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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This review has been a long time coming, but I have finally got my setup dialed in to where I can pass judgement on this screen. First a little background.


I've had a CRT projectors on the ceiling in my basement for about five years now. They've all been Barco machines, the latest a Data 801s. This is a nice 8" ES focus CRT which performs especially well in home theater due to its color-filtered CRT coolant and ABL. Although it doesn't scan as high and focus as well as some of the higher-priced units, color fidelity is probably as good as it gets for a machine of this type. I drive it with a HTPC and Theatertek for DVD on input 5. An RCA DTC-100 provides cable and OTA HD on the 9-pin input 3. I don't have this box subscribed to DirecTV because frankly the overcompressed signal looks horrible on a big screen and I'm not going to pony up over $60 a month to get the few HD channels they offer.


I have gone through several screens in this basement setup including an 80" wide 16x9 High Power Electrol, a 96" wide 4x3 High Power Model B, a 80" wide Stewart Horizontal Electrimask Screenwall StudioTek 130, and most recently an 80" wide 4x3 Video Spectra. I'm working on a "movie room" in the space that used to be my workshop where the 80" wide Stewart will reside along with another BD801s.


In this latest setup I wanted a screen that would work well for TV watching with the lights on since nothing's lamer than having friends and family over to watch a game in the dark. I needed something smaller so I could project on the long wall of this long room with low ceilings (7'x11'x26'). Previously I was projecting onto a pulldown oriented 90 degrees from the current setup. This was a pain since you couldn't easily get around the screen when it was down. I like this setup much better than any previous, as it really opens up the room.


The screen I bought to fit this bill is the Vutec Ultra High Gain in 4x3 72" diagonal. In the sweet spot this thing gives 13 gain due to its compound curve and silver surface. The curved nature of this screen and extreme gain makes it excellent for ambient light rejection. As long as I don't shine a light directly at the screen there is little difference in the picture quality with lights on vs. lights off. I have five 75w halogen can lights on a remote dimmer in this room. The screen competes very well even in this harsh environment. The gain does fall off dramatically outside the 4' sweet spot, but everyone on the couch and the two recliners flanking it have a decent view. I have lowered the contrast 10 points on the CRT which reduces spot size giving a more detailed image. This also has the effect of reducing CRT wear and prolonging their service life.


This is a very well-made screen. It has a thick plastic back shell which supports the screen and provides attachment for the included wall mounts. There are adjustable metal arms that provide a means to tilt the screen for optimal gain. The wall mounts are made of the same thick plastic and seem very sturdy. The screen surface is washable and is bordered by a black rubber-like snake about 1/2" wide. The corners are rounded which looks nice, but allows a little light spill.


The screen sits out from the wall a surprising 11" at the edges. I say surprising because I had assumed 6" maximum projection when I mounted the projector ahead of the screen's arrival. I had to move the projector back in order to fill the screen properly. I have found that tilting the screen slightly up toward the projector gave the maximum gain at the center.


There are drawbacks to having this kind of gain with a front projector. Although I don't notice a hot spot, there is a definite color-shift. Also, in dark scenes halation from my air-coupled lenses is painfully obvious. Shadow detail is amazing though, halos notwithstanding. I have throttled back the gamma on my Radeon card and still get very nice low-level detail. A bonus to being able to lower gamma is that it reduces noise in DVD playback on my HTPC. A drawback to having a curved screen is that there is no easy way to mask top and bottom for widescreen movies. I imagine this wouldn't be such a problem if you were to buy one of the 16x9 ratio sizes.


If you're going to get one of these screens keep in mind that they are build-to-order and drop-shipped from the factory in Florida. It took about three weeks to arrive at my house in Michigan. There is quite an odor given off by the screen initially that I can only guess is from the glue that holds the screen to its backing. You may want to leave it in an out building for a few days to air out if the smell is offensive. I'm not going to make a big deal about it here, but I did have to return the first screen because of shipping damage. Had it not been damaged I would have been tempted to return it anyway because of multiple imperfections in the screen surface in the form of little raised "pimples". These may have resulted from dust or dirt that got behind the screen surface during manufacture. They showed up as bright areas surrounded by a darker ring and were quite annoying during bright scenes. The replacement screen arrived (after another three weeks) in perfect condition: No damage, no pimples, I'm happy. I still have to deal with an insurance settlement, but I'm not out any additional funds.


I don't consider this screen a videophile's dream. It works very well for my intended purpose and I like it better than the high power in this application. If you need to have some lights on for casual TV watching, then this screen is a great choice. The price, although somewhat more expensive than a cheap pulldown, is right on par with the better wall-mounted screens. I paid under $400 shipped. This one is a keeper.


-Mike
 

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Mike,


Thanks for your review, very thorough and objective. I expect my 54x96 Vutec any day now and you have provided me with a level of expectation. I'm particularly grateful on what to look for in terms of screen defects. I see color shift now with my High Power and it is severe enough that I can see it by moving my head 6" to the side. How would you compare the two in terms of color shift?
 

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Thanks for the review. I noticed that you had the video spectra screen, could you give me your impressions of this screen and its pros and cons? I am considering this screen for my X1.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
SteveTW,


I can't say that I was overly impressed with the Video Spectra material. The one thing that bothered me the most about it is I could see the texture of the screen in bright scenes. It's a good trade-off if you need some extra gain for a CRT, but I can't see it being on any digital projector owner's short list.


I still have the 80"x60" model B available (cheap!) if you're interested.


-Mike
 

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Color shift on silver colored curved screens has always been a pet peeve of mine.


You can take the same screen and coated with something like the High power, but maybe not retro reflective and it works so much better. A guy that used to work for Vutec 20 years ago used to make these lower 3.5 gain screens for Vidikron in 1992,1993. Alan Beiner.


Fax number 718 723 7695. They were great although dificult for him to make. I have tried to talk Vutec into making them, but these guys are SQUAREHEADS. They rather play with shower curtain laminates.
 

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How much are those screens running you. I have a lot of ambient light in my room and even though I got a super bright PJ, PB 7200 w/2200 lumens (yeah right), probably in econo mode 1500 on a good day, I'm very interested in high gain screens. Is high power the cheapest high gain screen? Is that why its so popular? I'm on a limited budget (student) but always find some why to finiance my HT stuff.


Chris
 

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Hi Mike,


Im interested in the mounting of the screen, which Ive not seen mentioned prior to your review. Im very interested in this after reading your msg because I actually need the 2 things i THINK the mounting provides. 1. I need to bring the screen out from the wall enough to clear chair rail molding, which ius about 5" deep. 2. I need to tilt my screen down in order not to use key stone correction. Do I understand you correctly that this screen will sit 11" from the wall, and also allows tilting the screen up or down? Can you explain the mounting system, and how this all attaches and works?


Thanks,


Mark
 

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it's curved?? Hmm i thought this was about the Silverstar. never mind.
 
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