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Ambient Light Rejection Screens

Evan Powell, March 3, 2016

Elite Prime Vision PolarStar

The EPV PolarStar has one commanding feature that no other ALR screen in this review has -- it has a Silver-Gray surface that polarizes light, a feature you need if you want to set up a passive 3D video system. The advantages of passive 3D include simple, lightweight glasses that don't need batteries, and usually cleaner pictures with no crosstalk artifacts. You lose resolution compared to active 3D, but with the new 4K revolution, it's a non-issue. For those who want to go passive 3D, the EPV PolarStar is an excellent choice.

The other key advantage of the PolarStar is that, like the EPV DarkStar9, it shows very subtle texture, quite minor compared to the rest of the ALR screens in this group that show texture/graininess/noise artifacts.

Beyond these two unique performance elements, the PolarStar is a reasonably solid performer that does not stand out in any particular way. In the Side Illumination contrast test it registered a very respectable 27:1, just behind the Black Diamond at 30:1, and far higher than the low of 16:1 in this test. With the ceiling floods added to the ambient light mix, the PolarStar measured 17:1 contrast which is middle of the pack in a range that ran from a low of 11:1 to a high of 22:1. So in the competitive mix it did quite well with ambient light from the side, but did not maintain its edge when overhead light was introduced. Similarly, black levels were reasonably good with ambient side light, but they fell off when the overhead lights were turned on.

The PolarStar's viewing angle in our ambient light environment was 60 degrees, again about middle of the pack. So it does not have the extreme viewing angles of its sister product the EPV DarkStar 9, but like the Stewart Firehawk it offers more latitude than several others with very narrow viewing angles.

In terms of relative luminance, it measured 125 fL against a maximum of 146 and a minimum of 92 in the group, consistent with its gain rating of 1.3

Probably the weakest parameter was a measured vertical half gain angle of 18 degrees which was close to the low of 15. So take care in the vertical positioning of the projector and screen relative to the position of the audience.

In our view, the EPV PolarStar is an excellent choice if you need a polarized ALR screen to support a passive 3D system. But passive 3D support is its sole competitive advantage. If you are not going to use this feature, the PolarStar is still a very good all around ALR screen with a cleaner, more artifact free picture than most of the other screens in this group. But it can be outperformed in contrast by some competitors and in viewing angles by others, each of which have their own set of limitations. So the trade-offs need to be carefully evaluated to determine which products would be the best fit for any given viewing environment.

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Elite EPV DarkStar9
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Microlite Black Crystal
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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