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Review: Stewart Studiotek 100
In the world of front projector screens, Stewart Filmscreen is synonymous with excellence. Their products, though pricey, typically offer outstanding, reference-quality performance. So it's not surprising that their newly christened Studiotek 100, is among the best front projector screens we've ever seen.
The Studiotek 100 (formerly the SnoMatte 100) is one of Stewart's "G3" high-definition screens, which are designed for maximum detail clarity when used with 1080p projectors. It has a 1.0 gain for smooth, even light reflection, and it has a half-gain angle that is so wide it can't be measured. The Studiotek 100 is a professional screen primarily intended for use in post-production houses, and it needs to be used in a black, non-reflective environment for best results. Stewart normally does not recommend that it be used for home theater, since most consumers do not have the black viewing space required for optimum performance. The Studiotek 100 is a unique and very special screen that reflects exactly what the projector is projecting, with no biases or gains added to the mix. It is available from Stewart's dealer network at $2329 for a 100" 16:9 fixed frame.
1.0 Gain. The Studiotek 100 has a gain spec of 1.0. We measured gain at five points on the screen--the center and closer to the four corners. The average of the five readings was 0.97. Furthermore, there was only a 2.04% variance between the lowest and highest gain measured across the screen, so white field uniformity is outstanding. This is excellent performance by any standard.
No Half-Gain Angle. A front projection screen always appears brightest when the viewer is centered directly in front of it. The brightness you get from this viewing position is called Peak Gain at Zero Degrees Viewing Axis. In addition to Peak Gain, most projection screens have a Half-Gain Angle, which is the viewing angle at which the image on screen appears half as bright as it does when viewing from the center, zero degree axis. On high-gain or ambient light rejection screens, the Half-Gain Angle can be very narrow - 20 degrees or less. That means the picture dims considerable as you move away from the center viewing position. Most quality home theater screens have a wide Half-Gain Angle, say 60 degrees or more. This allows viewers who are seated off-center to have a similar viewing experience as those seated in the middle of the room.
The remarkable thing about the Studiotek 100 is that you never get to a position of half-brightness even when viewing it from almost 90 degrees off center. The Studiotek 100 is a Lambertian surface. In theory, a perfect Lambertian surface will look equally bright from, say, 80 degrees off-angle as it will from zero degrees. And while the Studiotek 100 is not a theoretically perfect Lambertian surface, it has very little light loss when the viewer moves off-center. In fact, light loss is so minimal that there is no measurable Half-Gain Angle. The image on screen only dims by about 30% when standing at about 85 degrees off-axis.
Perfect color balance. Many times, some color shift is apparent on inexpensive or do-it-yourself screens. In our "Screens under $500" review, we noted quite a few instances of blue shift, while our "100-inch screen for under $100" article noted some yellow shift in the paper we were using. These shifts are acceptable in budget class screens and they can be compensated for to some degree by recalibrating the projector. However, a precision high-performance screen will have no spectral shift, and this one is entirely neutral as we've come to expect from Stewart products.
Smooth surface. As an HD screen, the Studiotek 100 has a smoother surface than earlier generation Stewart screens. This is to avoid any possible interference with HD detail from the screen's surface. These HD screens do provide a subtle but noticeable benefit to the viewing experience when used with 1080p projectors. Stewart's current generation home theater screens that carry the G3 designation are all HD screens, including the Studiotek 130, the Grayhawk RS, and the Firehawk. They exhibit the same HD image resolution characteristics as the Studiotek 100.
Extreme sensitivity to ambient light. Due to the Studiotek 100's exceptionally even reflective properties, it is very susceptible to the negative effects of ambient and reflected light in the viewing room. With even a small amount of light in the room, black levels take a hit, which has a noticeable effect on dynamic range. To prevent this from happening, you will need perfect or near-perfect light control in your viewing space. This does not just entail turning the lights off and closing the door. You'll need to make sure you have non-reflective surfaces throughout your room. Reflected light is just as bad as ambient light as far as contrast ratios are concerned. Most consumers don't want to go through the hassle of turning their room into a black hole. If you're one of these people, Stewart's screen materials that are intended for home theater use are better alternatives for you.
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