A couple of comments. It was mentioned that Runco plasmas have external controllers. All Runco plasmas don't have external controllers. The SP-50 for example does not.
Influence, I'm wondering if you by chance saw last year's model Runco when you did a comparison. They clearly had higher black levels than the Fujitsu. The new models that were introduces in November of last year appear to be based on Pioneer's current panels and the blacks are very good. I don't know the data comparing the previous gen Panasonic glass in the Fujitsu compared to the newer Pioneer glass in the Runco, but subjectively the Runco blacks look better on most content. Moreover, I notice less glare off the Runco which makes blacks look even better in more lighting conditions. The Runco also has quite a sharp picture. I thought it was just as sharp as the Fujitsu when I compared them. I don't like soft pictures at all. In fact, I returned the Pioneer 5070 because I thought it was too soft. This is why I wonder if you may have seen last year's model.
Occasionally when playing around with the Runco I find other cool features. For example, one can setup a quick swap button on the remote to switch between any
two frequently used inputs, it has a limited PIP function, etc. I also can't believe how fast the Runco is in operation compared to the Fujitsu as well. If you care about this type of thing, the Runco is truly faster at just about every operation from displaying channels on changes, changing aspect ratios, changing inputs, etc.
In addition, the Runco scores exceptionally well on the HQV tests and actually beats the Fujitsu in this regard. I imagine that makes sense as it looks like Silicon Optix provides processing for the Runco from what I've read. I did see a Silicon Optix chip on the board Runco replaced for me to address a problem I was having with one of the DVI inputs.
The bad thing is that it's expensive...especially with others dropping prices (unless Runco has done the same). Having said that, I brought home 6 plasmas and could not personally find one I thought was better at local dealers. The FHD1 was very good, but at my distances I don't think it was better, and, at the time, it was more expensive and didn't fit into my cabinet.
I don't mean to sound like a Runco commercial. I've tried to provide constructive feedback on other plasmas I've evaluated as well. I'm just hoping to provide some feedback for anyone looking at plasmas in this range and who is not planning to wait for next generation technology. IMHO, it would be a big mistake not to have a look at the Runco. The Fujitsu and the Pioneer FHD1 are great as well.
Here are a few side-by-side pictures of the Fujitsu and the Runco. This wasn't done in ideal conditions and they aren't the best pictures, but I was just looking for different things like black level, false-contouring, etc. and decided to take a few snaps so I remembered differences between the plasmas. Neither plasma had been professionally calibrated. The images are from different quality sources including SDTV, HDTV, and HD DVD.Fujitsu and Runco Comparison Pics