Da-lite High Power 2.8 Gain Screen

Evan Powell, December 17, 2009

Life is a bunch of trade-offs. Some wise person told me that a long time ago, and never a truer word was said. And never has it been more true than in the world of projectors and projection screens. If you want maximum contrast, you can't have a super bright image. If you want a very bright portable projector, you can't have silent fan noise. If you want a super bright high gain screen, you can't have it look super bright from all angles. That's just the way life is.

The Da-lite High Power Screen, rated at 2.8 gain, is a perfect example of trade-offs. If the projector is located at an elevation very close to mid-screen level, and you are seated close to mid-screen level, dead center in the middle of the screen, the Da-lite High Power is very, very bright. If you project a 100 IRE white image, and hold a pure white 1.0 gain test card up to the middle of the screen, the test card will look medium gray against the brilliant white of the High Power screen. According to our measurements, the screen is actually 2.8 times brighter than the white test card, so the 2.8 gain spec checks out perfectly.

That's the good news. The bad news is that once you move off center viewing axis, the gain drops in a hurry. At a viewing angle of 20 degrees from center, the effective screen gain drops to 1.0. In practical terms, the screen and the white test card appear to be equally white at that point. It doesn't take much to get to 20 degrees viewing angle. If you are standing 10 feet from the screen at the center position, and then step sideways 3.6 feet either to the right or left, you are at a 20 degree viewing angle.

At 30 degrees off center, the white test card looks bright white, and the screen looks gray. This is not unusual. In fact, this is exactly what the screen is designed to do-take the light energy from the projector and throw as much of it as possible back along the center viewing axis. Since the screen cannot create light, all it can do is reflect what hits it. And since most of the light is focused directly back in the direction of the projector, the screen looks rather dim from a wider viewing angle.

The Da-lite High Power screen is great, IF you are going to use it for the purpose it was designed for. And that is to give you an extremely bright image when (a) the projector is mounted near the center of the screen, and (b) you are seated near the center viewing axis. This type of set-up is intended to overcome ambient light conditions. And you do indeed get a brilliant picture that can look as bright as a huge LCD TV when all the projection and viewing geometry is just right. All bets are off if you are ceiling mounting the projector and projecting the light energy down onto the screen, or if you are the one seated at the end of the sofa.

There are other picture attributes to be concerned with besides brightness. Black level, detail clarity, and color uniformity, to name a few. We set up the High Power screen side by side with Da-lite's JKP Affinity, and then illuminated them both with the Optoma HD8600 1080p projector, and the Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player. Sitting at center viewing axis, with half of the projected image on the High Power and the other half on the Affinity, the picture quality differences are easy to describe...

First, the High Power was much brighter than the Affinity, as you'd expect. The High Power looks more like a TV, while the Affinity looks more like a commercial movie theater image. But that advantage, which is obviously quite significant in some situations, is its only advantage as far as picture quality goes. Black levels were much more solid on the Affinity. But most surprising was the fact that the Affinity looked smoother and sharper. Despite the fact that the High Power fabric has a very smooth surface, its picture had a graininess and noise level that was entirely absent on the Affinity.

From this comparison it was easy to conclude the following. If we were looking for a very bright image, and we had ambient light conditions and the ability to set up the right viewing geometry, the High Power screen is a very strong choice for that environment. The Affinity will not produce anywhere near the brilliance of the High Power under those conditions. Furthermore, if we were using a lower resolution projector than the HD8600's 1080p, the Affinity's superior ability to resolve fine detail becomes moot, and the High Power is again a worthy choice.

On the other hand, if we can turn off the lights so that brilliance of the image is not the primary concern, then the JKP Affinity is capable of delivering a sharper, smoother, clearer image with deeper black levels. For maximum picture quality in a 1080p home theater, the Affinity wins hands down. We would never install a High Power screen in order to make our 1080p projector brighter, or to push the image size beyond what the natural lumen output of the projector is capable of. This is exactly what a lot of inexperienced home theater buffs try to do with high gain screens, and it is usually not a good idea. It is not recommended with this one.

So there you have it. Trade-offs in abundance. What is most important to you? How do you want to set up your viewing environment? The High Power and the JKP Affinity are two examples of screens designed for entirely different purposes. It is important to pick the right one to meet your particular objectives.


