LCD vs. LED Video Walls: What’s the Difference?
Walk Through of the Pros and Cons of LED Video Walls vs. LCD Video Walls
A video wall is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are many options to choose from when designing a video wall: the size and shape of the digital canvas, what type of content will be displayed and the purpose of the video wall. Operationally, options include the desired reliability, maintenance and serviceability of the equipment. Hardware and technology decisions need to be made to ensure the video wall delivers both the desired viewership and ownership experience.
One of these choices is deciding between an LCD display or an LED video wall. Continue reading to find out more about the basics, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.
What is an LCD display?
Most people are familiar with LCD technology, which stands for Liquid Crystal Display. These types of displays have a massive presence in this world, used in living rooms to watch movies, fast-food restaurants to showcase menus, airports to show flight schedules, and everything in between. LCD technology was developed in the 1960s and has been used worldwide as a standard for roughly 20 years. It is a tried-and-true technology that has stood the test of time and will be around for the foreseeable future.
On an LCD screen, the panel is illuminated by a light source and works through reflection or transmission of light. Overall, LCD displays have better viewing angles and less glare than LED screens. This technology was designed to be energy efficient and tends to be lighter in weight.
How does an LCD monitor work?
In an LCD monitor, there are multiple layers behind the protective glass on the screen that work together to produce an image:
- Thin layer of liquid crystal material placed in between two layers of electrodes and glass
- Color filter to produce colors
- LED backlight behind the glass and color filters to emit light
LCD video wall displays differ from those mentioned in the above use cases in that they are designed and built specifically to serve video walls.
An LCD video wall is made up of multiple LCD panel monitors mounted on a surface to create a digital canvas, which then work together to create a unified experience. They operate 24/7 at a high brightness and have thin bezels that help create a seamless look when the displays are placed next to one another.
Bezel thickness and the brightness rating are the most important attributes to consider when selecting video wall displays.
Bezel: Bezel thicknesses for video wall displays are measured in “bezel-to-bezel” thickness. This is the thickness of the bezel when two displays are placed next to one another. Displays can be either large bezel or thin bezel.
Nits: Brightness is measured in Nits. A higher Nit value means the display will be brighter. A brighter display is necessary in a room that sees plenty of direct sunlight, or if the intent is to draw in visitors from far away. With LCD video walls, the price of the hardware goes up as the display size and brightness increase, and the bezel width decreases.
Is an LCD video wall right for you?
Video walls add exciting drama and premium value to showcase spaces. It is an investment that adds a perfect eye-catching solution for a busy lobby, conference room, or any other space.
Although video walls are relatively new, LCD technology has had the benefit of decades of mainstream adoption. With that comes familiarity and lower costs. If those factors are important to you, then an LCD video wall is likely the right choice.
The next item to consider is the type of content that will be displayed on your video wall. Another benefit of LCD displays is that the resolution is incredibly high on the displays—modern 4K displays have over 8 million pixels! This means that the content being displayed is highly detailed and crystal-clear. A viewer could stand less than 1 foot away from the screen and be able to see exactly what is being shown on the screen.
Like previously mentioned with LCD video walls, an important consideration in the decision-making process is the type of content that will be displayed on the video wall. LED video walls suffer from image degradation and pixilation from up close, so fine details will be lost, and text will be illegible. If detail from up close is important, LCD displays are much better suited for that situation.
An LCD video wall will provide a fantastic experience for the user if:
- The intent is to have more informative and detailed content
- The content must be viewed from a close distance
Content examples that are well-suited for an LCD video wall:
- Fine text for directory listings
- Transit schedules
- News, weather, and stock tickers
How is an LED video wall different?
LED video walls are similar to LCD video walls, but the digital canvas is built using LED panels. Individual LED panels can be anywhere from 12”x12” to 36”x18”, which is much smaller than LCD displays. LED panels have a larger presence in this world than most might think—they are found indoors and outdoors at stadiums, arenas, concert venues, airports, and in use as large digital advertisements in iconic places such as Times Square.
