Home Theater Projector Shootout:
EPSON 6030UB vs RUNCO X-200i

Evan Powell, January 30, 2014

Observations

The Epson 6030UB and the Runco X-200i are each capable of producing bright, engaging, well-balanced video images. The most striking revelation was how competitive the 6030UB was against the much pricier competition. We were able to calibrate the 6030UB to render a picture that matched or exceeded the X-200i in color balance, sharpness, clarity, stability, and overall contrast. (The calibrations we used are included at the end of this article.)

While the pictures from these two projectors look extremely similar, they are not identical. When differences in the images appeared, they were most frequently related to one of three factors: (1) black levels, (2) the amount of digital noise in the source, and (3) the degree of motion and camera panning. The Epson 6030UB tends to outperform the Runco X-200i when the projectors are pushed in any of these ways.

Black Levels. The first noteworthy difference between the X-200i and the 6030UB is black levels. Here the 6030UB has the advantage. In a scene with a lot of black such as the Universal Studios opening logo or rolling credits, the 6030UB achieves a solid, rich black while the X-200i's image is dark gray by comparison. The 6030UB achieves its black levels in part with an auto-iris, which the X-200i does not have.

In scenes with higher average light levels and less black overall, the difference in black level is not as noticeable because the 6030UB's auto iris is opened wider and is thus less of a factor. Nevertheless, the 6030UB still maintains a modest advantage most of the time. The incrementally deeper blacks on the 6030UB overall help produce an image with more three dimensional depth.

The X-200i can approach the black level of the 6030UB if the Brightness control is reduced from its default setting of 100. When viewing HD material on Blu-ray we typically had Brightness set to 97. Blacks will go deeper the more you drop it below 97, but you begin to sacrifice shadow detail to an unacceptable degree.

Digital Noise. The presence of digital noise in a projected image can vary anywhere from just about non-existent to abundant, and it largely depends on the amount of noise in the source. Some of today's Blu-rays like the Bond film Skyfall and the magnificent Opus Arte productions of the Royal Ballet contain almost no noise at all. On the other hand, Blu-ray movies that are transfers from film often have elevated levels of noise, with some being obviously cleaner than others. Some Blu-rays and many standard DVDs can be filled with noise.

All good home theater projectors have noise reduction filters that you can activate to combat excessive levels of noise. However, using them can reduce image sharpness--the more noise you filter out the softer the picture becomes. Since HD 1080p projectors are all about getting the sharpest picture possible, most users tend to deploy noise reduction filters sparingly.

The noise vs. sharpness trade-off is quite different on the X-200i and the 6030UB. As a result, the amount of noise in the source has a huge impact on how the two pictures compare. Let's first consider a very low-noise disc like Skyfall. When this was popped into our Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player, both projectors delivered a rather noise free image, even with all noise reduction (NR) filters off. However, there was an obvious difference in image sharpness. With all sharpness controls also set to zero/off, the X-200i had a clear advantage in sharpness and detail resolution. The lines and wrinkles in the close-ups of M's face were more acutely defined on the X-200i, and fine hair had more precise resolution.

But that's not the end of the story. Both of these projectors have a basic sharpness control. In addition, the 6030UB has a Super Resolution processor that enhances image acuity and clarity. It is similar in function to Panasonic's Detail Clarity Processor and Sony's Reality Creation processor. No analogous capability exists on the X-200i.

In Epson's factory defaults, Sharpness and Super Resolution are set to zero, but they can be increased to a maximum of +5. These controls must be used judiciously, and high settings must be reserved only for certain types of material. However, boosting the 6030UB's sharpness control modestly from 0 to +1, and the Super Resolution system from 0 to +2 ends up refining the detail in the Skyfall image without adding any detectable edge enhancement or other unwanted artifacts. These settings made M's wrinkled face look every bit as acutely resolved on the 6030UB as it did on the X-200i. In essence, the two projectors end up looking identical in detail resolution when displaying a low-noise source like Skyfall.

The story changes when we move to a source with more noise such as the Blu-ray of the original Ocean's 11 from 1960. When displaying this film, the X-200i shows quite a bit more noise than does the Epson. The difference is great enough that we suspected the 6030UB was doing some preliminary noise suppression even though the noise filters were off. We asked Epson about this, and their engineers say that no noise reduction is happening when the filters are at zero.