Reader Comments(20 comments)

Posted Jul 26, 2010 1:25:33 PM

By David Shaver

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
We currently use a HP 100" electric screen in our home theater. Directly behind our sofa and centered in regards to the screen is a Viewsonic 3D projector. The drop in brightness level that comes from viewing 3d with lcd shutter glasses makes the HP gain ideal for this application. Immediately above the Viewsonic 3D projector is a Panasonic PT-4000 LCD projector mounted on a beam at 7' in height. When se sit on the sofa below this projector we experience a brightness dropoff to a gain of approximately 1.0 which makes it ideal for normal movie watching. So we have the best of both worlds with this screen. Just thought you would like to know.

David

Posted Jul 16, 2010 9:35:11 AM

By Darryl Lowe

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
Question regarding 3D.

Is the da-lite HP micro bead technology good, bad or indifferent for 3D polarized projection?

Posted Apr 4, 2010 9:25:43 PM

By roberto anzures

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
Can any one help me with the advice of the position of the projector if i choose a da lite HP, i´ve done some reading and came to the conclusion that it has to be right in the center of the high of the screen... Q is this OK???? if is not... can anyone help me......

THANKS......

Posted Feb 18, 2010 10:24:11 AM

By Darryl Lowe

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
Another thing that just occurred to me regarding the HP...The smaller the screen, the less clarity for 1080P (or more potential for pixelation)...the larger the screen, pixelation should not be as noticeable, and therefore less difference in clarity from other screens. My theory is that, as the screen size goes up, the more the projected movie is stetched out, and the more microbeads there are to make the image appear smoother. If there are twice as many microbeads, it should make a difference than on a smaller screen where it may lose some pixel clarity at full 1080p...!?

Posted Feb 3, 2010 5:04:54 AM

By Darryl Lowe

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
A lot of good comments to think over.

Here is a question I have tossed around in my head in theory, but would be hard to know for sure without testing...

If you leave your seating, projector position, and everything else as is, but widen out the projector so that it goes far outside your current screen by 1.5 times (As if you just switched from a 100" to a 146" screen), does the 20 deg viewing angle become wider (maybe 25-30 deg)? My theory is: "The larger the screen (light cone angle from projector), the larger the light spray angle back"

When I draw it out on paper, it appears that it would increase the viewing cone in theory, but I would like to know if it is the case in reality...Anyone have an HP that they can try this on?

Posted Jan 15, 2010 4:25:26 PM

By Evan Powell, Editor

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
Noah and Dan have both commented on the failure of our review to mention brightness uniformity at oblique angle viewing as an attribute of the HiPower screen. I didn't mention it because this was not our experience. In our testing, brightness uniformity was affected noticeably by viewing angle. If viewing from the left of center, the left side of the image is brighter than the right side, and vice versa. It may be true that this effect is migitated to some degree by the High Power as compared to other high gain screens. But it is not true that the screen dims uniformly as one moves from center view to an angled view. I wouldn't consider this a flaw of any kind, it is just the way the screen behaves. In the right circumstances it is a great product. I would just caution buyers not to expect it to maintain constant uniformity over a wide viewing angle. EP

Posted Jan 15, 2010 6:58:36 AM

By airscapes

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
Evan, can you verify which HP fabric you reviewed? There are 2, Da-lite has yet to acknowledge it in print but after I nailed them on it they admit they are using 2 different materials. The first post below will provide sufficient info to know which fabric you actually had. Since they are now verbally claiming the new stuff is 2.4 I have to assume you had the old fabric. I sent back the screen with the new, and kept the replacement they went with the old. It was bright clear and better made.

Posted Jan 13, 2010 3:45:31 PM

By Noah Katz

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
It's been awhile since I read it, but I believe the review failed to mention the Hipower's other noteworthy features besides its gain - better brightness uniformity than angular reflective gain screens, freedom from showing waves, and rejection of off-axis ambient light; all due to its retroreflectivity.

Posted Jan 9, 2010 11:59:22 AM

By Dan Miller

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
While Evan is technically correct about his findings, he didn't take it far enough.

A retroreflective screen like this (and the only one in the industry that has a small enough bead size-- yep, it is a glass beaded screen like your dad used for his Kodak Carousel) for HD) throws light back at the source, NO MATTER WHERE IT IS. So his comment about the projector being located on screen center is 100% wrong. What is important to understand is that the viewer(s) be located close to the cone of light coming from the lens.

