Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware

Sep 27, 2019

Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware

Consultants, architects, integrators, and end users must establish their priorities when buying an LED video display. What are the critical factors that will enter into making that decision? Price? Quality Components? Length of warranty? Percentage of free spare parts? Reputation of supplier? References?

At first blush an LED video wall seems like a very simple, straightforward piece of hardware. However, this perception is the farthest thing from reality.

Buying an LED video board is not like buying speakers or lights “off-the-shelf” where the only consideration is what is the best choice under the circumstances, but where the specifications of the units themselves cannot be altered in any way.

The specifications and needs of each customer for each LED video display vary widely. Do you need an Indoor video wall? Do you need an outdoor video display? How close will the viewers be to the LED video wall? How precise do the images need to be? What content will be shown? Is live feed a consideration? What equipment is being used upstream of the LED display? Is latency a factor? Etc.

Buying an LED video display based on who offers the lowest price will invariably result in a very dissatisfied customer who will sooner than later replace the original screen thereby costing much more money in the end.

A prudent buyer must take the time to list and compare every component as follows:

Does one select black or white LEDs for the LED video wall? Black will show more depth of color. White LEDs will be brighter. Black LEDs are recommended for indoor use. White LEDs for outdoor use.

Do the LEDs use copper wire or gold wire for the LED video display? Copper is cheaper but will not last as long particularly in humid environments. Suppliers of copper wire will limit their warranty to 2 years. Vanguard’s warranty for gold wire is 5 years.

Which company manufactures the LEDs used for the LED video wall? Nationstar is a preferred supplier. Kinglight is less expensive but they are of a lesser quality and will not last as long. Suppliers of Kinglight LEDs will limit their warranty to 2 years. Vanguard’s warranty for Nationstar LEDs is 5 years.

What is the operating system will be used for the LED video wall? Nova and Colorlight are the 2 best. Planar and Silicon Core use proprietary operating systems which means you are beholden to them for repairs. Nova and Colorlight are used universally. Resources can be mustered to resolve any issue in very short order.

What IC drivers are being used for the LED Video wall? Macroblock and Chip One are the 2 best. It is wise to get written confirmation from Macroblock or Chip One that your supplier is an authorized dealer or else you might very well end up with knock-offs. Do the IC drivers allow for customizable refresh and scan rates?

Is the LED video display you are buying have front and rear access to the components? Front and rear access means that in order to remove a module for repair you need to access both the front and the rear of the display. An LED video display that is front or rear access means that a module can be removed from either the front or the rear within seconds.

What is the refresh rate of the LED video display? In order to show video properly 3980hz is required.

What is the gray scale of the LED Video board? 16-18 is preferable. Do the receiving cards allow for customizing the gray scales?

Does the LED video display allow for redundant power and data?

Are the modules used in the LED video display “hot swappable”? This means that there is no need to re-configure or re-calibrate modules after they have been removed and then re-inserted? This is also referred to as smart module data retention. Planar modules are not “hot-swappable”.

Is the brightness between 800-1200 nits for indoor applications.

Is the brightness between 4500-6000 nits for outdoor applications.

If the LED video display will need to show live-feed then the latency of the system must be carefully taken into account. It is necessary to evaluate the processors used up-stream of the LED display. It is also vital to determine if the cameras to be used have rolling shutters and CMOS shutters. The wrong cameras can add many frames of latency.

As outlined above there are many factors, other than price, that must be taken into account when deciding what LED video display is the appropriate one to invest in.


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