When displaying Ocean's 11, the 6030UB's picture is clean enough that the NR filter can be left off. However, this is not true of the X-200i. The noise in the source is amplified quite noticeably and it produces a grainy texture to the image that compromises apparent image sharpness. So on this movie, due to the effect of the plentiful noise artifacts on the X-200i, the 6030UB appears to be superior in clarity and detail resolution.

So... time to bring on the NR filter on the X-200i. This filter control defaults to zero, but runs up to a maximum setting of 200. When set to 200 or anywhere close to it, the X-200i eliminates all trace of noise but it also eliminates most image detail in the process, turning an HD picture into SD and making skin textures look like plastic. So high NR settings on the X-200i (as with most projectors) are not useful in anything but the most unusual of circumstances.

With an HD source, the X-200i's picture begins to soften once the NR filter gets into the 40 to 50 range. Unfortunately, taking the filter up to 50 has relatively little noise suppression effect. When viewing Ocean's 11 or any other movie with a reasonable amount of noise, the X-200i's picture contains more noise with its NR filter set to 50 than the 6030UB does with its filters off. But since the X-200i's image sharpness is already being compromised at 50, pushing the filter any higher is not a viable option. So in short, when the source has some noticeable level of noise, there is no way to achieve the combination of low noise and image sharpness on the X-200i that the 6030UB is capable of.

Motion judder. Another key difference between these two projectors is that the 6030UB has a frame interpolation (FI) system and the X-200i does not. FI is now found on numerous home theater projectors from Epson, Panasonic, JVC, Sony, and BenQ, but it is missing on the Runco. For a $15,000 projector currently in production, this is a momentous omission.

Frame interpolation systems look at two frames of video in sequence and evaluate the movement that occurs between Frame 1 and Frame 2. They use this information to create and insert new frames between Frame 1 and Frame 2 that interpolate the incremental movement between the two. The result is a smoother presentation of movement, and less judder and shake in the image when the camera pans over a scene.

FI systems as implemented by most vendors provide several settings that control how aggressively the FI is applied. On the 6030UB the settings are Low, Normal, and High. The Low setting typically removes some judder and instability, the Normal setting removes more, and the High setting can remove almost all of it. The downside is that FI technology can add new artifacts that did not exist to begin with, such as some ghosting around characters walking across a scene. In addition, FI can make a film image appear hyper-realistic, as if it were shot with an HD video camera. Most videophiles object to this "digital video effect" or "soap opera effect" as a disturbing aesthetic compromise of the genuine film viewing experience.

The ideal setting on the 6030UB's FI system depends on the type of material being viewed, and on personal preferences. We typically select Low or Normal on the Epson 6030UB's FI system for movie viewing. The undesirable digital video effect is usually non-existent on Low, and often subtle enough not to be distracting in Normal. However, this effect varies from movie to movie and is in part related to the noise level in the source--there is no single setting on the FI system that works well for every movie. On the other hand, if the source is an actual video of a live stage or music performance, you want to make that material appear as real and present as possible, so setting FI to High can be beneficial. Users who have home theater projectors equipped with FI systems will want to experiment and find their own personal preferences for how and when to deploy this feature.

When the 6030UB's FI system is activated on either Low or Normal and set against the X-200i, the 6030UB delivers a smoother and more stable image. It is actually an effective demo of just how much jumping, flickering, and juddering there is in a movie that is being displayed on a home theater projector without any FI technology to mitigate it. This is particularly visible in slow camera panning scenes, in which a picture can literally disintegrate for a few seconds.

The noise issue discussed previously might be alleviated with the use of an external video processor on the X-200i, but there is no way to do frame interpolation in a pre-processor and feed it into the projector.

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Overall Assessment
Review Contents: Intro and Setup Observations Overall Assessment Calibrations
 

Reader Comments(29 comments)

Posted Mar 5, 2014 3:02:59 PM

By Joe Smith

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Great post Edgar in Indy. Very well said

bottom line is the Runco is a Joke and does not justify it's price in any way, shape or form. PERIOD !!