As far as uniformity goes, there is no more uniform of an image that is possible than from this screen. Do the math and you can see why. From the position of your eyes (or a measurement device), the angular difference (the viewing axis) is exactly the same from all points of the screen. In other words, what you will see is exactly the uniformity of the projector. Both the JKP and the Studiotek 100 (Snomatte 100) are "close" to an ideal lambertian reflector, but they aren't perfect. In other words, if you were to measure the reflected light from the top right edge of the screen at the projector and then move your measurement device to the "perfect position" (angle of incidence = angle of reflection), they would be diffeerent. To put it another way, with the HP, uniformity will measure exactly the same no matter where the viewer or instrument is located, except in stupidly extreme examples. An angular reflective screen will measure uniformity different at different locations. This is a very cool thing. It means that no matter where the viewer is, they see the exact same picture, just at different brightness levels. The farther you are away from the light source, the picture just gets dimmer, but it does so evenly. So someone on the couch on the side of the room might not even know how dark the image is until they get up and walk toward the PJ.

My recommendation about the HP is that if you have a rather narrow room, and either a coffee table mounted or low ceiling mounted PJ, there is nothing in the industry like it. And its brightness level can open up the possibility of using a PJ for standard TV watching, as long as you control where the ambient light is coming from. Then at night, close down your iris all the way for maximum CR and enjoy a filmlike appearance.

It is a good idea for anyone in the position of specifying HT products to understand all of the various screen technologies, for this reason exactly. Da-Lite is the only company that makes a screen like this. SI and DNP make the Black Diamond and the Supernova, which are also unique to just them. Stewart's Firehawk is unique. Is any one of them "better"? If it is in the situation that it is designed for, then yes. But if it is not, then the exact opposite could be true. For a pitch black, non-reflective, "bat cave" theater, the JKP or the ST-100 are probably the best things, and a HP would probably lose a shootout there. But have any ambient light in the room AT ALL, and the benefits of the JKP/ST go away. And that ambient light could come from the screen illumination reflecting off a ceiling. To appreciate completely the benefits of the lambertian screens, you need the visual equivalent of the audio anechoic chamber. This is not easy to do in a home, and it is pretty ugly and fairly depressing to be in the room when not being used for its intended purpose. This is the reason that higher gain screens are used, the reason they were created in the first place.

Anyway, I hope this clears up some of the confusion. I have been a fan of the HP ever since I stumbled on one in a dealer, but again, only in the situation that it is designed for.

Thanks for reading...

Posted Jan 7, 2010 5:01:58 AM

By Mattp

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
It never ceases to amazes me that when the DL Highpower comes up, nobody ever seems to fully agree on it's value. Some, like the reviewer, find the screen too bright, too limited of a viewing angle, too noisy, etc. A good screen to cut through bright ambient light, but not a good screen for pure theater use. Others, like those that commented on the article, disagree, and find it the perfect screen. Ok maybe not perfect, but has the best trade-offs for them.

I too have experience with the Highpower screen. I picked one up as a screen for my living room with some ambient light conditions. Given the very positive reviews I had seen from end users, I thought it would become my holy grail screen. I've since sold it in favor of an SI Black Diamond II screen. Not nearly as bright, but the huge improvement in black levels and better rejection of ambient light was what I preferred. While still having some image noise compared to a normal screen material, it's still less than the HP as well. So thats my preference, the better trade-off for me was the BDII.

I don't agree with the view that absolute blacks don't matter, it's just the relative level. You only need to look at the many overly bright DLP projectors on the market with quite elevated black levels, but also very very bright white levels. The blacks look "foggy" on such a system, even with such bright highlights. Projectors with much lower black levels, such as those of the JVC, Epson, and Sony models are much more satisfying for dark cinema room viewing. This is of course all moot in the presence of much ambient light. However the High Power doesn't create an image with a very black looking image in ambient light, even if the rest of the image is so bright. Something like the BDII with a black base does.

Posted Jan 1, 2010 11:55:06 AM

By Michael Lang

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
I won a high power screen and I disagree with anumber of your conclusions.

1. The blacks are at a higher brightness level but so are the whites so the basic contrast ratio is unchanged. this is the only thing that really matters no tabsolute blacks

2. The resolution even at 1080p will not be affected by the screen because the pixel size is about 1 mm at the screen

3. You will always see more noise with a brighter image

It is not a good screen for a large party but for 3 or four people within +- 10 degrees of each other it is perfect and is one of the best screens on the market for rejecting ambient light.

Posted Dec 22, 2009 4:57:54 AM

By Ghost

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
I just want to clarify my comment about his sharpness clearness advantage he seems to think the joe kane has.

