A buyer's guide to large format displays

8th July 2019
Lanna Deamer

An LFD is typically a display product that has been built specifically for professional environments to deliver content to a wide audience, such as digital signage. This is distinguished from small format displays such as desktop monitors that are used for personal interaction.

By Drew Rogers, Senior Product Manager for LFD and LED, Samsung Electronics UK

The defining characteristics are specifications that make the product suitable for demanding professional environments such as higher brightness, varied connectivity, control, robustness and a long usage warranty.

What are LFDs suitable for?

An LFD should be used in environments that need to deliver information to users without compromising on functionality and robustness. Whilst a TV can deliver a similar output, an LFD will often provide superiority in terms of range availability and specifications that overcome environmental factors such as high ambient brightness or footfall.

Key locations in which LFDs are most effective include:

  • Quick Service restaurants: Medium brightness displays are used to advertise menu items behind the till area and offer flexibility to make changes throughout the day. Full weatherproof outdoor displays can also be used for drive-thrus
  • High Street Retail: Very bright displays can overcome full daylight conditions, so retailers can advertise on the high street, enticing consumers to walk in store
  • Corporate Buildings: A variety of LFD’s can be used to communicate company messaging around the building, including wayfinding information at reception, making use of content management software designed to help organisations deploy content across an estate. Displays that are capable of handling multiple inputs from laptops can also be used in meeting and conference rooms for presenting and collaborating

What features are important in an LFD, and how can buyers specifiy an LFD that fits their application?

Advancements in technology means that modern LFD’s are designed to provide solutions that are ready to go, often without the need for 3rd party devices such as media players. Whilst many solutions can be enhanced through network connectivity and complementary products, it is often the case that core functions such as digital signage can be deployed as standalone solutions. Features and specifications are implemented either for functional, environmental, quality or usage reasons.

Important features and specifications to consider are:

  • Size: The size chosen should be correct for the application and environment, taking into consideration factors such as viewing distance and readability as well as overall visual impact
  • Resolution: Contributing to the overall image quality, generally the higher the resolution the better, although the native resolution of source content also needs to be considered. Higher resolution means greater detail and an improved viewing experience and is sometimes a requirement such as with medical imaging
  • Brightness: The brightness of the display is increased to overcome higher levels of ambient light, however there is a trade-off between brightness, contrast and colour reproduction which is important when considering brand image. The market for higher brightness displays has increased recently as advertisers attempt to attract customers from outdoor spaces such as the High Street. This allows retailers and advertisers to replace print with digital posters and make the most of their real estate; something not possible with cost effective alternatives such as projection
  • Colour: There is a natural trade-off between brightness, contrast and colour reproduction. As brightness increases it becomes more difficult to resolve detail in darker content and vibrant colours may wash out, becoming whiter. It’s important to note if the main function of a display is to overcome daylight conditions then being able to read images is usually more important than achieving exact colour reproduction. Improvements in LED backlight technology are however dramatically reducing the trade-off so that quality in all environments can be maintained. These improvements also allow HDR standards to be implemented across the panel, so detail can be maintained in dark areas
  • Connectivity: Connectivity allows devices such as laptops and video conferencing systems to interface with the display, so should be considered for both new builds and when retrofitting into a legacy environment. Rich connectivity will accommodate a range of sources and provide the ability to utilise a modern LFD even in environments that may be using an existing infrastructure

How about other factors such as ergonomics?

Chassis design, including depth and bezel size, should be considered for both ease of installation and room aesthetics. This could be more important when replacing existing installations, as many involve working in a pre-defined area or require fitting into an interior-designed space.

Environmental factors may be related to ambient brightness, weather proofing, high footfall and even food production. For example, an outdoor display being used for High Street advertising needs to be bright enough for daylight conditions and weather proof for outdoor operation. A display used in a fast food restaurant may require products to be treated with a conformal coating to minimise failures.

LFD’s are designed to be reliable in professional environments, so should be capable of operating for prolonged periods of time in environments outside of residential homes. Suitable usage products should be chosen for the use case in which they will be deployed and backed with a robust warranty to minimise downtimes in the event of failures.

How can buyers select the technology that best suits their application, budget and needs?

Usage requirements and environmental factors will determine the key specifications needed when looking at display technology. Because OLED produces luminance without a backlight it is possible to achieve a very slim product capable of very black pixels, however achieved brightness is very low so it limits the applications.

LCD backlit with an LED array allows higher brightness levels to be achieved, which is important with professional environments given areas of high ambient light are common in places such as airports, quick service restaurants and retail windows.

What's the best way to allow viewers to interact with an LFD?

Users can interact remotely with an LFD using IP asset management software. Screen mirroring also allows for peer to peer connectivity with compatible phones, tablets and laptops such as Windows 10 devices.

Touch functionality offers an additional hardware layer, allowing users to directly interact with the display through touch or a stylus device. Technologies include Infrared which is cost effective, Projective capacitive which is suitable for retail environments and In-Glass IR for natural handwriting. Touch enabled software can be pre-installed using embedded technology such as interactive whiteboard software or using a separate PC with touch interface.

What are the main issues and pitfalls for buyers, and how can these be overcome?

QLED or ‘Quantum Dot LED’ makes use of a Quantum dot filter within the display to deliver 100% colour volume, meaning that virtually any colour can be reproduced; a key component of beautiful image quality. A backlight capable of peak brightness up to 1500nits means that the QLED Smart Signage range is able to deliver this colour in much brighter environments, such as on the High Street. This ensures a high dynamic contrast range is maintained without washing out colour and detail.

Even when playing higher resolutions files and frame rates, the powerful embedded media player can deliver content over the network and play it back smoothly. This means that digital signage is no longer just functional, but also aspirational. Calibrated to DCI standards, the display offers cinema image quality in bright environments.

Our customers can be assured their brand image and product line will be represented exactly as they require across the full estate of displays. Along with a stunning slim design, edge to edge glass for a virtually bezel free design and flat wall mounting solution, the QLED display offers a full digital signage solution that can blend into any environment where image quality and brand image are key.

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