EDITOR'S NOTE: The review below pertains to the 2009 version of Screen Innovations' Black Diamond screen material, which is no longer available for purchase. The Black Diamond screen currently available is a different product and this review does not reflect on its performance.
In February, we looked at Screen Innovations' Black Diamond II 0.8-gain ambient light screen shortly before it was released. Now, we're back in the lab with their 1.4-gain version of the same screen. This ambient light rejection (or "black") screen solves the brightness problem of the last model. It also expands the viewing angle, which frees up some of the restrictions and makes the screen easier to use. At $2699, it is priced like a high-end boutique product, but it delivers performance in line with its cost.
Ambient Light Rejection. The Black Diamond II incorporates technology that "rejects" ambient light. Any light which hits the screen from an oblique angle, such as that coming from above or off to one side, is not reflected back to the audience. During testing, very little ambient room light was reflected by the screen, though a light source to one side of the screen will cause more reflection than an overhead source. You will still want to avoid having a light source directly behind the projector, as the screen cannot differentiate between the projector's light and the room light and will reflect all of it towards your audience.
Higher contrast. In a home theater, several factors can contribute to loss of on-screen contrast, but the biggest one is ambient light. When ambient light hits a conventional screen, it washes out black levels and reduces contrast by significant amounts. By not reflecting a lot of the ambient light, the Black Diamond II should improve contrast. But can that difference be seen on the screen?
Our testing was performed in a setting representative of a DIY home theater; light control was good, but not perfect. Our basis for comparison was the Stewart Grayhawk RS, a highly-regarded top-tier home theater projector screen. Three different tests were performed - with all room lights off, with an overhead light turned on, and with a light at screen level, several feet away at a 45 degree angle. With the lights off, the Black Diamond II showed 40% higher contrast than the Grayhawk. However, when the lights came on, the Black Diamond II really started to show its stuff. Contrast dropped as expected on the Grayhawk, while the Black Diamond II held relatively steady. The result is that the Black Diamond II showed 70% higher contrast with either an overhead or oblique illumination source.
HD surface. As mentioned in the review of the 0.8-gain version, the Black Diamond II is an HD screen, which essentially means it has a very smooth surface that allows for the reflection of minute detail found in a high definition video image. Screens with a more noticeable surface texture can make an image appear less sharp and detailed. With the Black Diamond II you won't have to sacrifice picture detail to get ambient light performance.