Projector Screens

Do I Need To Upgrade My Projection Screen For 4k?

Marketing is fun, isn’t it? Throw “Quantuum” in front of something and it sounds scientific. Add “Free-Range” to a label and suddenly it is healthy! Audio is no different. AV receivers are still marketed with the number of watts available (even though the differences are rarely audible). Now we are seeing projection screens with the “4k” label. Is that a real thing? If you have a projection setup and are thinking of upgrading to a 4k projector, do you need a new screen? Let’s discuss!

The Potential Problem

What manufacturers are suggesting by labeling their projection screens “4k” is that your new, upgraded projector will somehow have reduced performance on your old screen. This makes, at first blush, a modicum of sense. Your old projector was probably 1080p. 4k is four times the number of pixels! This higher resolution means many more pixels per inch. Surely your projection screen needs to be better to fully take advantage of this increased resolution!

Do You Have to Upgrade Your Projection Screen for 4k?

The answer is…probably not. Almost CERTAINLY not. If you have a normal fixed frame or drop screen (one that is not acoustically transparent) you only need to ask yourself one question. Can you see a texture on the screen from your seat? If you are not sure, project a solid color onto your screen. Does it look like a single rectangle or is it textured in some way? If you can’t see any texture, you don’t need to upgrade your projection screen for 4k.

If you have an acoustically transparent screen, however, you need to be doubly sure. Many acoustically transparent screens are woven. While flat screens are mostly textureless, these woven screens do have a bit of wave to them. If you do the test above and you don’t see a texture, you should be fine. Either way, get the 4k projector first and test it out on your current projection screen before upgrading.

Lastly, if you are using an ambient light rejecting screen (because you have an ultra short throw projector for example), the same warnings apply as for the acoustically transparent screens. If you can’t see a texture with a solid color image from your seat, you are unlikely to need any upgrade.

The key takeaway here is the “from your seat” part. If you put your nose on the screen, you are sure to see a texture. But that’s not how you use your screen. Sit as you normally would for each of these tests. Don’t go looking for problems. Unless you like spending money. Then do whatever you want Mr. Moneybags.

So Why the 4k Label?

We started this article off by talking about marketing. Manufacturers know that listing something like “4k/8k Ready” with their products will encourage people to buy. Does it matter that the screen material isn’t fundamentally different than the older models that aren’t listed as 4k ready? Nope. But they can charge more for them and that’s all that matters. For most people, in most rooms, their old projection screens will be just fine with their upgraded 4k projectors. You won’t lose any resolution. In the end, that’s all that really matters.

2 Comments on Do I Need To Upgrade My Projection Screen For 4k?

  1. Asoka

    Very interesting and useful. But does this also apply, do you think, to older screens that predate most HD projectors? I have a Da-Lite 240×135 screen bought in 2002. I still like it because the viewable area is actually 230×135 i.e. the entire height is white, not with a huge black useless border at the top like most screens being sold these days. So, I have a new 4K projector and I have been wondering about this very question…

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