What I was saying is, in his joe kane screen review, he hailed it as the greatest screen (when comparing it to another brand) as the most clear screen he has seen.

The highpower without a doubt is the clearest I have seen and that includes joes, and sharpest i have seen, when set up properly.

I think evan just said the joe kane is clearer, sharper, simply because he hailed that feature as what sets the joe kane apart from other screens. He was just repeating his finding from a previous comparison.

I also want to say the only way the image might have looked more grainy on a highpower, is due to the brightness, if your to on axis movie grain shows up to much IMO. I settled for the projector 2 feet above my head, only a minor drop in brightness, still very bright! but dimmed enough to slightly hide the grain. Their is definatly a point i feel being to on axis is to much, it becomes to bright and the picture becomes to overexposed, at this point naturally with so much brightness grain becomes to noticeable.

You may not see any grain with joes just because his so absurdly dim, its to dark to notice any grain. But again as long as your a bit off axis, the high power does a really good job of slightly dimming and hiding the grain making it less visible.

Posted Dec 21, 2009 10:40:35 AM

By Leonard Eckian

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
I don't see how projecting half of an image on one screen and the other half on a different screen could be a valid method to compare. Each screen has its own characteristics and the projector would need to calibrated relative to each screen surface to create the optimum image before you could compare. To get a better comparison a single source would need to be split into 2 outputs and then fed into 2 identical projectors with the same amount of hours on their lamps. Then each projector would need to be calibrated using a standard format to achieve the best picture on each screen. Then there would be a basis to compare the subjective image quality of the screens.

Posted Dec 21, 2009 9:04:42 AM

By Grant

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
I've owned five different screen materials over the years and I always come back to the HP. Simply the best bang for the buck out there. I've spent more on screens and wished I hadn't. It looks much brighter off angle than my 1.3 gain screen. The thing that wasn't mentioned in the review is that for people who need pull down screens this is a great choice. All pull down screens, that I am aware of, have some wrinkles which you can easily see. These wrinkles show and are very distracting when projecting an image. A retroreflective screen like the HP does not show the wrinkles when projecting an image. The bottom line is that anyone interested in a screen should see for themselves before buying and you'd be doing yourself a real disservice by not making the effort to see this screen in action. If there's on thing I DO NOT WANT it's to have my Home Theatre look like a commercial movie theatre with anemic black levels (sorry but film projection is transmissive and black levels simply stink) and murky poorly lit scenes.

Posted Dec 21, 2009 4:26:04 AM

By Ghost

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
I would also like to see pictures of this clearness difference because based on my samples, and other peoples thoughts, the joe kane provided no sharpness, clearness detail over the high power at all. I think your comment is completely unfounded, thats one of the highpowers strongest features. I honestly think you just randomly said that because you touted the joe kane screen in comparison to stewart screens, when in reality, the highpower and even da-lites other screens all provide that special clarity, i found the highpower even more so then all other da-lite screens.

Posted Dec 19, 2009 12:58:42 PM

By AndyS

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
The tradeoffs between angle and brightness have been well discussed on various forums and I am glad you point them out here. But I believe they are not that bad. I have a hi power, 135" diagonal, and while seating 13'-14' away, the whole sofa (7 feet) is a sweet spot. Sure the middle is a little sweeter but no complaints from anywhere else.

Regarding the smoothness, it's unfair to compare the HP only with the JKP. JKP is heralded as the smoothest in the industry and it is much pricier. From personal experience HP has the smoothest picture from all other Da-Lite material I have seen,(HCCV, greys, VS, pearlescent, Cinema). And there is no comparison between HP and the sparkly, grainy Draper 2.5. For common mortals (less than $2000), HP is one of the best 1080p screens out there. The comparison that should have been made is with the Carada BW 1.4.

I am surprised also that you fail to mention contrast. Contrast is the ratio of white/black. Agreed, blacks are raised with HP, but so are whites. The contrast IS the same for your projector. I agree that in a bat-cave theater the advantages of HP are washed out (pun intended :-) over the JKP. But in all other situations, the HP should give you BETTER contrast than the JKP (because of shedding ambient light or reflections better).

Finally, one of the biggest advantages of HP which is not mentioned is that it makes waves on the material invisible because of retroflectiveness. If you look around in forums, after a few years everyone complains about the waves formed in their screens. Even tab-tensioned screens tend to develop them. With the HP you have no such issue.

In conclusion, even though the facts stated about HP are true, some important ones were left out, and the choice of comparison is puzzling.

