Commercial v Consumer screens

Commercial v Consumer screens
Seven key considerations

At Engagis, we work with a broad spectrum of customers – from large enterprise customers that want to create flagship retail spaces to small takeaway food outlets that want to install digital menu boards.

Customers who are more familiar with consumer TV products are often surprised the discover the price premium of commercial-grade screens. After all, they look the same, right?

I decided to write this not-so-short blog to highlight the differences between consumer-grade and commercial grade screens for digital signage applications. When you understand the differences, the price premium for commercial screens makes more sense. You just need to understand the requirements of your particular application to make a decision about which way to go.

In summary, there are seven key considerations for evaluating the differences between consumer and commercial grade screens

  1. Time period you will be running the screens and the operating environment
  2. Need for remote control of the screens
  3. Requirements to keep screens secure and have total control over the content to prevent brand damage
  4. Conditions for warranty validity
  5. Whether multi-screen – or matrix – configuration is required
  6. Image quality
  7. Mounting Requirements and orientation of content


Run time and operating environment

Commercial-grade screens are designed for up to 24/7 operation, whereas a consumer screen may be rated for only a few hours every day. Commercial screens are also designed for more challenging operating environments such as where heat needs to be dissipated more efficiently using additional heatsinks or fans. For example, menu boards are often installed in an environment where there is high ambient heat due to cooking.

Connectivity and Controls

Commercial screens are designed with RS232 compatibility for remote monitoring, updating and maintenance. This is a particularly important consideration for large or national networks.

RS232 facilitates remote power scheduling which means the screen can be controlled, and turned off, remotely using a content management system (CMS). Remote power control means power costs can be reduced and screen life can be extended.

Commercial screens typically have a larger range of input connections (control and video) including locking BNC connectors. They are also designed to be compatible with PC’s and AV standards and allow for various formats and refresh rates.

Digital Signage Security

At Engagis, we are aware of real-life examples of an organisation’s Digital Signage network being breached (hostile takeover) and inappropriate content being broadcast by members of the public – resulting in a huge amount of brand damage.

Unlike consumer models, commercial screens have locking protection to prevent unauthorised people accessing the screens and casting content from their device.

Commercial Screen Warranty

Taking a shortcut by using a cheaper consumer screen in a commercial application is not recommended because, not only might the screen be damaged over time, the warranty will likely be voided.

Suitability for multi-screen use and video walls

One of the benefits of moving to a Digital Signage solution is the ability to connect multiple screens up to each other to broadcast the images, content or video in a larger format.

For example, it could be three screens in a row to create a menu board (3×1) or a video matrix of 9 screens (3×3). Using commercial screens, in a daisy chain configuration, a matrix of up to 10 x 10 (ie 100 screens) can be created. And with commercial screens, the uniformity and accuracy of colour and brightness of each screen ensure zero colour variations in multi-screen configurations.

The ‘bezel’ refers to the border or frame around the screen. If this is thinner, it makes multi-screen solutions look better because the ‘non-image area’ is minimised. In other words, a thinner bezel means reduced ‘frame lines’ across the overall image.

Consumer screens are definitely improving in terms of bezel size, but commercial screens are designed with multiscreen use in mind, so the bezels are normally narrower.

Image quality

Commercial screens feature extensive advanced anti-burn-in and image retention technology. They also produce a full greyscale with linear tracking from black to white showing all 255 levels of luminance.

Mountings and Orientation

Most commercial screens allow for both landscape and portrait orientation whereas portrait mode is not normally available in consumer-grade models.

Commercial screens are VESA compliant meaning they are designed to work with standard industry mounting devices. Consumer screens may need additional or unusual mounting brackets which may delay installation and increase the overall cost of the project.

So in closing, my recommendation is to consider two things.

Firstly, while consumer-grade screens may appear cheaper at first, consider and compare the total cost of ownership (TCO) of each option. You may find that over a lifetime of use, the commercial screen is actually cheaper. We have lots of commercial screens in the field that have been operating effectively and efficiently for many years.

Secondly, ask how critical your particular application is. If your screens go down, will you lose business? Will it make your business or brand look bad – or unprofessional? Will it have any negative impact on your staff, customers, visitors or patients? And don’t forget to account for the time, cost and inconvenience of having to get a screen repaired or replaced.