Projector Screen Good Buys

Draper Onyx Projector Screen

If you have read our newsletter before, you already know about the benefits of using a projector screen (read here). But what sets one screen apart from another? Let’s discuss just a few of the features that separate the acceptable to the stellar in a fixed frame screen.

As with most products there are lower priced and higher priced options in projector screens. The most obvious differences between the two lie in the quality of the construction and materials for the product. For a fixed frame screen spending more usually means you will have a more durable frame and tauter viewing surface. A taut screen is desirable because a flat surface will not distort the projected image. A durable frame is important so that the screen does not lose it’s shape, or more specifically the 90 degree angles at the corners. Cheaper screens can lose their shape over time, and the screen material may also become loose as it stretches.

The Draper Onyx, for example, does not use snaps, but rather a system that offers a more uniform tension to the entire surface of the screen. The frame also allows for a couple of ‘retensionings’ in the future if the screen stretches. It also features a wider “vel tex” border than most lower cost screens.

Velvet Border

Most fixed frame screens include a velvet border these days. But the size and quality of the border may change from product to product. A cheaper material may also be used in a less expensive screen.

Quick Tip : Why would you want a black border on your screen? Beyond offering a more finished look to the screen, it also helps absorb light that ‘leaks’ off the side of the screen. In a movie theater, the drapes perform a similar function.

Ease of Installation

One benefit of a store bought screen over a DIY screen is the ease of putting it together. Some fixed frame screens are made with snaps on both the frame and screen material. The snaps can be a challenge to put together on a good screen, because the more taut the material is, the better the image will look (you don’t want waves in your image!). It is also worth considering the customer support you (or your reseller) can expect from the manufacturer. Cheaper screens are often manufactured outside of the U.S., where as Draper and Da-Lite are two American screen makers. Hopefully there will be no issues with your screen, and it will not be a factor for you.

Quick Tip : For less installation hassle, you may also consider a manual (pull-down) screen which will require simply mounting the screen to the wall. Yes it can be a pain to attach the casing to the wall, but that may be less effort than putting the screen together and then mounting the screen to the wall. These screens can also be pulled-up, hiding the screen from view. Pull-down screens, however, will not provide the same tautness in the image that a fixed frame will.

How Much Should I Budget for my Screen?

Here is a general price breakdown for a few of the most popular screen options.

  • Gallon of Matte White Paint: $20
  • Screen Material (DIY screens): $12 per square foot ($300 for a 92-inch screen)
  • Low cost Fixed or Pull Down Screen: $149 – $799
  • Fixed Screen with Border: $549 – $2,199 (Draper Onyx)
  • Electric Screen: $799 and up.

For questions about rear vs. front projection, screen size recommendations, mounting suggestions, and more, consult our Screen Guide.