When you’re planning a digital signage deployment, it can be tempting to cut a few corners to save on entry costs. Why shell out for commercial digital signage when there are far less expensive TVs at your local big box store?

Here’s the short answer: TVs and monitors may look similar, but TVs aren’t suited to the operating demands of commercial digital signage. The true comparison between smart signage TVs and a smart TV lies in the details — deeper than the manufacturer and the resolution.

Industrial and operating design

The TVs you plug in at home are engineered to run for perhaps eight hours a day (8/7), while professional displays such as the Samsung Pro TV are rated for double that (16/7), or even around-the-clock, seven days a week (24/7).

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Professional displays used in digital signage are often positioned in portrait mode — rotated 90 degrees so the displays sit tall and wide in a 9:16 orientation, instead of the 16:9 mode almost every TV watcher uses today. They are designed to handle the differences in air flow caused by this rotation. Put a consumer TV in portrait mode and it will eventually fail because the screens aren’t designed with vents and fans that can handle the extra heat. Using a TV as a commercial display will, in most cases, result in issues with color and image retention, such as ghosted images.

A consumer TV’s warranty will be invalidated if it’s used for commercial purposes, so if the TV breaks down, it’s the end user’s problem. Most commercial displays ship with three-year warranties and may include on-site support, while consumer TV products typically ship with one-year protection.

Protected and enhanced controls

Most TVs ship with control buttons located somewhere along the edges of the enclosure. Those buttons are handy around the house when a remote goes missing or runs out of batteries. But making it too easy to fiddle with controls (like changing inputs, raising the volume or turning off a display) can be a nightmare for a digital signage network operator. If a display in a local branch of a retail chain has been switched off or its input changed, for example, the central operators may not know for several hours — or days — and local staff may not be equipped to remedy the problem on their own.

By comparison, commercial displays have protected controls that are out of reach of passersby, as well as lockout features that prevent mischief or mistakes — meaning someone with a spare remote control, for example, can’t mess with the store’s screens. Professional displays also have several operating controls and commands that allow operators to disable certain modes and remotely force screens back on, should they somehow be turned off. With Samsung’s MagicINFO Cloud content and device management platform, operators can remotely create and distribute content across multiple displays in real time.

Sufficient brightness

TVs are designed for residential use in rooms with average natural light, and typically have brightness ratings of 250 nits, or up to 400 nits if they’re HDR-compatible. But in retail and office environments, lighting conditions are typically much brighter. TVs used as digital signage are often overpowered by glare, making the on-screen content difficult to see.

Commercial displays come in a variety of brightness ratings, usually starting brighter than TVs and offering up to 10 times brighter, or 2,500 nits — specifically designed to operate in direct, outdoor sunlight. Many of these panels also feature anti-glare technology designed to absorb or redirect external light in bright conditions.

The Wall All-in-One, a video wall made up of microLEDs, features both glare-reducing technology and a pure black blackground, so every color pops. These commercial displays ensure your brand’s message stays visible in any lighting.

Form factor

Residential TVs are designed to look good sitting on a credenza or hung on a feature wall, with glossy finishes and, in many cases, frames thick enough to highlight the manufacturer’s logo. The chassis design can change frequently, and the material is only sturdy enough to handle the light use that’s expected around a home.

Digital signage operators are generally looking for more rugged displays with fingerprint-resistant finishes, consistent design and super-slim bezels — which allow multiple displays to be arrayed into a video wall or menu board. The thicker frames typical of TVs result in large seams and gridlines, while commercial displays designed with video walls in mind minimize these seams.

There are also various touchscreen commercial displays on the market, allowing retailers to create more engaging, interactive customer journeys.

Commercial displays are designed with business in mind, and their dimensions stay consistent throughout a product series. So if you want to add another display in a couple of years, it’s easy to add a new one while maintaining a consistent overall appearance. Frequently shipped without logos, they also remove unnecessary aesthetic distraction. Samsung commercial displays, for example, have tear-away fabric logo tags.

Connectors and inputs

Around a home, consumers might have TV cables plugged into a cable box, a separate streaming device and maybe a gaming console — and that’s likely all they’ll ever need. Commercial displays tend to have many more features. The broader and more diverse set of inputs for device may include control options like an RS232C serial connector that allows a media playback device, like a PC, to fully interface with and issue commands to the display. In some cases, the screens will have built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet ports.

Smart signage embeds an intelligent media player device inside the display. That eliminates the added cost of an external media player, while also simplifying installation and reducing the ongoing operating costs for digital signage projects, because the absence of external devices and cables minimizes the possible points of failure.

Smart signage vs. smart TVs

First-time digital signage network operators with limited or no experience understandably want to tightly control capital costs, and one of the biggest ticket items is screens. Going with a consumer TV over a professional display will almost always mean less upfront cost, but the true costs will be much higher down the road.

One field service call can cost $200-plus. And if the TV fails, the replacement cost will be much higher down the road.

Once you know the full story, the difference between consumer TVs and professional digital signage is obvious: cut a few corners at the outset and your whole project will eventually end up on the floor. An investment in the right technology now will ensure your digital signage draws eyes for years to come.

Prepare for your digital signage deployment by exploring Samsung’s full line of professional display solutions. And explore how your business can harness the power of data with integrated tech to elevate any in-store experience.

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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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