Originally Posted by jacked
I would welcome your thoughts on the ST130 and how it compares to your Firehawk in performance terms and picture quality improvements.
Just adding another opinion to the mix....
I currently use the ST130 G3 screen material. I haven't owned the Firehawk material, but I investigated the Firehawk thoroughly over the years in which I was deciding on my screen material (as my HT was being designed and built). I have big samples of it, and I've seen the Firehawk under every condition imaginable - from brightly lit, to full light control virtual bat-cave conditions, including with the same projector models I've used in my home theater (JVC). I have a good idea of it's performance vs my ST130 material.
The upshot is: In a room that has dark surfaces and perfect light control (no ambient light) I definitely prefer the ST130. The ST130's higher gain and finer screen coating simultaneously gives more brightness/vividness/punch to the image, while also presenting a smoother image (sparkly screen structure is rare on the ST130, but quite obvious to me on the Firehawk). It also has a more natural, even illumination - I find the hot-spotting of the Firehawk quite obvious and distracting (it's brighter in the centre, dimmer to the parimeter of the image, and if you sit more to one side of the screen, the opposite side goes visibly darker than the one closer to you).
Contrast-wise, I found it interesting comparing the 8x11 samples of ST130 and the Firehawk in my home (before getting the ST130). I'd expected the Firehawk to look obviously more "contrasty," but if anything it was the opposite. The added brightness of the ST130, in a room in which light reflections are pretty controlled, tended to make image areas with very dark/bright areas look like they had better contrast (a trick to the eyes no doubt, but ultimately that's what we are doing anyway).
I've found that once I did a good job of controlling reflections I've never seen a better projected image than what I'm getting with the JVC RS20 or RS55 on my ST130 - black levels look fantastic but the image isn't remotely dull or dim, it's bright and alive. And the extra gain (over a Firehawk) allows me to blow up the image with my 4 way masking quite large, and still get nice brightness to the image.
The only screen I can see possibly replacing my ST130 is the ST100, only to get the ultimate in "invisible screen" characteristics. Unfortunately I'd take a hit in brightness, so it's likely I'll be sticking with the ST130 as the best compromise I could find, all things considered.