In recent posts, we’ve explored some of the most important considerations for digital signage projects, including the network requirements and the content management system. While those represent key back-end components of digital signage, the most visible element is the flat-panel display that presents your message to your target audience. In this post, we’ll address factors you should consider during the selection process.
Organizations often consider buying less-expensive consumer-grade displays to reduce costs. However, name-brand flat-screen TVs like you have in your home are almost never going to be a good choice — they simply weren’t designed and constructed to meet the rigorous demands of commercial usage.
Consumer-grade flat-screen TVs produced for your in-home viewing pleasure are built to last between two and four years (depending on the brand) operating only about four hours per day. Meanwhile, commercial-grade flat panels are engineered to last eight to 10 years in environments that require up to 24x7 usage.
Although consumer- and commercial-grade screens may look nearly identical to the casual observer, there are multiple features and components that set them apart. Here are a few of the key differences:
Durable components. Commercial screens are built with heavy-duty parts and components that resist deterioration and contribute to longer lifespan. Screen enclosures are made of more durable materials to provide greater protection against environment elements such as dust, heat and grease. Commercial-grade screens also have extra heat dispersal components, including additional fans and heat sinks, to dissipate the heat generated during extended runtimes. A thin polymer film or chemical coating applied to the circuit board protects electrical components from dust and humidity.
Better screens. Because screens will remain on a single channel or image for extended periods, there is a greater chance of screen burn-in that creates permanent discoloration or ghost-like images. Commercial-grade displays are made with various forms of “anti-burn” technology such as enhanced glass with multiple layers and algorithms that imperceptibly shift pixels to prevent these issues. Additionally, the resolution, brightness, contrast ratio and refresh rates are greater in top-rated commercial flat screens, so the picture quality exceeds those of consumer versions.
Flexible mounting options. Commercial screens use VESA-compliant, industry-standard mounting connections, simplifying installation and making it easy to mount the screen in either portrait or landscape mode. In contrast, consumer-grade screens are meant strictly for horizontal viewing. While it is possible to mount them for a vertical display, they would require special mounting brackets and would be subject to overheating due to altered airflows.
Multiple inputs. Commercial displays incorporate a variety of connector interfaces such as HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, CVBS, YPbPr (YCbCr) and VGA, enabling easy connectivity with the variety of digital equipment. Consumer screens intended for home use generally have fewer options.
Extended warranties. Manufacturers typically offer multiyear, onsite service for products that are designed for business use. Consumer-grade displays have a standard one-year warranty — and that likely would be voided if the screen were repurposed for digital signage because the extended usage and extra wear and tear would be expected to cause issues much sooner.
We understand the allure of the on-sale flat-screen TV at the big-box stores. But unlike home TVs that require minimal setup and get sporadic usage, digital signage is a demanding application that requires a display capable of handling long hours of reliable media presentation. Commercial-grade screens may have higher upfront costs, but they will deliver greater value in the long run through improved performance, reliability and durability.