Excellent work again by Projector Central

Posted Mar 5, 2014 10:31:22 AM

By Edgar_in_Indy

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If somebody is splitting the tiniest of hairs to defend a $15000 projector against a $3500 unit (really a $2600 unit since the Epson 5030UB is the same projector), then they've already lost the argument. And the argument about the "living room" mode or "cinema" mode is really just semantics and doesn't mean anything.

Anybody who is upset about this review is probably either a Runco owner, or a salesman. Everybody else should be applauding Projector Central for daring to put this out there. As stated below, the elephant in the room in the online A/V review industry is their reluctance to objectively compare exotic ($$$) gear to competing high-end consumer products.

Posted Feb 26, 2014 6:25:49 PM

By Joe Smith

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there is nothing wrong with using the controls on any tv or, projector, etc to get the best picture All that videophile faithful stuff is garbage. The Audio fools say the same thing about audio but then in blind tests they will pick the "processed" one as sounding better. they only say they want faithful if they know BEFOREHAND that someone added processing, which is laughable; all that matters is which one sounds best and in this case all that matters is which looks better. from the review, the Epson got an improved look by adjusting the super resolution. Nothing wrong with that. I have a separate DVDO processor and it is incredible how good the picture can look after using the fine detail and edge enhancement controls. You don't crank it to full blast but about halfway. This is also true of the Darby Processing; it definitely works if you use it smartly

Posted Feb 26, 2014 5:09:40 PM

By Evan Powell, Editor

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Dan, you make a couple good points that I'd just like to expand upon a bit if I may. Regarding sharpness, there is no doubt that a single chip DLP projector will have an inherent advantage over any 3-chip design, be it LCD, LCOS or DLP, if the three chips are not precisely converged. Our Epson was properly converged, but in any side by side test, if the 3-chip machine is slightly out of alignment the single chip DLP will appear sharper. I wonder if this could have contributed to your assessment?

Beyond that, there is a reluctance among some videophiles to use sharpening features, due to the notion that with all sharpening features set to zero you are getting the most faithful and "undoctored" version of the signal. I mentioned in this article that if the Runco and Epson Sharpness controls are both set to zero, and the Epson's Super Resolution processor is also at zero, the Runco appears noticeably sharper. It may be in the demo you saw that these zero factory defaults were used. If so, I can fully appreciate and concur with your observation that the Runco was the sharper of the two.

However, when we engaged the sharpness tools on the Epson (setting Sharpness to +1 and Super Resolution to +2), it changed the ballgame. Suddenly the Epson was the sharper of the two. This was achieved without introducing any objectionable edge enhancement artifacts--the picture just looked more acutely defined, but still perfectly natural.

So I think it comes down to a philosophical decision--do you want to avoid the use of sharpness enhancing tools in order to get the purest rendering of the signal the projector is capable of, or do you engage those tools to get a digitally improved image? In my experience I now opt for the latter since image sharpening technology has gotten so refined. But others may prefer the more traditional videophile position on the issue.

Posted Feb 26, 2014 4:16:11 PM

By Dan

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Evan, thanks for the response but I still feel this is misleading. If you want accurate colour and 1400 lumens there are not many options on the market, the Sony VW600 would probably be better value. If you want to argue that most people won't see the difference of the Epson in cinema mode then fine but it doesn't change the fact that the colour won't be accurate. I can always see the difference between a sharp .95" DLP and an LCD or LCOS projector save perhaps the Sony, is that extra sharpness worth it? Well thats for the person to decide but again, the Runco is sharper and obviously so when I saw it. 3D was no contest at all. The demos I saw were setup from both manufacturers, you would expect them both to show them in optimal setups. DLP projectors are definitely overpriced but there are things they do better.

Posted Feb 26, 2014 10:01:29 AM

By Joe Smith

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Great response Evan ! I am glad projector central reviews all these projectors. The Reviews have been excellent for many years and seem to backed up by other evidence To hell with the Sales Idiots trying to sell the higher price stuff and manipulating the setup to make the higher price one look better. I was at a store in Toronto called Two Tone and they had a Panasonic 8000 set up in a lighted area surrounded by a bunch of tv's while the 2 Runco "overpriced" projectors were set up in totally dark rooms. Gee, I wonder why. Could it be to look better than the Panasonic? the Panasonic was $3,000 and the Runco's were 15-30K. This is laughable and it shows what a fraud industry this is. They don't want to put the Panasonic in the same room with the Runco because the quality may be close and they would then never sell the Runco !! that is 100% the reason for their setup

Posted Feb 26, 2014 9:48:36 AM

By Evan Powell, Editor

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Dan, I wish you had been here to see them side by side and experience what we saw. As noted in the article, it is easy to set them up so the Runco puts out 1400 lumens and the Epson puts out 700--all you need to do is put the two projectors on the same rack and put the Epson into Cinema mode. If the objective is to make the Runco look better in order to sell the prospect the higher priced unit, it can easily be demo'd that way.

