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EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been expanded and updated to include eleven current models of ALR screens. Please click here for the new review.) 3/03/16
Elite Screens has been around for a long time, but the PolarStar is a relatively new product. Part of the Elite Prime Vision (EPV) brand, the PolarStar is only available through Elite's EPV network of custom installers and Pro AV dealers.
EPV sent us the PolarStar in their eFinity frame. This is a fixed-frame slim bezel design in which the screen fabric actually wraps around the front face of the frame and attaches at the rear via spring clips. The bezel pieces then attach to the outside of the frame, covering the edges and giving the viewing surface a roughly 1/4" border. EPV sent us an 84" diagonal screen, which is the smallest available. The eFinity PolarStar is offered in sizes from 84" to 200" diagonal in 16:9 and 125" to 158" diagonal in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. And in breaking news, the PolarStar material has just gained ISF Certification.
The eFinity PolarStar is sold by the EPV network of authorized dealers, any of whom can provide installation services along with the sale. However, in the event you do find yourself assembling the screen, you should be aware that the assembly process is a bit more involved than is typical. Assembly took me a total of 94 minutes.
The screen comes with a piece of foam meant to line your floor. This protects the surface of the screen from getting dirty or scratched during assembly. It also uses a very simple wall mounting system styled after a French cleat. Two plates are secured to wall studs, and a groove in the frame receives the plates. This groove runs the full length of the frame, thereby allowing you to slide the screen back and forth to adjust placement relatively independently of your wall's studs. If your house is anything like mine, this is important -- studs aren't always where you'd expect them to be. And while the screen includes drywall anchors, we would not recommend using them; with the flexibility of the sliding bracket system, it's foolish not to use wall studs if at all possible.
The screen's hardware kit includes a few spare parts, which are handy in the event something breaks during assembly.
This product uses split horizontal frame members, which is an advantage in packing and shipping since the box does not need to be the full length of the horizontals (which, on a 200" diagonal screen, could be over 174" long). To resist bowing, the screen includes a vertical bar that is inserted between the horizontals in the middle of the frame.
The installation kit doesn't include any tools, so you'll need to provide your own Phillips screwdriver. The frame is aluminum, and aluminum is relatively soft, so power tools are not recommended. It is also a good idea to wear nitrile gloves while you work with the screen material to keep it from getting dirty or smudged by the oils in your skin. You should also be careful - the edges of the frame extrusions are sharp.
Because the eFinity frame has such a small bezel, projector placement is even more important than usual. On a wide-bezel velvet flocked frame, you can always over-zoom the projector by a little bit to hide misaligned edges. When you're working with an un-flocked bezel that's only a quarter of an inch wide, that's not really an option.
Polarized. According to EPV, the silvery-gray PolarStar screen material maintains 92 percent of polarization. As such, it is the only screen in this shootout that can be used with passive polarized 3D projection systems. Passive 3D systems use inexpensive glasses, but require either two projectors with passive filters or a single projector with a switching filter. Unlike most polarized screens we've seen in the past, the PolarStar still looks good when viewing 2D content.
Zero Edge frame. While the traditional velvet frame can give a room that movie theater feel, the thin bezel of the eFinity frame maximizes viewing area relative to screen size. In small rooms, this gives you more picture and less wasted space. It also makes the screen look more like a television, which might be more appropriate for a living room or other bright area.
LED light kit. The eFinity PolarStar also includes an RGB LED light kit. Attached to the frame with adhesive tape and then reinforced with spring clips, the LED lights can be set to almost any color or cycled between them. The LED kit is intended to accent the room when the projector isn't in use. You should not use the LEDs while actually watching a movie, as the added light in the room will potentially reduce contrast and affect your perception of color.
Sparkle. While subtle, we did notice a sparkly character to the PolarStar material, especially in very bright scenes or areas of solid color. It's not as bad as most other high-gain screens, but it is occasionally noticeable. Since everyone has their own pet peeves, only you will know if sparkle is one of those things that you absolutely cannot accept. We did not find it very distracting at all.
Ripples. After assembly, our screen had some minor ripples in two of the corners. The screen uses spring clips to attach fabric to frame which can be difficult when working with them for the first time. The minor misalignment resulted from mistakes that a professional installer with more experience with this product would avoid. If you do run into this problem, you can adjust the spring clips post-assembly in order to fix it. If you're stumped and don't even know where to begin, EPV's customer service department is trained to walk you through it.
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