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Home Theater Screens Explained: Picking the Right Gain

By Greg Robinson
A screen is much more than a white wall.


When shopping for a front projection screen, there are several factors you need to consider before making a purchase. How big should the screen be? Does the material need to be perforated to allow speaker output to pass through unmolested? Should the fabric be white or silver? How reflective does it need to be? Each of these questions is worthy of an article all by itself, but today we're just going to focus on that last one.


Screen gain is the measurement of how much light is reflected by the projection surface as compared to the reflectivity of a matte white board coated with magnesium carbonate, a pure white mineral found in nature. A screen gain of 1.0 means that the screen reflects the same amount of light as does the white board. Similarly, a screen with a gain of 0.9 reflects 90% as much as the white board whereas a screen gain of 2.0 reflects twice as much light.



Is Brighter Better?

When first considering the concept of screen gain, your initial reaction might be to promptly seek out a high gain screen. After all, brighter is better, right? Like everything else in this world, it depends. If your venue is a conference room and you're giving a Powerpoint presentation to a room full of people with the lights on, yes - brighter is definitely better. However, in a darkened home theater, you'd be surprised at how little light you really need.

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