I tested numerous screen samples from Elite, Carada and Da-Lite this week. This is not an easy process as the samples are relatively small and in different sizes from the three vendors. Only Carada sent nice 12.5x9.5 samples. Da-Lite's were barely adquate at roughly 7x7. Elite's were 2.5x7 and very difficult to evaluate. Since my HT is not yet completed, I placed the AE3000 on a box about 10' from the wall in a fairly well light controlled basement where I plan to fix a 100" 16:9 screen. The projector will eventually be shelf mounted behind a wall 13' from the screen. For testing I used Normal and Cinema 1. All other settings were right out of the box. Here's what I found ...
First off, all the gray screens were quickly eliminated because they were too dim, and although they did improve black levels, there was some slight color shifting on lighter colors such as whites and yellows. I felt that black levels were pretty good on the non-gray screens so it was an easy decision to discard them. Da-Lite's High Power was also removed from consideration rather early because it was just too bright, unnaturally bright and uncomfortable to view. That narrowed the field to varying shades of white with gains from 1.0 to 1.8.
The higher gain screens such as Carada Brilliant White 1.4 and Elite High Gain White (which is actually sort of a pearlescent gray or silver) 1.8 were definitely brighter. However, the question I kept asking myself is, does brighter necessarily mean better? I exercised quite a bit of patience and different screen shots to answer this question because initially the eye tends to judge brighter as better. In some cases it was. For example, darker color scenes in high gain brought out some shadow detail better than the lower gain. On the other hand, lighter scenes such as a sky with a slight tint of blue were rendered white with the high gain. Similarly, well lit scenes with vivid color were slightly washed out with the high gain and seemed to have greater depth in the lower gain.
I like to watch film noir so I tested some B/W images and found the high gain again to help in shadow detail. It also brightened the white in a man's shirt, but the tradeoff was to weaken the black in his suit. Overall, in a side-by-side comparison, I thought the lower gain screen produced a better black level than the higher gain in B/W movies.
Having decided on white low gain, I removed the others from the wall and focused on the Elite CineWhite, Carada Cinema White and Da-Lite Da-Mat. Honestly I found little to distinguish between them. Putting the samples together gave a consistent image across all three. The Elite is less than half the price of the others and has received very good reviews from this site, so that made my decision easy. I placed my order and should receive my new screen early next week.