Elite ezFrame High Contrast Gray, Fixed Projector Screen Review:
8/29/2006 -Art Feierman
I initially reviewed the first "version" of this screen over a year ago when it first reached the market. In my initial findings (read the review) this screen represented the least expensive commercial high contrast grey screen available, and overall, a good value. It did, however, also have a major shortcoming, and that was a visible hot spot in line with the projector. Now, hot spots, to the best of my knowledge, cannot be 100% eliminated, even on the best screens, and high contrast screens are more sensitive than basic matte screens.
Several months later, Elite asked me to review a new version of the screen, or, rather, the updated version (the original was the R100H, the newer one the R100H1), which sported a new screen surface material, and black backing on the screen surface, which they told me significantly eliminated the hot spot tendency and improved performance.
Well, I've finally broken down, and agreed to take a second look, as part of our efforts here to start reviewing more screens.
Let's get started:
The Elite ezFrame R100H1 (100" diagonal) reviewed, is a High Contast grey surface fixed screen, with a 16:9 ratio.
Suggested List Price is $629. (Dealers sell them a significant discounts.)
There is also an R100WH, but that one is a matte white surface, which we did not test.
Overall, Elite offers the ezScreen series in 4:3, 16:9, and 2.35:1 configurations.
There are 8 sizes available in 4:3 screens, from 84" diagonal to 200" diagonal.
There are 16 different screens (10 different sizes) of 16:9 screens from 84" to 200" diagonal.
Finally, there are 5 sizes of 2.35:1 screens, from 96" to 138" diagonal
Assembling the Elite ezFrame Projector Screen
The frame is fairly easy to assemble, although I must confess, I didn't have to assemble it myself, I just watched it being done. Elite is located about 40 miles from my location, and in Elite's enthusiasm to have it reviewed, they drove down the screen (boxed) and one of their people assembled it. I'm sure the Elite guy assembling it is far more experienced at it than you or I, so assembly time, will be longer than for us "normal people". The point is, it took definitely less than 30 minutes from sealed box in his SUV, to having it completed (and I was talking with him part of the time). I already have another (Carada) fixed screen mounted on the wall of my testing room. The 100" Elite was placed just in front of the other screen (slightly leaning against the frame of the other screen). As a result, the time mentioned does not include finding wall studs, installing the wall brackets, and hanging the screen.
Documentation has plenty of diagrams, but text (no doubt translated from the original Chinese), leaves something to be desired, there seem to be more "letters" (point J,K) on the manual, than discussion of them. Still, if you figured you could assemble a screen you shouldn't have any problem doing so. If you are a complete klutz, and are counting on an extraordinarily good manual to save you, look out, or find a friend who has "skills".
The screen surface attaches to the frame at 22 separate points, which creates a tight flat screen surface without any visible waves, that would distort the projected image.
Screen Light Absorbing Trim (border)
The screen has a velour type, black, light absorbing beveled surface that mounts on the frame. The black area measured 2.5 inches wide, on all sides. Interestingly, their website describes the border as being 3 inches, not 2.5, an error Elite should correct. I don't recall if the original version of this screen had a wider border. To put Elite's 2.5 inch border in perspective, the Carada Criterion's border is 3 and 3/8ths wide all the way around. (Carada offers a 2nd, slightly less expensive border that is about 2 inches wide.)
2.5 inches of black border makes for a good looking screen, and provides more than enough border at the top and bottom to deal with the light overshoot (top and bottom) that many of the new DLP home theater projectors have (or widescreen business projectors for that matter) that feature the relatively new 1280x768 resolution Darkchip2 DLP chip. (That chip allows Texas Instruments to use one chip for typical home theater (1280x720) and for business WXGA (1280x768), so that the full 768 vertical can be displayed. Some of the popular home theater projectors that use this chipset include the Optoma HD72 and the Mitsubishi HC3000. Almost all the widescreen business DLP projectors also use that chipset. I should note that those needing a brighter solution for their home, due to ambient light, might consider one of those bright business projectors.
The downside of using the 1280x768 chip, is that when you set up your projector to fill a 16:9 screen left to right - 1280 across, you end up with a total of 48 pixels vertically that will overshoot the screen surface, (768-720=48) and hit the frame (24 pixels at the top, 24 at the bottom).