Posted Feb 26, 2014 9:20:11 AM

By Dan

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Wow, what a load of rubbish. Poor comparison. Having seen both, I can assure you that the sharpness, motion, colour accuracy, image depth and 3D implementation are all much better on the Runco. When calibrated accurately the Runco is twice as bright (1400 lumens vs 700). If black level is all you think makes up decent picture quality then by all means deem the Epson the better projector

Posted Feb 26, 2014 9:12:16 AM

By Joe Smith

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well of course the Sony 600 will beat the Epson but it also beats 99% of all the other projectors out there as well. It does native 4K and has big time upscaling My post had to do with these Sales Morons saying Epson is paying to get good reviews and that is B.S They are making very nice projectors at very affordable prices Bottom line is the brands like Runco, Lexicon, etc are a joke and only a sucker who does no research would buy those. Lexicon took a $500 Oppo player and put it in another chassis and tried to sell it for $3,500; 7 times the price for the Same Player !!! there is no validation on the Epson vs the Runco; the Epson has better quality and you can buy almost 5 of them for the price of 1 Runco ! An Absolute Joke just like the Lexicon Blu-Ray Player that was a repackaged Oppo and the Audioquest cables that are repackaged Belden cables for like 100 times the price This is a Sucker's Industry for sure ! no doubt about it

Posted Feb 26, 2014 8:00:06 AM

By chris

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I've owned $30k audio systems, and $300 audio systems. I've owned $12k projectors, and $1k projectors. For the car analogy people out there commenting on this post, I've driven everything from a rusted-out POS VW Bug up to my current ride, a 2012 BMW M-series X5. There are folks out there with a lot of money that want to buy nicer items to be "elitest". There are folks out there looking for deals because they can't afford the best and they are looking for some validation that their $200 item is every bit as good as the $2000 item. Both of these positions are wrong. As Evan mentioned, try a head-to-head of the Sony VW600ES vs the Epson 6030/5030 and see what happens. The price point of an item will give you some insight into its quality, but that is not always the end-all-be-all of the decision making process. There is garbage out there with small and large price tags hung from them... it is better to judge a piece on its merit and technology moreso than its price-point. I have a projector and screen right now that cost me less than $4k for the set, and I would put it up against anything you want at double the price. My projector is average at best, my screen is one of the best in the world. It's not that these items are on one end of the spectrum or the other... it's about how they work together under my room conditions and utilizing my sources. You can't go off-roading in a Ferrari, and it does you no good to put Z-rated racing tires on a VW Bug.

Posted Feb 25, 2014 4:27:15 AM

By Cory Potts

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Hey Joe, Its true, the JVCs aren't "much better" than Epson but then, they also aren't much more expensive (don't believe the MSRPs, JVC discounts more heavily than Epson).

Also, the point of this article seems to be that boutique manufacturers aren't competitive with budget units, so now the obvious has been established, they never have (just as a BMW and Toyota or a Rolex vs. Timex). I had a watch repairman tell me once that the Rolex keeps "worse time" than a $3 Timex, due in part to its "smooth movement", which is Rolex's signature feature...but people who buy them could care less that they lose a second every day because its diamond encrusted (they could make "watches" which tell no time at all and I doubt it would hurt sales a bit, maybe even help) Runco's development team obviously missed the mark as they have made better performing projectors for less money in the past. The point for BMW and Runco owners isn't that they have a high value unit, its that they have a BMW, a Rolex and a Runco, which for certain high performance models, really does mean something.

