Draper, a company that has been in the projector screen business since 1957, has released an all-new line of screen materials. This new line, called TecVision, consists of six screen materials that fill a variety of different niches. Two of them are of particular interest: the XT1300X, a 1.3-gain white surface, and the MS1000X, a 1.0-gain grey surface.

Projectors keep getting better. Native resolution keeps getting higher, black levels get deeper, and color gets more and more accurate. It's natural to wonder how to pick a screen that will accentuate your projector's best qualities and minimize its deficiencies. And to a lot of folks, this is still a difficult question. By looking at the XT1300X and the MS1000X side-by-side and comparing them against our reference screen, it becomes easier to decide what kind of screen you need for your theater.

Setup and Configuration

Screen material is only half the story, albeit the more important half. Every screen needs a frame. Our screens used Draper's Onyx, a sturdy aluminum frame with a generous 4" border that nicely offsets the projected image. The frame's matte black aluminum finish does a fair job of reducing reflections, but the optional Vel-Tex fabric wrap does a far better job and is recommended for home theater use. TecVision screen materials are also available as manual or motorized tab-tensioned retractable screens.

Draper's TecVision materials are only available through authorized Draper dealers. A 100" diagonal 16:9 TecVision screen in an Onyx frame with Vel-Tex coating retails for $1,997 regardless of the fabric chosen.

The Onyx frame comes together very quickly. Eight aluminum brackets (two per corner) connect the frame pieces using four hex screws each, and a hex key is provided in the box. The frame fits together snugly with no hang-ups or rough spots. Frame assembly took about ten minutes.

Attaching the screen material to the frame is a multi-step process. First, thin plastic rods are inserted into pockets on each edge of the screen material. These rods are flexible and can bind up as you work, especially on the long edges. Placing something on top of the screen material to keep it from shifting can make this step easier. Next, rigid plastic brackets are slid over the rod pockets. These brackets serve as the retention mechanism, tensioning the screen surface and holding it to the frame. Those brackets lock into grooves on the reverse of the frame. Attaching the screen to the frame took another fifteen minutes.

Stretching the screen until the brackets lock into place can be quite difficult. The brackets do not lock into the frame unless the entire bracket is in position, and the brackets bend slightly under tension, making it more difficult to pull the entire bracket over the finish line. The theoretical advantage of this mounting system is completely uniform tension across the screen surface. On the other hand, some other manufacturers use a snap-in system that is much easier to mount.

We successfully wrestled one screen into its frame, but tried and failed on a second. This is at least a two-person job, and a larger screen might need three people. The final bracket is the most difficult due to the tension already placed on the other three sides, so expect some grunting and sweating (and possibly profanity) before it locks into place. Or you could have your local Draper dealer assemble the screen for you, and watch someone else grunt and swear while you relax and enjoy a beverage.

Shootout

We set up both screens next to our reference screen, a Stewart Studiotek 100. The Studiotek 100 is the closest thing available to a completely neutral surface. We use it because it shows us exactly what is coming out of the projector, and nothing more. The Studiotek 100 is useful for comparisons like this not because it is a competing product, but because comparison against a neutral 1.0 gain white surface tells us a lot about a given screen very quickly.

Next to the Studiotek 100, both TecVision screens cause a visible color shift. A truly neutral screen will reflect the projector's light exactly, with no shift in color. Both the XT1300X and the MS1000X introduce a slight white balance shift towards blue, making the picture a little bit cooler. This is easy enough to fix, provided you have a projector with decent color controls. And since you should always calibrate your projector and screen as a system, it's a minor issue.

Studiotek 100 vs. MS1000X, color shift
The Studiotek 100 (left) has higher brightness and more neutral color than the Draper TecVision MS1000X (right).

Studiotek 100 vs. XT1300X, color shift
The XT1300X (right) is brighter than the Studiotek 100 (left) but does impart a color shift.

The XT1300X is a 1.3-gain white screen, and the brightness difference is immediately visible next to the Studiotek 100. The screen surface is smooth and even, with no visible texture or sparkle. And despite the brightness boost, the XT1300X still has an incredibly wide viewing cone. While there is a definite brightness drop as you move to the sides, the screen doesn't have a half-gain angle. By that measure, you can seat your audience just about anywhere in the room and they will still experience a nice, bright picture. But in ambient light, neither the XT1300X nor the Studiotek 100 hold up very well.



Top: Studiotek 100 vs. XT1300X. The XT1300X is brighter and appears to have more pop. Bottom: Studiotek 100 vs. MS1000X. The MS1000X is dimmer, but black level is improved and contrast increased.

The MS1000X, on the other hand, is a 1.0-gain grey screen, and next to the Studiotek 100 it looks slightly less bright, though black levels are visibly better. Our measurements indicate that the MS1000X actually has a peak gain of 0.9 rather than 1.0, which would help explain the brightness difference. The material has some sparkle to it, and the viewing cone is narrower than that of either the Studiotek 100 or the XT1300X. But when ambient light is present, the MS1000X holds up much better than the Studiotek 100.

Draper TecVision MS1000X vs. Stewart Studiotek 100 in ambient light
The MS1000X (right) rejects ambient light better than a white screen like the Studiotek 100 (left).

Both the XT1300X and the MS1000X have desirable qualities, but which screen is better for you depends on what kind of viewing you're going to do, what kind of projector you have, what size of screen you want to use, and how much ambient light you have to deal with.

If you have a traditional home theater with good control over ambient light and few reflective surfaces, the XT1300X is a good option. The screen's mild positive gain directs more light towards the audience, which will also reduce stray light reflecting onto your ceiling or walls. The smooth, natural texture of the screen surface doesn't detract from the content you're watching. On the other hand, even a little bit of ambient light can drastically reduce contrast, as is typical of white screens.

If you're looking for a screen that can handle ambient light as well as home theater use, you want the MS1000X. The traditional wisdom is that you want a bright projector in ambient light, but the MS1000X obviates the need for a super-bright projector by rejecting ambient light and improving black levels. As a result, the projector looks much the same in ambient light as it does with the lights off.

The improved performance in ambient light does have a cost. The screen has some shimmer or sparkle to it, which can make some content look grainy or noisy. This sparkle could be distracting at times.

And, unlike the XT1300X, the MS1000X loses significant brightness as you move off-angle from the center of the screen. We measured a half-gain angle of 32 degrees. Half-gain angle describes the angle from dead center at which brightness drops to 50% of peak. To give your friends and family the best experience, you should limit seating to that central 60-degree cone.

Conclusion

Draper's new TecVision line provides high-quality options for folks who are serious about getting the most out of the home theater experience. The XT1300X's traditional white surface and mild 1.3 positive gain make it a great choice for traditional home theater, while the MS1000X is a gray screen with some ambient light rejection ability that's ideal for the living room. While no single screen is perfect for every application, these and other materials in the TecVision line provide options for many common home theater configurations, making it easier than ever to set up your theater just the way you want.

Buy a Screen

Projector Central has a list of screen dealers that we work with that can answer your questions and sell you a screen at a great price.

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