Carada, Inc.

Evan Powell, May 27, 2004

Carada is a new player in the screen business that has recently gained a wide following on the Internet. The company's success to date has been based upon a combination of factors including (a) a direct selling model that eliminates the middleman, (b) low prices to the consumer, (c) excellent and responsive customer service, and (d) enthusiastic users chatting up their products in forums.

Fixed-frame Carada screens sell for under $700, which is substantially less than the same fixed-frame style products you can get from the major screen manufacturers. The company offers fixed frame products in five different aspect ratios: 1.33:1, 1.78:1, 1.85:1, 2.05:1 and 2.35:1. In addition, if you want a custom-cut aspect ratio that is different than any of these, just ask and they will provide a quote.

For this review Carada supplied samples of their Classic Cinema White and High Contrast Gray products. They arrived in ready-to-assemble packing similar to that used by the other suppliers of snap-together screens. The four frame sections are pieced together and set with screws, and the rolled fabric is then snapped to the back of the frame. Assembly can be completed in a matter of minutes. On our two test samples everything fit perfectly with no muss no fuss.

These screens came with a 2" wide frame wrapped in black light-absorbing material, which is standard for Carada products.

The White Screen: Classic Cinema White

The Carada Classic Cinema White was the least bright of the six white screen products in the review. Its peak white measurement was 65% relative to the standard 100% white board used in our test. So the big question was where did all the light go? A screen can do only three things with light...it can reflect it, absorb it, or let it pass through. In this case the light loss is attributed in part to exceptionally high pass-through. That is, the fabric has more translucence than competing screens so the amount of light that goes through the screen rather than being reflected is unusually high. By comparison, approximately eight times the amount of light energy passes through this screen as passes through the Studiotek 130.

Not only is the Classic Cinema White a relatively inefficient reflector, but it imparts a subtle blue bias to the image that is visibly evident throughout the upper half of the gray scale. The result is that whites are colder than on competing screens and color across the spectrum is not as warm and natural as it is on a neutral white screen.

The main advantages of the Classic Cinema White are its very low cost, ease of assembly and installation, and options for unusual widescreen aspect ratio frame formats that are not available from other makers. It offers a quick and painless way to get a screen on the wall with a solid black frame around it. For those on a tight budget the Classic Cinema White is a good entry level screen that is a definite step up from a white wall as it will deliver better image resolution. Furthermore the black frame by itself offers a huge improvement in image presentation.

However, white screens in general are being used by videophiles looking to achieve the best possible image quality in a strictly light controlled environment. The Classic Cinema White would not be our first choice for this type of buyer due to its exceptional light loss and color inaccuracy. If you are on a restricted budget and you have the do-it-yourself gene, you will do well to check the Goo Systems CRT White as a low budget alternative to this one.

The Gray Screen: High Contrast Gray

As with their white screen, Carada's High Contrast Gray was the least bright of the six screens in the gray category. Reflecting just 45% of the light that is returned from a standard white board, we found this screen particularly remarkable in its inability to reflect light efficiently. Using this screen versus any other option is tantamount to giving your projector a very substantive cut in lumen output.

If you are about to spend $600 or more on this screen, we would suggest going a few hundred more and stepping up to the Da-lite High Contrast CinemaVision. The Da-lite is double the brightness, and much higher in contrast and color saturation. It is a screen you can live with for the long term, and the incremental investment is very much worth it. If the Da-lite is beyond your budget, look at a DIY solution with Goo. Their Digital Grey Lite does not match the performance of the Da-lite, but it is a fraction of the price and it will provide a better screen solution than will Carada's gray product.

Commentary

Do projector screens really differ?
Should I choose White or Gray?
What is screen gain?

Reviews (vendors in descending order of retail price)

Relative Brightness of Projection Screens
Vutec Corporation
Stewart Filmscreen
Draper, Inc.
Da-lite Screen Company
Carada, Inc.
Goo Systems, Inc.

Summary