Posted Feb 20, 2014 3:22:06 PM

By Joe Smith

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Sales guys in the Audio Video Industry are an absolute joke

I talked to Eyemedia Sound & Vision in Michigan today and he told me the Epson's are not nearly as good as everyone says and that they paid for the good reviews and he says the JVC's are much much better at the same price point

JVC is very good but I suspect the profit margin is much higher on the JVC than the Epson

It is mindboggling what these sales clowns will tell people

I know Jvc is good but they are not much better than Epson

Posted Feb 14, 2014 4:13:55 AM

By Joe Smith

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yes Runco is the most over priced brand in the History of the Video Industry. I would like to hear of any brand more overpriced and underperforming they also do a lot of "repackaging" of projectors, which is a joke. The dealers who sell Runco are Imbeciles and actually are telling people they are much better even though the FACTS say otherwise Wolf Cinema is making projectors that are high end and I know of a dealer who has the Epson and the Wolf set up and can show how the Wolf is better. This is the same Epson that looks very nice and beats the Runco so another example what a joke Runco is

Posted Feb 13, 2014 8:12:47 AM

By chris

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This does not shock me much. Runco, while nice, has always been over-priced and under-performing (imho). I'd be much more interested to see how something like the Epson 5030 or 6030 (same unit) do against a "real" powerhouse like the Sony VPL-VW600ES. I believe that is where you would see the value in spending an extra $10k.

Posted Feb 10, 2014 7:32:11 AM

By Saul M.

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That's simply amazing! And that's it, I'm pulling the trigger on the 6030UB... thank you Evan & Projector Central for such an honest and rational shootout, and for the always trusted and professional reviews, keep up the awesome job.

Posted Feb 7, 2014 11:16:40 AM

By Evan Powell, Editor

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@ Bill, the Adaptive Contrast control was left off because it generated some strange and unnatural looking artifacts in some scenes that we, and I suspect most videophiles, would prefer to do without. The picture had better integrity with it off. Those artifacts did not appear with the auto iris on the 6030, so Adaptive Contrast and the auto iris do not have identical effects on picture quality.

Posted Feb 7, 2014 6:16:17 AM

By Bill Kirsch

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Hey Evan, I received my 6030 about a month ago and I absolutely love it. For the money I don't think I could could do any better.

Looking at the calibration settings I see that on the Runco you have Adaptive Contrast set to "Off" and on the Epson you have Auto Iris set to "High Speed". Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the adaptive contrast setting on the Runco the same basic idea as auto iris on the Epson? Is there a specific reason you left it off on the Runco?

Bill

Posted Feb 6, 2014 2:56:51 PM

By Joe Smith

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Excellent work by Projector Central again !

It's about time that more of these fraud brands like Runco get exposed for making over prices products that do Nothing except cost you more money.

How many other hundreds of products are out there in the Audio Video Industry that are just like Runco? way overpriced with no benefit !

they didn't even put FI on the Runco? what an embarassment !

Posted Feb 4, 2014 9:32:11 PM

By Harold

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Evan, I am unsure what is meant by wide angle v telephoto. I have a 6030 ceiling mounted 12f 6in from a 110 in 1.0 screen. My only complaint in thx mode is I don't find the image bright enough. My room is 17 f. If I were to mount the projector further away from the screen, say at 16 feet, then I would have to back off the zoom to fill the screen and would then get a higher lumen output? I would have thought the closer the pj is to the screen, the higher the output. Please set me straight on this, thanks

Posted Feb 2, 2014 4:49:23 PM

By DavidK

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Ouch! Not often do you see such a spanking...or a review site willing to make the head to head comparison in the first place. The level of audio video performance available to us common folk is truly astounding. Thank you for providing a rational view point.

Posted Jan 31, 2014 4:33:25 PM

By Jim Chatterton

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I notice that you use the OPPO BDP 103. Have you checked out the 103D? I''m curious if it's worth the extra cost. Always look forward to your reviews.

Posted Jan 31, 2014 2:45:00 PM

By Ryan

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Hi Evan,

Thank you for the response. We have a large room with 2 windows on the side so there will be some ambient light, but I've ordered a 120" black diamond. I ordered our Epson 6030 online because of a special, but our installers were dealers so I'm a little worried on how well they'll know how to calibrate it. You speak about the maximum for telephoto lens. How is that done w/ this projector? I'm assuming you are saying we would need to zoom more because it's in the back of the room at 20 feet?

