Home Theater Projectors

"Not Recommended"

Runco VX-1c and VX-101c

Runco Reflection VX-1c. At a retail price of $17,000, the VX-1c is the most expensive single-chip DLP projector on the market today. Its native resolution is XGA, it is rated at 1000 ANSI lumens and has a contrast ratio of 500:1. The VX-1c is HDTV compatible and will take a 480p signal, but it does not have DVI. The VX-1c comes with a separate video controller that allows a variety of inputs to be connected, switched, and scaled to the native resolution of the display.

In general we would encourage buyers to compare of any of the high-end brand DLPs being quoted for $10,000 and up to commercial-branded DLPs such as the NEC LT150 and the InFocus LP350, currently selling on the street for under $5,000 (prices volatile and subject to rapid change--always talk to dealers).

For example, the LP350 is an XGA-resolution single-chip DLP projector like the VX-1c. It is rated at 1300 ANSI lumens which is just a bit brighter than the VX-1c. Its contrast rating is 400:1, slightly less than the Runco. The LP350 will not take a 480p signal like the VX-1c will, but it does have DVI capability that the VX-1c does not.

The LP350 has no external video processor. However it has a superb line doubler and scaler on-board. The LP350 does not have the connectivity that the VX-1c derives from the separate video processor.

However, this is not a spec battle. The real question is which projector delivers the better picture? The answer is simple: they are pretty much the same. Both projectors are weak in color accuracy. Both will look about the same if screened side-by-side. You will not see a difference in image brightness, contrast, or resolution when playing video material.

The VX-1c should in theory have a slight edge in 480p. But if you feed 480p from a DVD player into the VX-1c, and simultaneously feed S-video from that same player into the LP350, the pictures won't look much different on the screen due to the LP350's extraordinary doubling and scaling capabilities. And if you have a DVI source on the LP350, it will be sharper and more stable than any 480-line analog source on the VX-1c. Indeed, if they were set up and demonstrated this way, most observers would probably guess the LP350 to be the more expensive projector.

How is it that a $4,500 projector can match or even outperform a $17,000 competitor? The problem is that the digital projector revolution does not accommodate the high-end marketing/distribution infrastructure very well. LCD and DLP projectors can be produced at a fraction of the cost of CRTs. They can be marketed in larger volumes and at lower prices. They are small and simple. They can be sold on the Internet and shipped anywhere. They can be installed by the buyer, and even reasonably well calibrated by the buyer with a little attention and instruction (watch this site for calibration information-coming soon).

Meanwhile, the high-end vendors are producing digital projector products and marketing them through low-volume custom installers and high-end home theater specialty dealers as if they were finicky labor-intensive CRTs. The mark-ups (not only for Runco but for other traditional high-end brands as well) are due in large part to the expense of marketing their brands and distributing through specialty resellers. All of this leaves the uninformed consumer in a tenuous position. People will tend to believe that premium prices from high-end resellers will guarantee premium performance. At this juncture, such is not the case.

Runco Reflection VX-101c. The VX-101c is the lower cost SVGA resolution DLP projector in Runco's line. It is 800 ANSI lumens with a contrast of 500:1. It has limited functionality for home theater in that it is not HDTV or EDTV compatible. This is a remarkable omission for a product priced at $10,000 and being sold to the home theater market. Runco has addressed this with a separate upgrade, costing another $1,800. So the VX-101c with HDTV upgrade is priced at $11,800.

The buyer interested in the VX-101c is encouraged to benchmark it against the InFocus LP340, which currently sells at street prices below $3,000. The LP340 has the same SVGA DLP chip, and a 1300 ANSI lumen rating which is brighter than the VX-101c. It is HDTV compatible and will take a DVI signal. It will not accept 480p. However the LP340 has an outstanding line doubler and scaler on board just as the LP350 does. We believe that, despite a $9,000 difference in price, many buyers seeing them side-by-side would judge the InFocus LP340 to be the better projector.