As much as you’d love a $20,000, four-way, motorized masking, curved CinemaScope screen for your theater, that’s a daydream for most. However, for less than a tenth of the cost you can still own a rock-solid projection screen.
The EZ-Frame screen products from Elite Screens look like they cost a whole lot more than they do, and their performance is on par with that. If you’re debating flat-panel TV versus projection, consider that a 100-inch EZ-Frame and modest high-def projector combo costs about as much as a quality 50-inch HDTV—only the picture is quadruple the size.
To test the installation rigors and performance, Elite sent me a 92-inch EZ-Frame regular white matte, 16:9 fixed screen. You may get away with doing the install yourself; I enlisted colleague Bob Archer to make it an easier two-man job.
If you’re installing it in a basic theater room like mine, screen assembly and mounting will be no sweat. Elite marketing manager David Rodgers says most custom electronics pros can zip through it in 30 minutes to an hour. Bob and I weren’t that speedy, but even as novices it took us less than two hours.
After unboxing and laying the contents on the floor—most theaters will have more breathing room than mine for this—we started attaching the horizontal velour-surfaced aluminum frames, which come in two pieces, and then the vertical sides. The only knock was that in one corner not every screw hole aligned perfectly; but overall fastenings were plenty tight so leaving one screw out wouldn’t hinder the installation.
It took about 35 minutes to assemble the frame, insert the tension rods and carefully unroll the screen (you want as little debris in contact as possible), and we were on to the tensioning. Attaching the fix plates into the frame slots for this task was much more difficult, but the process still only required about 40 minutes, despite our breaking a handful of the plastic pieces and feeling like our thumbs were about to fall off.
Wall hanging proved simple with the 2-inch flat strap sliding brackets, and after measuring, leveling and mounting, the screen was ready for action. At the time of this review, I’d used it with a BenQ mini LED projector and an Anthem LTX 300v D-ILA model, running the gamut at about $500 and $6,500, respectively (and I’ve since used another high-performance model, DreamVision’s StarLight). Having projected the BenQ onto my white wall, the addition of the screen made a noticeable improvement in picture clarity and brightness, plus framing the image in black provided boost in contrast.
In handling the much higher-performance Anthem 1080p unit, this value screen has been nothing less than a champ—it looks like a really crisp, really large LCD. One of its merits as a bargain performer is that you can put that extra cash toward a better projector.
Blu-ray, HD DVD, cable, and PC content of varying resolutions was rendered smoothly and brightly, with nice color uniformity and no hot spotting.
If you’re worried about not having an always-dark dedicated theater, I found that even with a can ceiling light turned on inches in front of this screen, the image was highly viewable, so higher-gain options ought to work exceedingly well under ambient light conditions—another plus for the screen side of the debate.
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.