In your tests how did the 6030 do when watching the NFL game? I'll be doing more TV/Sports than movies so I'm curious what you thought and at 20 feet do you think I'll need to go into a brighter mode since I could lose 20-40% of the light output?

Posted Jan 31, 2014 1:49:10 PM

By Evan Powell, Editor

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Ryan, you can easily mount the 6030UB 20 feet from the screen. How much light is lost in the zoom lens depends on the screen size. If your screen is 200" diagonal, you will be using the wide angle end of the lens and no light is lost. If you screen is 100" diagonal, you will need to use the telephoto end of the zoom. All long zoom lenses curtail light output as you move them toward the telephoto end of the range. On the 6030UB, you lose about 20% of the light at the zoom's mid-point, and 40% of the light at the maximum telephoto position. This is normal for a 2.1x lens.

Whether the light loss is an issue to worry about depends on your room's ambient light, screen type and size, and so on. If you were to use the calibrations we used in this test for Living Room mode, and also use the maximum telephoto end of the lens, you would net out 840 lumens. That is plenty bright for dark room theater on a 120" 1.3 gain screen.

HD 1080p resolution is very high resolution for video, but relatively low resolution compared to the precision of today's optics. The position of the zoom is not going to impact the perceived sharpness of the image.

The professional custom installers who sell the 6030UB can help you sort out these details better than we can in a blog post. We encourage you to give them a call and have a more detailed conversation about your installation.

Posted Jan 31, 2014 1:40:55 PM

By Evan Powell, Editor

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Ryan, you can easily mount the 6030UB 20 feet from the screen. How much light is lost in the zoom lens depends on the screen size. If your screen is 200" diagonal, you will be using the wide angle end of the lens and no light is lost. If you screen is 100" diagonal, you will need to use the telephoto end of the zoom. All long zoom lenses curtail light output as you move them toward the telephoto end of the range. On the 6030UB, you lose about 20% of the light at the zoom's mid-point, and 40% of the light at the maximum telephoto position. This is normal for a 2.1x lens.

Whether the light loss is an issue to worry about depends on your room, screen type, and so on. If you were to use the calibrations we used for Living Room mode, and also use the maximum telephoto end of the lens, you would net out 840 lumens. That is plenty bright for dark room theater on a 120" screen. The professional custom installers who sell the 6030UB can help you sort out these details better than we can in a blog post.

Posted Jan 31, 2014 1:04:43 PM

By Ryan

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At the beginning of your article you talk about the Epson losing 20% of it's productivity the further back it goes. I'm getting this projector and wanted to put it back about 20 feet in our room which is within the throw distance that Epson & the other sites say it will work. I've heard that the further back projectors go you can lose light but you gain quality? If the 20 feet back is within the throw distance for the Epson do you think I'll lose over 20% of the light output? Basically, is it recommended to mount it that far from the screen? We just didn't want it stuck in the middle of the room because it's more of a game room w/ a lot of foot traffic vs a traditional media room. Thanks for your help

Posted Jan 31, 2014 5:47:39 AM

By Kelvin Pena

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Hi Evan,

I purchased the projector based on your review and I couldn't be happier!!!

I noticed that the Dynamic Iris defaults to "OFF" for most color modes (except Dynamic).

Do you guys recommend leaving it off for the "Living Room" and "THX" modes or would you set it to high for those color modes as well?

Thanks again for all your help!

Kelvin

Posted Jan 31, 2014 2:54:23 AM

By lordvador

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American technology verse Japanese technology. Thats the answer.

Posted Jan 30, 2014 3:06:22 PM

By William Armstrong

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Thank you for your service...your review seems to support the opinion I have heard expressed by many others that Runco projectors, in spite of their high cost, offer no compelling advantages versus Epson and JVC. JVC offers the best 2D image and shorter viewing distances at a reasonable cost and Epson is the best bang for your buck with some small compromises in black level and dynamic contrast.

Posted Jan 30, 2014 3:06:15 PM

By Tbone85

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Interesting comparison. I'd be curious to see if it would have made any difference if you'd equalized light output by knocking the Runco output back via a neutral density filter instead of running the Epson in a sub-optimal picture mode.

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