PROJECTION SCREEN REVIEWS

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Michael P. Hamilton Posted: Mar 15, 2016 3 comments

Performance
Setup
Value
PRICE $2,257 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Uncanny ability to make any projection technology look exemplary
Greatly enhances contrast and black level, even with budget projectors
Easy assembly with superb fit and finish
Performance enhancement that would be banned if projection video were a sport
Minus
Slightly pearlescent sheen with some high-brightness, fully saturated, high-motion scenes
That it has appeared only recently

THE VERDICT
If you need evidence that a high-quality ambient-light-rejecting screen can give spectacular results with an entry-level projector, look no further than the SSE Ambient-Visionaire Black 1.2.

“Is this heaven?” John Kinsella unwittingly asks his son, Ray, in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams. “It’s Iowa,” Ray answers. Turning slowly to walk away, John halts, replying, “Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.”

Michael P. Hamilton Posted: Oct 12, 2015 2 comments

Performance
Setup
Value
PRICE $3,138 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Exquisite color rendering
Solid black level with a tremendous sense of image depth
Glare-free viewing with sensible ambient light level
Minus
Pricey compared with Elite’s traditional screen materials, though in line with or cheaper than some other ALR solutions

THE VERDICT
No misgivings apply to this multi-layer, firm-surfaced material. Every atom of detail in the source reflects back with seemingly free, bonus lumens. If there’s color shift at extreme angles, it’s only measureable, not noticeable.

High light-output capabilities and receding prices in the DLP and LCD projector camps have recently broadened the application possibilities for two-piece projection video. One facet of design garnering prominent attention from screen manufacturers is ambient light rejection (ALR) technology, which allows a projector/screen combo to function as the big-screen TV in a multipurpose room the way a flat-panel TV might—though at a potentially much larger size.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jun 16, 2015 2 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $549

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stupidly simple setup/takedown
Machine-washable screen material
Front- or rear-projection configuration
Minus
Thin (though strong) aluminum poles

THE VERDICT
Affordable, easy to set up, and convenient to transport, this huge screen has an awesome picture and provides more fun than just about anything else you can do outdoors with your clothes on. What more could you want?

Not everyone is as keen on outdoor televisions as I am. In fact, most people with whom I’ve discussed the subject have walked away convinced that I was a blithering idiot—or, at least, more of a blithering idiot than I’d previously proven myself to be. On the other hand, the folks who’ve had the chance to watch a movie or a playoff game on one of the outdoor TVs I’ve tested over the years have invariably come away from the experience with a totally different (ahem) outlook. For those of us who have watched TV au naturel, there is nothing ridiculous, extravagant, or abnormal about it. It’s just one heck of a good time.

Kris Deering Posted: Oct 31, 2014 5 comments

Performance
Setup
Value
PRICE $3,097 (as reviewed)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Pristine image with no obvious artifacts
Nearly perfect brightness and color uniformity
Minus
Performance hinges a lot on room
May not provide the gain needed to achieve desired brightness

THE VERDICT
The StudioTek 100 provides the most accurate picture I’ve ever seen from a screen at home. While it demands a truly dark viewing environment—and a bright projector—it’s worth the effort if you want the best image possible.

Your video playback system is like any other part of your home theater: It is only as good as its weakest component. In the last five years, massive improvements have been made in both video sources and playback systems, but we’ve also seen a huge growth in the options for projection screen materials. There are new designs that bring great flexibility, allowing customers to do front projection in rooms that they never would have considered before. But most of the time, just like with fancy video processing, these new, exotic materials give you one thing but take away another, imparting visible artifacts to the image such as sparkles, texturing, and hotspotting.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 25, 2014 0 comments
Performance
Setup
Value
PRICE $2,049 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superb color and contrast with room lights out
Lights-on viewing can be more satisfying than with a conventional screen
Minus
Don’t expect miracles: Lights-out viewing still offers a superior picture

THE VERDICT
No screen can provide a projector’s best performance in normal room lighting, but the Screen Innovations Slate takes aim at this goal and, though not scoring a bull’s-eye, comes closer than most.

The surest route to realizing a knockout, big-picture home theater is to install a separate projector and screen. Once you’ve experienced it, you’ll wonder how you were ever satisfied with a “tiny” flat-screen HDTV.

Up until a few years ago, the biggest obstacle to realizing that ideal was the price of a good projector. Today, however, you can buy an excellent projector for under $3,000, and although that’s not chicken feed, it’s within the reach of many serious home theater enthusiasts. But what was once a secondary stumbling block is now front and center: the need for a fully darkened room to wring the best performance out of that projector. With most projection screens, there’s little choice, and this has kept home projection a niche market.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 17, 2014 4 comments

Performance
Setup
Value
PRICE $1,675

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent picture quality
Competitive with Stewart’s upmarket designs
Minus
Varied sizes and configurations but no custom options

THE VERDICT
Stewart Filmscreen’s Cima lineup offers fewer options than the company’s long-respected but more expensive designs, but it makes Stewart’s pristine image quality now available to a wider range of buyers.

What can one say about a projection screen? Quite a lot, actually. A screen is much more than a bedsheet or the nearest white wall. While it can’t improve the quality of a projector, it can, if poorly designed, most certainly degrade it.

