Runco PL-50HDX 50-Inch Plasma HDTV Reviewed

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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.

Additional Resources
• 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

HTR Product Rating for Runco PL-50HDX 50-Inch Plasma HDTV

Criteria Rating

Performance

5

Value

3

Overall

4

Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.


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Final Take
As with many plasma displays I have viewed, analog broadcast does not look very good. This is a matter of junk in, junk out, rather than a shortcoming of the display itself. The units that I have seen that do a good job at analog all tend to be a little soft with high-resolution sources. The Runco is very transparent and any discrepancies that are source related are obvious.

The room in which I installed the Runco was a worst-case scenario environment, as the opposite wall is three large windows--lots of ambient light. Still, the Runco PL-50HDX was much brighter and more refined than my previous CRT-based big screen. The glass on the Runco PL-50HDX is absolutely top-notch and this plays a critical role in light diffraction and the overall cinema experience.

I had never previously witnessed the fine details during DVD playback from my Integra Research DVD player. The Runco PL-50HDX created a new visual experience for me--one that I will certainly miss when it is returned.

Colors were not only more vivid, but black levels and contrast were well pronounced. (This has been the shortcoming with plasmas that I've viewed prior to my experience with the Runco.) Right out of the box flesh tones were lifelike and minute details were incredible.

Just for fun I connected my Xbox up to the PL-50HDX and popped in one of my favourite games--Amped--a snowboarding game. I literally became nauseous from the realistic picture (and this game isn't even high-def) as I became immersed into it. Yeah, Xbox play took some getting used to.

I found the introduction of the Runco PL-50HDX into my household an overwhelming experience. I was disappointed that I could not get my satellite hooked up for HD programming by the time of this review, but the DVD experience was both new and exciting for me, offering a cinema quality and detail I have never before had in my own home. Products like the Runco PL-50HDX not only revitalize jaded editors like myself but get consumers hooked on the DVD experience by bringing the cinema experience home.

Additional Resources
• Read more Runco Reviews here.
• Read more top performing HDTV 1080p Plasma reviews from the likes of Panasonic, Samsung, LG and many others here..

Runco PL-50HDX
Screen Size: 50 inches
Aspect Ratio:16:9
Native Resolution: 1280 x 768
Contrast Ration: 1000:1
Inputs: 1 RGB Component, 1 Component,
1 Composite, 1 S-Video
Dimensions: 49.13" W x 4.30" D x 30.10" H
Weight: 97 lbs.
Runco ViViX Processor/Controller
Inputs: 1 Component, 1 Composite,
1 S-Video, 1 pass through.
Input Standards: All NTSC formats; PAL all scan rates (accept 480p, 540p and 854x480)
Dimensions: 17.45" W x 16" D x 3.5" H
Weight:16 lbs.
Warranty:1year
MSRP: $16,995


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