Choosing the right display is a major consideration when setting up your digital signage operation.
The hardware in any signage system comprises the display itself and a means of content delivery. In this article, we’ll look at the displays and some of the factors involved in making a buying decision.
Display screens come in a range of sizes – from 32 inches up to monster displays over 90 inches across. The minimum specification these days is for Full HD (1,920×1080 pixels), although other resolutions now widely available include 4K (3,840×2,160, or four times the resolution of HD), 4K Curved and 5K. The price for these goes up accordingly, but has actually fallen in real terms. However, you must ensure that any content delivery hardware you buy is capable of driving these ultra-high definition displays.
The key factors in choosing the right screen size are type of content and viewing distance: video and images are easily viewable on a smaller screen and at a distance, but text needs to be legible. If the screen is to be situated away from the viewer – either high up or behind a counter, for example – you must account for this in the screen size and the type of text being displayed.
Fortunately, there are some simple guidelines for this based on typical display legibility. For video and large images the ratio of screen size to viewing distance is roughly 1:4 – so, for example, a 32-inch display can be viewed comfortably at 128 inches, or just over ten feet. Accordingly, with a 50-inch display the target distance is just over 16 feet. You can do the same calculation using the screen height (rather than diagonal screen size) where the ratio is 1:8.
For displays showing text or detailed information, the ratio is closer to 1:3. So a 32-inch display needs to be viewed at eight feet; a 50-inch display at just over 12 feet. Consequently, the ratio is 1:6 when using the screen height.
Naturally, this is all dependent on the type and size of the text you’re using: for fine text, spreadsheets, diagrams and so on, you’ll need to increase the display size or ensure it can be viewed at close range. As a rule of thumb, the size of the text should be one inch high for every ten feet of viewing distance (or 2.5cm for every three metres). You can of course make the text larger but then you run the risk of it looking too basic or limiting the amount of information you can get across.
Screen size is also an important factor when the content isn’t being shown full-screen – for example where part of the display has an image or video. In this case, you should measure the size of the region of your main focus. If in doubt, a larger screen will always do a better job, while a smaller one might end up being a false economy.
Once you’ve decided on the right screen size, you should think about its location. Will it be facing into sunlight? Will people be able to view it comfortably? High-bright displays are available, which allow content to be viewed even in bright sunlight. However, these are more expensive to buy and consume more power. Commercial grade displays are designed to operate for considerably more hours than a domestic TV, and the latter should be avoided. Ensure that you look for a dedicated display, which is designed to run 24/7.
Finally, you need to consider what sort of content management system you’ll be using. If you’re running a very basic system you may just require a USB port, while some sets offer built-in player functionality. However, an increasing number of signage displays provide an OPS (Open Pluggable Specification) interface. This is a standard slot in the rear of the display that allows a small OPS module to be installed. We’ll take a look at your various player options in the next article.
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