In the world of front projector screens, Stewart Filmscreen is synonymous with excellence. Their products, though pricey, typically offer outstanding, reference-quality performance. So it's not surprising that their newly christened Studiotek 100, is among the best front projector screens we've ever seen.
The Studiotek 100 (formerly the SnoMatte 100) is one of Stewart's "G3" high-definition screens, which are designed for maximum detail clarity when used with 1080p projectors. It has a 1.0 gain for smooth, even light reflection, and it has a half-gain angle that is so wide it can't be measured. The Studiotek 100 is a professional screen primarily intended for use in post-production houses, and it needs to be used in a black, non-reflective environment for best results. Stewart normally does not recommend that it be used for home theater, since most consumers do not have the black viewing space required for optimum performance. The Studiotek 100 is a unique and very special screen that reflects exactly what the projector is projecting, with no biases or gains added to the mix. It is available from Stewart's dealer network at $2329 for a 100" 16:9 fixed frame.
1.0 Gain. The Studiotek 100 has a gain spec of 1.0. We measured gain at five points on the screen--the center and closer to the four corners. The average of the five readings was 0.97. Furthermore, there was only a 2.04% variance between the lowest and highest gain measured across the screen, so white field uniformity is outstanding. This is excellent performance by any standard.
No Half-Gain Angle. A front projection screen always appears brightest when the viewer is centered directly in front of it. The brightness you get from this viewing position is called Peak Gain at Zero Degrees Viewing Axis. In addition to Peak Gain, most projection screens have a Half-Gain Angle, which is the viewing angle at which the image on screen appears half as bright as it does when viewing from the center, zero degree axis. On high-gain or ambient light rejection screens, the Half-Gain Angle can be very narrow - 20 degrees or less. That means the picture dims considerable as you move away from the center viewing position. Most quality home theater screens have a wide Half-Gain Angle, say 60 degrees or more. This allows viewers who are seated off-center to have a similar viewing experience as those seated in the middle of the room.
The remarkable thing about the Studiotek 100 is that you never get to a position of half-brightness even when viewing it from almost 90 degrees off center. The Studiotek 100 is a Lambertian surface. In theory, a perfect Lambertian surface will look equally bright from, say, 80 degrees off-angle as it will from zero degrees. And while the Studiotek 100 is not a theoretically perfect Lambertian surface, it has very little light loss when the viewer moves off-center. In fact, light loss is so minimal that there is no measurable Half-Gain Angle. The image on screen only dims by about 30% when standing at about 85 degrees off-axis.
Perfect color balance. Many times, some color shift is apparent on inexpensive or do-it-yourself screens. In our "Screens under $500" review, we noted quite a few instances of blue shift, while our "100-inch screen for under $100" article noted some yellow shift in the paper we were using. These shifts are acceptable in budget class screens and they can be compensated for to some degree by recalibrating the projector. However, a precision high-performance screen will have no spectral shift, and this one is entirely neutral as we've come to expect from Stewart products.
Smooth surface. As an HD screen, the Studiotek 100 has a smoother surface than earlier generation Stewart screens. This is to avoid any possible interference with HD detail from the screen's surface. These HD screens do provide a subtle but noticeable benefit to the viewing experience when used with 1080p projectors. Stewart's current generation home theater screens that carry the G3 designation are all HD screens, including the Studiotek 130, the Grayhawk RS, and the Firehawk. They exhibit the same HD image resolution characteristics as the Studiotek 100.
Extreme sensitivity to ambient light. Due to the Studiotek 100's exceptionally even reflective properties, it is very susceptible to the negative effects of ambient and reflected light in the viewing room. With even a small amount of light in the room, black levels take a hit, which has a noticeable effect on dynamic range. To prevent this from happening, you will need perfect or near-perfect light control in your viewing space. This does not just entail turning the lights off and closing the door. You'll need to make sure you have non-reflective surfaces throughout your room. Reflected light is just as bad as ambient light as far as contrast ratios are concerned. Most consumers don't want to go through the hassle of turning their room into a black hole. If you're one of these people, Stewart's screen materials that are intended for home theater use are better alternatives for you.
Stewart Studiotek 100 versus Da-Lite JKP Affinity
Not too long ago, we reviewed the Da-Lite JKP Affinity, which is Da-Lite's entry into the HD screens category. When comparing the Studiotek 100 to the JKP Affinity, there are several points of differentiation worth commenting on. Incidentally, all of our testing of these screens was done with the very high contrast JVC DLA-RS20 projector.
Gain. The JKP Affinity has a gain rating of 0.9, while the Studiotek 100 has a gain rating of 1.0. As mentioned previously, the Studiotek 100 measured an average of 0.97 gain over five measurement points, with a maximum of 2.04% variance between the different areas of the screen. The JKP Affinity measured an average gain of 0.80, with 7.08% variation between the minimum and maximum readings. So the Studiotek 100 is closer to its stated gain than is the JKP Affinity, and it also has an edge in white field uniformity.
Half-Gain Angle. The JKP Affinity has an extremely wide half-gain angle of 78 degrees. However, the Studiotek 100 does not have a half-gain angle, which gives it a slight edge. Practically speaking, this is a moot point; anyone sitting at 78 degrees off-center will not be able to see the picture very well no matter how bright it is. So, realistically, the two screens are tied in this regard.
Brightness/Contrast. Viewing the Studiotek 100 and JKP Affinity side-by side, one can see that the Studiotek 100 is slightly brighter. This should come as no surprise since the Studiotek 100 is pure white, the JKP Affinity is a light gray, and neither screen has any positive gain. Nevertheless, while the JKP Affinity is not as bright as the Studiotek, it does have greater dynamic range in typical viewing conditions. In very low indirect ambient/reflected light that is typical of what most home theater users will experience, there was a 15% increase in dynamic range when the image was shown on the JKP Affinity as compared to the Studiotek 100. For home theater consumers who cannot create a black, non-reflective viewing room, the JKP Affinity will produce better contrast performance. Stewart would readily acknowledge this, which is why they don't promote the Studiotek 100 as a home theater product. Indeed, the most appropriate comparison for home theater users would be the JKP Affinity against either the Studiotek 130 G3, or the Grayhawk RS G3.
Construction. Both screens are exceptionally well built, with aluminum frames covered in black, light-absorbing cloth and snap-on screen fabric. After putting together several screens over the past year for individual reviews as well as our budget screens shootout, it's very easy to appreciate the snap-on system. It's easy on your thumbs and goes together quickly with a minimum of fuss.
A perfect projector screen does not change the way the light from the projector reflects. It does not cause a shift in color. It does not cause a loss of detail. It does not appear brighter or dimmer depending on where you sit. A perfect projector screen, in other words, is invisible.
Simply put, the Studiotek 100 comes closer to perfect neutrality than any projector screen we've ever seen. It has perfect color balance, near-perfect 1.0 gain at all points, no half-gain angle, and a smooth, pristine HD surface. It is a professional screen for use in absolute light controlled rooms. It is ideal for situations in which you want to see exactly what the projector is delivering, with no interpretive nuance being added by the screen. We have given the Studiotek 100 an Editor's Choice Award. It is highly recommended for professional use in absolute light controlled conditions.
Since Stewart's popular Studiotek 130, a 1.3 gain white screen, has been widely recognized as a leading home theater product for many years, the introduction of the similarly named Studiotek 100 might lead consumers to imagine that this product may be appropriate for home theater as well. But for home theater enthusiasts, in all but the rarest cases the Studiotek 130 G3 or the Grayhawk RS G3 will still be the best choice.
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