If you're relatively new to home theater entertainment, then chances are you may not have ever heard of Runco. Or, if you have, you may know Runco as the ultra high end in video products. Either way, Runco represents one of the industry's privately held anomalies in high-end video, first gaining recognition for its contributions to the CRT projectors market and over the years making furious waves in the video display category.
• Read more Runco Reviews here.
• Read more top performing HDTV 1080p Plasma reviews from the likes of Panasonic, Samsung, LG and many others here...
While Philips was inventing the plasma TV commercial, Runco had already embarked on a mission to make plasma displays real. Sure they were slim and sexy, but videophiles around the industry saw them for their visual inadequacies--poor black levels and dot-crawl and blooming just to name a few.
Today there are only a handful of companies that manufacture plasma. The real technology lies in the video processing. This is where Runco takes a hold of the competition by the throat with their PFP ViViX processor...
Unique Features - The Runco PL-50HDX is a 50-inch display with a resolution of 1280x768. The display features Expanded Dynamic Gamma that is a feature critical to the film-like quality of the display. Effectively, Expanded Dynamic Gamma eliminates the "digital look" common with many plasma displays. This softens sharp edges and seems to improve black levels.
The PL-50HDX itself is fairly simple otherwise, with RGB, component, composite and S-Video inputs, and a pass through as well as an RS-232 port for integration into even the most complex home theaters.
All plasmas are fixed-pixel displays, so they must be controlled by some form of processor in order to be compatible with a wide variety of media; recorded, broadcast, cable and satellite video formats. The Runco comes with the PFP ViViX controller that accepts all video formats including high definition 1080i, 1080p, 720p and extended definition 480p as well as NTSC-standard 480i. The processor scales the input signal to optimize picture quality and take advantage of resolution. The PFP ViViX also incorporates proprietary 3:2 pulldown processing for the maximum picture quality and orientation on film and edge enhancement. Perhaps most appreciated in our household was Runco's unique Virtual Wide Aspect Ratio for reproducing TV-formatted 4:3 programming in widescreen without distorting the picture. As the majority of our content at home is broadcast, this was a tremendous compliment to a well-rounded system.
The PFP ViViX processor also accepts component, composite, DVI (HDCP), and S-Video inputs that should make the unit compatible with all forthcoming future copyrighted HD sources.
The Runco PL-50HDX is offered with a tabletop mount (feet) or wall mount directly through Runco and is compatible with many aftermarket pivoting and fixed mounts.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - The Runco PL-50HDX was relatively simple to integrate into my home system, though I found the ViViX processor/scaler to be almost too simple. I struggled with the ViViX for hours trying to get it to output the input signals before finally getting it to work. Basically, if I had read the owner's manual ahead of time I would have known better than to try and feed the processor a progressive scan signal from my DVD player. I do not mind the incorporation of BNC-type connections on the plasma and the processor, but I do expect that with a price tag equal to that of many cars, it would come with the RCA-type adapters. I do, however, understand that many consumers will have this unit setup by a Runco dealer and will not attempt installation on their own.
The front panel of the ViViX is clean and simple and offers the look and operation one should expect from a product bearing the Runco name. The buttons are solid and the blue LED is well matched to my other high-end components. The remote for the ViViX is rather plain and simple. Here again, I suspect Runco designers had a custom installation in mind with an aftermarket remote system.
Using the ViViX remote, I was able to quickly set up the display to match my devices. I was very impressed by the Virtual Wide Aspect Ratio algorithm for use with 4:3 signals stretching them to fit the 16:9 aspect ratio with excellent details and nearly undetectable distortion.
Read The Final Take on Page Two