Projector Screen Review: Elite CineTension Matte White Motorized Projector Screen, with remote controls:
01/25/2007 -Art Feierman
I certainly am much better set up to review projectors than screens, however, I do believe I'm getting the hang of reviewing projector screens.
Until 2007, I've been doing barely more than 2 screen reviews a year, but that's about to change, starting with the Elite CineTension projector screen, and I'm following that immediately, with the "high priced spread"; the latest version of the Firehawk, (the G3) from Stewart. I'm also planning in to bring in screens from Grandview, Da-lite, etc.
So I'll have two projector screen reviews done this year - before Superbowl. Plans call for doing at least a half dozen more thoughout the year.
A bit of background on Elite Screens
Here's the scoop on Elite. I've previously reviewed two of their screens (the first in 2005), although, I took a 2nd look at their ezFrame when they changed the screen surface. The other was their first motorized screen, the Home Series.
Here's the big thing about Elite Screens: Elite is probably best described as the "low cost leader". They haven't necessarily had many major catagories of screens on the market long enough to establish themselves as the equal to established brands such as Da-Lite or Drape. And they definitely aren't ready to challenge high end projector screen manufacturers like Stewart FilmScreen. That said, to date they have proven to, provide a very respectable product from a performance standpoint. Their pricing advantage, no doubt comes from being a Taiwanese company that controls it's manufacturing in China.
When we reviewed their first screen, we were impressed with the price, so far below the competition, that it had no competition. While it was a decent screen, it left plenty of room for improvement. By comparison, our most recent review of their ezFrame HC Gray surface, proved to be far more impressive, not only still very affordable, but with good build quality, and the kind of general image performance that I would describe as good, or typical of mid-range major brand manufacturers.
(Image on the right provided by Elite)
So that brings us to this review - the Elite CineTension projector screen. This screen came with their matte white finish. (which made sense to me since I recently reviewed their HC gray surface). You can get the Cinetension with 3 difference surfaces, the Matte white tested here, the "Tension Grey" which I believe is the exact same surface as the
I was especially interested in the CineTension because it does seem to be by far, the least expensive motorized screen with tensioning. For those of you not familiar, motorized and pull-down screens, if not immediately, then over time, tend to stop being flat when lowered for use. The waves and/or creases they develop (more likely on larger surfaces, say at least 100" diagonal and up) very quickly become both visible, and very annoying. The problems are most visible when what you are watching includes some slow panning of a scene. A few years ago I had a large motorized screen, that after about 2 years had serious waves (and no tensioning). Ultimately I replaced it because of the waves (as well as looking for some different performance - but it was the waves that really made me "pull the trigger".
So, finally here is an affordable motorized screen, that comes not only with remote controls (yes, both infra-red and RF - choose the one you like), but tab tensioning to keep it flat.
So, what does one cost?
Elite primarily sells through dealers, so MSRP isn't going to help you much. Let's just say that discounting out there is significant, and 20% off would not be shocking. (But don't forget - freight on screens will eat up some of those savings).
Here are a few MSRP prices, to give you a rough idea of what an Elite CineTension will set you back. These prices are for 16:9 aspect ratio projector screens:
92 inch: $889
100 inch: $949
106 inch: $989
120 inch: $1139
Now, to put that in perspective, a quick look at my Da-lite catalog (it's a 2005 catalog, but prices on screens don't change much) shows a price for Da-lite's Cosmopolitan Electrol Tensioned 106" 16:9 diagonal of $2107, and then, you have to pay extra to equip it with a remote control. Now, that's a pretty substantial difference! - More than twice the price even when the Da-lite isn't equipped witha remote control. It's possible that Da-lite may now have a lower cost line of tensioned designed for the home, but to the best of my knowlegde, the "Cosmo Electrol Tensioned" is their lowest cost.
Perhaps more to the point, is the pricing of the Elite Cinetension compared to a non tensioned motorized screen from Da-lite and others. Again, I consult my old Da-lite catalog.
The Da-lite Cosmo 106" 16:9 projector screen base price (no remote, matte white surface), is $997 MSRP, so basically (assuming similar discounting) the Elite provides you a tensioned screen with remote control for the same price as a Da-lite without tensioning or remote. BTW last I heard, all Da-lite screens are US manufactured.
The projector screen I received from Elite, for this review is the 92" variety. (The part number is the TE92HW1).
Basically, in reviewing this projector screen, my primary concerns are:
Projector Screem Gain (brightness)
Color Accuracy (does the screen reflect back the same color balance as the light hitting the screen)
Effectiveness of the tensioning - does the screen lay completely flat)
Roll-off of brightness as you move to the sides, and is the image darker in the corners than the center, due to the angle)
Installation, Ease of Use
Elite CineTension Projector Screen: Gain
Elite rates this screen as having a gain of 1.1, fairly typical of matte white surfaces. While I don't have a really excellent scientific method of determining it, my basic measurements indicate that it is close to claim. I previously measured Carada's Brilliant White projector screen surface as being approximately 1.3 (they claim 1.4). I have the Carada mounted directly behind the Elite Cinetension, and after adjusting for the slightly different distances (the Elite is 5 inches closer to the projector), I found the Elite to produce roughly 84% of the Carada. Multiply that by 1.3 and I get an approximate gain of about 1.09. Close enough!
In the image immediately below, the Elite surface is on the top, the Carada on the bottom, with a good monitor you can just barely detect a difference in brightness - although the difference is definitely slightly greater if you were standing in the room with me looking as I took this picture. Live you can not only pick up a slight difference in brightness, but also color.
Elite CineTension Projector Screen: Color Accuracy
This would be the Elite projector screen's weakness. For measurement purposes, I used the projector closest at hand. In my measurements with my Optic One pointing at the projector, the way it was set up, I measured white to have a color temperature of 7069K.
