Let’s face it, most of us don’t have the space for a dedicated home theatre room, where a giant screen can be installed permanently on the wall. Even if you do have the space, it’s rather unlikely for your significant other to agree to a permanent screen. So how can you recreate the movie theatre experience at home? The solution is to get yourself a manual roll-up or an electric screen. These screens are simple to install, can be placed in a living room or a basement room and neatly roll out of sight when not in use. And if you think that you can’t afford an electric screen, think again. Of course there are companies offering electric screens that cost thousands of dollars. But there are also a number of well respected companies that offer very reasonably priced electric screens.
One of these companies is Elite Screens based out of California. Its extensive line-up of home and commercial projection screens includes a wide variety of electric, manual roll-up and fixed frame screens with a broad array of sizes, formats and materials. The Elite Screens’ Home2 series represents a line-up of attractively priced electric screens ranging from a conservative 75-inch model all the way up to a gargantuan 180-inch model.
The topic of this review is the Elite Screens Home2 HOME90IWH2 electric screen which retails for a reasonable $825 CAD. This is a 90-inch, 16:9 ratio screen which comes in a compact, white aluminium casing. The casing measures roughly 87.75 x 3.5 x 3.5 inches. The screen offers a 160 degree viewing angle and has a gain of 1.1. Gain is a measure of how reflective the screen material is, with 1.0 and 1.1 being popular choices for most home theatre applications. The Home2 series uses a MaxWhite-Fiberglass multi-layer material with a black backing to eliminate light penetration for superior image reproduction. The screen is surrounded by a black mask measuring 1.5 inches on the sides and the bottom, and 4 inches on the top. This black mask is intended to enhance the perceived brightness of the image on the screen. For rooms with higher ceilings, Elite Screens offers models that have a 30 inch mask at the top. Both the 4 and the 30 inch mask models have a vertical limit switch which allows the user to customize how far the screen drops down. The bottom of the screen has a black aluminium bar which keeps the screen flat when lowered. If you plan to place speakers behind the screen, an acoustically transparent version of the screen can be ordered from Elite Screens. Last but not least, a 12 volt trigger will automatically drop or rise the screen when connected to a projector that has a 12 volt trigger output.
Every Home2 screen comes supplied with two remote controllers, one infrared (IR) and one radio frequency (RF). A wired wall switch is included as well. Both remotes and the wall switch have the same three buttons: up, down and stop. Inside the box you will also find wall/ceiling mounting brackets, a bracket wrench, wall screws and even a bubble level. The provided manual could be improved with larger installation diagrams and clearer instructions.
Installation of the screen casing on my ceiling took about 20 minutes from start to finish, with a helping hand from my father (whom I had to trick into coming over for lunch so that he could lend me a hand). The mounting brackets and hardware fit together with ease which made for a simple and trouble-free installation. We mounted the screen about 2 feet away from the back wall so that in the near future I’ll be able place a plasma TV on the same wall and the screen will roll out in front of it. The white casing blended well with the ceiling, despite the black end-caps, and made for an elegant presentation.
Then came the really fun part – I walked over to my media cabinet and pulled out a few DVD and Blu-ray discs. The picture was provided by a Pioneer Elite BDP-95FD Blu-ray player and an Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 UB, an LCD-based projector (also reviewed in this issue). The vast majority of my viewing was done in a completely dark basement room.
With the push of a button on the remote, the screen lowered out of the casing in about 12 seconds. The tubular motor provided a relatively quiet and butter smooth operation. The aluminium bar at the bottom of the screen supplied the right tension to make the screen perfectly flat when lowered. My only comment about the operation of the screen is that when it retracts, the aluminium bar bangs against the casing.
Although I was eager to see what a Blu-ray disc would look like on the screen, I began with a few standard DVDs. If you read CANADA HiFi regularly you shouldn’t be surprised that the first movie to hit the screen was Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. My room was instantly transformed into a galactic battlefield with starships flying in all directions. I was completely satisfied with the combination of the on-screen contrast ratio and the black level. The details in both dark and light parts of the picture were very respectable. The backdrop of space was adequately black and the stars added a good depth to the picture. During brightly lit scenes, the picture achieved a comfortable brightness on the screen and I did not notice any hotspotting on the screen during my tests.
But enough of this ol’ standard definition stuff. Next I tried out Flyboys on Blu-ray disc. Not surprisingly, the first thing that I noticed was the improved picture resolution. This was a 1080p picture at its best – I kept thinking to myself. All of the resolution that I’m used to from this disc on our reference 1080p Pioneer plasma was cleanly displayed on the 90-inch screen. The improvement over a standard 480p picture was really tremendous. While watching scenes from The Golden Compass, the contrast and black level were excellent. I kept my eyes peeled for colour shifts on the screen but did not notice any – the colours quite natural and properly saturated on the screen. Scenes for a few other discs confirmed my initial findings.
For my final test, I turned the lights on in the room and switched the projector to its brightest picture mode. Even in the bright room, the image on the screen was of respectable enough quality. When would I ever watch the projector with the lights on? A few buddies over for a hockey game sounds like a great idea!
All things considered, I couldn’t be more satisfied with an electric screen that retails for $825 CAD. If you’re looking to add a cinema feel to your movie watching, a great projection screen is one of the key components that will allow you to do so. In fact, based on its performance and smooth operation, the Elite Screens Home2 HOME90IWH2 was chosen as the reference screen for future projector and screen reviews in the CANADA HiFi lab. Need I say more?
Elite Screens Home2 Series Electric Screen Home90IWH2
Price (MSRP): $825 CAD / $814 US