Outdoor LED signage has become just about indispensable for organizations looking to offer relevant, easily updated information, alerts and advertising.

But before you purchase an LED screen for your business, you need to be sure you’re making a well-informed investment. Your digital signage is likely to last at least 10 years; careful planning will help ensure a successful experience, longer lifetime and lower cost.

Here are eight key factors to consider in your digital signage purchase journey:

1. Visual quality

Outdoor signage is meant to draw the attention of passersby and communicate a message about your brand. The vividness of the image has a significant impact on how that message is received. Your outdoor LED signage should be bright and vibrant, and it should display colors accurately. Skin tones that look washed out, for example, will draw negative attention, so check the LED supplier spec sheet to be sure the display shows true-to-life color.

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Another key spec to consider is the pixel pitch, or the space between the RGB pixels. It’s important you choose a vendor that will specify the right pixel pitch for the viewing distance. Overspecifying the pitch may cost more, but if the pixel pitch is too large, it may lower the visual quality.

2. Environmental ruggedness

Depending where your outdoor sign is located, you may need to consider how it operates in hot or cold temperatures, as well as in rain, snow, wind, dust or humidity. In these cases, the design of your screen and its enclosure is critical to the continuous operation of the LEDs and their longevity.

In terms of environmental factors, your first consideration should be removing heat from the LED elements and driving electronics. Ask any vendor about their thermal management solution and its ability to maintain LED temperatures within a narrow range in the environmental conditions you anticipate. To protect your signage from the elements, check that the enclosure design meets specifications for resistance to water, dust, humidity, etc. — whatever concerns apply to your location.

3. Support every step of the way

Can your potential supplier offer support and advice for the screen’s design and permitting process? Will they listen to all stakeholders and design a solution that fits their needs? Can they work with a customer project leader or recommend a qualified installer?

Hopefully, the answer to these questions is yes. You want a partner in this process, not a vendor.

4. Maintenance and servicing

Once your outdoor screen is up and running, routine maintenance and servicing is critical to ensuring your sign always looks great and will last as long as possible. Ask your vendor how often calibration is required — and how easy it is to accomplish — to ensure consistent image quality for years to come.

Likewise, ask how the screen will be serviced. To avoid screen downtime, servicers will need easy access. Some vendors, like Samsung, also offer a network operations center (NOC) option to constantly monitor your sign and send a technician to fix any issues, before you may even be aware of them.

5. A successful track record

How long has your potential LED supplier been in business? What have been other customers’ experiences? Will the supplier be around in 10 years? Will they be responsive to any needs you may have after installation?

Ask for references and referrals from their previous customers, especially for jobs done five or more years ago, to get insight into the provider’s integrity.

6. Attention to safety

To local and state governments, your display brightness can be a major safety concern. A sign that’s too bright may distract drivers and make it difficult to drive at night. Check that your LED display has an auto-dimming capability to lower the screen’s brightness according to the surrounding light, e.g., minimizing the brightness at night.

The materials used in the LED screen and its enclosure can also lower the risk of dangerous signage failures. One way to relieve any safety concerns is to look for products certified by Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Your best bet is to stick with a company like Samsung where all the personnel, products, facilities and processes fulfill UL’s strict safety requirements.

7. Price and warranty

You may be tempted to choose the least expensive LED signage option, but you’re likely to get what you pay for. Low-cost suppliers use lower-quality LEDs — not military-grade components. Their design teams may not ensure the safety and longevity of your signage. And they may under-specify the screen’s performance to lower the cost.

Many signage suppliers offer a warranty, but check the fine print to make sure you understand the exceptions. Here’s where you may be better off going with a trusted brand, even if it costs a bit more.

8. Choose the best integrator

Your LED supplier may not always be the organization that physically installs the screen. In many cases, you may end up hiring an architect, consultant or project manager to oversee or carry out the installation. Is your LED supplier ready and willing to work with these managers?

Alternatively, you may want to turn the job over to an installer who can manage the entire project. Can your LED supplier suggest a qualified installer? Here you’ll again want to check their references and ask about the success of previous installations.

Establishing an outdoor LED signage solution can be a daunting task with many moving parts — and concerns about visual quality, cost, safety and reliability. Starting with these eight tips in mind, you’ll be prepared to ask the right questions and set your project up for success.

For an array of innovative display options, check out Samsung’s full lineup of outdoor digital signage, designed to weather and outshine all sorts of unpredictable environments. And once you’re set up with a digital signage installation — whether it’s one screen or dozens — you can configure and tailor their messaging in real time using an integrated CMS, as explained in this free complete guide.

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Chris Chinnock

Chris Chinnock is the founder of Insight Media, a display-focused consultancy looking at the latest advancement in AR/VR, digital signage and ProAV, mini and microLEDs, the light field and holographic ecosystem, and the 8K ecosystem. For over 20 years, Insight Media has been on the cutting edge of display technology offering newsletters, market reports, conferences, consulting and marketing services.

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