The Viewing Experience:
I recently gave a presentation using only two devices - a small, portable projector and the PicoScreen manufactured by Elite Screens. The PicoScreen provides a pristine, color- accurate 35" diagonal viewing surface for the presentation. It also accelerates the presentation setup process; no time was wasted looking for open wall space to use as a display surface.
The screen weighs a lot less than it looks - more than once, I was surprised by its light weight when picking it up off a table. While its three-pound weight is a portability advantage, it comes at the expense of rigidity. The screen is stable with relation to the mounting surface thanks to two 6.5 inch legs that swivel out from the bottom of the case. However, there is enough play in the screen support mechanism to allow the top of the screen to move back and forth by about a half-inch. For example, a knee striking the bottom of a conference room table would generate a back and forth sway that would take a few seconds to dissipate. Our review sample also had a minor amount of forward lean that I was able to correct with a onetime alignment procedure.
For less than $100, the PicoScreen gives a consistent display surface that is easy to take anywhere. The quick and easy setup and take down make it practical to use as a temporary screen for the kids or to bring along for an ad-hoc office presentation. After spending some quality time with the Elite Screen, I'm convinced this is a no-brainer accessory if you frequently use a portable or pico projector.
I tested our review sample under a variety of conditions, including outsourcing some of the testing to a "focus group" made up of a few 4 to 9 year-olds. The focus group was quite active during Sunday afternoon football viewing, so I decided to put them to work. In a few minutes I set up a testing station on the dining room table that included the PicoScreen, my old home theater projector and some retro gaming using a PAC-MAN plug and play game. After explaining to the kids that you needed to move the joystick and not just the controller, we were treated to a good 20 minutes of greatly appreciated quiet.
The screen features Elite Screen's 1.1 gain MaxWhite screen material. The screen material is a bright white with a woven texture. The texture is visible only at extremely close range and does not distract when an image is projected onto it.
The PicoScreen is available in three different sizes of 25, 35, and 45-inch diagonals each with a 4/3 aspect ratio. Our review sample was the 35-inch mode that is 29 inches long when fully retracted. The case functions as the screen base with the screen extending out of the top. When fully extended the screen measures 28 inches wide and 21 inches tall. In addition to being lightweight, the screen case is also small with a width of 2.25 inches and is only 1.5 inches deep. The case does not have an integrated handle but the size of it precludes the need for one, making it more natural to simply pick it up and go. The single accessory included with the screen is a solid black Velcro-close canvas travel pouch. This could offer scratch protection during transport, but I just carried the screen around without it.
Screen Surface: Projecting an image on the PicoScreen provided an image that is true to the source. The screen had no noticeable color shift and no hot spotting even when tested with a 3,000 lumen projector. While its 1.1 gain multiplier will not greatly increase brightness, it is a lot better than an off-colored wall. Visually, the PicoScreen will always outperform a non-dedicated display surface in terms of brightness and color reproduction. Viewing angle with the PicoScreen was excellent with brightness and color reproduction consistent at up to approximately 50 degrees away from screen center.
Fixed Size: Once fully extended the screen is fixed in place via a locking mechanism on the back of the screen. The screen is retracted by pressing on a release button that is easily identifiable thanks to a combination of a red dot on the back and red arrow on the screen top. As this screen may frequently be used in space-constrained settings, it will not always be possible to throw an image large enough to fill the entire screen. The ability to customize the viewable size of the screen with a flexible locking mechanism would be a great feature.
Screen Texture: Our review sample had a few areas of inconsistent surface finish. The coating applied to the fabric backing had a few areas that looked similar to fabric pills--what one might find on an old sweater. Most of the pills brushed off the screen surface, but it was still not perfectly consistent. Similar to the screen texture, I did not find the pills noticeable from a normal viewing distance.
The PicoScreen series from Elite Screen is a small, highly portable screen that gives a consistent and clear viewing surface for any projector. Pico and portable projectors are great for presentations, but they are only half of the equation. The surface you use a projector on has as much of an impact on image quality as the projector itself.
The PicoScreen is extremely lightweight and can go from its included case to fully setup in about 30 seconds. While the build quality is not quite at the bulletproof level, it is consistent with how the screen is intended to be used. Image quality on the screen's pure white surface will always outperform an improvised display surface. It will help your projector to perform its best in any setting, especially if you are using a low lumen pico projector.
The decision to use a portable screen comes down to whether an increase in picture quality is worth the cost and the tradeoff of having to carry around another accessory. A pico screen, like a pico projector, is not meant for groups of more than a few people. But if you're looking to give a presentation more visual clarity and a greater sense of inclusiveness to those in attendance, using a PicoScreen from Elite Screens is an easy recommendation.
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