Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
- Slate 1.2 material available in variety of motorized and fixed screen formats
- Good uniformity
- Good contrast and black level performance in ambient light
- Time-consuming assembly
The Slate 1.2 screen material combined with the Zero Edge Pro frame is a compelling choice for anyone who needs an ALR fixed screen that looks good even when the projector's off.
Screen Innovations is one of the major players in the ALR screen market, and its Slate 1.2 screen material—the 1.2-gain version of Slate—is one of its most popular screen materials. SI says it's second only to Black Diamond 1.4—Black Diamond being SI's other family of non-UST ALR material. It doesn't offer quite the contrast or black level in ambient light as Black Diamond, but it comes close, at a considerable savings in cost. For the 16:9, 110-inch diagonal screen size we tested, the unassembled version costs only $2,976.75 MSRP compared with $4,579.25 for Black Diamond 1.4 material in the same Zero Edge Pro format.
Slate 1.2 uses a different ALR technology than Black Diamond. SI says it's built on a PVC-based material that uses a "specifically shaped" set of particles to absorb and diffuse light from all directions, and a second set to reflect light only from within the viewing cone. Further detail on the shape is proprietary, but SI says the particles are also chosen for a size and shape that is both ready for 8K or even higher resolutions while also minimizing the hot spots and sparkle effect that are typical of some ALR screens.
Key specs, in addition to the 1.2 gain, include a minimum throw distance of 1.5 times the screen width, a 70-degree viewing cone in both horizontal and vertical directions, and an ambient light reflectance value (ALRV) of 35%, meaning that it rejects 65% of the light that falls on it from outside the viewing cone.
The different technology compared with Black Diamond's multiple layers also gives the Slate 1.2 material the advantage over Black Diamond of being more flexible, which allows use in motorized screens with a smaller diameter. It's also available in screen sizes up to a maximum height of 122 inches, compared with a 60- to 74-inch maximum for the different versions of Black Diamond. For any given aspect ratio, this translates to a larger maximum screen size.
Note that you can get the Slate 1.2 screen material in any of several screen formats, including three of SI's motorized formats—Zero G, Solo Pro, and 5 Motorized—and two fixed screen formats—5 Fixed and Zero Edge Pro, which is the format I had for review. The motorized formats come fully assembled. The fixed versions normally come unassembled, although you can buy assembled screens through installers and other value-added resellers.
SI calls the Slate 1.2 screen color Gunmetal, which translates to a light gray. The Zero Edge Pro format allows some notable customization that will let you fit the screen to your decor. The edge trim adds an attractively sleek bezel around the screen in your choice of three widths: Small (0.5 inch), Medium (1.5-inch), and Large (2.0 inch), with a 0.5-inch black velvet inlay on the trim's edge closest to the screen regardless of size. For the Medium and Large size, you can choose a variety of powder coat colors—including Black, White, Blue, Taupe, Teal, orange, and Ferrari Red—for the part of the trim that extends beyond the black velvet.
You can also add a $500 LED backlight, which not only serves a decorative function but improves the perceived contrast and black levels for the images according to SI. I didn't have the backlight for my tests to confirm this, but the claim is consistent with a phenomenon called simultaneous contrast—the observation that the perception of both hue and darkness level is influenced by the brightness and color of the surrounding area. A small gray square, for example, will look darker when surrounded by a larger white area than it will if it's surrounded by a black area. SI says that the vast majority of its Zero Edge screens are sold with the LED option, and that many customers never turn the light off.
Note too that you can order the screen with either standard wall mount brackets or a flown mount. The flown mount lets you hang the screen from above, using supplied mounting hardware and aircraft-grade cables. It's meant to let you hang the screen when you can't use a wall, including situations such as needing to hang it over a bar, or in front of a window.
Like many of today's fixed screens, assembling the Zero Edge Pro frame and attaching the Slate 1.2 material involves a number of potentially time-consuming steps, all the more so if you're working unaccompanied and for the first time with this frame. The frame and material come with a printed installation manual, though you'll find it a lot easier to follow if you first look at SI's Zero Edge Pro with Slate Installation Instructions video on YouTube. SI warns the screen is delicate, so you'll want to handle it carefully to avoid scratching the material.
