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How to Choose the Right Projector Screen

So you finally finished reading all of the blog posts, advice and reviews for help deciding what kind of projector to get. You’ve ordered the projector, and now it’s been sitting in your living room in its box for the past few weeks. Why? Because you forgot that you need a screen to go with it!

Unless you’ve decided to use a blank wall for your projector, you’re going to need a screen to project onto. Similar to projectors, there are myriad types of screens and you could spend months researching the different screen types, colors, materials, tensions, ratios, sizes, etc. If you’re the kind of person who has enough time and interest for that, go for it - you’ll definitely end up with the right screen for you.

I recommend an alternative approach for most home entertainment projector users. It will save you some time, and you’ll still end up with a quality projector screen that fits your needs. First, read this blog post that reviews the most frequently seen types of screens and the most important elements to consider (I’m only going to talk about screens that are sold as is, not custom). After you’ve decided on the type of screen, go to your favorite online store for tech purchases and search for that type of screen. Then, read the reviews for the screens in your price range and choose the one that works best for you.

Portable screens and permanent screens are the two primary types of screens on the market, and each has various subtypes - if you know which one you prefer, feel free to skip to the section relevant to you.

Permanent Screens

Fixed Wall Screens: This type of screen is exactly what it sounds like. It’s fixed in place, and attached to the wall kind of like a wall mounted TV except flatter and bigger. They come in many different sizes, with various widths and colored borders so you can ensure the screen fits its room. Fixed wall screens can be great for rooms that will be used specifically for viewing - think home theaters, family rooms, etc. They can serve as the focal point of a room, and the rest of the design can work around it. Because these screens are fixed, they often last longer than other screens as you aren’t fiddling with them, and the picture tends to be a bit better.

Manual Screens: These are similar to the maps in elementary school classrooms - the ones that snap up and spin around if you pull down too hard - except better quality. Manual screens can be attached to the ceiling or wall and allow the screen to be hidden when not in use. Manual screens are some of the least expensive screens on the market and also come in a variety of sizes and screen types. Because of the constant up and down, they often need to be replaced sooner than other types of permanent screens.

Motorized Screens: The same as manual screens but you don’t have to do the work! Most motorized screens come with a remote. Motorized screens can be attached to the wall or ceiling, or if you want to get really fancy, can even be inserted into the ceiling or hidden in a piece of furniture. They tend to be significantly more expensive than other types of screens.

Portable Screens

Floor Screens: These types of screens retract into a base a little wider than the screen, making them portable. They are heavier than other types of portable screens but are more solid and are very easy and quick to set up. Most are manual though there are some electric options on the market.

Tripod Screen: Like its name, this is a retractable screen on top of a tripod. The tripod itself can be folded down and the screen is in a base similar to a floor screen. They come in multiple sizes, but not quite as many as other types of screens.

Folding Screen: Folding screens are the most portable option as the frame fold into itself and the screen isn’t attached to it’s frame. They are similar to tripod screens except they have two legs instead of one tripod. They are often more expensive than tripod screens and a bit more difficult to set up, but they are more flexible and allow you to switch out the screen fabrics easily.

Inflatable Screen: These screens are typically used outdoors as they are inflatable and often waterproof. They are easy to set up - most of them inflate and deflate themselves without a manual pump - and are easy to store. They also come in extremely large sizes and are usually pretty affordable. The picture quality isn’t quite as good as with other screens, but they do the trick, especially for outdoor movie nights!

There are a few other types of screens on the market, but these are the ones with the most options that are most frequently used for home entertainment purposes.

After selecting the type of screen that’s best for you, there are a couple of other things you need to know/decide before reading specific reviews.

First, what’s the aspect ratio of your projector and do you want it to match the aspect ratio of the screen? If they aren’t the same, your image will either be too large for the screen or smaller than the screen.

You must choose where your projector is going to be set up. Then, you can figure out screen size based on the distance between screen and projector - that’s called the throw ratio. Usually, there will be some kind of guide that came with your projector, or you can easily search for an online calculator to help you out.

You should also think about how much ambient light will be reflecting onto your projector. Some screens do better than others in dealing with ambient lights.

Combing through the options can be daunting, but narrowing down your choices and making a few decisions beforehand will ensure you end up with the right screen for you.

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