Elite Screens Aeon CLR UST Screen Review
ELITE SCREENS AEON CLR ULTRA SHORT THROW SCREEN PROs
- Innovative, multi-layer advanced optical filtering effectively absorbs 95% of overhead ambient light, preventing screen washout in lifestyle lighting conditions.
- Provides highly accurate measured and observable performance.
- Premium technology competitively priced with conventional projection screens.
- Screen material compactly rolls into a small diameter for easy shipping and handling.
ELITE SCREENS AEON CLR ULTRA SHORT THROW SCREEN CONs
- Not a complete panacea to all ambient light conditions.
- Layered surface technology more prone to incidental damage than conventional screen materials.
OUR TAKE ON THE ELITE SCREENS AEON CLR ULTRA SHORT THROW
The Aeon CLR possesses all the required refinements for accurate image fidelity in the growing ultra short throw projection market, and does so at an exceptionally affordable price.
Garden Grove, CA-based Elite Screens maintains a presence in the global projection screen market with product design targeting cinema-quality performance at enthusiast-friendly pricing. On the other hand, Elite ProAV, their companion division for the commercial market, focuses on leading-edge engineering that's less tethered to cost constraints. But the company believes in sharing the wealth inter-divisionally, which has enabled their serriform optical filter surface lens microstructure technology to find its way down into the Aeon CLR (Ceiling Light Rejecting) series of screens designed for the growing segment of ultra short throw (UST) projectors.
UST projectors gained prominence as a consumer category nearly a dozen years ago almost exclusively in the Pacific Rim, where space limitations make traditional home theater projection a challenge. Here in the U.S., the most popular application for UST projectors these days is classroom and institutional use, though a number of 4K models geared specifically for the home theater segment have reached market or are expected to this year. Hisense, with its Laser TV series, has led the home UST charge, but LG recently joined the fray, and Optoma, ViewSonic, and start-up VAVA are all slated to release their own 4K UST entertainment centers this year that include on-board audio and internet streaming. Merely add a screen of 100- or 120-inches diagonal to these models, and you're good to go.
This is where ambient-light rejecting (ALR) UST screens come in. As with any two-piece projection arrangement, contending with ambient light is paramount, but especially so if you intend to use said projector as a replacement for your day-to-day TV. Ultra short throw doesn't necessarily present intrinsic issues with ambient light compared to a machine parked across the room—both fall prey to any stray lumens coming from a source other than the projector. However, there are different types of screens to manage each application.
A classic long-throw, ceiling-mounted projector relies on the screen to reflect light at an incident angle, much like the way a billiard ball banks off a table bumper in a direction opposite the angle of approach. But, that's not what you want for a UST projector/screen combination. With a UST projector resting on a counter, light rises vertically toward the screen at a steeply pronounced angle, but should ideally be sharply re-directed to the viewing position and not incidentally shower the ceiling. (I have also heard of installations where a UST projector has been ceiling mounted and the screen flipped to allow the image to be correctly steered at the viewing position. For this alternative application, care is required to ensure no overhead ambient light is present during viewing, as the screen can't distinguish between that and the intended projection light.)
Elite's Aeon CLR design positions microscopic optical filters to "steer" projected light in an optimal path aimed at the viewer, yet the positional "pitch" of these filters also thwarts light from above (when in the more common countertop placement) to keep it from washing out the image. Magical engineering of this sort requires quite a research facility. My yet to be answered question: Does the address contain the name Hogwarts?
Construction & Set Up
The Aeon CLR comes in 90-, 100-, and 120-inch diagonal sizes with a fixed, fine-bezel frame. Electric motorized versions utilizing the same StarBright CLR material are on the way in both standard wall/ceiling and floor-rising models. My 100-inch sample, with a street price of $1,249, arrived in a rather compact (compared to most other screens I've taken into my lab), Fed-Ex shippable box. The StarBright material is stiffer than traditional vinyl or woven screens but remains pliable enough in the 100-inch size to be rolled into a relatively small 4- to 5-inch diameter. As readers may know, some manufacturers' ALR screen materials are of a thickness and rigidity requiring them to be packaged and shipped fully assembled. Elite's rollable material eliminates the possibility that a pre-assembled screen may not navigate tight quarters en route to the destination wall.
The supplied instructions are sufficiently detailed, though it is strongly suggested to have a helper; four hands are more effective for the spring-tensioned assembly. Additionally, a video on the Elite Screens website illustrates the construction in precise, step-by-step fashion. Having assembled dozens of screens in my years, I took a deep breath and proceeded, undaunted.
All pieces and sub-components are safely and logically packed, and everything necessary to construct and affix the screen to a wall are included, even a rubber mallet and Phillips screwdriver. The sub-frame consists of solid, extruded aluminum that accepts joining brackets at each corner and at the center of the longer top and bottom two-piece spans. Screws hold everything in place.
Once the sub-frame is assembled, the screen material is laid out with the reflective surface facing down, and the sub-frame is positioned equidistant from all four sides to begin the process of utilizing tensioning springs to affix screen to frame, in loop and grommet fashion. Elite provides two pairs of gloves plus a large section of fabric to place on the floor, enabling a clean environment on which to work while preventing damage to the delicate screen material. The screen is clearly marked to directionally identify the top, which is absolutely critical for correct performance. (In the event of a ceiling-mounted UST projector, the screen would obviously be flipped.) Although all screen materials should be treated gently whether off or on the wall, it should be noted that the microstructures in a screen like this are more sensitive than traditional materials to rough handling or anything that might scrape the surface, so care should be taken.
You attach the tensioning springs to the frame while using a supplied "hook-shaped" tool to pull and guide each spring to an associating grommet. Having a second pair of hands speeds the job and allows the screen to be pulled from opposite sides for easier centering in the frame, though I effectively managed it alone. Upon completion, the screen was taut, wrinkle free, and with the frame precisely centered within the material. When that process is finished, the sub-frame is covered with black, 0.5-inch bezel trim pieces, joined in similar fashion as the frame. This shrouds the screen's outer perimeter, with the resulting look akin to a large flat-panel television.
An LED backlight kit is included as a standard accessory. While carefully calibrated backlights are found in nearly every grading suite throughout Hollywood, practically speaking, projection screen-sized images coupled with consumer light output levels negate the need for a backlight, though it may provide a pleasing atmospheric effect. I chose not to install the backlight on my review sample.
|Review Contents:||Introduction, Construction||Performance, Conclusion||Measurements|