Goo Systems is the only paint product we've included in this review. This is a product for the do-it-yourself enthusiast who likes weekend projects in the garage and is spirited by the challenge to get a great performing product for as little money as possible.
Painting a Goo screen is a two-step process, requiring the application of a basecoat followed by a topcoat. One liter of each is required to make an 8 foot wide 16:9 screen. The paint itself runs about $150. Add to that the cost of the board, framing materials, and mounting hardware, and you can end up with a good looking screen costing well under $300. And if you don't want to do it yourself but still want a relatively inexpensive screen made from Goo, you can have it made for you by an independent contractor (ask Goo for details) for prices ranging from $400 to $700 depending on the size and complexity of the framing. An independent contractor arranged by Goo made the Goo screens we used in this review.
Goo offers three screen products. If you want a pure white screen, go with the CRT White. If you want to go gray, their two high contrast alternatives are Digital Grey Lite and Digital Grey, the latter being the darker of the two.
These product names may be somewhat confusing. The implication is that the grays are needed to boost contrast on digital projectors, whereas CRT projectors already have sufficient contrast to allow the use of a white screen. However many folks are matching higher contrast digital projectors with white screens these days.
We reviewed the CRT White and the Digital Grey Lite for this review. We will review the Digital Grey later and update this review as we can.
Overall the Goo CRT White performed surprisingly well against the professional screens it was up against. Considering its low cost the image quality was outstanding.
Despite its 1.8 gain rating, the CRT White screen we tested had no discernable gain. It measured at 100% relative to the standard white board, making it the fourth brightest of the white screens reviewed. However it was only 23% less bright that the first place Studiotek 130, so it holds it own quite well against products many times its cost.
The CRT White is particularly impressive in rivaling the Studiotek's color accuracy. The Studiotek has an edge in brightness, contrast, and color saturation. But the Goo screen is not blown away by the Stewart product as one might expect it to be from the price differential. It delivers exceedingly respectable quality for the money.
Our Goo screen sample was constructed with a 1" wide wood frame painted flat black. We feel strongly that a video image must be presented in a solid black frame to look its best. Though this is a personal preference, if you are making your own frame we'd suggest a thicker frame...at least 2" and ideally 3" or 3.25". Furthermore for best results it must be covered in black fabric that is as non-reflective as possible, such as velvet. A bare wood frame painted flat black simply does not do the job. It reflects light with remarkable efficiency which is why the professional screen makers have gone to light-absorbing fabrics on their home theater frames.
In practical terms, the question is not really how the Goo screen competes with the Stewart Studiotek, but rather how it competes with the Carada white screen. For the Carada is available for under $700 and is thus a more likely competitive option for the buyer on a budget.
Between these two white screens, the CRT White is clearly the more efficient light reflector. When the same amount of light strikes both screens, the Goo is visibly brighter-peak white is brighter by about 30%. Furthermore, the color performance on the Goo is superior. Whites are a bright neutral white, whereas the Carada imparts a bluish bias which is visible throughout the upper half of the gray scale.
The Carada however has the advantage of being much easier to assemble-it snaps together out of the box in about 10 minutes, so it is not an extended project to get it together. It comes with a solid frame wrapped in black fabric which, if the time and money is not invested to do this with the Goo screen, makes for a superior presentation of the image. Finally, the Carada is flat. That might not sound like a major accomplishment, but the Goo screen we were supplied with was warped somewhat due to the nature of the materials used to construct it. It is difficult to use a thin wooden substrate and a wooden frame and have the resulting assembly remain flat. We assume that bolting it to the wall would straighten it out without any nasty side effects although we did not try that in the lab. But do-it-yourself'ers using the Goo system will want to make sure that the end product as finally mounted on the wall is flat.
In summary, the Goo CRT White is capable of producing a very impressive image for the money. Assuming care is taken to select the right baseboard and frame components, and to paint and assemble it properly, the DIY enthusiast can end up with an excellent screen solution for a surprisingly small investment.
Digital Grey Lite
Goo's Digital Grey Lite also produces a very respectable screen solution. However it is not as competitive with the higher end gray screens as the Goo CRT White is in the white category. It is the least expensive of the gray product solutions we tested. Overall brightness was 75% of the standard white board, which does not make for an overly brilliant image. As with Goo's CRT White, the color on the Digital Grey Lite is almost perfect, rivaling that of the Stewart Firehawk. Furthermore the Digital Grey Lite does clearly outperform the other low budget alternative, the Carada High Contrast Gray, and between those two it is clearly the product to be recommended.
However, Da-lite's High Contrast CinemaVision (HCCV) is an excellent price performer that is priced substantially below the premium gray products. The Digital Grey Lite is still a fraction of the price of the Da-lite. Nevertheless those looking for a low-budget gray solution may want to evaluate the trade-off between image quality and cost in comparing the Digital Grey Lite to the Da-lite HCCV. Da-lite's gray screen is brighter and higher in contrast, giving it much better color saturation. On the other hand the Digital Grey Lite beats the HCCV in color accuracy. Some buyers will want to go for the Digital Grey Lite because it delivers a very good screen for the money. Others will spend more to get the HCCV for its higher brightness, contrast and color saturation. This is a question of budgets and tastes, and we cannot recommend one over the other.
The bottom line is that Goo's CRT White gives the DIY enthusiast a screen that reasonably approximates the performance of the more expensive white screens. The Digital Grey Lite, though it is a fine product in its own right and a great price/performer, does not offer the same remarkable value relative to the higher end screens in the gray category.
Reviews (vendors in descending order of retail price)
Relative Brightness of Projection Screens
Da-lite Screen Company
Goo Systems, Inc.
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