The Elite's black velour easily absorbs the light from this overshoot, and you really have to be looking for it to spot the light hitting the screen border. If you do the computations, for a 100" diagonal screen, the overshoot works out to about 1.5 inches at the top and at the bottom, so the 2.5 inch border is more than enough, and would do the job even with Elite's huge 150" diagonal screen.
Projector Screen Image Properties - Gain
I would describe the R100H1 as a light gray surface. Despite this Elite claims a gain of 1.0. In comparing brightness with my Carada Brilliant White (gain claimed of 1.4), the Elite screen was not quite as bright. I do not have a viable method of measuring the actual gain of screens, but find the gain of 1.0 to be reasonable assuming the Carada meets its 1.4 claim. If anything I suspect that the gain is slightly lower, say, 0.9.
The end result is a screen that will work well with larger screens, or some of the less bright projectors, if you are looking for a screen that can lower black levels, but don't want to sacrifice as much brightness as some of the darker gray surfaces.
The image immediately to the right, shows the brightness difference between the Carada (top) and the Elite (bottom) separated by the Elite's velour border.
Projector Screen Image Properties - Color Accuracy
Following the same procedure above, we measured the grayscale balance at 100 IRE directly from the projector - measuring R, G, and B, values. We then performed the same measurements with light reflected off of the screen. Below you can see two images of my calibration software. The first is the RGB balance measured directly off of the projector, the second reflected off of the screen.
From an overall color temperature change, the direct temperature measured 6654K and reflected off of the screen, 6456K, about a 200K difference, which is very slight and easy to correct for. Essentially this Elite screen reflects back just the slightest more red, than blue. The percentage measurements between Red and Blue, go from 99.62 (red) and 101.19 (blue) on the direct measurement off of the projector. Off of the screen, red increases slightly to 100.17 while Blue drops to 99.69.
Better still, the amount of green compared to Red and Blue remains virtually unchanged. dropping from 99.99% to 99.98%
In summary, this Elite screen would have to be considered very color neutral, with the shift to red being barely detectable to the eye, even if you could show the same image with a perfect neutral screen, and then switch back to view the Elite screen.
The two images below (if you can read the small print - show (first) the color balance measuring directly off of the Optoma HD7100 projector. (You can see the RGB percentages on the right, and the target slightly off from a perfect 6500K, in the lower area. The second image shows the numbers and target, with light measured reflected off of the screen.
Projector Screen Image Properties - Evenness of Illumination, Hotspots, Roll-off and "High Contrast"
The original version of this screen, reviewed over a year ago, had a very visible hot spot, reflecting back light from the projector.
The new R100H1 is greatly improved. So much so, that, the hot spot and evenness, which were the weakness of the earlier version, are now a definite strength. There is minimal uneveness which I could barely detect viewing a pure white image. This image (underexposed by one f-stop) captured below, exaggerates the differences more than your eye can see. Even so, you can barely detect the hotspot in the lower center. I would attribute most of the barely detectable unevenness to the projector. In this regard, I find the Elite screen, is even better than my more expensive Firehawk. The Firehawk, does however, offers more contrast, which would excerbate the tendency to hot spot.
Overall the image illumination appears to be very, very good. Remember, the Optoma projector used for this shot, only claims 85% evenness of illumination. (especially seen in the the upper left hand corner)
Roll off, when viewing the screen from off angle is also not significant. Definitely less than my Firehawk, but again, the Elite doesn't seem to be be as "high contrast" a screen as the Firehawk. Unless your seating area will have people sitting more than 45 degrees off angle (rare), I don't think it's going to be an issue.
As you would expect, since the screen doesn't roll off significantly when viewed from side angles, it also means that the Elite screen won't reject side lighting as much as a higher contrast screen.
Below are twoshots of the screen in use, with the projector being the Panasonic PT-DW5000U (a high power, 2500:1 contrast ratio widescreen business projector). The first from the Lord of the Rings DVD, and the second, from the HD-DVD of Phantom of the Opera.
That about covers it. click below, for a summary of the Elite R100H1 screen, and thoughts relating to what type of projectors will pair well with it.