Is there an approved list of Consumer TVs for digital signage?
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Trent Semler
Professional Digital Signage Displays are manufactured differently than consumer TVs. A particular digital signage Display model may be available for several years, and is manufactured to be identical throughout the life of that model. This is done so that displays matching the ones the customer already has can be added and provide continued compatibility with digital signage players. They are also manufactured differently in that they only use IPS type LCD panels that allow viewing from any angle without distortion and allow for vertical mounting (Portrait Mode), along with 24/7 operation. Most digital signage displays also carry a longer warranty; usually 3 years without exclusions for digital signage use. Digital signage integrators can normally have these shipped directly from the manufacturer to the customer, saving on shipping costs.

Consumer TVs, on the other hand, are manufactured completely differently. It's not uncommon for a particular model to be available for only a couple of months before a different model replaces it. What makes things worse, is that even the same model will not be consistent from batch to batch. Manufacturers use different parts and LCD panels depending on availability and factory location. It's also common for the same model to have different components and even packaging when sold through some retailers such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy or one of the wholesale clubs. These larger retailers will usually have cheaper components and less protective packaging than the same model offered through distribution, since these are usually not shipped in single units via services such as UPS.

Thus, we at Noventri do not have a list of "approved" models of Consumer TVs for digital signage use. We do realize that consumer units are sometimes substantially cheaper than Professional Digital Signage Displays, and so we keep our eye on the consumer market. When a customer orders a Consumer TV that they would like to use for their digital signage, we check currently available models and go through the detailed manufacturer's specifications to see if a particular model MAY meet the requirements. Then, we order that model and test it at our facility for things such as build quality, including IPS LCD panel and firmware to allow the unit to be used as a Digital Signage Display. It must be able to accept proper timings and handle correct resolutions. We also test the display with the particular Digital Signage Hardware Player. Our tests show that only about 50% of the Consumer TVs that we test meet all the requirements; the rest have to be sent back. To make matters worse, if the customer orders multiple units of the same model, we need to test every single one because of the many variations between batches.

This procedure adds an average $200 to the price normally paid at a discount retailer. However, this may still be substantially less than a Professional Digital Signage Display and while the price gap between the two options is closing, this may still be a worthwhile option.

Customers should know the following if they choose a Consumer TV for their Digital Signage application:

1. If customers purchase the Consumer TV on their own, there is a high probability it won't work correctly and they'll be chasing problems which their digital signage supplier probably won't be able to support.
2. Many manufacturers will NOT honor the warranty on Consumer TVs if they are used for professional or Digital Signage applications, even if purchased from a digital signage integrator.
3. Consumer TVs are not made for 24/7 operation. Even though many work just fine, it's impossible to predict failure rate due to 24/7 operation.
4. There is almost no chance that the supplier will be able to find an identical model, even a few months later.
5. Consumer TVs can't be mounted vertically (Portrait Mode) because they will likely overheat and may not be visible if standing anywhere but directly in front of the screen.
6. Power On/Off on Consumer TVs cannot be controlled with the Digital Signage Player; they'll need to be turned On/Off manually.
7. The life of a Consumer TV is about half that of a Professional Digital Signage Display.
Article originally appeared on Display Alliance (http://www.displayalliance.com/).
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