Runco Q-750i LED DLP Projector Page 3

One aspect of the Runco’s setup threw me for a loop initially. For a projector with a manual focus, I typically put up a white geometry crosshatch pattern from the Spears & Munsil High-Definition Benchmark disc to adjust the focus. Here, when I focused on the white crosshatch, I saw color-fringing aberrations at the edges of the screen. Green was out more than a pixel at the sides, which surprised me. I conferred with Runco’s Bob Williams. He noted that, due to the wavelengths of the LED light source, Runco found that you can achieve the best performance by focusing on green only. Hence, it includes a green-only internal test pattern for focusing the projector. Sure enough, when I focused down on green, I got superb results. This projector focused down much tighter than the Vivitek H9080FD. Once focused on green, the white crosshatch showed a respectably low amount of color fringing and other aberrations. Still, it wasn’t the equal to the best single-chip DLPs I’ve seen in this regard—the Marantz VP-11S2 ($15,000 when reviewed) and the Samsung SP-A900B ($13,000 at time of review). Both of these are premium-priced, lamp-driven models.

In Use
The first Q-750i that I received worked for about three hours and then wouldn’t power back up. Duty compels me to report this as it happened. I’m also compelled to note, as I did to the surprised team at Runco, that I witnessed potential shipping damage occur during delivery. As I walked to the delivery truck, I saw the arrow indicating “this way up” pointing to the right. Then the delivery guy rolled the package end over end two or three times to the lift gate. A different delivery company delivered a second sample (right side up) that never so much as hiccupped over three months of use.

As I mentioned, once it’s calibrated through the PCE submenu, the Runco offers textbook-perfect color. Out of the box, the color shows very little to complain about. Because I could, I did most of my viewing postcalibration and saw color performance that’s unexcelled in my experience reviewing projectors. It measured perfectly and always looked natural with program material.

This projector did a terrific job getting a lot of detail out of a wide variety of Blu-ray Disc transfers. It got everything that the difficult Collateral has to offer (this transfer requires both detail and strong contrast to look acceptable). It even revealed lens aberrations and other artifacts that are inherent in the original digital capture. It was also spot on with The Book of Eli, which is razor sharp, full of gritty textural detail, and mostly black and white (captured on a Red One native 4k digital camera). The contrast and gray scale were wonderfully balanced, as were the occasional touches of color. This is a spectacular transfer, and the Q-750i delivered a demo-quality experience.

This projector’s focus, detail, and sharpness were clearly beyond what I saw from Vivitek’s H9080FD, and perhaps just a bit sharper than my JVC DLAHD750. But it’s not quite in league with the very best single-chip DLPs I’ve seen (the Samsung and Marantz models referenced above), which was disappointing. To be sure, the Q-750i offers very good detail and focus performance, but at $15,000, I was hoping for a best-in-class contender. I’ve seen two LED-based projectors hands-on now, and this is perhaps my biggest disappointment with them both—even if this Runco is a substantial step up from the Vivitek. Premium singlechip DLPs are capable of more.

With ConstantContrast engaged at the Low setting, I was impressed by the Runco’s blacks and contrast. They didn’t match my JVC DLA-HD750, but they were definitely in the top tier below it. The JVCs are quite simply far ahead in this respect, and they don’t need a dynamic contrast feature to get there. The JVC also pulls ahead in terms of shadow detail on the most demanding scenes. That being said, the ConstantContrast performance is very solid. Chapter 13 of The International showed brightness compression. The details in Clive Owen’s harshly lit nose were completely lost, but this scene was devoid of any visible pumping (noticeable ramping up and down of the overall brightness). While I could find torture-test scenes that would induce some pumping, it was seldom visible in day-to-day viewing (and even then only because I’ve trained myself to look for it). However, this is only the case if ConstantContrast is set to Low. Higher settings produced marginally better contrast by eye, but pumping artifacts became more noticeable and more distracting. Native contrast is important in projectors with a dynamic contrast system. The higher the native contrast, the less aggressive and therefore more invisible the dynamic system’s operation will be.

The 15-ft-L light output was outright punchy in my room, which is a total blackout job. As a result, HD broadcasts and particularly sports looked terrific. The Q-750i uses Runco’s ViVix video procesing solution, so it treats 1080i HD superbly and yields excellent results, as our Video Test Bench results confirm.

If all of this sounds familiar, these are the kind of things I said about the much less expensive, lamp-driven Runco LS-5. And yes, that’s something of a rub. In terms of pure performance, while it’s undoubtedly excellent, this projector doesn’t dramatically outperform the best sub-$10,000 projectors I’ve seen. There’s value in its potential for maintaining brightness over time and not needing multi-hundred-dollar bulb replacements every couple thousand hours. I’m just not sure that I see enough value in that to scratch a check for nearly $15,000, which is rarefied air for most of us. The $8,000 delta between the Q-750i and the LS-5 buys a lot of spare lamps.

A little more sharpness and/or a little lower price tag would have made me jump up and down. But at $14,995, with many stellar performers in front projection at $10,000 and less, and 3D looming, the Q-750i’s excellent but not quite state-of-the-art performance doesn’t offer enough of a slam-dunk value to warrant an unreserved Top Pick. The Q-750i is truly spectacular in many key aspects of performance. It also boasts a strong, well-implemented feature set. Its color is exceptional, a degree of accuracy that we could only dream of just a couple of years ago. It’s technically a firstgeneration product, being Runco’s first LED-driven projector. But it has no bugs or quirks that will remind anyone of that fact.

Valuing pricey components is the trickiest part of this business. The set-it-and-forget-it nature of LEDs and this projector’s undeniably terrific performance are worthy. For a person of means, that may be enough to drive you to pry that extra cash out of your wallet. You’d get no argument from me.

(800) 23-RUNCO