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4 Tips for Choosing the Best LCD for Outdoor Digital Signage

Many customers exclaim, “I will just provide my own LCD monitor for my outdoor digital signage project.” But, will the monitor be an effective solution installed outdoors? When deploying outdoor digital signage, the LCD chosen really does matter! For many customers, it might be desirable to purchase the “best deal” or least expensive monitor on the market, whether online or at a big box store. The simple truth: consumer-grade monitors found at big box stores or on the web will most likely be too dark or fail if installing outdoors in the elements. A consumer-grade television will not perform in the same way as a commercial-grade or high bright LCD monitor. They are quite different.

If a company attempts to use a consumer-grade screen outdoors, several challenges exist.

4 LCD Challenges for Outdoor Digital Signage

(1.) Not Bright Enough for Outdoor Use

On average, most consumer-grade televisions are only rated at 150-300 nits of brightness (a nit is a measure of brightness and equal to 1 candela per square meter of light). This is great for a living room or bedroom, but outdoor installations are very unique and quite different. It is recommended that you choose a screen that is at least 2,000-2,500 nits to be visible in an outdoor environment. Consider what happens when you try to view your iPhone or Android smartphone outdoors on a sunny day. The screen appears black and you can barely make out the text or images. The exact same effect occurs when using a screen outdoors that is insufficiently bright.

(2.) Length of Warranty

TEU Services Case Study ITSENCLOSURES outdoor digital signage menu boards

Many popular brands of consumer LCD televisions only offer a 90-day to 1-year warranty and retailers may try to “upsell” you with an extended warranty, which might be for 2-5 years. However, the outdoor digital signage warranty will be ‘void’ if the monitor is not used properly, for example – leaving the monitor on for an extended period of time. According to the website, LCD TV Buying Guide, “The warranties do not cover damages resulting from misuse, natural disasters, or accidents. For these causes it may be best to find a store bought protection plan or extended warranty.” However, there are stipulations for extended warranties as well. Prior to installation, it is best to review what is not covered. Commercial-grade displays offer a standard 3-year warranty with the option to upgrade up to 5 years. This is an important detail when planning an outdoor signage project.

(3.) Prolonged Daily Usage and Solar Load 

Most outdoor digital signage applications dictate that the LCD needs to deliver a menu or powerful marketing message 18-24 hours a day! A consumer-grade television is only meant to be used approximately 5-6 hours a day. Prolonged daily use will result in premature failure. HDTVs purchased at a retail store are not built or designed to be powered on for extended periods of time. Plus, when the sun beats down on the screen, it will quickly show wear and lose clarity. The effects of solar gain can be dramatic, and overheating will cause isotropic effects (screen will turn black or dark).

(4.) Low Value Proposition

Many integrators and end users simply do not understand why they should purchase an LCD that can be 3-5 times the expense of what they can buy at a “big box store” or online. A significant amount of time and money is invested in making the transition to outdoor digital signage or menu boards. A direct sunlight environment presents many more challenges to overcome than a shaded area or outdoor canopy protected application, all of which can be resolved if you choose the correct LCD and enclosure solution. Skimping on an LCD or enclosure budget will be detrimental to the quality of the overall solution.

Always do your homework and choose the correct high bright LCD or LCD/enclosure combo solution which will keep your outdoor digital signage menu board running 24/7, 365 days a year! You need longevity and peace of mind that a solution is going to work for many, many years.