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When does it make sense to use LED screens for digital signage?

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One of my favorite aspects of the digital signage industry is the history of its growth. With 2016 in full swing, it’s safe to say this chapter of history is all about LED screens.

LED screens, or light-emitting diode screens, are changing. Where they were primarily used outdoors at large sporting events or other venues, the screens are now popping up indoors, changing is size, changing in price, and changing the way the world does digital signage.

When a retailer or business isn’t using an LED to share their message with the world, they’re using LCD screens, or Liquid Crystal Screens.

These screens or panels use less power than an LED screen because they work on the principle of blocking light rather than emitting it.

If you’re going to have a digital sign where viewers will be up close and personal, you probably want to go with an LCD screen.

Determining which of these technologies is right for you hinges on your application, your objectives, and your budget.

There are other considerations to bear in mind, too, like lighting.

Will your sign be in ambient light? Natural light? Or artificial light?

All of these questions and more need to be answered so you can determine when and if it makes sense to use LED screens in your digital signage campaign.

So let’s take a look at the difference between LED and LCD, and whether or not the LED option is right for you.

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1. When Your Screen isn’t a Screen

Not all screens are created equal. Or flat. Or equally flat.

If you’ve ever been to Times Square in New York, you’ve likely seen the rounded NASDAQ sign smack dab in the middle of it. The iconic LED sign can’t be missed because it’s over seven stories tall.

If you’ve bravely ventured into Times Square on New Years Eve, it’s the same digital sign that receives worldwide media attention during the ball drop. It’s capable of displaying full motion video, live events, and our favorite live feed of all time, social media.

Because LED is flexible, it can adhere to any screen ratio or size, flexing around pillars or other unusual shapes.

If your signs are rounded or very large, LED would the route you would want to take.

2. When You Don’t Want to Use Panels

If you don’t want to use a multi-panel video wall or projector to create your digital sign campaign, LED is the answer.

Some people don’t necessarily care for the gap between panels with this option. If this is how you feel, LED is nice because it’s seamless compared to LCD.

However, if you want a large video wall, you might be better served using LCD.

LCD can give you some incredible results with screens up to 9-inches. Anything above 100-inches, you should consider using projection. A commercial grade projector can match the brightness of LCD and provide you with a beautiful image without any seams.

There are some advantages to using a high-resolution LED display compared to a projection or liquid crystal display (LCD). LED can display superior images without bezel distraction or ambient light adjustment.

Finally, LCD panels come in 1080P and 4K UHD resolutions.

The higher the resolution and the more pixels per inch, the crisper the picture will be. Common screen sizes range from 10-inches up to 95-inches.

If you have already determined that you need panels, ask yourself how long your signs will be on. If the answers is all day every day, this will make a huge difference in the cost of the commercial-grade panel you’ll need.

Speaking of costs…

3.When You Want a Fair Price

When I was younger, I remember how much a VCR was to purchase. They were considered expensive at $300 or $400. ($1,200 in its earliest years!)

Frankly, if you had one, you were a big deal.

A VCR was a bulky piece of equipment that told visitors you were the kind of person that wanted high-quality video in your home and that price didn’t matter.

Once the popularity of the VCR caught on, other manufacturers began to make them cheaper than their competitors. Before long, you could buy one for $79 bucks.

And then DVD’s came out, changing the landscape of home videos completely. But that’s a story for another time.

This is what happens with technology: As more models are created by different manufacturers, the price decreases. This is the case now with LED. Prices are more digestible, and because they are more affordable, they show up as a darn good option for some.

Industry insiders predict that 2016 will bring a plethora of affordable options to the market, thanks to recent acquisitions by giants like Samsung and Yesco.

This not only means a better price, but better variety when it comes to the shape and size of the desired screen. (Because who doesn’t want a pillar-shaped screen?)

All of this is excellent news because LED screens have a wide variety of advantages. They’re energy-efficient and long-lasting, which means they won’t break the bank when it comes time to pay your energy bill.

4. When You Want Vibrant Color Displays

It’s a true story that LED is more visible outdoors. But with new models and savvy innovation, LED is coming indoors to play.

Because LED’s don’t wash out colors like fluorescent lights do, this makes the LED option perfect for indoor displays and retail applications. This is good news for retailers, especially now that LED offers incredibly rich colors.

Contrast levels have improved too, thanks to the ability to dim individual LEDs to lower light output levels.

Having said all of this, LED may not always match the precise Pantone of your artwork.

Therefore, if you have colors that simply must be exact and precise, take a good look at the LED output before you input your cash into someone’s hand.

5.When Lighting Matters

It’s true that LED is more visible outside when compared to LCD or projection.

That’s why you need a good LED, one that will stand up against heat and moisture and varying light conditions.

Bear in mind, too, that the protective glass layer on the LCD screen is quite reflective and can create a mirror effect. This can be an issue in certain lighting conditions, making the content hard to read.

This is something that needs to be considered when finding the right location for your sign. If it’s outdoors, is it affected during a sunrise or sunset? How can it be positioned so that images and video aren’t compromised?

Are fluorescents a factor in your retail space? If so, what can you do to change the lighting in the area where the digital sign will be placed?

Consider the pixel pitch, too, when choosing an LED.

The finer the pitch, the crisper the image. As LED’s have improved, the pitch has improved as well. This means LED’s can be viewed at a closer distance without faces or other pictures on the screen looking like they just came out of a Minecraft video.

When trying to decide between and LCD and LED, consider the fact that, in terms of brightness, LCD panels range anywhere between 300 nits to 700 nits for low to medium ambient light conditions, and 2500 nits for high ambient light and outdoor applications.

In terms of lighting, a nit is a unit of visible light intensity. The word is commonly used in the land of technology when specifying the brightness of an LCD display.

Having a discussion with the LED manufacturer about the detail of the indoor or outdoor area where your sign will reside is probably a good idea.

You don’t want to go home with something that won’t benefit your viewers if they can’t see the content very well.


With the growth of LED and the new technological advancements the displays now provide, LED solutions are both attractive and affordable

Going with the most affordable option may not always be the best choice. For those fairly new to a digital signage solution, you will need to take several different factors into consideration before buying and installing.

Lighting is a huge factor, whether or not you are installing indoors our outdoors. Does the weather in your area play a role? How about the sun? If so, considerations like placement or different LCD options need to be discussed.

The size and shape of your screen is important to consider when deciding if it makes sense to go with an LED screen. If you like a rounded sign or a tall pillar sign, LED is the very best option.

If you have screens that need to be up and running on a moments notice, LED signs light up very quickly. They are ideal for use in applications that are subject to frequent on/off cycling, too.

In the end, we all want the most bang for our buck, and therefore, finding an affordable option that gives us the best quality is really what we are after.

That’s why it’s good to remember that LEDs are energy efficient, consuming up to 90% less power than other lighting options. They last longer, too. That means less time replacing and more time enjoying.

What factors do you need to take into consideration when deciding between LCD and LED? 

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