Outdoor TV screens are being increasingly used for entertainment, wayfinding and promotional purposes. They can add a fresh touch to alfresco dining and socialising in the domestic and hospitality sectors, keep passengers on track in the public transportation sector and because they are still quite a novelty, they are a sure way of getting an advertising message noticed.
They range from a full HD screen and outdoor speakers to watch live sport with a few friends to a huge video wall or digital billboard in a public space, and if you thought they come with a hefty price tag, you could be in for a pleasant surprise from DSS, the outdoor TV specialists.
What to look for in an outdoor TV
Naturally, an outside TV must be able to cope with heat and cold, dust and rain and direct sunlight.
All outdoor electrical appliances must have an IP rating. This is an international standard that determines how well the appliance is protected against moisture, dust and foreign objects that can damage or shorten the life of the appliance or present a safety risk.
An IP rating consists of the initials IP followed by two numbers (not one double-digit number). The first of these numbers refers to its resistance to dry ingress (dust and dirt) and the second to wet ingress (condensation, rain and spray). The higher the number, the better the protection. Our IP rating chart helps explain the more commonly seen ratings.
If an outdoor TV is positioned where direct sunlight might fall on the screen, an extra high screen brightness will be needed to compensate for the glare. It’s also worth considering whether you need an outdoor TV with brightness that automatically adjusts according to the ambient light, as this will save energy and be less tiring to watch when the lights are low.
The IP rating you need for your outdoor TV will depend on its setting and exposure to dusty or damp conditions.
At DSS we generally recommend an IPx7 rating (normally IP57 or IP67, subject to its location) with the option of a waterproof remote control.
This is particularly important in a commercial setting where reliability is crucial.
What is an IP rating? It’s an international standard that recognises how resistant an electrical product is to the ingress of dust and moisture.
Our IP rating chart shows the difference between IP57 and IP67.
The IP rating of an outdoor TV is critical, particularly if it is likely to be exposed to dust or moisture, and we always consider the potential degree of exposure when specifying an outdoor TV.
Unless located in a permanently shady spot, most outdoor TVs can be subject to glare from direct or reflected sunlight.
While a TV with a high screen brightness can offset glare, choosing a screen with anti-reflective glass will also help, making the screen easier to look at in partial or full sunlight. It’s important to understand that there are different types of non-reflective TV screen.
At DSS we will be able to advise you on the best type for the location and usage.
Heat resistant TV
While we are mostly accustomed to a more temperate climate in the UK, it’s important to know that even here an outdoor TV can get extremely hot. A TV with a dark, heat-absorbing shell soon warms up in direct sunlight and can be exacerbated by the high humidity of places such as garden centres and swimming pools, while the high screen brightness levels commonly found with outdoor TVs generate a considerable amount of heat.
A temperature control system fitted to the TV will help avert overheating that can damage the TV and reduce the risk of fire caused by overheating.
Frost resistant TV
Cold can be as equally damaging to an outdoor TV as heat. Frost can cause condensation that in turn can damage electrical components.
Here again, an integral temperature control system will diminish the risk of condensation forming inside the unit.
Dust proof TV
Moisture is an obvious enemy of any electrical item used outdoors, but dust is equally dangerous. It can be so fine that it is almost invisible and so light that it can penetrate as deeply as the finest water vapour. If you can see dust on the outside, how much more might there be inside, where it can reduce the effectiveness of electrical components and cause them to overheat?
That’s why at DSS we pay close attention to the IP rating of outdoor TV units and make sure they are protected against dust.
Outdoor LED screen
LED screens are extremely popular due to their low energy consumption, high quality images and variable brightness. If you are thinking of installing an LED outdoor TV there are three factors to be considered:
- Brightness – Will the screen be bright enough to still display a god quality image when ambient light levels are at their highest?
- Refresh rate – Will the refresh rate be sufficient for the quality of images the TV will be showing?
- IP rating – Does the unit have an appropriate IP rating for the TVs location and exposure to dust, moisture, and temperature?
In broad terms, LED screens with a higher brightness output cost more than those with a regular output, so at DSS we carefully balance the above factors to determine the best value to performance ratio. This is particularly relevant when we are specifying for an outdoor video wall as these are comprised of several high-brightness screens that must all perform at 100% to achieve the required visual impact.
A video wall is several individual screens with narrow bezels, mounted close to each other and generally in a grid pattern. Each screen contains a small section of the full image so that from a distance the impression is of one large, single image.
