HOME > Ambient Light Rejection screens from Elite, Screen Innovations, and Microlite
Ambient Light Rejection Screens
August 5, 2015,
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been expanded and updated to include eleven current models of ALR screens. Please click here for the new review.) 3/03/16
Back in 2011, Microlite filed a patent for a new optical screen technology. This caused a stir in the A/V world, but no products were made available at that time. Today, the company is in full swing. Though they are a young company, Microlite has established a real presence in the market and appears to have every intention of sticking around. The company now has a headquarters in California as well as US-based customer support and sales - all very good signs.
The Microlite F2.0 is an optical ALR screen ("optical" meaning it contains lenses) with a gain of 1.8. Microlite also offers another material, the F3.0, which has higher gain and ISF certification, though we did not get a chance to test it. Microlite screens are available for direct sale via the company's website until their distribution network expands, at which point they will be sold through authorized resellers. Though not exactly cheap, the company's products perform exceptionally well - and cost less than ALR screens from several big-name competitors.
The Microlite F2.0 is packaged well and comes with everything you need to put it together. Inside the box are two allen wrenches, two pairs of cloth gloves, and two custom tools that help attach the screen material to the frame. All of the frame bracket screws are already seated in their holes. All of the screen material attachment points are already in the correct channels within the frame. All sharp corners on the frame itself are either rounded over or covered with black velvet. The kit includes at least one spare for each hardware piece. Plastic sheeting and foam are included to shield the screen material from the floor. In short, the whole package is about as professional as it gets.
Assembly took less than 45 minutes. The frame bolts together using corner brackets, and the screen attaches to the frame with thick rubber bands. These bands essentially float the material in the frame and prevent ripples. The instructions suggest you have two people assemble the screen, but I did it myself by taking my time and being careful.
Optical Screen. Simply put, an optical screen contains lens elements that help to direct light where it needs to go. The specific makeup of the F2.0's layers gives it a larger viewing cone than the other screens in the shootout as well as better ambient light rejection capabilities. This most often manifests as higher contrast in bright rooms.
Despite being an optical screen, the Microlite F2.0 material can still be rolled up and shipped in a standard screen box. That helps to keep shipping costs down.
Wide-angle viewing. The construction of the Microlite screen gives it an impressively wide half-gain angle of 113 degrees. The half-gain angle is the angle at which an image on screen appears half as bright as it does when viewed from the center position. This is quite the accomplishment for an ALR screen, as they typically rely on a combination of high gain and reduced diffusion to direct light where it's wanted.
Semi-rigid material. Because of the nature of the Microlite F2.0's composition, it is not as flexible as most screen materials. As such, it can be kinked or bent if you aren't careful - and once it's damaged, there's no going back. Microlite warns of this possibility in the manual and states that any damage caused by improper installation will void the warranty. In other words, it pays to be careful with this stuff.
Oil slick. The very first ALR screens all had a shimmery appearance that made the screen surface appear oily or pearlescent. The Microlite F2.0 shows a slight trace of this effect, though it's nowhere near as bad as those early screens were. However, if you are familiar with the oil slick effect and know that it bothers you, it's definitely something to be aware of.
Fixed Frame Only (for now). Currently, you can only order the Microlite screen in a fixed frame. For an additional 15%, you can also get a curved version. Microlite plans to make their screens available in motorized, zero-edge, and infinite (small rigid panels that lock together to make custom sizes). But for now, if you want a Microlite screen, you'll have to make do with fixed frame.
No LED kit. The other two screens in this shootout either come with an LED kit or can be ordered with LEDs as an option. However, the other two screens use thin-bezel frames, and both cost quite a bit more than the Microlite. If the LED option is a must-have for you, you can pick up your own strip of RGB LEDs from any number of Internet vendors (here's an example on Amazon) for about $25 and attach them to the screen yourself.
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