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Real World Review: Da-Lite Deluxe Insta-Theater

Volume Number: 24
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: Real World Review

Real World Review: Da-Lite Deluxe Insta-Theater

by Dennis Sellers and Neil Ticktin

Many of us watch a movie on our Mac from time to time. Generally, that works out pretty well. But sometimes size does matter, and even if you have a 30-inch Cinema Display, a bigger screen for viewing movies is always a great thing.

One good solution, if it fits your budget, is tricking out your Mac with a projector and a stow-away screen (as well as, optimally, a good sound system). We looked around the market, and found a solid screen choice is the Da-Lite Deluxe Insta-Theater. And then put it to some real world use. First impression? Wow. Simply wow. Not sure how else to put it.

It's available in 60, 80 and 100 inch diagonal sizes in NTSC Video format and 73 and 90 inch diagonal sizes in HDTV format. List prices range from $490 for the 60-incher (video format) to $740 for 90-inch model (HDTV) with Da-Lite's Wide Power screen surface. However, you can find them for much less if you shop around.

What's Wide Power? According to the folks at Da-Lite, it's a screen surface that combines the features of a higher gain screen surface of 2.2 with a wider 45 degree viewing angle. The smooth acrylic surface can be cleaned with mild soap and water.

The big advantage the Da-Lite screen has over many of its competitors is the ease of setting it up, then storing it when it's not being used. The Deluxe Insta-Theater sports a pneumatic scissors mechanism in an aluminum case for raising and lowering the screen surface. To set it up, release and raise the extension arm. Unroll the screen to the height you need. Then, well, that's it.

The Deluxe Insta-Theater is sturdy as it sits directly on the floor using two thin feet that swing out to 11.5 inches in length. The pneumatic scissors mechanism helps stabilize and balance the screen when it's fully extended, as well as helping ensure the screen surface doesn't warp. That said, if you use it outside, a breeze will catch it easily and you may want to tie it down. Furthermore, if someone walks briskly behind it, you would see their air disruption as you would on any screen.

We used it not only in inside settings, but outside settings (both day and night) and found the screen to be bright, ridiculously easy to set up, and a pleasure to use.

When you're done with the screen, press the center of the handle atop the screen and the device smoothly slides back into its case. Said case is only 4.5 inches around with the stabilizer feet retracted.

Da-Lite also makes a series of black nylon cases for the screens to help protect them during transport. The cases range in price from $52 to $90, depending on the model.

The Da-Lite Deluxe Insta-Theater is lightweight (the heaviest model is around 20 pounds), so it's also good for traveling or business presentations (but watching movies on it is a lot more fun). There's also a Theater-Lite version that has no pneumatic scissor mechanism; it sets up by releasing and raising the extension arm, then unrolling the screen to the preferred height.

The Deluxe Insta-Theater is geared more towards traveling professionals, while the Theater Lite is designed with family use and/or gaming rooms in mind. The Lite version comes in 60 and 80 inches with list prices of $350 and $398, respectively. However, note that Da-Lite's Wide Power is only available on the Deluxe Insta-Theater screen line.

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