Can we interest you in some theater al fresco? If you're assembling an outdoor theater - for home, church, corporate picnic, or the like - Visual Apex's new ProjectoScreen line of portable screens can offer big-screen viewing for a small amount of cash.
The line currently includes the 120-inch ProjectoScreen120HD ($219) and the 144-inch ProjectoScreen144HD ($269), with 100-, 110-, and 132-inch versions coming soon. Yep, you read that right: a 144-inch-diagonal screen for just $269. Visual Apex sent us review samples of both models, which are essentially identical except for dimensions and weight. To read the complete performance review, click over to my write-up on the ProjectoScreen120HD; here, we'll touch on some of the major points.
The ProjectoScreen144HD is a 16:9-shaped screen that uses an elastic vinyl material with a 1.1 gain and a reported viewing angle of 80 degrees. The screen material stretches and snaps into the foldable, aluminum frame. When completely assembled with the stabilizing legs in place, the 144-inch-diagonal ProjectoScreen measures 8.7 feet high and 11 feet wide. If you were thinking about using this as an indoor screen, take note of that height spec; those of you who have eight-foot-high ceilings (like me) will only be able to use this model indoors if you wall-mount the frame without attaching the legs.
The screen comes in a convenient carrying case that houses everything you need for installation, weighs 36 pounds, and measures 48 by 13 by six inches. The setup and teardown process is straightforward and can be accomplished in less than 20 minutes. The setup instructions in the owner's manual are not well written, but the pictures are clear enough, and Visual Apex offers a very helpful setup video on its website. This 5'3" writer was able to assemble the 120-inch model all by herself, but I did request some help standing up the 144-inch screen. Not that it's too heavy; it's just so long and tall that I felt better having another set of hands to slowly and steadily raise it upright from its inclined setup position.
The ProjectoScreen144HD has good build quality for a screen in this price range. The aluminum frame feels sturdy (the package also includes ground spikes and ropes to tether the screen in place), the screen material feels very secure within the frame, and the black backing (to prevent light from passing through the screen) gives the screen material a sturdier, higher-quality feel.
I mated the screen with an Epson Home Cinema 2030 LCD projector and Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player, as well as a SoundCast Melody wireless speaker. I began my outdoor demo scenes around dusk and continued them into the evening, and I was quite pleased with the results. Brightness and color uniformity are solid, and the viewing angle is wide. I saw no permanent screen imperfections to detract from the viewing experience; however, because the screen material comes folded, creases can be visible when you first set up the screen.
• The ProjectoScreen144HD's foldable frame and snap-in legs make it very easy to assemble, and the different pieces feel well made.
• The screen material has good brightness and color uniformity.
• Visual Apex provides a handy setup video on its website.
• All of the pieces fit into a convenient carrying case.
• The vinyl material is folded for packaging, and some creases were visible with brighter video content, although their visibility decreases over time.
• Be prepared to stretch the material to snap it into the frame. The manual recommends that you do the corners first, but I found it easier to start on one side of the frame and work my way across.
• The owner's manual is not clearly written.
Comparison and Competition
Elite Screens' Yard Master 2 Series is probably the major competitor to the ProjectoScreen lineup. While that series offers a similar design and setup process, it maxes out at a screen size of 135 inches. The older Yard Master Series has larger models, but the build quality does not appear to be as good. Camp Chef is another resource for outdoor screens in a traditional frame, while retailers such as Home Depot and Walmart offer value-oriented inflatable outdoor screen options.
In general, Visual Apex's screen lineup offers good quality at a very affordable price, and the ProjectoScreen144HD is no exception. Ease of setup and teardown make it a great choice for an outdoor theater experience, but its good quality also makes it a viable choice for an indoor theater, provided your space can accommodate its dimensions. Combine this 144-inch screen with a projector like the Epson 2030, and you'll be enjoying a huge-screen AV setup in just minutes...all for less than $1,200.
• Visual Apex VAPEX9100SE Electric Screen reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Visual Apex website, a great resource for projectors, screens, and more.