For this reason, they are rapidly replacing traditional roadside billboards as the picture can be changed repeatedly, within seconds and from a remote location. The individual screens can also be quickly exchanged for servicing.
Large outdoor video wall installation requires specialised mounting and housing components to ensure they can withstand the elements, and must be appropriately IP rated for the location, which is why it is crucial that a company such as DSS with the knowledge and expertise of large-scale installations is contracted for these projects.
Outdoor video walls massively enlarge the original image, so any imperfections in the image quality are magnified and immediately visible.
To reduce this, video walls require very high-quality signals to drive them. At DSS we specify HD screens as a minimum requirement for video walls used outdoors, and as its reliability and cost-efficiency continue to improve we are increasingly recommending 4K technology.
We also recommend investing in high-quality origination for video wall content, as no amount of technology can compensate for fundamentally poor-quality graphics.
Screen flicker – which is more noticeable on a larger scale screen – is reduced by the faster refresh rates of the more recently developed screens that we recommend for video walls. Server-controlled video walls and displays with higher frame rates also help achieve a steadier image.
Great strides have been made in reducing the width of the bezels surrounding TV screens, with the result that some screens for indoor use are now virtually ‘bezel-free’.
That hasn’t quite been achieved yet with outdoor TV screens, but when we create a video wall, we specify screens with the narrowest possible bezels so that the grid pattern inevitably created doesn’t detract from the big picture.
Pixel pitch is the density of pixels on a screen, with a smaller pitch resulting in a higher density of pixels and a higher resolution.
A higher resolution means that even if you stand closer to the screen you are less likely to see the individual pixels or ‘grain’ of the picture.
A lower pixel pitch – and a higher resolution is preferable for a smaller screen where the viewer will typically be standing nearer to the screen, but with a video wall, where the viewer will be considerably further away, the resolution isn’t as critical as a higher refresh rate or frame rate.
A video wall is constructed as a modular system with a large frame holding smaller, individual screens in a grid-like matrix, so close to each other that from a distance their thin bezels are scarcely visible.
Outdoor video walls often feature an additional housing around the entire wall. One advantage of this system is that individual screens can be quickly swapped out for repair and maintenance, with negligible downtime.
Another benefit of modular construction is that standard-sized screens and frame components can be used in different configurations to create video walls of vastly differing widths and heights without the complexity of bespoke manufacturing.
Outdoor digital signage
Digital signage has many advantages over traditional billboards and many uses in the retail, leisure and transportation sectors. With the enhanced quality of full HD systems, digital signage can be installed in almost any location and instantly updated via IP, wireless or cellular connection. Advertising can be rotated to maximise the revenue per billboard location and important information can be displayed and updated in real time across multiple sites.
At DSS we have the knowledge and expertise to design, construct and implement outdoor signage systems for almost any task, ranging from a single outdoor digital screen to a national news or information network. If you’d like to learn more about outdoor digital signage, read it here.
Outdoor TV enclosure
A fully-fledged outdoor TV may not always be necessary if you only want it for occasional use, particularly at home or for small-scale commercial use. Providing you have a home TV with sufficient screen brightness, housing it in a specialist outdoor TV enclosure is a cost-effective alternative with the added benefit of being able to lock it for security.
At DSS we specify outdoor TV cabinets that are protected against heat, frost and condensation, fitted with an ultra-secure Lexan TV screen protector and available with a choice of mounting solutions including the standard VESA interface.
Outdoor TV screen vs outdoor TV enclosure
For performance and durability, an outdoor TV is the clear winner with ultra-bright pictures and excellent weather resistance. If you are wanting something for frequent use in a commercial environment, this is the product for you. An outdoor TV screen will be significantly more expensive than a domestic TV of the same size. This is because they are built to a higher specification to ensure they can withstand the weather all year round.
So is an outdoor TV enclosure a viable option? Yes, if you aren’t going to be using it frequently and cost is a major consideration, this may be all you need. There are a couple of points you need to be aware of, though. First, the clear acrylic screen protector will reduce the sharpness of the image and unlike glass, acrylic can discolour and become slightly milky over time. The other factor to consider is that a TV enclosure is bulkier than an outdoor TV and can make it look a bit clunky. But if neither of those points particularly bothers you, a TV enclosure will give you outdoor TV on a budget.