Screens can be solid or (mostly) acoustically transparent. They can be white or various shades of gray (the latter often incorporating special treatments designed to improve performance in a less than ideally darkened room). They’re available in a wide range of gains—1.0 for more or less neutral performance or higher values to enhance brightness from a less than torch-like projector and/or a super-large screen.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 04, 2014 2 comments

Performance
Setup
Value
PRICE $2,773 (varies with size and configuration)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Places center dialogue where it belongs
Good sound transparency
Minus
Light easily passes through it
Needs a bright projector to look its best

THE VERDICT
Acoustically transparent screens aren’t for everyone. None of them is totally transparent to sound, and all of them—this Seymour no less so than others—allow some light from the projector to pass through. But if your system demands such a screen, the Seymour is well worth a close look.

At the 2013 CEDIA Expo, many of the home theater demos used acoustically transparent screens. And a number of them—including those from Wisdom Audio, Datasat, and Digital Projection—used screens from Seymour-Screen Excellence.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 13, 2013 5 comments

Performance
Setup
Value
Price: $1,600 At A Glance: Outstanding picture at any viewing angle • Cinematic curvature • Excellent value

At one time, two of my favorite Los Angeles–area theaters were in Westwood: the Village and the National. The Village had, and still has, a huge, flat screen. The National (tragically closed and torn down in 2008) had a gently curved one of about the same size. While the Village had the more awesome audio, I always preferred the subtly more immersive visual presentation at the National.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 13, 2013 3 comments

Performance
Setup
Value
Price: $2,899 At A Glance: viewable with ambient lighting • Works best with carefully planned lighting • Image dims significantly from center screen to the side

The best projection quality has always required a completely darkened room. This takes the edge off that Super Bowl party, with guests stumbling around in the dark spilling their buttered popcorn and drinks in your lap.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 27, 2012 9 comments

Stewart Active 170 3D
Performance
Setup
Value


Da-Lite High Power
Performance
Setup
Value
Stewart Filmscreen Reflections Active 170 3D
Price: Varies by size, type (see review) At A Glance: Higher gain than popular StudioTek 130 G3 • Good off-axis performance and color uniformity • Noticeable hot spot

Da-Lite High Power
Price: Varies by size, type (see review) At A Glance: High Gain • Picture darkens visibly off-axis • Hotspotting virtually undetectable

We’ve come a long way from the days when screens were an afterthought. I imagine there are still a few enthusiasts who cut their projection teeth on a sheet or a bare white wall, or even an old, beaded, home-movie screen. Today we know better. The screen is a vital part of the projection setup.

Screens now come in a wide variety of sizes and characteristics. Their physical construction—fixed frame, retractable, flat or curved, masked or unmasked, perforated or not—is a subject for another day. There are also rear-projection screens. Here, however, we’re primarily concerned with the characteristics of the screen material itself, as used in front-projection setups, the type most commonly found in theaters, both commercial and home.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 12, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Setup
Value
Price: $2,699 At A Glance: Gets the black bars out • Solid value • Minor uniformity issues

Elite Screens may be less well known than some of the bigger names in the business, but they offer a wide range of projection screens for every application. Since their products are manufactured in China, they’re more than competitive in price. But this limits their ability to offer customization, such as sizes not included in their standard lineup.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 26, 2011 4 comments
Price: $2,199 At A Glance: Image pops with room lights on • Minimizes room reflections with lights off • Fixed frame—no retractable version

Lighten Up

Many of us will tolerate a projection system that requires a totally darkened room for movie watching. But when other family matters make this impossible, or when your buddies come over on a Sunday afternoon for the big game, how many of us are willing to totally blacken the room and leave everyone to stumble around in the dark?

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 19, 2010 2 comments
Projectors are great. Projectors are fun. Projectors give you a big, immersive, theatrical experience, which is what we all want from our home theater systems. Even a great flatscreen HDTV is just a television compared with the drama that a front-projection image provides.
Kris Deering Posted: Oct 20, 2008 1 comments
Make off like a bandit with a masked home theater.

I ’m always on the lookout for new and innovative improvements to make to my home theater. One of the best I’ve seen to date is from screen manufacturer Carada, which directly sells its products online and over the phone. The company’s Masquerade screen-masking system features motorized panels that eliminate those obnoxious black bars that appear when you watch a “scope” movie on a 16:9 screen. The system accommodates any projected aspect ratio between 1.78:1 and 2.70:1. It also provides a big increase in perceived contrast and depth. Additionally, Carada’s innovative, motorized system costs less than most motorized masking systems on the market. Since you can mount it over your existing fixed-screen frame, you won’t need to invest in a new frame or screen.

Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Jun 08, 2007 2 comments
Moving projectors into the light.

As much as I love projectors, most people feel they can’t live with one. Apparently, some people don’t like living in a completely light-controlled environment. Come on, caves are fun. Not convinced? Neither are most people. So enter a subcategory of the screen market—one that caters to those folks who want a big-screen image, without the cost of a flat panel and without the light requirements of a regular front-projection system. I wrote an article a few months ago on several screens that fit this niche. You can read that one here. Planar’s Xscreen takes a similar approach but adds a few different features.

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