Manual vs. Motorized Projector Screens: The Pros and Cons

When building a home or office theater, you’re going to make a few decisions: what projector should I use? Where should my setup be?

One of the most important aspects of your setup is your projector screen. Perhaps the key to a great theater (though some might argue it’s the projector itself, but that’s a conversation for a different post), your projector will greatly influence your viewing experience. Therefore, a good projector screen is vital.

There are two main types of screens to choose from manual projector screens that you pull down by hand and motorized projector screens that move automatically.

Depending on your setup and why you want a home or office theater, to begin with, there are pros and cons to each type of projection screen. Some of the most common ones include space, budget, and intended use, which we cover in detail.


Manual Projector Screens

As a rule of thumb, manual screens work well in small spaces. Smaller screens are easier to pull down than larger ones, and they usually aren’t that heavy. They’re perfect for small meeting rooms and home theater setups and meant for a bedroom or other smaller areas of your home. 

Manual screens tend to be less effective in large spaces. The bigger the space, the bigger the projection screen needed. Large screens are usually heavy, difficult to pull down, and aren’t great for classrooms or large-scale home theater setups.  

Pros: Good for small spaces

Cons: Not great for large spaces or large-scale setups

Motorized Projector Screens

Generally, motorized projector screens are better suited for large spaces than their manual counterparts. A motorized projection screen doesn’t need an operator to pull it down and can cover quite a bit of wall space. They’re great for classrooms and public functions as well as immersion-based home theater setups. 

A motorized screen, however, requires electrical configurations that some places might not have. If you don’t have the proper electrical equipment, a manual projection screen might be a better option. They’re also not a good option if you want a portable projection screen as you generally have to hang them from the ceiling or mount them to the wall.

Pros: Good for large spaces, large-scale functions

Cons: Have specific electrical requirements


The price of an electric projector screen can vary from the low $100s to the upper $1,000s. Depending on factors like picture quality, ability of the viewing surface to handle ambient light, material, and screen size, among others, a manual projector screen can be just as much as, if not more expensive than, a motorized projector screen. 

Manual Projector Screens

If you’re looking for something in the lower price range, manual screens might be more worth your while. Of course, this can vary from setup to setup, so be sure to consider how much space you need your screen to cover and the quality of the screen itself. Often, a manual projector screen will have a lower viewing quality than a motorized projection screen, but this isn’t always the case.

Pros: Generally less expensive than motorized screens

Cons: Lower quality than most motorized screens and get pricier for better resolution 

Motorized Projector Screens

Motorized projector screens tend to be more expensive due to their electronic components and generally larger size. That said, they often have a higher resolution than their manual counterparts. While this isn’t always the case, many electric projection screen options start at 1080p and can handle up to 4k.

If you have a higher budget and want something easier to use, you’ll probably want to go with the best motorized projector screen. It may not be as cheap as a manual projection screen, but you won’t have to deal with the hassle of pulling it down and potentially lower picture quality.

Pros: Easy to use; generally start at a higher quality

Cons: More expensive than manual screens

Main Use

As with most potential setups, it’s important to consider the primary use for your screen. While manual and motorized screens can be useful in many setups, there are specific situations where one would work better than the other.

Manual Projector Screens

If you want to set up a home theater for family movie night, a manual screen is a better option. You don’t need an expensive, techy setup to have plenty of fun with your family and friends. Most movies will look just as good on a manual screen as they would on a motorized screen. 

(Need ideas for movie night? We’ve got you covered.)     

Pros: Great for home setups

Motorized Projector Screens

If you need something that’s going to cover a large amount of space and look great for office presentations in the conference room, a motorized projector screen is probably the best choice. They’re easy to use so you won’t waste precious time trying to set it up, and they’ll help ensure a smooth presentation that your boss will love. 

Pros: Good for large-scale and/or office settings

Final Thoughts

Both manual and motorized projector screens have a variety of useful and not-so-useful qualities, and both hold their own compared to fixed-frame projector screens. When deciding which one to buy, it’s important to consider factors such as screen size, budget, and why you need one in the first place. 

Manual projector screens are generally less expensive than their motorized counterparts. They do well in small spaces and small-scale setups. That said, they also tend to start at a lower resolution and can be a hassle to operate on a larger scale. They’re best for home theater entertainment and the occasional office presentation.

An electric motorized projector screen, on the other hand, typically runs on the more expensive side and has specific electrical configuration requirements. However, they usually start at a higher resolution-sometimes up to 4k-and are easy to operate on a larger scale. They’re best for those with a higher budget and/or large-scale presentations.

While the pros and cons of motorized and manual screens vary, you’ll find that one is better suited to your specific needs than the other.