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Commercial Vs. Consumer-Grade Monitors and TV's
Many manufacturers of commercial LCD and plasma monitors also manufacture consumer-grade TV's and monitors. Because of the greatly diminished feature set of these consumer products, they generally come with a reduced price which might entice one to use a consumer monitor or TV for a digital signage application. But don't be tempted. There are several reasons you would lose money in the long run if you attempt this approach. Among them are product life, picture quality, power savings, and warranty. Let me touch on those points.
- Heat dissipation: I've found that most people are not aware that electronics and heat do not mix. In order to get optimum equipment life, it is recommended that you keep your equipment operating in an environment that is at a standard temperature below 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Some studies show that every 10 degree increase over 85 degrees Fahrenheit can potentially reduce your equipment's life span by 40%. Consumer-grade TV's are designed to remove heat generated by the internal electronics using fans or ambient airflow designed with the unit in a landscape (horizontal) orientation. Tilting the unit to a portrait (vertical) position could severely block the unit's ability to dissipate heat and thereby reduce its operating life. Commercial units are designed to withstand use for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are able to dissipate heat in either horizontal or vertical configuration. Consumer units are designed for use for roughly 8-12 hours per day and rely on powered off time to cool down.
- Image sticking: Many people will simply look at the specification of a monitor to try to compare a consumer unit with its commercial counterpart. Both units may offer "full HD 1080p resolution: 1920 x 1080", but comparing specifications alone does not tell the whole story. Many commercial units are manufactured with completely different display panels than consumer units. As your digital signage display switches from one message to the next, the consumer unit may suffer from image sticking. Image sticking is a ghosting effect where the previous message can still be seen as part of the current message for a period of time.
- Gravity Defect: Consumer-grade LCD's are not designed to be placed in the portrait mode or vertical position. Placing a larger consumer LCD into a vertical position for a long period of time can produce what is called Gravity Defect. Without being too technical, Gravity Defect refers to an excessive cell gap in the panel due to settlement of the liquid crystal material at the bottom of the panel due to gravity when the panel is in an upright state. This causes the image in the top portion of the panel to look blacked out and the bottom portion to look somewhat blurry or squashed.
While some consumer displays may have power saving features, these are generally becoming standard on commercial panels. Large LCD panels can draw a lot of energy, especially when run 24/7. Take a look at these features just announced in a recent press release by LG for some of their latest commercial, large format display products (see http://www.lgsolutions.com/about-us/news-room/press-releases/43):
- Intelligent Sensor: Responds to the ambient light in the room and then reduces brightness and energy output under most circumstances.
- Dynamic Power Savings: Responds to the brightness level on the incoming video while still providing superior picture quality to guests.
- Static Power Savings: Allows the installer to set the preferred power consumption level.
You won't find these power saving features in low-end consumer televisions or monitors.
- Void for commercial use: In many instances, the commercial use of a consumer product will void or severely reduce the warranty offered by the manufacturer. Case in point; take a look at the following excerpt from the manufacturer's warranty of a sample consumer-grade LCD unit: "COMMERCIAL USE OR RENTAL This product is not intended for commercial use or rental. Should this product be used at any time for commercial purposes or as a rental unit, the limited warranty for parts and labor shall be 90 days from date of original purchase at consumer. The opinion of (manufacturer's name omitted) with respect to this matter is final."
- Take-in vs. on-site service: Additionally, most consumer LCD/Plasma televisions offer a one or two year limited warranty. Service on this equipment generally involves the delivery of the unit to an authorized service center for repairs. Most commercial monitor manufacturers such as Samsung, LG, Sony and others offer three year warranties standard which includes parts and labor and on-site service or repair. LG's commercial warranty even covers the backlight, which is often excluded from consumer offerings.
The issues described above are just of few of the reasons you should avoid the temptation to specify a consumer product in a digital signage solution.