To assemble the frame, you need to clear out a large area on the floor, cover it with something to protect both the floor and frame from scratches—I used the rug already there—and connect the four sides of the frame using the supplied corner brackets. SI cautions that you need to confirm that the frame is as square as possible by measuring both diagonals to make sure the two measurements match. You can then tighten the screws to lock everything into place.
For the next step, you'll need someone to help pick up the frame and move it out of the way for a moment. Before handling the Slate material, you first put on the supplied gloves, after which you can unroll the screen and the thin protective plastic foam it's rolled up with, so the foam winds up under the screen to protect it. The frame then goes front side down and centered on the material—another two-person job.
To attach the screen to the frame, you first spread out the moveable snaps in the track running along the back of the frame to line up with the snaps in the screen material. You can then connect the snaps in the corners, the center of each side, and from the center to the edges, in that order. Expect this part to take awhile, especially if you're working alone, with your hands possibly getting tired in the process. There are 90 snaps, and it requires a fair amount of hand strength to pull the screen tight enough to snap them together.
If you did everything right, you can flip the nearly assembled screen over, confirm that there are no wrinkles, snap on the trim, lock it into place with supplied screws in each corner, and mount the screen. If there are any wrinkles, you'll need to place the screen face down again and move the snaps, pushing and pulling on the screen material until it's smooth.
For testing, I used an Epson 5050UBe that I calibrated to the screen targeting the industry standard D65 color temperature. Measurements showed color temperature at various points across the screen ranging from 6470 degrees Kelvin to 6620—far too little difference to notice. Variations in brightness were a little greater, but measuring the projector itself—with a meter pointed at the projector—established that the variation was primarily due to the projector lens.
I ran the subjective tests in varied lighting conditions from bright daylight to dark, covering all windows in each case to have complete control over the lighting. I also compared the image on the Slate 1.2 material to how it looked on a 1.0-gain white screen, positioning the projector so part of the image fell on each screen.
The viewing position for all tests was within SI's recommended 12 to 15-feet from the screen. This works out to roughly a 15 to 18.5 degree viewing angle to each edge when viewing from the midline, and a 30 to 37 degree angle when sitting at one edge of the screen and looking at the other.
To simulate typical room lighting at night I turned on high hat lights on the ceiling and assorted table lamps and a floor lamp in the room. For simulating somewhat brighter diffuse daylight, I added several lamps around the room that claim to replicate daylight, pointing them at white surfaces to reflect back into the room.
The SI Slate 1.2 did swimmingly with both of these lighting conditions. If you have a bright enough projector, even a 1.0 white screen can provide a good viewing experience at this level of lighting, but in my tests, the Slate 1.2 delivered noticeably better contrast, darker blacks, and more saturated color that the white screen.
The advantage for the Slate 1.2 screen over a white screen showed in both brightly lit and dark scenes, but was most obvious in darker scenes, like one of my go-to dark test scenes in Batman v. Superman, when Bruce Wayne as a boy falls into what will become the bat cave. The Slate 1.2 screen delivered a slightly washed out and less visually dramatic image than it did when lights were dim or off. But it was a still more than watchable with the lights on, and it showed far more shadow detail than the same image on the white screen in those conditions.
The Slate 1.2 material also handled sports well in ambient light, as demonstrated by the NFL Super Bowl 54 game and a 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints game I found on YouTube. The red in the Kansas City Chiefs' uniforms and the red and gold in the San Francisco 49ers uniforms were spot on, as was the green of the Astroturf. And the Saints black uniforms looked satisfyingly black on the Slate screen compared with a dark gray on the white screen.
As a torture test, I repositioned the claimed daylight lamps to where a window might be on a wall perpendicular to the screen. I also positioned a light above and to the side of the screen to simulate the cathedral-ceiling skylights that are common in family rooms in some newer construction.
