I was very stressed when I decided to buy my Optoma GrayWolf 92 inch 16×9 1.8 gain projection screen. According to posts on AVS Forum I had to worry about: finding a discounted online retailer that would ship me the right product (the Graywolf has the same product number as Optoma’s white screen), the screen surviving shipping damage (large dents in the roll-up housing reported) and a horizontal line across the image area from a plastic sheet used for packing (more on this later). I’m happy to say I avoided all these headaches and received an intact screen at a reasonable price.
I arrived at the Graywolf after a long research journey through DIY screens. Before the low priced Graywolf crossed my browser, I was ready to buy a four by eight sheet of plastic corrugated sheeting for a screen, masked in a border of velvet and cropped by an elaborate draping system for different aspect ratios. All this DIY work became unattractive when I couldn’t figure out the sales at the local fabric store and how to strap the plastic to the roof of my SUV without a major accident. The Graywolf’s sub $200 price beat the DIY project’s time and effort.
The Optoma Graywolf is a retro-reflective retractable screen. A brighter image is reflected off the screen the closer your head is to the projector (within a sub 20 degree angle). It is said to work best with projector mounted in low height cabinets and on coffee tables. AVS forum members warn against the use of this screen with ceiling mounted projectors. My Sanyo PLV-Z3 LCD projector is ceiling mounted.
When seated (below the proper viewing angle from my projector and this screen) I lose brightness. Not so much that the projected image disappoints. In fact when I stand up into the proper viewing angle the screen can seem too bright and over-saturated (I’ve calibrated from my seated sweet spot after all). When you move too far to one side of the screen—out of the proper viewing cone—you lose brightness, blacks wash out and colors shift and fade.
The Graywolf shipped with a clear plastic sheet rolled up into the top half of the screen. When you remove the plastic you will notice a difference of the reflectivity of the image area crystals under the plastic versus those outside it. This leaves a faint band across the top third of the screen that you will only notice during scenes with large areas of flat, light color (like an overcast sky or an endless white room). The band has not faded away for me in the last nine months of ownership.
Like all screens that are not on a rigid frame the Graywolf has some ripples. The ripples are as noticeable as the top band from the plastic, with little to no impact on the majority or your viewing. You’ll only see them in some slow panning scenes and across flat, bright colors. I still get a perfectly rectangular image from the projector onto the screen.
The return retraction of the screen is a little sticky and violent when you do get it to retract. Luckily, Wife_o_Geek has not requested the screen to hide up in its valance when not in use. It just hangs around all day, waiting for another night of movie watching.
I hung the Graywolf from my ceiling with large ceiling hooks. After careful measurements, I was able to level the screen in three dimensions.
The Graywolf’s 16×9 image area is a dark gray behind its layer of retro-reflective crystals. The gray surface enhances perception of black level, increasing the screen’s contrast. I assume my blacks are better than on an equivalent white screen. The enhanced blacks when mixed with a high contrast image (like Naomi Watts against the Skull Island sunset in Peter Jackson’s King Kong (finally watched it over two nights, spectacular looking DVD)) give the image a deep 3D picture that pushes back into the screen beyond its 2D surface.
The Graywolf is my first front projection screen and I’m very impressed. For the price, you can’t beat this screen’s value to complement entry level front projectors (like my Sanyo PLV-Z3). You get high contrast, deeper blacks than a movie theater, and great screen geometry despite some ripples.
Build a valance with fancy crown moulding to impress the wife (or just for her to allow the screen and its elementary school retractable box in the room) like I did (well, like my wife requested our carpenter build, I painted it matte black though) and you’ll be on your way to an affordable, high performance home theater.