Ambient Light Rejection Screens
The Stewart Filmscreen FireHawk series has been in the Stewart product line for a long time and the G4 is its fourth edition. The G4 has lower peak gain, a wider half-gain angle, and less sparkle and texture than the earlier G3. It is rated at 1.1 gain, and in the luminance test it registered 110 fL, which is middle of the pack in this group -- that is exactly where it should be since the competitors range in gain from 0.8 to 1.4.
In our first contrast test with side illumination only, the Firehawk measured 25:1, which is much better than some and not as good as the best, with the range being a low of 16:1 to a high of 36:1. In this lighting situation black level was very good, one of the top four, and showing black levels almost identical to the SI Black Diamond and Zero Edge Slate.
The Firehawk did not do as well once ambient light from the ceiling floods was turned on. Contrast fell to 12:1, on par with the Da-lite Parallax and DNP Supernova, and just edging out the Draper MS1000X at 11:1, the lowest reading in the group. Relatively speaking, the Firehawk is better at defeating side light that light from above.
It registered a viewing angle of 64 degrees, close to its rating of 70. Again, this is middle of the pack -- it provides a much wider viewing angle than some of the competing screens which measure as low as 32 degrees, but there are four in the group that have extremely wide half gain angles and may be more suitable for applications where good visibility from the sides is required.
The Firehawk G4 came in first place in the vertical half gain category, measuring 40 degrees. The Draper MS1000X was almost as good at 35 degrees, but the other nine screens in this review were much more restricted, with vertical half gains between 15 and 26 degrees. Using the Firehawk, one has much more latitude in the vertical placement of the projector without worrying about a compromise of brightness or uniformity.
As far as visible texture and graininess are concerned, the Firehawk was on par with the Black Diamond and other screens in the "modest texture" group. Texture is largely invisible when the camera is not panning, but can become noticeable once it pans across subject matter with no texture of its own to mask the artifact.
The FireHawk G4 comes with simple assembly instructions, but putting it together is so simple that you probably won't need them. The screen material attaches to the frame with snaps which are already fixed in place on the frame and screen material, so you just match them up and click them into place. Of all the screens in this review that don't come preassembled, this one is the easiest to put together.
Stewart first introduced the Firehawk long before "ambient light rejection" screens were a thing. Historically it has been used to deepen black levels and improve contrast on digital projectors that never had the contrast and depth of CRTs, and it continues to serve that purpose very well. This screen belongs in a home theater setting with low levels of ambient light. It will certainly improve image contrast in a modestly-lit room where there may be a low-wattage side lamp, and where there are lighter colored walls, drapes, and furnishings that will produce low levels of reflected ambient light. This type of room is common for many who want to have a home theater experience that is mostly dark, but don't want to go to the extremes of blacking out the room as if it were a commercial movie theater.
However, the test environment we used for this evaluation had much brighter ambient light conditions than a darkened "lights off" multipurpose living room would have. In this high level of light some of the competing ALR screens in this review showed higher overall contrast and better results. In the end, the right ALR screen for you depends entirely on the ambient light conditions you are dealing with, and what viewing angles you need to accommodate.