Home Theater Projectors
News and Updates

June 10, 2003

Hi folks,

The industry has been busy with a couple of trade shows last week. Infocomm was held in Orlando, Florida, and the Home Entertainment Expo followed on its heels in San Francisco this past weekend. These shows always debut a variety of new products. Infocomm is generally more commercially oriented and more focused on projection and display technology. However a lot of home theater and consumer related products show up there as well. Optoma's H76 made its first appearance as we have discussed here earlier (see preview).

The Home Entertainment Expo tends to focus primarily on audio systems and components. However consumers have been increasing expenditures on large screen video solutions while reducing the percentage of their home theater budget allocated to audio. Thus there is an ever increasing presence of video products at this show as well.

A noteworthy series of competitive moves have been made by Runco. Runco has traditionally cultivated a strategic position as the premium supplier of high end home theater projection systems. It has promoted itself for many years as the elite brand of choice, and consumers have always paid a premium for the Runco label on the products they owned. While this strategic positioning will no doubt continue, Runco is broadening the scope of its digital projector product line in the lower price categories. Recently released products include the Reflection CL-710 ($10,995) and CL-710LT ($11,995, long throw lens option). These models feature TI's Mustang HD2 1280x720 chip, an 1800:1 contrast rating, 1000 ANSI lumens, and DVI input with HDCP.

In addition Runco has released the Reflection CL-510 ($5,995) and CL-510LT ($6,995, long throw lens option). These units incorporate TI's latest 16:9 aspect ratio Matterhorn chip (1024x576). They are rated at 1700:1 contrast and 900 ANSI lumens, and again both have DVI w/ HDCP.

Meanwhile Runco acquired the Vidikron label last year. Runco is now planning to roll out a line of Vidikron digital projectors as a second label featuring lower priced alternatives to the Runco brand. This will allow the company to expand distribution options and capture a piece of the larger volume mid-range market. The Vidikron Vision Model 40 ($6,995) and Model 20 ($5,995) will commence shipments next month. The Model 40 is another Mustang HD2 DLP machine, 1600:1 contrast and 950 ANSI lumens, and notably priced just $1000 above Optoma's aggressive H76 entry. The Model 20 is the Matterhorn chip edition, 1024x576 resolution, with 1500:1 contrast and 850 ANSI lumens.

All of this represents quite an interesting set of competitive moves by a company heretofor known for elite positioning and pricing. It certainly presents a marketing challenge to the other boutique high-end brands such as Sim2, Marantz, and DWIN. But more importantly it brings into focus a most significant question that will be on the minds of all consumers--what real performance differences are there between Mustang/HD2 based machines selling for $6,000 and those selling for twice that amount? In a side-by-side test can you even tell the difference between them? What other features do the higher priced units offer that might make them worth the extra money?

We will be giving these questions a lot of attention going forward. It is truly an interesting time in the home theater projector business!

Best regards,

Evan Powell