Types of Displays
There are a wide variety of electronic display technologies available today. These range from the somewhat antiquated but very capable Plasma HD Displays to the most advanced display technology on the market today… OLED TVs. For practical purposes, we are going to skip the previous generation of displays and televisions that are no longer relevant to the market today. These include older CRTs, standard definition televisions, NTSC monitors and analog projectors. Here is what you need to know in order to choose the right display for your situation.
PLASMA DISPLAYS This technology is definitely on the way out, with few, if any, new plasma displays in production today. Energy requirements are about 5x what current LCD/LED displays currently use. The results are usually a much brighter and more dynamic-looking display though. Unfortunately, these displays have a lot of drawbacks, including their expensive price tags compared to LCDs, large bezels around the screen that was necessary when they were first designed and their bulkiness. Even a 40″ plasma display can weigh upwards of 100 lbs, which can prove a problem if you are looking to mount one of these units to a wall. Another downside is the resolution. At the time the production lines for plasma screens were in full swing, 1080p HD was the highest resolution out there. Most plasma displays are limited to 1080 HD, while LCD and OLED displays can deliver UHD or Ultra-High Definition (UHD) that is nearly 4x as sharp and uses a fraction of the power that LCD displays use. Our recommendation is if you have one and it still works well, hangs on to it, but only if your signage is limited to HD content. The Large plasma screen is still effective and eye-catching. If you are starting from scratch, we would definitely not recommend this as a purchase option though.
PROJECTORS OR HOME THEATER PROJECTORS When speaking about projectors, most people’s minds turn to the technology used to display old slide shows and office presentations. However, the modern counterparts to these units are multimedia powerhouses that can fill the roll in some very specific signage needs. To be sure, multimedia projectors are one of the pricier options. Indoor units range from as little as $100 to well over $5,000. Their large, up-front cost and sometimes difficult operation make them an option that is only really applicable for niche needs. On the positive side, you can easily project a 10 foot or larger Ulta High Definition video almost anywhere there is a flat surface. They can be used on indoor walls or even outdoors on the sides of buildings, much like at an old drive-in. While the technology has advanced greatly over the years, it still does not provide as clear and crisp a picture as you could expect from a high-end LCD or OLED display. It may have a place in special events though, especially those that take place outdoors at night. Projected against an appropriate background under favorable (dark) conditions, some projections can be seen from hundreds of yards away. We only recommend the use of this technology if you have some sort of events like this in mind for occasional use though.
LCD/LED DISPLAYS The term LCD and LED seem to be interchangeable and can be a bit confusing, but here is what you need to know. LCD or Liquid Crystal Displays are the technology that most modern flat-screen displays are based upon. The technology goes back decades and has been perfected to the point where these displays are now very thin, light and provide sharp, accurate video. LEDs, or Light Emitting Diodes, are a type of lighting technology that has also been around for quite some time but has only recently come into use in displays. LEDs do not replace LCDs but are used in combination with them to provide brighter and more accurate pictures using backlighting. This helps to offset one of the bigger problems of LCD displays, which is the ability to be seen in low light conditions, especially at angles where you are trying to view them from side angles. LEDs greatly help to give LCDs a more viewable picture with a wider viewing area, more brightness and better color saturation for some colors. This combination is the predominant technology used in TVs and commercial displays today. It provides for relatively thin and lightweight displays with much lower power requirements than plasma screens or CRTs. They weigh only a fraction of their older counterparts and scale up to the highest resolution options available today. The majority of new, large screen LCD/LED displays to provide UHD or 4K in addition to lower resolutions such as 1080 HD and are fully backward compatible. In the vast majority of situations, LCD/LED displays provide the greatest usability and value for digital signage owners.
OLED DISPLAYS An up-and-coming technology, OLEDs (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) are the latest and greatest when it comes to cutting-edge display technology. Their limited availability and high prices compared to LCD/LED displays do not make them a very cost-effective choice at the moment though. Most OLED displays feature 4K or UHD Ultra High Definition options and use a technology that is very similar to current LCD/LED models. The main difference between these technologies is their size. OLEDs use VERY thin and flexible panels that greatly reduce the thickness and weight of their screens. OLEDs are the first displays truly practical for hanging on a wall like a painting or large photograph. They weigh a fraction of their LCD/LED counterparts and are typically well under an inch thin. Some come with curved screens that may provide an enhanced viewing experience in home theater situations but are generally not very useful in electronic signage applications where you want the picture to be viewable from as wide an angle as possible. Picture quality is generally superior to most LCD/LED displays due to their ability to provide more accurate colors, brighter whites, and deeper blacks. For most digital signage applications, use of this technology is a bit overboard though. The up-front cost is several times what you will pay for a comparable LCD/LED model of the same size and features, and few customers would be able to distinguish the difference in quality between the two technologies using typical electronic advertising applications. OLEDs displays are definitely the displays of the future. They are a very expensive, and largely unnecessary, the technology presently though.
COMPUTER MONITORS Most of the technologies we have described thus far are used in integrated televisions with tuners for local TV, cable and satellite transmissions, in addition to external audio-video devices. Dedicated computer monitors typically do not include TV tuners and are primarily made to display video provided to them through a computer connection. The vast majority of computer monitors today utilize the same LCD/LED technology you will find in consumer and commercial displays. The biggest differences between TV displays and computer monitors is their size. The vast majority of TVs manufactured today come in sizes 40 inches and up. The majority of computer monitors manufactured today are 32 inches or less. Computer monitors do not always come in the standard 16:9 aspect ratio (widescreen) that all TV new displays come in. They can vary widely in available resolutions as well. If you are looking to use a computer monitor for your electronic signage you will need to make sure that it has an HDMI input, as some monitors only have VGA and DisplayPort inputs. These cannot be used for any of the electronic signage products we currently offer. Also, make sure that any monitor you buy provides resolution of at least 1920 x 1080. Higher resolutions are fine, but lower resolutions may not display your signage properly.