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Tensioned vs. Non-Tensioned Screens: The Projection Showdown

Tensioned vs. Non-Tensioned Screens: The Projection Showdown

What To Know

  • Tensioned screens, more expensive and offering better image quality, are ideal for professional settings and outdoor use. In contrast, non-tensioned screens are more affordable and suitable for indoor, non-professional environments.
  • Non-tensioned screens are better suited for indoor use where there’s minimal disturbance, as they can sway or develop creases.
  • Tensioned screens, on the other hand, are rigid and maintain a flat surface, making them perfect for outdoor settings or professional presentations where image quality is paramount.

In this article, we’ll compare the features, applications, and affordability of tensioned and non-tensioned projector screens so you can find the best one for your needs.

Non-Tensioned Projector Screen

Amazon Basics 16:9 Pull Down Projector Screen - 80 Inch

Non-tensioned screens are held up from a casing structure, with no extra support aside from its weight, screen material, and composition.

This type of projector screen is affordable and ideal for indoor use, where your viewing experience won’t be disturbed by strong winds and other outdoor elements that can distort images. These screens have a tendency of swaying or when touched or disturbed by breezes that can cause creases and waves. 

Non-tensioned screens work great as wall projector screens, but you’ll have to use additional support to secure the edges, like a framing tape. It’s also the best choice for ceiling-mounted screens since they don’t have tabs that can get caught in the casing. Lastly, it’s more portable –– and an ideal feature if you need to bring your own equipment for a presentation.

Tensioned Projector Screen

Elite Screens Evanesce Tab, 120-inch Diagonal 16:9, 4K / 8K HD Projector Screen

Tensioned screens are more expensive, but they can guarantee flat screens that won’t curl up over time. This type of screen can offer high-quality images and resolution since the surface is completely flat.

It’s usually made with vinyl material, and a motorized system pulls the screen down until it’s entirely pulled or stretched. The vinyl screen is attached to a fixed frame and held under constant tension with tabs or snaps.

The two types of tensioned projector screens are:

  • Permanently tensioned screens
  • Tab-tensioned screens

Side-by-Side Comparison: Non-Tensioned vs Tensioned Projector Screen


Non-Tensioned Projector Screen

Recessed Projector Screen

Non-tensioned screens are usually hung from the ceiling with no additional support, which is why waves and creases are prominent. They’re also the most affordable option for putting up a screen on a wall. However, you will have to add alternative tabs to ensure that the surface stays flat. 

Because of this, non-tensioned tabs are ideal for indoor use only where there’s not a lot of wind or airflow.

It’s also the ideal choice if portability is a top priority. Non-tensioned projector screens are generally easy to pack and haul compared to tensioned projectors.

Tensioned Projector Screen

✅ Elite Screens Yard Master Electric Tension Series Outdoor Dual Projector Screen in Fresno, CA

With tensioned screens, it stays completely rigid thanks to tabs all over its sides. With rigid screens, you get the same viewing experience for each application, whereas, with non-tensioned screens, even a little airflow can cause vibration that can ruin your experience. 

Tensioned screens are ideal for outside venues or for commercial/business use.

Depending on intended use and location, you’ll either want to go with:

  • Non-tensioned projector screen for indoor use or ceiling/wall-mount, or portability
  • Tensioned projector screen for outdoor use, supported by tabs or snaps

How they Work

Non-Tensioned Projector Screen

Elite Screens Evanesce B, 120" 16:9, Recessed In-Ceiling Electric Projector Screen

Non-tensioned projector screens can either be ceiling-recessed or wall-mounted. These screens are descended manually or using a motorized system.

These projector screens are used for both home, business, commercial purposes, and the most convenient motorized screens use infrared and radio frequency remote control technology.

This Evanescence Screen from Elite  is backed with MaxWhite Fiberglass and PVC to ensure the flattest possible surface on a non-tensioned screen.

Once activated by IR/RF wireless remotes and ethernet control, a tubular motor activates the screen to move.  

Tensioned Projector Screen

Again, there are two types of tensioned projector screens:

Permanently Tensioned Screens

Elite Screens Aeon Series, 120-inch 16:9, 8K / 4K Ultra HD

Permanently tensioned screens are fixed to a frame and aren’t adjustable after installation, making them bulky and difficult to transport. Permanently tensioned screens stay taut and don’t develop any creases because they’re never rolled up. This makes permanently tensioned screens the smoothest type of projector screen, without any signs of rippling or curling. This type of tensioned screen is best for outdoor use or conference halls.

Tab-Tensioned Screens

Elite Screens Yard Master Tension Projector Screen, 120-inch 16:9

Tab-tensioned screens use tabs or wires to keep the screen flat and taut. Tab-tensioned screens are stored and rolled in a headbox, but it’s still kept quite rigid thanks to the tension from the tab system. Tab-tensioned screens offer the most versatility when it comes to user experience.

Tab-tensioned systems also work great for outdoor settings as you can instantly roll up the screen in the headbox when not in use. 

