Which Is Better for Digital Signage: Consumer TVs or Commercial Displays?

Check Out Our Infographic with Key Differences Between Consumer TVs & Commercial TVs

As you create your budget and implementation strategy for installing or upgrading the digital signage at your hotel, you might wonder whether it is worth spending the extra upfront cost per unit for commercial displays rather than driving to your nearest big-box store and taking advantage of one of the constant sales on consumer TV sets.

Simply put, it is best to use a professional display for professional functions – explore our infographic here and read on to discover why.

Different digital display product ranges target different uses

Many prospective buyers look at a consumer TV and a professional display and see that they are made by the same company and thus must be similar in value and performance. However, manufacturers create a range of products specially designed for different markets and uses, and what works for one may not work for another.

Additionally, a cursory glance at spec sheets might indicate shared features across product lines built by a manufacturer, but there are several different attributes that are key when it comes to digital signage:

Digital display run time

Consumer TVs are designed for typical at-home usage, meaning they are made to run for around eight hours a day. On the other hand, commercial displays are specifically engineered for constant use during business hours or around the clock – ranging from 16 hours a day to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Digital display cooling mechanisms and heavy-duty parts

In order to withstand longer run times and heavier usage, professional displays have additional structural features that most consumer TVs do not. For example, TVs for personal use don’t typically have airflow and cooling engineering backed by the appropriate electronic parts required to facilitate continual operation for longer than eight hours a day, seven days a week. Commercial displays incorporate these elements to avoid experiencing image failure due to overuse – such as color fading, ghosting, and screen burn-in. 

Proper digital display positioning

Digital signage is most often designed and installed in portrait layout, meaning that they are taller than they are wide, usually at a 9:16 aspect ratio. Subsequently, commercial displays are built specifically for this orientation, which involves different locations for venting and air flow functions. Consumer TVs are primarily designed to be used in landscape mode, where they are wider than they are tall, or 16:9 aspect ratio. You could turn one on its side to meet the layout needs of your digital content, but it would fail sooner since its screen won’t have vents or fans in the right places to eliminate overheating.

Consumer TV warranty restrictions

Generally speaking, consumer TVs have shorter warranties than commercial displays, with personal sets covered for a year and professional devices for three years. Additionally, and this is particularly true for multi-unit purchases, commercial displays usually come with some form of onsite installation and ongoing support. Lastly, many consumer warranties can be voided if they are not deployed for purely personal use. So, while you may save some money upfront, you might lose money in the long run if there are issues with the equipment.

Lighting conditions impacting display performance

Another consideration to take into account is the fact that TVs and commercial displays are designed differently to operate in different environments and under different conditions. Consumer TVs are made to be used in homes with an average level of natural light. They are generally built with a 250 nits brightness rating. If you take a personal TV into the much brighter setting of an office or retail store, then the screen might not be able to compete with the light from industrial lighting fixtures or larger windows – making it harder to see what is on the TV’s display due to glare.

On the other hand, professional displays are designed for a wide range of brightness conditions, from indoor workplaces to outdoor signage. They can have a rating of up to 2,500 nits, ten times more than your average consumer TV (this level is for brilliant light conditions, like direct sunshine). Additionally, the screens on commercial displays have anti-glare solutions that absorb or divert bright outside light to ensure visibility.  

Streamlined and integrated display peripherals

While connectivity has gotten more complicated in recent years with the number of personal electronic devices growing, most people will only have a few cables attached to their TV, particularly with the influx of Smart TVs that enable more wireless streaming capabilities.

In contrast, professional displays are designed to accommodate a wide range of peripheral devices that might be needed for presentations and playback, including an input bay for an RS232C serial connector to enable a PC or other technology to control and push content to a display, and integrated Wi-Fi and Ethernet ports.

The latest models of commercial displays include a media player within the unit that can directly deliver content to the screen. These smart signage options streamline and simplify the installation and operation of digital displays by eliminating many extra external cables and connected devices. Additionally, this can be a cost-saving option since there are fewer components involved, reducing the number of potential failure points.

Locked controls and restricted access to display configurations

Consumer TVs are designed to have backup controls along the sides or bottom of the display panel to allow users to operate the device even if a remote control has been misplaced.

However, for commercial signage it is not ideal to allow nonauthorized users to have easy access to these settings. If someone walking down a corridor switches off a display or changes its screen, it can a resource-draining and time-consuming endeavor for the person in charge of that particular digital signage network to locate and reset the exact unit that has been tinkered with – and the sign might be offline for an extended period of time, potentially denting revenue and consumer confidence. This is why professional displays incorporate operational elements in inaccessible locations and/or have central remote access controls that lock or disable different settings to prevent non-approved users from controlling them.

Neutral, low-profile display aesthetics

Branding and design are part of the appeal for consumers choosing among different manufacturers of TVs for personal use. Thus, consumer sets tend to be more design heavy, with striking finishes and thicker frames to showcase logos and key features. Dimensions change with different trends, and it is hard to find continuity in standard sizes across the years or across manufacturers. Additionally, the materials are selected with lighter use in mind.

The designers of commercial displays understand that the content on the screen is the star of the show, not the design of the hardware itself. For that matter, each unit needs to appear as unobtrusive and consistent as possible so as to not distract from whatever is on the screen and present a uniform integration with other units as needed. Bezels should be as thin as possible to maximize the display area and allow for multiple screens to be aligned for seamless videowalls and menu-board configurations. Hardier finishes, particularly treatments that resist fingerprints and climate stresses, help to weatherize professional displays for the different environments they may be placed in.

Many commercial displays also tend to have more standardized sizing, making it easier to find the exact dimensions you seek if you need to replace units. Additionally, manufacturers of these units for business use often omit visible logos in the design, or offer the option to remove them.

Higher upfront investment, lower long-term costs

When planning a new digital signage campaign or installation, it can be tempting to reduce the amount of the initial investment by saving money on the most expensive aspect of the project – the displays themselves. However, as we have discussed, this approach might not save money in the long run, and could potentially undermine the efficacy and impact of the entire project.

Ultimately it boils down to the basic and timeless adage: you get what you pay for. If you are looking for something truly fit for purpose, then it makes the most financial and aesthetic sense to explore commercial display packages. While you might save initially by buying consumer TVs at a discount, you will eventually see higher costs due to the difference in performance and longevity between these devices designed for light personal use and commercial displays designed specifically your needs. Investing in professional technology for your professional display projects now will go a long way in ensuring the long-lasting success of your digital signage endeavor.

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