Optoma HD25-LV - Projector Screens
It's true! The Optoma HD25-LV is a really nice home entertainment projector. Yes, you can put it in a dedicated theater too! Like most lower cost (but not lowest), it has compromises and trade-offs, but this Optoma also packs an awful lot of brightness, which makes it a good choice for rooms that aren't dedicated home theaters and caves.
Below I'll attempt to focus on what type of screens to match up with the HD25-LV, depending on where you'll be using this projector.
Because the HD25-LV - not to be confused with the far less bright HD25 projector - has very good black level performance for the price, I realize some of them may well end up in dedicated theaters and caves. Therefore, I will also discuss using the HD25-LV in those home theaters.
Let's start with a standard: The movie theater engineers - SMPTE, provide brightness levels that are acceptable for movie viewing in today's not fully dark theaters. Based on their numbers, you only need about 450 lumens maximum to handle a typical 110" diagonal screen in a dark room. OK, convinced yet that you have some firepower to work with? Yes? Good. Describe your room to yourself: Are your walls bright (such as white, off white, very light colors), more medium, or fairly dark. The lighter your walls, floors, ceilings, the more any image will wash out as both ambient light, and reflected light off the screen that bounces around ther room, will wash out your image more than dark surfaces, but all these extra lumens can make up for most of that loss. Assuming you want a typical screen: 90 - 110 inches diagonal, you've got the lumens to spare, so if your ambient light is coming from the sides, get a screen that can "reject" that ambient light. The loss of overall brightness will be slight, the benefits, greater.
Click to Enlarge.So close
Our variables are the HD25-LV itself, in terms of brightness, the room conditions, the type of projector screen surface, and the size of the screen. Based on my recommendations in the rest of this Optoma projector review, typical owners of the HD25-LV projector will stick to one image mode, or they might work with a second image mode. In this case, the brightness levels are a measured 1500 lumens calibrated or 1800 lumens uncalibrated.
Click Image to Enlarge
There are now plenty of home projectors with around or even more than 2000 lumens at their brightest, but projectors that can put their best possible (calibrated) picture on the screen to the tune of 1500 lumens are far less common. For perspective, consider that we have yet to review any projector for home, other than a few lower cost entry level, crossover projectors, that can muster up more than 2500 lumens at mid-zoom.
Thus nothing competitive or better (without spending massive money), is more than about 30-40% brighter. In my video on projector screens (and also in the video about choosing the right projector for a family room), I demonstrate how much screen surfaces can matter. Side ambient light only? Consider pairing the HD25-LV projector with a high contrast gray screen. Most screen makers offer at least one. My old Stewart Firehawk G3 (hc gray) was great at dealing with my side windows in my last house. The Studiotek 130 G3 that I currently have in my dedicated theater, however, would have been a disaster in the same setup. It's this simple. If your ambient light source is back by the projector - such as windows or doors behind, you've got problems that screen selection can't really help much with. But as long as the light sources or on the sides, or perhaps on the back but far left or right, minor miracles can be worked. In my room that rear window (with shutters) is one of two, that are only about 20 degrees off angle from the projector (one on either side). Even my old Firehawk would have been almost completely helpless to solve that problem. (Thankfully my rear windows can be completely blacked out.) On the other hand, on the side, near the back (see image below) there's a skylight in the next room. That skylight is enough off angle that the Firehawk would have helped a good deal in preventing that light from diluting the image. But a standard 1.0 to 1.4 gain screen would be virtually useless against that light. Got full lighting control? Then you have no problem. Stick with a moderate gain screen (under 1.5) so that you have a large viewing cone, (seating area where things look really good), and enjoy. Another reason for pairing a High Contrast Gray screen with the Optoma HD25-LV is the black levels. I stated that the HD25-LV's blacks are particularly good (black) for the price. Still, they could be darker.
That's something the high contrast gray screen can help accomplish. Ideally, you want this projector placed so that the screen wall is not facing a back wall with lots of light. A screen can help a great deal if the ambient light is coming from the sides, but not if it's coming from straight back. High Contrast gray screens, in my experience, are best at rejecting side ambient light. I have used them in my previous home, with truly great success. A Stewart Firehawk G3 was able to handle modest amounts of light from a side windows with shades, rather effortlessly. The Firehawk is a pretty expensive screen, but there are plenty of others that, if not as good at "rejecting" side light, do a good job of it. Just about every screen manufacturer makes high contrast gray screens. Some are brighter than others (light gray vs gray). Da-lite, Draper, Elite, Carada, all have high contrast gray screens. Both Screen Innovations and Stewart Filmscreen, who make top quality, but very expensive screens, have both just launched a more affordable line. I'm not sure if they have HC grays, in those lines, but I'd expect them to. I want to emphasize that even the slightest ambient light is seen on a typical normal gain white screen, when coming from the side, as you can see in the top image above. The bulk of the lighting you see on the screen is from that side window. High power screens - very high gain white screens can also effectively reject side light and provide a very bright image, but there's a trade-off. You have to be sitting close to dead center to get that brightness. Sit 4-5 feet to the side, (on a typical 100 inch screen), and most of it's gone, and it starts getting dim instead. Now if you are only planning movie viewing at night, and can turn off any annoying lights, then you are likely better served with a white screen with modest gain - 1.0 to 1.5. 1.3 to 1.5 gain screens get you a noticeable boost in brightness without too much downside. They will even reject a minor amount of side lighting, but they aren't the cure for that problem. 3D: When you are running 3D, the problem is that you are sacrificing well over half of the brightness. That affects all decisions, but fortunately, unless you are going above about 110" diagonal, you will have enough brightness to do fine. One more tip. If you are mounting the projector, the closer to the screen the brighter the projector (due to optics). Every bit helps, but we're not talking a really signficant difference, there's just a 17% brightness difference between closest and furthest. Note, with screens that have narrow viewing cones, the closer the projector is to a particular sized screen, the narrower the viewing cone.
Optoma HD25-LV in a Dedicated theater
With lighting control comes "peace". Perhaps your biggest problem will be too much brightness, unless you are going extremely large screen (at least 125" diagonal). In a good room, you can go white or gray, but a high contrast gray will, as mentioned earlier also have the benefit of lowering black levels a bit.
What type of High Contrast Grey Projector Screens
If your budget is tight, you might look for HC Gray screen from Elite Screens: HC Gray (a light gray), or one of Da-lite's perhaps the HC-Cinemavison, an old favorite of mine. Definitely consider a Firehawk from Stewart Filmscreen if budget allows, but it's pricey.
For the ultimately bad room lighting wide, the best I've seen is a Screen Innovations Black Diamond, but considering they are far more expensive than the HD25-LV, that's not likely to work out.