If you’re working on multipurpose rooms at home, tab-tensioned screens can transform any room into a home theatre! In the corporate setting, meeting rooms can instantly become a conference area with a tab-tensioned screen.

Affordability and Specialized Features

Because of the specialized materials, tensioned screens are generally more expensive than non-tensioned screens.

Tensioned screens are usually made with flexible vinyl, developed specifically to provide the best viewing surface for projection. The cost and labor for creating a screen with vinyl are much more expensive than a traditional one. This is your best choice if you’re looking for high-end quality and unparalleled user experience.

If you’re looking for a cheaper choice, go with a non-tensioned screen. However, you will likely find that you get small creases or waves while watching on the screen

Foldable Projector Screen 100 inch with Combined Pole Frame 16:9 HD 4K Anti-Crease Portable Double Sided Rear Projection Screen
  • NO WAVY BORDER, NO HANGING HOLES This outdoor projector screen uses 4-bar support to ensure straight...
  • BLACK BACKING SILVER SCREEN High-contrast silver screen, the black backing can prevent most of the...
  • FOLDABLE, PORTABLE, WASHABLE AND CAN BE IRONED This portable projector screen is made of...

Last update on 2023-12-03 / Paid Link.

This projector screen is affordable while providing great quality thanks to its elastic polyester fabric which is portable, washable, and foldable.

Another factor that affects projector screen cost is motorization. Many models, including non-tension screens, can be controlled via infrared or radio frequency remote control. 

Quality and Durability

Most tab-tensioned projection screens are made with vinyl and other specialized materials designed to be anti-crease, weatherproof, and rustproof in the years to come.

Tab-tension systems are also specially designed and developed to prevent any curling, wrinkles, and creases that can ruin and disturb the viewing experience.

Another feature to watch out for in vinyl material is IP (​​Ingress Protection), which protects your screen from dust, accidental contact, and water.

Other vinyl screens are also two-directional, accommodating both front and rear projection. 

You should also look into the metal components of tensioned screens (roller tube, bracket, housing, weight bar), especially if you’re planning to display it outdoors.

Projector Screen with Stand 100 inch Portable Projection Screen 16:9 4K HD Rear Front Projections Movies Screen with Carry Bag for Indoor Outdoor Home...
  • 【PROJECTOR SCREEN AND STAND】100 inch Portable projection screen, 16:9 format,160° Wide Viewing...
  • 【SETUP ONLY TAKES 5 MINS】The projection screen can be set in about 5 minutes without any...
  • 【CONVENIENT TO CARRY】Rear projection screen with stand has weight of 6 lbs. You can hold it on...

Last update on 2023-12-03 / Paid Link.

This outdoor projector screen is supported by a durable aluminum alloy frame with plastic or stainless steel joints to make installation in lawns easier and more stable.

Viewing Experience

a projector screen placed in a room

The best type of projector screen will ultimately depend on the type of viewing experience you’re after. 

What’s the purpose of your projector screen?

If you’re looking for a professional projector screen to accurately display statistics, charts, and spreadsheets, you’ll have to go with permanently-tensioned projector screens. These provide the flattest surface for corporate settings –– allowing you to present important data that would otherwise be difficult to read with a wavy or rippling screen.

Tab-tensioned projector screens are a versatile choice for outdoor presentations or if you’re setting up a home theatre.

However, if you’re only looking for a straightforward screen and accuracy or high-quality images aren’t a necessity, you can go with anti-crease non-tension screens.

Side-by-Side Comparison Table

a home theater with projector on the ceiling

With so many factors to think about, finding the best type of projector screen for you can definitely be a challenge!

Check out our quick side-by-side comparison to check which features match your needs and preferences:

Criteria Non-Tensioned Projector Screen Tensioned Projector Screen
Applications Best for indoor use

Can be wall-mounted or ceiling-recessed

Best choice if portability is a priority

Best for outdoor use

Versatile for commercial, professional, and even residential applications 

How they Work Ceiling-recessed or Wall-mounted

Manual or Motorized

Permanently tensioned or tab-tensioned

Generally motorized

Affordability and Specialized Features More affordable option due to cheap materials and less specialized functions More expensive option due to high-quality materials meant to withstand the outdoors and prolonged use
Quality and Durability generally made with canvas, PVC, or polyester generally made with flexible, IP-standard, and high-quality vinyl
Viewing Experience Usually distorted due to curling or waves caused by disturbances Best-quality and flattest surface for the best viewing experience.


best outdoor projector screen with stand

If portability and affordability are your top priorities, the best choice would be a non-tensioned projector screen. Especially if you’ll be using it indoors for casual use, the viewing experience with non-tensioned screens is good enough.

If you’re looking for versatility, high-quality materials, and the best user experience, tensioned projector screens are the best choice.

In the end, whether you choose a tensioned or non-tensioned screen, the best choice for you will tick all the boxes when it comes to your intended purpose, budget, and location.

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