Projectors

Runco LS-5 Single-Chip 1080p DLP Projector

ARTICLE INDEX

Design

The LS-5 is a single-chip DLP projector. The similarity to other DLP models ends there however; as Runco has employed some interesting technologies to improve image quality. First up is ConstantContrast. This is the LS-5’s auto iris but with an added twist. In addition to the 200-step aperture, the dynamic range of the DLP chip is expanded on a frame-by-frame basis to increase perceived contrast. This also reduces dithering artifacts common to DLP displays at low light levels. Secondly, the LS-5 employs Unishape lamp control. This varies the lamp power on a continual basis to improve grayscale accuracy. This also further reduces dithering. Additionally, the color wheel runs at six times the frame rate. That means for 60Hz material, the color wheel is spinning at the equivalent of 360Hz. This reduces the rainbow effect for those few people that can see it.

The projector’s case is quite rounded with a centrally-mounted lens. Ventilation slats curve around the sides. The two front feet are independently adjustable for use in a tabletop setup. The input panel in the rear can be covered with a cowling that continues the shape to a nice taper. This cowling also hides cables nicely for a very clean look when installed. Inputs include two HDMI 1.3, two component (one with BNC connectors), one S-Video, one composite, and a VGA input for a computer. In a neat touch, the labeling on the jack panel is printed so it is readable in either tabletop or inverted orientations. For control there is an RS-232 port, an IR input (quite rare on any display) and two 12V triggers. Focus and zoom controls are handled by rings around the lens and shift adjustors are under a pop-off cover on the top panel. These adjustors must be turned with an allen wrench which is included. Also up top are buttons to change sources, navigate the menu, and toggle the power. To appeal to video purists like myself, there are no status lights on the projector which could taint the image in an otherwise dark room. Included in the accessory box is an extremely long power cord, which was much-appreciated. Most projectors come with a standard six-footer which is nearly useless for ceiling mounts as it won’t reach the floor. It was great to see this kind of attention to detail and consideration for installers. Runco even includes decent-looking component video cables and an HDMI cable.

The remote is very efficiently designed containing only the most necessary controls. At the top are discreet power buttons followed by five keys for input selection. These can be reassigned in the menu to whatever input you wish. In the center are menu navigation and an aspect ratio toggle. The bottom button block has three keys for user memories, direct access to brightness, contrast, sharpness, gamma, overscan, noise reduction, picture-in-picture, and PIP swap, and a control to activate the remote’s backlight. This backlight by the way is a very subdued red which I found quite nice as it doesn’t dazzle the eyes like most remotes. Runco does this intentionally so as not to affect your dark-acclimated vision, very nice! This remote is also the most responsive I’ve ever used with a projector. I could point the remote in the general direction of the screen from any distance and get instant results.

Menu System & Options

The menu system is very intuitive and like the remote contains only what you need to dial in the picture with no fluff or superfluous features. That being said, it is still quite extensive. There are six sub-menus starting with Main. The first option is Aspect Ratio with 16:9, Letterbox (for anamorphic lenses), 4:3, 4:3 Narrow and Native (no scaling). Next you’ll find basic picture controls like brightness, contrast, color and tint. Color and tint are grayed out for HDMI signals. You can also access the memory controls to save settings in one of three slots accessible from the remote. There are also ISF Day and Night modes available with an entry passcode. These memories can be locked to prevent changes. The sharpness and noise reduction options are quite extensive giving you control over many parameters. I didn’t need any of them as the default video processing is quite excellent as you read later in this review. The next option, Overscan lets you either crop (mask) the image by three percent or zoom it out to 106 percent. Source Select lets you choose from any active inputs. You can eliminate unused ones if you wish. PIP Select allows you to see a picture-in-picture representation of two sources simultaneously. Resync will reacquire the signal if the image becomes unstable for any reason. This never happened to me.

The Advanced sub-menu has choices for Color Space (Auto, Rec 709, Rec 601, RGB-PC and RGB-Video). This is actually the decoder matrix and I was able to leave it on Auto. There is a separate control for gamut selection that allows you to choose between Auto, Rec 709, SMPTE-C, EBU and Native. Native will use the Rec 709 color points for the secondaries but raw color wheel values for the primaries. Again I had no problems leaving it on Auto when using my disc player in source-direct mode. You can also choose the video standard if you want to use something other than NTSC. The additional options are PAL and SECAM. The Auto setting will usually work fine here as well. The gamma presets are 2.0, 2.2 (default), 2.5, Graphic for computer presentations and Video which alters the curve at the darker end of the scale to match consumer video cameras. Color temp presets are 5500K, 6500K, 7500K, 9300K and Native. Native will display the white point of the incoming signal without correction.

Moving lower in the Advanced sub-menu, you can choose a frame rate of either 48Hz, 50Hz, 60Hz or Auto. Auto will lock onto the incoming signal displaying 24p material at 48Hz and 60p/i material at 60Hz. This worked perfectly and I never saw even a hint of flicker at 48Hz from Blu-ray discs. The next three controls are labeled SatCo, ConstantContrast and Adaptive Contrast. SatCo boosts overall light levels by 20% and secondary colors by 10%. ConstantContrast widens the dynamic range with an auto iris and manipulation of the DMD to increase contrast. According to Runco, the full luminance range of the DMD is used at all times on a frame-by-frame basis. It works like the auto level control in Photoshop. Adaptive Contrast also widens the dynamic range but without the use of the iris. Next are the RGB gain and bias controls. There is a huge 200-step adjustment range for these but I only had to tweak them a little to achieve accuracy. The Advanced menu ends with Fine Sync which allows you to shift the image digitally and adjust phase, tracking and sync level for analog signals.

The System sub-menu starts with Source Enable which let’s you deactivate unused inputs. PIP Position gives you options for the picture-in-picture layout. You can set up a split screen here if you wish. Next up are Menu Position and Translucency; self-explanatory. Lamp Power defaults to normal which is the higher 230-watt setting. You can also choose economy which drops it down to 180 watts. Blank Screen lets you choose a no-signal screen color of black, white or blue. Auto Power Off will shut down the LS-5 after a 20-minute no-signal condition. Auto Power On will turn on the projector whenever AC power is present. This is really cool because it allows you to power up using a wall switch if your outlet is so controlled. Rear Projection and Ceiling Mode change the image orientation for different installations. The LS-5 will automatically sense if it is inverted and flip the image for you, very handy! Power On Chime turns on a short beep whenever you power up.

The Control sub-menu lets you program the functions of the five input selector keys on the remote. These can be set to any of the Runco’s eight inputs. You can also assign up to three picture memories to the remote’s buttons. The two trigger outputs can be set to fire on power-up or when different aspect ratios are chosen. The triggers can alternately be controlled by the RS-232 interface if you wish. There is also a setting to change the remote code set if you have other components accidentally controlled by the projector’s handset. Finally, Auto Source, when turned on, will scan all inputs for active signals when the current one is lost.

The fifth and sixth sub-menus are Language and Service. Language gives you a choice of 12 languages for the menus, very worldly! Service is mainly an information screen with values for Active/PIP Source, Pixel Clock, Signal Format, H/V Refresh Rate and Lamp Hours. Here is where you can view the projector’s serial number and software version. Controls include a lamp hour reset, blue-only mode, high-altitude mode for greater fan speed and test patterns. The patterns consist of full-fields for all colors plus white, an ANSI checkerboard, a gray ramp and a focus grid.