Runco Plasma TV Review

Model: Runco SP-50 and SP-50XA Cinema Wall Plasma Television
Description: 50” Runco Plasma Television
Resolution: 1365 X768
Dimensions with Stand: Attachable "feet" add 1.8” to height.
Dimensions without Stand: 30"H X 49"W X 4" Depth
Includes: Includes "feet" to use as stand. Does not include speakers but does have built in amplifiers for optional speaker attachment. 2 DVI inputs rather than HDMI.
Computer Input: Yes (DVI)
Color: Frame has Matt Black brushed metal finish
Power Consumption: 377 watts
Reviewer: Robert Wiley


The Runco SP-50 plasma television is a current model that began product life in early 2007. Due to the company’s smaller product production, Runco does not change model lineup as frequently as larger manufacturers. As a result model life is often a year and a half or more. This is not necessarily a negative if the models produced are of excellent quality and price corrections are made along a product models life cycle to stay in line with other manufacturers. New model production is one way that larger TV manufacturers control price reductions.

The plasma display element (i.e. glass) contained in the Runco SP-50 is likely manufactured by NEC/Pioneer. The resolution of 1365 X 768 is the same as an NEC/Pioneer resolution and the XA model is an high altitude model rated to use up to 9000 feet. This is also the same specification as NEC’s high altitude model. As well, there were many similarities between the NEC and Runco’s menu design, setup and functionality.


Test and Optimum Viewing Distance: 12 feet

Picture Calibration: The Runco SP-50 plasma comes pre set out of the box to 0 values in the setup menu. Menu settings are not preset to obnoxiously high contrast ratios and brightness levels as most consumer models due to the fact that Runco TVs are not displayed on showroom floors of big box retail stores. There are also no preset picture settings such as Vivid, Standard, Cinema as with most consumer models. Indeed the picture setting menu is very tight on this plasma TV meaning the spectrum of possible adjustment is small. For instance I recognized almost no difference in edge enhancement capabilities when adjusting the Sharpness setting from –7 to +7 – the minimum to maximum adjustment. Tight picture settings are not necessarily an adverse circumstance if the starting picture color temperature and grayscale are in an accurate range. This is the case with the Runco SP-50. The following adjustments fine-tuned the picture to plus/minus 185K of optimal D6500K:

In Set Up Menu: First, set the Color Temp: Mid Low (change from factory preset middle setting. This setting is the most dramatic picture setting change available. Make this change before the picture setting adjustments.)
Second, set the Energy Mode: Auto 1

In Picture Menu:

Contrast: +4
Brightness: - 3
Color: +2
Tint: +2
Sharpness: 0

Up conversion from 480i and 480p: Images from the difficult and rough 1997 Warner Home Video DVD Risky Business via 480 progressive input through component inputs showed very smooth. The Runco plasma’s internal processing and scaling was very efficient in taking out motion artifacts that can show up with this DVD. Colors were realistic and reds popped but were not over saturated, as is often the case. Flesh tones were accurate, and realistic. There was a slight haziness to the screen but it was not distracting. There was no shutter effect as I viewed background windows with blinds. Overall I felt it was a smooth clear reproduction produced with some high level processing. It’s good to see manufacturers not overlook processing of the lowly 480i and 480p signals.

Runco Plasma Review

720p/1080i/1080p Picture Quality: Set up and testing showed a slightly better picture using 1080i than 720p. We viewed a recent Blu Ray disc version of The Manchurian Candidate which has a tremendous variation in color and dark shades. Black levels produced by the Runco were extremely deep with the digital HDMI (to DVI) signal. Blacks appear over saturated against bright backgrounds in some scenes such that the plasma television lost shadow detail in the navy officers uniform of Denzel Washington’s character. As a result of the incredibly deep blacks, which I would expect from the NEC/Pioneer panel, there was excellent contrast and color information was extraordinary.

Runco Plasma Display

Black Level: As mentioned, the black level was excellent if not over saturated in some cases. The contrast provided by the deep, deep black levels was awesome. Resultant color information appears extremely vibrant. Some darker material did drift to black appearance rather than maintaining its intended color hue.

