There are luxury brands that we all know—Mercedes, Louis Vuitton—and there are luxury brands that are known primarily among aficionado groups—Cohiba cigars, Sage fly fishing rods. Runco tends to be a brand that falls more in the second category. It has a reputation for offering spectacular, and spectacularly expensive, home theater projectors. For instance, at a CEDIA Expo press conference in 2011, the company spent most of the 40 minutes demonstrating a jaw-dropping projector that clocks in at over $200,000. That’s without the screen or the popcorn.
Why do I point this out—because alongside such extravagances, the company now offers a product that will get the Runco name, along with a lot of the Runco prowess, into homes for a lot less. Last year the company introduced the LightStyle line of projectors which tend to be less expensive than Runco’s other systems (though the three-chip models do get up there). They also don’t don’t look like industrial air conditioners. The LS-1 reviewed here carries an MSRP of $3,999.
Actually, being round and squat, they look a little like Roombas. That’s not a bad thing. These are stylish little projectors (you can also customize them with a color palette or team logo) that won’t look at all bad snugged up against your ceiling.
The LS-1 is a single-chip DLP projector. The company specs rate it as having a 10,000:1 contrast ratio and 780 ANSI lumens brightness. That seems a bit low since other companies offer cheaper models with more than 1,000 lumens, but you’ll see from my testing, that performance wasn’t hindered by that number.
Setting up the Runco, I found that while it’s an entry-level product, it certainly didn’t feel like it when I lifted all 18 pounds of it out of the box. With that kind of heft, either the company packed in some extra sand bags, or it’s got a lot of heavy-duty features making it work.
The second thing I noticed was that the inputs all seemed to be missing. Actually they’re nicely covered by a removable panel. This is one of those features that make the projector look more like something you’d want in your family hang-out room and less like something hanging from the ceiling in a classroom. Accessing the input panel I found two HDMI ports, 1 component, 1 RGB, s-video and composite plus an RS-232 for control systems.
On top there’s a small control panel for access the menu and such, but you’re much better off depending on the remote for all those operations.
Speaking of the remote—it’s backlit so you can use it in the dark, and it’s logically organized and easy to use.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.