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Ambient Light Rejection Screens

Evan Powell, March 3, 2016

Microlite Black Crystal 1.2

The new Microlite Black Crystal 1.2 has an extremely unique combination of advantages -- it is one of the brightest screens in the group and it has an extremely wide viewing angle of 140 degrees. That is hugely unexpected. There are only three screens that exceed the Microlite's viewing angle -- the Da-lite Parallax, the DNP Supernova, and the Elite EVP DarkStar 9. But the Microlite Black Crystal 1.2 is brighter than all of them by at least 40%. So for any given installation, if you need the Epson 1440's 2800 lumens to get the level of brightness you want on these competing screens, you could opt for a higher contrast 2000 lumen home theater projector and the Microlite Black Crystal to achieve the same image brightness.

This might actually make a real difference in many cases because the Black Crystal is a rather low contrast screen. In our first contrast with side illumination, it produced a contrast reading of 18:1, or almost the lowest in the group which ranged from 16:1 to 36:1. It also registered the worst black level in this test. Once the overhead ceiling floods were turned on, the Black Crystal's performance improved to about middle of the pack, giving us a 16:1 reading compared to the worst at 11:1 and the best at 22:1.

However, since contrast and black level are not the Black Crystal's strongest attributes, you may be able to take advantage of its latent brightness by matching it with a lower lumen, higher contrast projector home theater projector to offset the limitations in contrast and black level. There are practical limitations to this of course. You would not want to pursue this if ambient light conditions are high as the light will overcome the projector's contrast advantage. But with relatively low levels of ambient light, a high contrast projector matched with the Microlite Black Crystal will give you a bright picture with very pleasing contrast and an extremely wide viewing angle -- something no other screen in this review can deliver with quite the same effect.

In terms of texture artifacts, the Microlite falls into the average category, typical of most ALR screens. Texture is relatively minor with no camera panning, and it becomes more visible during camera panning sequences. But it is, on the whole, similar to the SI Black Diamond and Stewart Firehawk, so there is nothing unique to complain about here.

One note of caution is that the Black Crystal, while having one of the widest horizontal viewing angles in the group, also has the narrowest vertical half angle. So installation needs to be precise. Ideally, the projector will be placed behind the audience and projecting just above their heads so that the angle of incidence and angle of reflection are minimized.

The Microlite Black Crystal 1.2 is likely to be one of the less pricey ALR screen options once you get it configured as you want it. So if you need its combination of extreme viewing angle and brightness and you can match it with a high contrast projector, you may end up with the most cost effective solution for your particular needs.

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Elite EPV PolarStar
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SI Black Diamond
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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