When it comes to direct-view LED displays, pixel pitch is a technical unit of measurement, but the term has also become a primary way for manufacturers to distinguish and market their products. Pixel pitch helps distinguish tiers of LED displays for buyers and signifies an increase in resolution and image quality.

Armed with all of the information on pixel pitch, decision-makers can easily weight their options regarding display size, viewing distance, resolution and cost.

Pixel Pitch Basics

Pixel pitch is the distance in millimeters (mm) from the center of an LED cluster, or package, to the center of the next LED package above, below and beside it. The LED packages are mounted on circuit boards and backplates, known as modules.

LED video walls are put together by grouping these modules into larger display surfaces, fixing them together like seamless tiles. The more LED packages that are mounted together on one module, the more it will cost. Much of the manufacturing costs for LED displays relate to the cost of the tiny LED lights inside the modules, the wiring as well as the manufacturing processes.

Pitch and Display Resolution

When it comes to display assembly, the overall footprint of a video wall ties directly to the pixel pitch of the LED displays. This is especially true if you are looking to create a video wall with a specific resolution, such as a 4K presentation screen in a boardroom.

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An LED display module with a 1.5mm pitch has more pixels per module than, for example, a 4mm product, and will, therefore, realize 4K resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels in much less physical space. This not only helps organizations achieve a higher resolution but also requires fewer materials for assembly and reduces the video wall’s size requirements.

Pitch and Viewing Distance

LED pitch also matters when it comes to average viewing distances. When a person gets relatively close to an LED display, it may be possible to see the individual pixels and the black gaps between them. When that happens, the viewing experience is degraded. Ideally, the average viewer is far enough away that the gaps aren’t visible, and the visuals still look crisp and seamless.

There are multiple theories about the exacting measurement and ratio, but a good rule of thumb when thinking about pitch and viewing distance is that 1mm in pitch equals 8 ft of viewing distance.

Viewing distance matters not only for viewing quality but for project planning and cost. For example, a 1.5mm fine-pitch LED display looks amazing, but if day-to-day viewers, on average, will be at least 30 feet away, then there is no reason to invest in a premium-priced installation. Instead, a less-expensive 3mm display will look just as great as the 1.5mm option at that distance.

How Fine Will It Get?

LED manufacturers generally say the buyer sweet spot, at least right now, for fine-pitch LED displays, is roughly 2mm to 2.5mm. This balances viewing needs and budget practicalities. For installations that will be viewed up close or where higher resolution is required, stepping up to 1.5mm pixel pitch makes sense.

Still, manufacturers are working to further refine LED technology. Samsung recently announced at CES 2018 a premium consumer TV branded as The Wall, leveraging Micro-LED technology with a pixel pitch of 0.84mm. As with many display technologies introduced in the past, Micro-LED looks set to the commercial display marketplace too after The Wall Professional appeared at ISE in February.

It remains to be seen where the limit will be reached with fine pixel pitch LED displays, but the significant advances made in recent years mean direct-view LED is now a compelling option for most environments. And it’s clear pixel pitch will continue to be at the center of the LED technology conversation.

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Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes is a well-known veteran in the digital signage industry. He consults to some of the world’s largest brands on their digital signage strategy and technical needs, but also spends time mentoring start-ups. A former daily newspaper journalist, Haynes has for the past decade written a highly-respected blog about digital signage, Sixteen:Nine. Follow Dave on twitter @sixteennine

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