I then measured light reflected off the screen surface, and measured a color temperature of 7404K, slightly cooler (more bluish).
By comparison, I then measured the Carada, which came back with 6979K, definitely closer to the original direct from projector measurement. The Carada shifted warmer by a very insignificant 80K, while the Elite went the other way (cooler) by 345K. The other notworthy difference was measured green output. The Carada was just a tiny bit heavy on the green (less than 0.5%, while the Elite was 0.8%. In both cases those should be considered very good. Immediately below, both the Elite and Carada, with the Elite on the top. Very, very close. My camera does a less than perfect job here, but the point is, the color balance is still very close, (just not this close.) BTW, the yellows looked a lot better on the screens than in this photo! Also, live, in looking at a white image, as well as the color bars, you can see the slight difference in the color of these two screens, with the Elite being slightly bluer...
The important point to consider, is that if you are calibrating (even a basic calibration using a typical $40 - $50 disk like AVIA, or Video Essentials), you will be adjusting color based on the light reflected off of the projector screen surface. In other words, your adjustments will take into consideration any shift in color balance caused by the screen.
The image below (and you can click to enlarge, was shot with a 1080p projector Optoma's HD81, with the source being the Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD player, and the disk, the HD-DVD of Phantom of the Opera:
Elite CineTension Projector Screen: Tensioning
I had the Elite screen mounted almost two months before I got around to doing this review. In that time frame, the projector screen was almost always in the closed (up) position. It was closed for the last 2 weeks before I started the review. Upon putting the projector screen down, I found the tensioning to be doing the job extremely well. The screen appeared almost perfectly flat. I noticed only a slight bit of curvature in the lower right corner when I first rolled it down, but most of that was in the border fabric, not the surface. By the time I put a full white image on the screen, or watched some slow pans, I could not detect any unevenness in lighting or distortion on as would be created by a non flat surface. The bottom line, therefore is that the tensioning works great. How well this will hold up after a year or three of use, I have no way of telling, but their tensioning system sure seems to work reasonably well. In addition, the tensioning is adjustable, although the manual warns to check with Elite tech support first, that the intial setting is ideal...
Note, in the image above, at the bottom right, you can make out the tension control nob.
Elite CineTension Projector Screen: Evenness of illumination and roll-off
No problems here, either. As you would expect from a matte white surface, the viewing angle is extremely wide. Even moving way outside the the edges of the screen, the image remained bright, and evenly illuminated. Any unevenness that I could see, was if not completely, almost certainly due to the inherent inability of projectors to provide even illumination to begin with. (Note: most projectors drop off 15 to 25% in brightness in the extreme corners. You can detect a lighter bar on the left, that is actually a reflection off of the glass doors to the room, as is a faint difference about 1/3 from the right, and also on the Carada screen behind the Elite.
Installing the Elite CineTension Projector Screen
I don't do my own installations - been there, done that. But I can appreciate the different ways manufacturers set up their screens for mounting. The Elite, like some, but not all, other motorized screens does a nice job of making it easy. First of all the brackets are fully slidable. This easily allows you to find the studs in the wall that you will be using, and then simply sliding the bracket to where it needs to be. Some screens only have as little of 6 inches of adjustment side to side, which can make lining it up with the studs a real bitch.
In addition the Elite projector screen, comes ready to mount either to a wall or from the ceiling.
One word of caution. Upon initial mounting, the screen mount was not level - that is the top surface was not perfectly parallel with the ceiling, but rather tilted forward slightly. The screen still dropped and closed without a problem, however, upon initially hitting the down button, the screen made a loud clang like sound (the housing and the bottom of the screen frame are both metal. It made a similar loud clang as the bottom of the screen retracted into the housing.
Once I adjusted the screen on the bracket so that it was correctly parallel to the ceiling, the clang went away. Although that banging in its own right doesn't mean there is any issue with the screen's performance, I imagine that if you have it much more off angle than I did, that the surface of the screen may rub against the opening in the housing as it goes up or down, and that can't be a good thing!
This should certainly be easily avoidable, especially since you have been "warned." Adjusting it was easy.
I should note that the documentation for installing is pretty basic, but enough for anyone who has any idea of how to hang heavy things. The kit that comes with the projector screen has both masonary anchors and drywall anchors, so you should have whatever you need to do a normal mounting. The Extruded Hanger (bracket) shown on the screen above, is designed for either wall mount or ceiling mounting. I have this Elite Screens model mounted to my wall.
The CineTension projector screens have 16 inches of drop when fully extended. This is a good amount, making it easier to ceiling mount and still have the surface fabric hang down low where you want it. You can control the drop on the projector screen as well, so if you don't need all 16" exposed, you can have the screen not come as far down. You can set a stop, so it remembers where to stop.
Elite Cinetension Projector Screen: Remotes, Power, etc.
First of all, the Cinetension projector screen is a "plug and play" it comes with a standard AC cord for those that just want to hang it and use it, and not run the power through the walls. (Of course you can, if that is your plan.) There is also a small box that is the receiver for both the IR and RF remote controls (use whichever works best for you). You'll have to figure out where you want to put that.
Image above: IR and RF receiver for the Cinetension remotes
There is also a wall mount to control the projector screen (up, down, stop) I decided not to use that in my room, relying instead on the RF remote.
If you want to use the IR remote, you'll have to make the small box visible so the line of sight IR transmitter in the remote can reach the receiver's sensor. If you want to hide the box, you will be best served with the RF remote, since it doesn't require line of site. You don't have to choose only one, however, both are active at the same time.
BTW, both remotes look essentially the same. Shown here, is the RF remote control.
I should note that the manual very cleverly, provides the IR codes, for those of you programming a room controller or multi-function learning remote.