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Ambient Light Rejection Screens

Evan Powell, March 3, 2016

Elite DarkStar

Elite Screens has three products in this review -- the 1.4 gain DarkStar, the 1.3 gain EPV PolarStar, and the 0.9 gain EPV DarkStar9, the latter two being marketed by their Elite Prime Vision division.

The Elite DarkStar is a formidable competitor. It scored first place honors in the contrast test with both side light and ceiling floods, measuring 22:1 while all other products came in with lower readings. It edged out the SI Black Diamond at 21:1, making it the strongest ALR screen for combating light from above.

In the first contrast test with side illumination only, it did not do quite as well, but it measured a very respectable 27:1 against a maximum of 36:1 and a minimum of 16:1. So overall, it is one of the stronger ALR screens as far as defeating ambient light from multiple directions is concerned.

The DarkStar tied for first place with the Screen Innovations Zero Edge Slate as the brightest screens in the review, although several competing screens were very close. Nevertheless, being one of the brightest of the screens in this group means you may not need to spend extra money for a higher lumen projector to meet your overall image brightness requirements -- assuming it is viewed from very near the zero degree viewing axis.

The DarkStar has a moderate viewing angle of 60 degrees which gives you a bit more latitude in seating than, say, the Seymour. But it does not have the extreme latitude of the DarkStar 9, and once you move away from center axis the picture begins to fade and lose uniformity. So the ideal deployment of this screen is for installations in which most viewing takes place not too far from the center position.

The DarkStar's 20 degree vertical half angle is fairly restrictive although not quite as tight as some. It equals the Black Diamond on this attribute, and care should be taken to position the projector carefully relative to the screen angle and position the audience for optimum results.

In terms of image texture artifacts, the DarkStar show minor to modest texture, typically most visible when the camera is panning. In this regard it is equally competitive with most of the ALR screens including the SI Black Diamond and the Stewart Firehawk.

Bottom line, when ambient light strikes from above, the DarkStar repels it better than any of them and retains a comparatively solid black level. It is the brightest of the eleven when viewed from center position. If you don't need the extremely wide viewing angle of its sister product the DarkStar 9, it should be on your short list to price out. Our guess is that once you price it out in the size and frame configuration you desire, you'll find it is exceptionally competitive.

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Draper MS1000X
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Elite EPV DarkStar9
Review Contents: Overview Contrast Half Gain Angles Black Levels
  Peak Gain Texture Artifacts Color Bias DaLite Parallax
  DNP Supernova Draper MS1000X Elite DarkStar Elite EPV DarkStar9
  Elite EPV PolarStar Microlite Black Crystal SI Black Diamond SI Zero Edge Slate
  Seymour Matinee Black Stewart FireHawk G4
Comments (12) Post a Comment
Matt Frazer Posted Mar 4, 2016 2:59 PM PST
Thank you so much for posting this extensive review of ALR screens, I have never seen anyone undertake this task and you should be comended for the effort. I currently use a Carl's place DIY ALR screen that I bought on a whim to replace my painted wall (following the projector central instructions when it was painted). I noticed a signifigant improvement in my tightly packed dedicated theater since the room is under 10 feet wide and I get light polution reflecting from the walls. It would be interesting to get this screen added since it is so cheap, to see if it can hang with these other options... Although after this whale of a test I wouldn't blame you if you never want to see another ALR again. Keep up the great work, it's reviews like these that keep me coming back.
Paul B Posted Mar 4, 2016 5:12 PM PST
What a great review of multiple ALR screens. I can't thank you enough as I am completing a basement remodel and have been searching for ALR screen reviews and challenged by the limited information, as well as critical details about how the products were tested. Having all of the listed screens objectively evaluated under the same standards is invaluable in assessing how the screens might work in my environment. Thank you for recognizing the critical need for this area of review. This is, by far, the best and most complete review of ALR screens. Keep up the great work!
Hector Posted Mar 6, 2016 7:04 AM PST
Excellent review. I wished I was there while you were doing the reviews :) I have been looking for unbiased review on ALRsa d you have exceeded my expectations. Thanks again!
Rob Hunt Posted Mar 13, 2016 8:04 PM PST
Excellent review, very detailed. However, i think it would benefit readers to have a large television also tested along side these screens, since that is the screens biggest rival. some 75 inch tv around the same price as a screen/pj setup. Then viewers could understand the magnitude of the benefits and drawbacks of a ALR setup.
Tomas Posted Mar 16, 2016 8:14 PM PST
Hmm, how come here is missing Black Pearl HDR from SimPit? Unrestricted viewing angle, exceptional black levels and color ... and one of most affordable ALR screens as well
Mishari Posted Mar 17, 2016 4:22 AM PST
I wish you added 2 points: - contrast measure at all lights off to see they have better contrast than white screen. Some of us do not want to have dark walls and ceilings. - Add Elite Cinegrey 5D, which is highly available to public and well reviewed.
Jason Posted Mar 31, 2016 8:09 PM PST
I'd also like to see the Elite Cinegray 5D does in the tests.
Scott Tallal Posted Apr 9, 2016 12:18 PM PST
Hi Evan,

This review has been incredibly useful! We only wish you would have included at least a few of the high gain options, most notably the dnp SuperNova 23-23 and the Screen Innovations Black Diamond 2.7. Perhaps you can do a shootout between those and other high-gain options in the not-too-distant future?

Keep up the great work!
Tuki Posted May 11, 2016 11:04 AM PST
It would be nice to include the high gain Vutec SilverStar 6.0. Thank you.
Lee Posted Jul 27, 2017 3:45 AM PST
Is there a conclusion anywhere in the article? Great article, but would be great with a short summary section!
Brian Posted Feb 22, 2019 7:27 AM PST
Time for an update with the latest and greatest ALR screens, and maybe some that are AT?
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Feb 22, 2019 7:59 AM PST
Brian, we are about to embark on a new series of screen reviews and will be doing these regularly. Much focus will be on ALR, but I like the idea of tackling a survey of acoustically transparent materials at some point.

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