Overall this is a gorgeous screen that really makes viewing pleasurable
Gorgeous picture and detailing make this a real winner
Pricey and sometimes you have to squint a bit in the darkened parts
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There's more to the Xscreen Monaco 80 than meets the eye. Once you've finished admiring its robust, high-gloss frame, you'll discover the screen's not made of your usual flexible fabric. It's rock hard, made from a 4mm layer of hardened glass!
The screen isn't just glass, mind. Applied to its front is a thin layer of material specially designed to reproduce the picture from your projector while eliminating reflections from other light sources. In fact, if Xscreen's boasts for the Monaco prove founded, it can actually be watched with the lights on - instantly overcoming a major practical barrier to having a projector in your living room.
So confident is Xscreen in the Monaco's ability to display watchable images even in a lit room, that it offers a 'TV' option for the screen: a £900 add-on comprising an AV 'hub' that's either external or built into the screen. The hub has its own TV tuners and sockets for your AV sources, and uses a single cable to carry video from the switchbox to your projector.
You can control potentially your entire AV system via one remote through the switchbox, and it even uses Pixelworks video processing to scale the image it outputs to suit your projector's resolution. Watching our test disc of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory in the dark, we were hugely impressed by the image's white balance and colour tone. At times the Monaco's image has an almost luminous quality.
The Monaco also shows a perfect movie touch with detailing, avoiding the over-sharpness and peaking of PC-oriented screens. It reflects less unwanted light onto walls and ceilings than many screens, even though its image is so bright. Now we turn the lights on - and amazingly Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is eminently watchable. The screen soaks up ambient light stunningly well, leaving the picture's brightness to dominate the room.
Naturally there's a limit to how far you can take this; while bright scenes are constantly easy on the eye, darker ones can cause squinting when the lights are on. But the fact that the picture is watchable at all in bright ambient light is remarkable.
Work of genius though the Monaco is, you probably think that £1,400 is steep for a screen. But the impressive daylight option creates a new world of home cinema possibilities.
But if you, say, get an 80in Monaco (60in, 70in and 100in versions are also available) with an InFocus IN76 projector, you'll have spent just over £3.000, or £4,000 with the optional media box, to get an 80in TV picture - pricing which compares hugely favourably with what you'd pay for an 80in plasma or LCD TV.
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