There are two misconceptions about projection-based home theaters. The first is that they’re only suited to dark, dedicated rooms. The second is that all screens are essentially the same. This year’s CEDIA Expo proved both of those ideas are seriously flawed.
Why? Because screen manufacturers showed up with a wide assortment of new materials and applications that make projection video systems viable for nearly anywhere (I’ll get to the projectors themselves in a separate story).
Projection screens, when installed correctly and matched with the right components, are superior to flat panel TVs in almost every way. They’re bigger (with a few extreme exceptions flat panel TVs max out at 90 inches.), can offer a better picture, are easier to conceal, take no wires (unless motorized) and can be cheaper per square inch (depending on the projector) than good flat panel TVs. They also provide much greater emotional impact and immersion for the viewer.
But what if you want to watch video in a non-dark room? No problem, there are ambient light rejecting screens for that. What about outside? Again, no problem—weather-proof and wind-proof screens are available. What if you don’t want your speakers to stand out in the room? Easy, get an acoustically transparent screen and put the speakers behind it. What if you want to hide your screen? There are retractable screens at a wide variety of price options.
All of which means that picking a screen for your home theater or media room (or bedroom, backyard, library, yacht…) is a lot more complicated than it used to be years ago. In the old days (just a few years ago really) you either went with a matte white screen or a gray screen. White screens were for dark caves and gray screens helped boost contrast on weaker projectors and helped a little with ambient light.
Then came different variations of gray in different gains (the amount of light the screen reflects back), better acoustically transparent materials (for hiding the speakers behind the screen) and angular reflection screens (that reject light coming from anywhere but from the direction of the projector).
All that variation is designed mostly for matching the projector’s capabilities to the screen and the room lighting conditions. Once that’s setting you need to consider the installation and aesthetic needs of the room. Fixed, wall-mounted screens are still the most common in dedicated home theaters, but dedicated theater rooms are now being overshadowed by multipurpose media rooms. For places where watching a big picture isn’t the only, or even the primary, use of the room, motorized screens that drop from the ceiling or raise from a cabinet or piece of furniture are now very common for hiding a screen when not in use.
However, fixed screens that look more like flat panel TVs are the current rage. Screen Innovations’ Zero Edge screen, which only has a minimal bezel around the edge, started the trend, and now most major screen companies offer something similar.
Last week at the CEDIA Expo we saw such a cool variety of new screen materials and solutions that we had to round them up for you here. Check out the slideshow for more details on the newest home theater projection screens.
Also Check Out:
Understanding Home Theater Screen Selection
What to Expect During Your Home Theater or Tech Project
Where Are the 4K Home Theater Projectors?
Choose Vertical or Horizontal Masking?
Front Projection Basics
Great Basement Home Theaters
Planning a Home Theater the THX Way
Follow Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.