector is designed for use with Runco’s CineGlide anamorphic lens add-on.
As we noted in our recent review of the sub-£600 Epson MG-850HD, it seems to us that it isn’t just enough for a daytime projector to be ultra-bright. It should also deliver enough flexibility with its picture and light settings to be at least an enjoyable watch in dark conditions, when you feel in the mood for a more refined cinematic experience. This seems an even more necessary requirement when you’re talking about a projector costing £7,500. Yet unfortunately it’s a requirement the LS-HB doesn’t entirely meet.
The thing is, while its images are indeed startlingly good in light conditions, as we’ll see presently, no amount of tweaking managed to get them looking wholly satisfying in dark conditions. For instance, viewing in the dark reveals that the LS-HB isn’t able to produce a particularly brilliant black level response, with very dark scenes looking as if they’re appearing through a slight grey mist.
We also found that dark areas of the picture looked distinctly short of shadow detail during dark-room viewing, with scenes like the opening shots of the final Harry Potter film looking crushed and hollow in places.
On top of these black level problems, we also struggled to get the Runco LightStyle LS-HB’s colours looking quite ‘right’ during dark viewing. It feels as if they’ve been calibrated so profoundly to compensate for light in your room that you just can’t quite get them back to the sort of more restrained tones and balances that really suit dark room viewing.
One final problem occasionally witnessed while watching the LS-HB projector in the dark was the so-called rainbow effect – an issue with single-chip DLP projectors that can cause ‘stripes’ of red, green and blue to flicker around in your peripheral vision or over very bright objects, especially when they appear against dark backgrounds. To be fair, the occurrences of this phenomenon were less common than we might have expected given the LS-HB’s extreme brightness. But it would still be wrong not to mention them.
Naturally there are also signs of Runco’s high-end quality on show during dark-room viewing with the LightStyle LS-HB projector. HD pictures look emphatically sharp and detailed. Colours contain extreme amounts of blend and tone subtlety. Pictures are extremely dynamic and punchy, and motion is handled very well, looking clean and smooth, but not processed or artificial.
Now we’re in a more positive frame of mind, the Runco LightStyle LS-HB really does deliver startlingly well on its main “bright viewing” raison d’etre. Even with our curtains open and some of our test room lights on, the LS-HB manages to produce a genuinely watchable and even punchy image on our neutral reference Image Screen iMasque screen.
We’re not just talking about the projector’s extreme brightness punching the image through the ambient light, either. For, crucially, the projector also appears to inject telling colour compensation into proceedings, so that colours still look vibrant and rich, as well as more consistently natural than they do during dark-room viewing. This is infinitely preferable to the wan and yellowed-over colours you usually get with daylight projector viewing.
Having to combat ambient light also traditionally leads to pictures – even HD ones – looking rather soft during daylight viewing. But a combination of the LS-HB’s brightness and its ultra-crisp optics means that HD images still look definitively HD in all but the most direct sunlight.
One last point to note, though, is that when running in its highest brightness mode to combat ambient light, the Runco LightStyle LS-HB can – unsurprisingly – be a touch noisy, given how hard its cooling fans are having to work.
The Runco LightStyle LS-HB unquestionably delivers on its bright room promise with a level of success that goes beyond that of any of the other similarly-targetted products we’ve tested to date. But is this enough in itself to justify an outlay of £7,500?
Unfortunately, for us, no, it isn’t. For that sort of money we can’t help but think that a projector should be able to adapt itself better than the Runco LS-HB does to dark room viewing as well as light-room viewing. So while we appreciate the thought behind it, the LS-HB is ultimately one Runco projector we’re not sure many people will want to save up for.
Score in detail
Image Quality 7
|Native Aspect Ratio||16:9|
|Projector Type||Single-chip DLP|
|Contrast Ratio||1164:1 CSMS|
|Full HD 1080p||Yes|
|Max Diagonal Image Size (Inch)||180in|
|Min Projection Distance (Foot)||4.3feet|
|Max Projection Distance (Foot)||12.2feet|
|Lamp power (Watt)||230W|
|Charging/Computer Connection||1 (service)|
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