Five Screens for Under $500 - Elite ezFrame CineWhite®

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Bill Livolsi, May 2, 2008


Elite EZ-Frame White

Elite is a well known name in screens, with a reputation for quality products and reasonable prices. Our test samples included two 100" fixed frame screens, with one in white and one in gray. They came in smaller boxes than expected - it turns out that the long horizontal crossbar is actually two pieces which join in the middle. Unpacking was simple, so we started the clock and got to work.

Construction. Our first screen of the day, the first Elite took 52 minutes for one person working alone to assemble completely, with most of that time being spent on attaching the screen to the frame. The Elite screens attach to their frames with a series of plastic tabs, as shown below, which must be inserted by hand. These are evenly spaced around the perimeter, with extra emphasis on the corners.

The Elite screen attachment system. 
The instructions are very clear, and there's no need to worry about getting lost or confused if you actually read them. If you are handy with tools or have assembled a screen before, you can probably knock 15 to 20 minutes off of that time - our second Elite took only 37 minutes. The Elite screen was more difficult to assemble, but this one-time effort pays off in terms of build quality. 

Build Quality/Screen Tension. In exchange for your hard work, you get a screen that is exceptionally well built, with an evenly tensioned smooth surface. There was not a wrinkle or flaw to be seen anywhere on the screen's surface. Aesthetically, the seam in the horizontal frame bars where the two pieces join is less than ideal, and the 2.44" velvet border looks too thin for a screen of this size, but these are minor complaints. Overall, the Elite EZ-Frame looks and feels like a solidly built piece of equipment.

Performance.  With the Elite white screen placed next to the Stewart Studiotek 130, two things become immediately apparent. First, the Elite White does not reflect as much light as the Studiotek, which measured 17% brighter. Second, the Elite White is slightly colder than the Studiotek 130. This can be corrected by altering the color balance of your projector, but there is a good chance that one would not even notice the shift without doing a side-by-side test. In the screen shot below, you can see the difference in brightness, and also the color shift--the sky on the left is bluer, and the surface of the building is a darker shade.

Now, keep in mind that the Stewart Studiotek 130 is about four times the price of the Elite White. When putting the Elite up against another screen in the same price range, it competes quite well.

Overall. The Elite EZ-Frame White is a great value.

Color balance is among the best in the group, and it performs fairly well against the Studiotek in terms of brightness for one-fourth the price. It's 2.44" wide frame is adequate for a 100" screen, but a 3.0" or 3.25" width would be ideal. However, Elite's 100" 16:9 EZ-Frame sells for roughly $420 through Elite's dealers, so you can't beat it for value. 

Elite EZ-Frame Gray

The Elite EZ-Frame Gray is structurally identical to the EZ-Frame White, so the Construction and Build Quality sections will be skipped. Elite's Gray screen will marginally enhance contrast on projectors that suffer from weak blacks or low contrast ratios (for high contrast projectors, Elite recommends the White). However, the image is not as bright. Notice that the Elite Gray screen, shown on the right, is darker than the Elite White on the left.                          

The Elite Gray screen was tested against the Stewart Grayhawk RS, a gray screen designed to enhance black levels and color saturation. Against this screen, the Elite Gray showed similar results as the comparison between the Elite White and the Studiotek - the Gray was not quite as bright, and slightly colder, than the Grayhawk. This time, the difference in brightness was 22%, and the color shift towards blue was slightly more pronounced.

Elite EZ-Frame Gray can be had for the same $420 as the EZ-Frame White. The bottom line here is that the Gray fabric will knock brightness down significantly, and whites will appear less brilliant while blacks will appear more solid. If you have a very bright projector that needs a contrast boost, the Elite Gray has what you need.

The bottom line ... you don't need to spend thousands of dollars for a top of the line screen to get great performance for the money.

If you've got an unlimited budget and you are putting in a high performance home theater, the pricier screens do deliver better pictures than you get with the budget alternatives. But as you can see from the screen shots in this review, the differences are not as dramatic as you might imagine. These days, you can get a very impressive, professional looking projection screen for a fraction of the price rich folks pay for their high-end solutions.