Dark Shadow Detail: The Runco plasma lost a few points here. Black levels as mentioned got over saturated in some scenes reducing detail in dark areas. The issue varied between scene and content. This was more apparent with HD content through HDMI to DVI connection than other sources.

Color Rendition/Color Accuracy: Colors were vibrant though realistic – a perfect combination. Flesh tone accuracy was excellent.

Viewing Angle/Off Axis Viewing: Perfect 170 degrees.

Motion Lag: Though there was no motion lag, there was a slightly noticeable slideshow bumping effect with a few scenes when panning slowly up and down, or side-to-side. This could result from a low frame rate conversion.

False Contouring/ Mapping: There was no false contouring/mapping issue before or after calibration of the plasma. On another positive note, there is little to no edge enhancement technology, or other such “picture enhancement” technology built in the Runco plasma to cause false edges, artificial artifacts, ghosting or other potential built in processing problems.

Scaling: The Runco SP-50 has more distinctive scaling options than we have seen on a flat screen television. The Runco WideVision scaling technology includes the following aspect ratio options: 1) 16:9 (Anamorphic) 2) 4:3 3) Letterbox 4) Virtual Wide – scales 4:3 images non-linearly 5) Virtual Cinema – stretches 16:9 in both directions 6) 14:9 – this is one I haven’t seen. It scales the signal to fit in the center of the 16:9 size format 7) Pix by Pix – useful for computer screen image with no resizing.


Inputs: This plasma TV contains essential 2 DVI, 1 HD Component, 1 RGB 15 pin D-sub, and an RS 232. This is a modest input selection. The DVI inputs offer only a slight drawback since the plasma does not have built in speakers (thus not carrying audio from HDMI to DVI). However, the purchaser will have to do a little extra diligence to source the HDMI to DVI cable for HD digital output from a cable or satellite box. 1 Component input is feeble.

Aesthetic Considerations: I really liked the non-gloss finish on the bezel of the Runco plasma for the simple reason that there is no reflection from posterior room lighting. The metallic matte finish looks expensive (and it is). It has the look and feel of rack space components, which I’m sure Runco was striving for. The frame has nice symmetry too being the same width all the way around. One significant drawback here is that the bezel/frame size is too wide at 2.75”.

Runco Plasma

Remote Control/Menu Functionality: The included remote control is small, deplete of input buttons and cheap looking. Most will choose a universal remote control for use with this TV, but it would be nice if this were not a necessity when purchasing a premium model TV. Menu functionality was simple and easy. Control options were tight. There is so little setting flexibility that I have to call it a negative. On the flip side of the same coin, though, the user or installer will not be able to negatively impact the image to a poor performance point. Let’s just call it highly restricted.

Runco Plasma Remote

Audio Output: There are no included speakers with the plasma. Optional speakers are available and the plasma houses two built in 9W amplifiers to power the optional speakers.

Features: There is a Picture in Picture option with this plasma but not many extra features to play with. Settings for individual inputs are discrete.


Runco recently dropped the MSRP price on the SP-50 to $4495.00. The picture is very good but the feature set is nothing special and certainly this is a premium branded price. The XP-50DHD 1080p plasma from Runco has an MSRP of $8995.00 making the SP-50 look like a bargain. The top 3 selling tier 1 brands of plasma in 1080p sell for an average of $2700 and an average 720p from the same manufacturers sells for $1800. At a premium price at around 3 times that of these tier one manufacturers we believe the premium asked is severe.

The Runco does have excellent processing, the biggest discernable difference being up conversion of lower end 480i signals. With an HD quality signal differences appear minor.


Rating scale from 70 (denoting poorest quality) to 100 (signifying the very best quality). A rating in the 60s for any particular category of a product review indicates a serious defect which causes the product not to operate properly. Picture quality is double-weighted in the Overall Rating Score calculation.

Review Equipment Used: Sony Blu Ray BDP-S1 High Definition DVD player, Sony DVP-S50 DVD player, JVC HM-DH40000U HD Video Cassete player, Sencore Color Pro 5000, Sencore Auto Cal Pro, Sencore signal generator.

This review format and all of the headings, sub headings and paragraph titles are part of a copyrighted process. Any unauthorized reproduction or use, either in full or in part, of this product review format is expressly prohibited.

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