Posted Dec 18, 2009 11:20:28 AM

By Darryl Lowe

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
Thx Evan...great review as usual! I am surprised at how small the viewing angle is on the HP..very interesting to note, as that to me is a deal-breaker. I could handle a little less contrast, and maybe a little less clarity (considering the huge cost differnce between the HP and the JKP), if the HP gave more lumens on a 138" 16:9 screen, when in both best & econo modes; however dropping below 1.8 at 20deg is too extreme.

Does the viewing angle become wider if the screen is much larger? I am thinking a 138" from 11.5 feet away (sitting on a platform raised couch, close to the projector..ceiling mounted), with around a 6 foot width of angle...?

Another question I had was, if when using the HP, you put the projector in econo/low lamp mode + use one of those contrast lens filters to lower the light(the type you remove when the bulb gets older) + possibly lowering the brightness level, vs. with the JKP having the projector in full power mode with no contrast filter...(basically so that both scenarios are around the same brightness)...is there that much noticeable difference in black levels/contrast. Basically, if you are not using the HP to make it brighter, but rather to extend the projector's bulb life, via making the screen around the same brightness as other screens via lowering projector brightness/low lamp mode/contrast len filters/etc...is there as big a contrast difference? ((you'd probably need to use 2 projectors & have the screens side by side to test..?))

How does the HP stand up against other more similar priced screens like the more popular Carada 1.4, in terms of sharpness, image detail/clarity/smoothness, and black levels? I know I won't be able to afford the JKP, so it would be good to see how the HP compares to a more economical/yet good quality screen..?

Also how was the hot spotting and uniformity on the HP?

thx Darryl

Posted Dec 18, 2009 10:22:34 AM

By PatB

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
No offense intended but are there any objective measures that support your conclusions? The reality of Home Theater is that we consumers have to rely on the testimony of experts who may be just flat out wrong or may have monetary interests that flavor their advice.

I have a Da-lite HP. Anyone can immediately see how bright and vivid the image is. Yet you tell us that another screen which is dimmer is actually better. You offer no proof.

You imply that an HP screen is fine for the 720 version of HD but that the Affinity is needed at 1080. I would like to see some demonstration of this. This pronouncement of yours has the effect of selling more expensive screens by your advertisers.

You write as if it's difficult to achieve the appropriate geometry for a retroflective screen. This is clearly wrong. A ceiling mount is difficult - long wire runs, carpentry and ladders. Just put any old projector on a table in front of or behind your chairs and you are done with an HP. An Affinity type screen is only preferable when the seating area is wide, light control is nearly perfect, and the projector is very bright.

Posted Dec 17, 2009 8:54:40 PM

By William Dean

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
Can't agree on your ending opinion, just (4 months ago) swapped out my low lumen vutec silverstar for a Da-lite HP, and WOW, absolutely night and day in depth, detail, vividness (is that a word?), and fun factor, your eye picks up sooooo much more detail. I'll NEVER go back to the dull under powered screens. That's with my Sony vpl-vw100 and a new bulb to boot! I had my new Da-lite pull down screen in front of my old vutec ss, and would raise and lower the HP for guest after guest after guest, and NO ONE, and I mean NOOOOO ONE, liked the duller image better. BUT I'm running a 119" screen so if we were talking some small 90" screen than maybe I could see your point. But of course the idea of a home theater and projector is NOT to have a small screen.

Posted Dec 17, 2009 5:29:33 PM

By Tom Croly

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
Thank you for this comparison review. I have owned a 106" DaLite high power screen for 7 years and have used it with the 6 different projectors I have owned during that period. I have always been immensely pleased with my screen. But while I have been able to compare each new projector with the last one i owned, I have had no point of reference for my screen.

I had been considering getting a 2:35 screen and it is nice to know that there are possibly some image quality gains that could be achieved by getting a different screen material. I would be very pleased to hear other peoples comments on this new screen from DaLite as well as other screen comparisons.

The one thing that the High power screen does exceptionally well is hide any wrinkling of the screen surface. My screen has significant waves in it, but they cannot be seen in the image projected on it.

Post a comment

Commenting on this article is easy and does not require any registration. Your email address is necessary for you to activate your comment once it has been submitted. It will not be shown to other site viewers. ProjectorCentral reserves the right to remove any comment at any time for any reason. Foul language is not permitted, nor are personal attacks. All comments should remain on topic.

Name:

Email Address:(used only to confirm your comment)

Your Comment:

(Enter the numbers as they appear to the left)