Even a flat panel TV won't stand up well to this level of light. In general, if you have shades on your windows, you'll want to use them on bright days for the best picture quality. The question the setup is meant to answer is whether you can still get a picture that's at least watchable without pulling down the shades. I ran the tests with the simulated window about 6 feet in front of the screen and 2 feet from the right side. The simulated skylight was above and to the left.
The most likely scenario for this kind of lighting is watching sports in the daytime. The Slate 1.2 material did a surprisingly good job here too. The image was just a touch washed out compared to how it looked at lower ambient light levels, but there was far more color saturation and contrast than on the non-ALR screen as well as darker black levels. I would have no complaints about watching a game—or other brightly lit content, like a news show, in this level of ambient light with the Slate 1.2.
Movies and filmed TV shows didn't fair as well. In the scene in the batcave in Batman v. Superman, for example, the rocks in the cave, the bats, and bats' eyes were extremely washed out. So while you might well be satisfied watching sports even on a bright day in a room filled with windows using the Slate 1.2 screen, you'll almost certainly want to pull down the shades for movies.
The screen also fared well in dim and dark lighting. For dim room viewing, I tested with only one table lamp on, far from the screen—a light level you might want to use if your projector is bright enough that you might risk eyestrain in a dark room. Even in a dark room, the Slate 1.2 screen had the advantage for contrast and black levels over the white screen and it delivered good color saturation and hue. Also note that although I saw minor texture artifacts, with the screen adding an ever-so-slight graininess to the image, I didn't see any hot spotting or sparkles on the screen at any point in my testing.
The 110-inch Slate 1.2 in Zero Pro format is easy to recommend. It performed well in every lighting condition I threw at it, from dark room to simulated bright sunlight, handling even my torture test lighting well enough to let you watch sports and other brightly lit material. It takes a little time and effort to put the Zero Edge Pro format together, but that's a one-time task. And if you don't want to be bothered with DIY, you can buy the screen through an installer who will assemble it for you.
At $2,976.75 for the screen as tested, you can easily be paying as much or more for the screen as for the projector you pair it with. But it's less expensive than some ALR screens, and thanks to a design meant to handle 8K and higher resolution, you can think of it as an investment you can amortize over several projectors. It should serve well not just for the one you have today, but for at least the next one, and likely more than that.
Screen Innovations Zero Edge Slate 1.2 Review Specs
- Viewing Surface (WxH, Inches): 96 x 54 inches (not including bezel)
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Gain: 1.2
- Acoustic: No
- Minimum throw: 1.5 x screen width
- Screen Color: Gunmetal (gray)
- Viewing Cone: 70 degrees
- Recommended Distance for viewing: 10 to 15 feet for 110 inch screen
- PRICE: $2,976.75 MSRP (as tested)
Screen Innovations Zero Edge Slate 1.2
Color Temperature Measurements
Foot Lambert (ft-L) Measurements
All measurements were made with a 100 percent white test pattern generated by a Murideo Six-G signal generator and displayed using an Epson 5050UBe projector calibrated to the screen. The projector lens was 14 feet, 2 inches from the screen, or 170 inches—a bit farther than the minimum throw of 1.5 times the screen width that the SI Slate 1.2 material requires for the ALR to work well.
Measurements were taken with a Klein Instruments K10-A colorimeter placed 152 inches (12 feet, 8 inches) from the screen and positioned so the line of sight from the meter was perpendicular to the screen for each left and right position. For Top, Center, and Bottom measurements in the horizontal center, it was as close to perpendicular as possible without placing the meter where it would cast a shadow on the screen, just a few degrees to the right of perpendicular.
Variations in color balance were too little to notice without measurement. Variations in brightness appeared to be primarily due to the lens rather than the screen. When I measured the projector brightness itself, using a Konica-Minolta T10 illuminance meter pointing at the projector lens, the relative brightness in lux for each individual projector measurement mapped fairly closely to the image brightness in ft-L in the same area on screen as measured by the K10-A. In particular, the three lowest readings for both the projector and the screen were for the equivalent measurement positions on the left side, and the brightness level increased from top to bottom in both cases.
Buy a Screen
Projector Central has a list of screen dealers that we work with that can answer your questions and sell you a screen at a great price.