LED panels are made up of 2 main components: the cabinet and the module. The cabinet houses internal components such as cabling and circuit boards.
The module is a small rectangular board that contains all the individual LEDs (light-emitting diodes). Unlike LCD, there is no glass or color filter on the LED panels. The individual diodes that are placed on the modules produce both color and light.
One of the most impressive features of LED panels is that they can be combined to create almost any shape, without a bezel interrupting the digital canvas. LED panels can be placed on curved surfaces, 90-degree edges, and other non-standard surfaces. The smaller size of the panels in relation to LCD displays means they can fill more space on a surface—they aren’t limited to standard 46” and 55” sizes as are LCD video wall displays.
LED Pixel Pitch
The most important factor to consider when scoping LED panels for a video wall is what is referred to as “pixel pitch.” The pixel pitch is effectively the distance between each pixel on the LED panel—a pixel pitch of 6mm means each pixel is spaced 6 millimeters away from the adjacent pixel. The smaller the pixel pitch, the smaller the distance is between each pixel, which means there are more pixels per square inch on the digital canvas.
Determining which pixel pitch is best for a specific space typically requires input from technical specialists, but here’s a good rule of thumb to follow:
- Multiply the pixel pitch by 3 to get the minimum distance in feet a viewer must be from the wall to be able to interpret the content
- Multiply the pixel pitch by 10 for the ideal viewing experience
For example, a pixel pitch of 4mm would require a viewer to be 12 feet away to decipher any details in the video wall, and 40 feet away for the best viewing experience.
The image below helps visualize how pixel pitch factors into viewing distance. When the pixels are close together, the image is more detailed and can be viewed comfortably from a close distance. Conversely, when the pixels are spaced further apart, a viewer needs to stand further away to view the image clearly.
Lastly, pixel pitch contributes to the price of the LED video wall more than any other factor. For example, a 2mm pixel pitch LED video wall costs significantly more than its 10mm pixel pitch counterpart.
Is LED right for you?
As is the case with an LCD video wall, an LED video wall will add exciting drama and premium value to showcase spaces. LED panel displays don’t enjoy the benefit of decades of mainstream adoption as do their LCD counterparts. However, the technology curve is increasing their availability and lowering their costs. At this time, an LED video wall will have higher upfront costs compared to an LCD video wall. If cost is the main concern, then an LED video wall will likely not be in the running for your project.
An LED video wall would be well-suited and cost-justified if the intent of the video wall is to provide an immersive viewing experience from a further distance. This could be content with lots of movement, animation, imagery, and bright colors to draw viewers into your space or provide a unique experience.
Aside from cost, there are other factors to consider which could make LED panels the frontrunner for your video wall solution. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages to consider:
- No bezel: LED panels are combined to create a bezel-less, uninterrupted digital canvas
- High brightness, high contrast ratio, no glare: creates brighter, darker, more vivid colors that can easily be seen in direct light
- Limitless shapes and sizes: the smaller size of LED panels allows them to be combined to create unique canvases, including curved, 90-degree edge, and other combinations not possible with LCD displays
- High refresh rate: ideal for moving content; creates extremely smooth motion on the display with no judder
- Easy maintenance and service; high reliability: LED module replacement takes seconds with little effort; LED panels are rated with a lifetime of 80,000-100,000 hours, depending on the product
- Indoor or outdoor: outdoor LED panels are 100% weatherproof and can withstand extremely high and low temperatures
- Image degradation from up close: LED panels lose clarity and detail the closer the viewer stands from the panels
- High upfront costs: LED panels are consistently coming down in price, but one can generally expect to pay much more for LED than LCD
Video walls come in all shapes and sizes, and the components that are used to create the video wall experience vary widely. It is important to consider variables other than price when scoping out both the content and the hardware, as one solution could provide a captivating viewing experience that delivers an immeasurable ROI, while another solution could flounder and defeat the entire purpose of the video wall.
Have an upcoming project? Let TouchSource be a partner in your decision-making process and request a quote today.