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Ambient Light Rejection Screens

Evan Powell, March 3, 2016

Screen Innovations Black Diamond 1.4

The SI Black Diamond screens have been hugely successful in the ALR space, and despite a flood of new competitors they remain strong. The 1.4 gain version included in this review performed exceptionally well on contrast, black levels and color saturation. In the first contrast test with ambient light from the side windows it scored 30:1, besting all other screens in the review except the Seymour at 36:1. When the ceiling floods were added it gave us a contrast of 21:1, almost a tie with the first place Elite DarkStar at 22:1. Meanwhile, the Seymour hung in there with a very solid 19:1. Moreover, The Black Diamond gave us the deepest black level in the Windows + Ceiling Floods test, and a very solid third place in black levels when ambient light was from the side only. Overall, for the defeat of ambient light no matter where it comes from, the Black Diamond 1.4 is at the top of the pack, duking it out with the Seymour Matinee Black.

In other respects the Black Diamond 1.4 shows very good but not uniquely exceptional performance. It has a respectable viewing angle of 60 degrees which is middle of the pack -- not nearly the super wide angle performance of a few of the lower gain models, but much more accommodating than the Seymour at a very restrictive 32 degrees. This screen will work as long as you don't have too much viewing going on from exaggerated angles.

It is quite bright overall, giving a luminance reading of 142 compared to the brightest reading of the eleven which was 146. (Keep in mind these luminance readings are relevant only for comparative purposes, and relate only to the projector and ambient light environment in our test room.)

With respect to visible texture artifacts, the Black Diamond 1.4 is in the "typical" category with many of its ALR competitors. It shows a modest graininess that tends not to be visible until the camera starts to pan over subject matter that has no texture. So it does not have the natural clarity of the Da-lite Parallax or the DNP Supernova, but it is higher in contrast and deeper in black levels compared to either of them, so you get more image depth and snap with the Black Diamond in exchange for some occasional texture artifacts.

The Black Diamond's weakest aspect in our testing was its relatively slim vertical half angle, which measured 20 degrees. Five screens in the group measured worse than this in the 15 to 18 degree range, but the Black Diamond clearly does not have the vertical latitude of the Stewart Firehawk at 40 degrees or the Draper MS1000X at 35. On the other hand, for many users this is the easiest limitation to work around. If you are one of them, this may be a limitation of little consequence.

In the end, the Screen Innovations Black Diamond 1.4 puts in a solid performance and holds its own despite the array of new competitors lined up against it. On the essential function of being able to defeat ambient light and maintain contrast it is among the best with the Seymour Matinee Black being its chief rival. The Black Diamond is not known for being the cheapest of the ALR screen options out there. But if the array of performance attributes that the SI Black Diamond can deliver meets your requirements, you'd be seriously remiss in not pricing out the configuration you are looking for.

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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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