Runco enforces a very strict internet policy and can only be purchased from a Runco direct dealer. Because of this, Runco can protect any kind of price erosion caused by over distribution and competition in the marketplace. To the educated eye, Runco does have a nice product that when compared head to head with the Panasonics and Pioneers of the world does give you a better picture. In my opinion, the performance advantage does not warrant the premiums they command.
The plasma panel Runco uses is manufactured by Pioneer and NEC. Runco does add their own external glass, a nice bezel and an external video processor to help eliminate the stair stepping or pixelization that you are referring to.
Most of your tier one manufactures have decent video processing already in their plasmas.
The reason why most displays that you see in most retail establishments look bad is because of poor cabling, inferior choice of connectivity, lack of power conditioning, and a less than adequate source material.
In my opinion, one can achieve an image the quality of a Runco display by adding an aftermarket processor and have some enough extra pocket change for a top of the line DVD player, set top box and nice audio system.
Runco was using Panasonic glass. I think they have moved to Pioneer glass on their 43" models. Basically they are modding the video processors, scalers and power supplies to maximize the capability of the panels. The Vivix models have outboard processors and scalers that feed the panel video in it's native resolution. They gain the same type of benefits you get when going to seprate audio components like isolated noise. There are no limitations for cooling and space if they move the processing to an outboard box. They have been doing this type of modification to video projectors longer than anyone.
Yes, the picture is better. Yes, you will pay a premium for the Runco product and name. They do a lot of advertising and production runs are much smaller than buying anything from the big boys.
It's nearly impossible for Big box retailers to display product at it's best. Most places have 20+ TV's plugged into the same powerstrip. Who knows how bad the digital noise is from that alone. If you realy want to see quality, you need to find a specialized shop that knows what they are doing.
If you look at the Runco's head to head with new Pioneer elites, to my eye the elites actually have a better picture. I saw them side by side at a Runco dealer. The dealer preffered the Pioneer as well and casually mentioned that the current line of Runco plasmas are "hot rodded" Pioneers. Runco is coming out with new plasmas this year, don't know whose product they will hot rod and was told by the dealer that the new product will be significantly better than the current models. Who knows??
I happen to like Runco projectors and own one. With their projectors and plasma's they strip the guts out of all their products and you would not recognize the insides and internal components once they get done with it.
I agree with the previous post that you can do better than the current Runco's, save some $$ and upgrade somewhere else in your system. If you have the cash and time to wait, you may want to check out the new Runco plasmas when they come out later this year.
Thanks for the replies!
Absolutehd - I am certainly not surprised that all of the bigger electronics stores make poor choices with source, power, cables,etc. However, I am a very demo-focused person. In other words, if I can't go somewhere and see these mass-market TVs perform, I will not buy one.
So - Absolutehd, do you know if there are places I can go to see the Panasonic (or other cheaper plasmas) perform without the "stair stepping" or any other distracting artifacts? I live in the boston area
I plan on spending some time with my audio dealer who carries the Runco plasma line, but before dropping 10k on a 50" plasma, I'd like to see if the $4k models can have an adequate picture. If I can't see this anywhere, and Runco shows me a better image, then Runco will have my business. I am not interested in buying external processors - I'm interested in a 1-point solution with an excellent image.
The big retailers also set up the displays right out of the box without any attempt to do a proper setup. Shockingly, even my local Sony Style store does this. What are they thinking? A specialty home theatre shop, such as whomever you are working with on the Runco, should do a better job. Whether or not any of them carry the big name brands I can't say.
The picture I'm getting at home on my Hitachi 42" plasma is much better than anything I saw on any set during my shopping process. Oddly, I never seem to notice pixelization, although my wife does. I'm too absorbed in the gorgeous color from the plasma display.
Finding a good demonstration can be tough at times. I am not familiar with the Boston area but I'm sure that a dealer who specializes in high end audio gear would have any plasma set up properly. They usually will have brands like Marantz, Runco and Pioneer Elite on display. These brands are impossible to purchase through an internet dealer. They are not any better than the Panasonics, NECs or Pioneers that you see on line. Yes, many internet dealers advertise having the high end consumer lines, but they will not be able to deliver. This is why the high end retailer carries these brands.
The only differences between the Marantzs and Elites of the world are feature sets and bezel design in most cases. High end retailers do not want to carry the products you see on line because they cannot make any money on them. I definitely consider myself and audiophile first then videophile but personally would find it difficult to shall out the extra cash of a Runco or additional video processor. This is because video is evolving and improving so quickly. Major advancements are made every six months. In high end audio, I have no problem in spending $1000 on a set of speaker cables because in know that if will not be replaced by newer technology anytime soon.
Video processors or scalers do what they are supposed to do. My problem is that the improvement is very settle and you almost really need to want it to justify needing it. I would consider one on a large screen of maybe one bigger than 60 inches or so where we are really talking about a projector at that point. The exception would be if you are sitting less than 12 feet to a 50 plasma which is almost too close.
I would recommend on purchasing a 50 inch plasma by Panasonic, Pioneer, or NEC. Get a DVD player with DVI or HDMI out as well as a HD Set Top Box with the same. Put an antenna on your roof for local network HDTV broadcasts (its a better picture than satellite) and be happy. If you really get into video, you will replace everything in 18 to 24 months anyways. 1080p is incredible!
The only question I have is the mention above of Runco adding their own glass. What does that mean? The glass and pixel structure are the same thing- pixels are embedded in the glass. There are differences in pixel structure. color filter layer placement etc- but I wasnt aware you could seperate for example, a pioneer glass/pixel component and add on Runco glass.
A plasma is really three parts, the glass, the electronics, and the power supply. A big generalization to be sure but correct in concept.
All I can say is, at CES this year during the avsforum.com party, Sam Runco was joking with us ( from the stage of course) about how he would figure out a way to get our money. He was talking about the cinescope stuff and also some unmentioned stuff for DIYers who dont hire companies to do custom installs ( basically all of us at avsforum).
The point I am making is that all of us plasma folk at avs dont have Runcos because if you know how to set em up and know about DVD players ( the good the bad and the ugly) as well as other factors--there is NO visual benefit to owning a Runco say, over a Pioneer Elite, or a Panasonic for instance.
If there was a difference in PQ, it would at least be discussed in some detail, similar to Fujitsu used to be ( still a bit even today). Runco being more expensive is not why the avsforum posters don't own them.
Is there a forum that I can get help on setting up my Runco Pl 42? I just bought it from a friend a need a little help... I have had no luck searching the web so far. right now I have it hooked up to Comcasts DVR and I just ordered a pl 50 scaler for it. I notice after it warms up after an hour or so I see purple shadowing in bright white background, like clouds in the sky... Can anyone point me in the right direction?
Thanks... I do have to say Runco's customer service is stellar! They send me a setup manual and remote for free...