LED-LCD and LED-based rear-projection cubes are both enduringly popular video wall display types, and have several common strengths. With MTBFs of up to 100,000 hours, both are extremely reliable and suitable for 24/7 mission-critical applications. Both display types are also scalable over time since additional LCDs or cubes can be added to existing arrays, expanding the display surface and increasing the total resolution. However, LCDs and projection cubes have some significant differences as well, and these distinctions may have important implications for customers.
If you’re struggling to choose between LCDs and cubes for your video wall, read on to learn the five key differences between these display types and what they’ll mean for you.
Difference 1: Resolution
Due to their high pixel density, LCDs can produce some of the highest resolutions of any technology available today. Most LCD panels between 47 and 55 inches offer at least 1920×1080 (full HD), and some displays provide resolutions as high as 3840×2160 (4K) or even 7680×4320 (8K). The ability to support 4K and 8K resolutions makes LCD an excellent choice for a “future-proof” video wall system.
Projection cubes can offer high resolutions as well, but since they have a lower pixel density than LCD, a larger display surface is needed to achieve the same resolution. For example, while a 47″ LCD panel can provide a resolution of 1920×1080, a cube of 60″-80″ may be required to achieve that resolution. The lower pixel density of cubes may not be an issue if the video wall will be viewed from some distance. However, if viewers will be at close proximity, resolution may be a concern.
Difference 2: Seamlessness
One frequently-cited disadvantage of LCD video walls is bezel width. Compared to projection cubes, LCDs have thicker bezels, or seams, appearing around each panel in the array. Manufacturers have made great strides in reducing bezel width with each new generation of LCD, and some current displays have bezels as narrow as 3.5mm. However, these ultra-narrow bezels are still more visible than the seams of projection cubes.
With seams, or “mullions,” as narrow as 0.2 mm or less, an array of projection cubes can appear to be virtually seamless. This makes projection cube technology an excellent solution for applications in which more perceptible bezels could compromise display content and distract viewers.
Difference 3: Brightness
LCD panels can provide high brightness, and their brightness levels can be adjusted quickly and easily. For this reason, LCD is a popular display choice for environments with significant ambient light that would wash out a projection-based display. The maximum brightness of LCDs decreases gradually as the displays age, but higher brightness settings may be used to compensate for this if the displays were not initially running at their full brightness potential.
Because their enclosed structure limits the effects of ambient light, projection cubes can produce brighter images and higher contrast levels than most front projection systems. However, cubes still cannot produce as much brightness as LCDs, so some ambient light control is usually needed to ensure that display content is clearly visible. Like LCDs, projection cubes gradually lose brightness over time as the LED light engine ages.
Difference 4: Viewing Angle
LCD panels, particularly those using IPS (In-Plane Switching) technology, can offer very wide viewing angles with minimal color and light drop-off, making images easier to see from a distance or from off-axis. This quality makes IPS LCD an excellent choice for large or wide control room environments, as operators in these spaces may be located at a distance or at an extreme angle from the video wall.
The viewing angle of projection cubes is restricted when compared to LCD. This is because in order to achieve desirable levels of brightness, projection screens focus light toward the on-axis viewer, causing viewers located at wider angles to perceive significant light fall-off and color uniformity issues. Due to this limitation, projection cube technology is best-suited for narrower spaces where viewers can be situated directly in front of the displays.
Difference 5: Spatial Requirements
As a flat panel display type, LCD has a minimal footprint and can be as narrow as 4” deep when wall-mounted. In addition, LCD video walls typically do not require much additional floor-space for maintenance access; some LCD video wall mounts even enable individual panels to be accessed and removed without removing adjacent panels. This makes an LCD video wall an extremely space-efficient solution when compared to projection cube systems.
Compared to flat panel technologies like LCD, cube video walls have a large footprint. Most cubes are at least 24” deep, and because they are quite heavy, they must be mounted on the floor or on a solid platform. In addition, most basic cube models are rear-serviceable, necessitating additional floor space to provide technicians with rear access to the cubes. Upgraded models may offer front-serviceability, which reduces floor space requirements but adds to the initial price of the cubes.
Difference 6: Cost of Ownership
The initial cost of LCD video walls is moderate and generally much less expensive than projection cubes. In addition, LCDs include no consumable parts and do not require regular downtime. With minimal maintenance requirements, low power consumption, and a typical lifespan of around 6.8 years to half-brightness, LCD video walls have a very low total cost of ownership (TCO) and are one of the most affordable display options in the long term.
In most cases, the initial cost of a projection cube video wall is significantly higher than that of an LCD video wall of similar dimensions. However, for very large-scale video walls, projection cubes may be a less-expensive option than LCD, particularly if large cubes are used. The power-consumption of cubes is similar to LCD, and long-term maintenance costs are minimal, although screens may occasionally need to be replaced due to peeling or punctures. Overall, while the initial price of cubes is quite high, their low maintenance and long lifespans lower the long-term cost of ownership. Total cost of ownership is still higher than LCD displays, but the near-seamlessness of cube video walls may justify this additional expense for some customers.
We hope these points have helped clarify some of the main distinctions between LCD video walls and projection cube video walls. However, there’s much more to learn about these two display types than could fit in this post!
To learn more about LCD, projection cubes, and other leading video wall technologies, check out our white paper, A Comparison of Video Wall Technologies. The white paper provides detailed explanations of seven leading and emerging display types and compares major performance metrics like resolution, brightness, reliability, scalability, total cost of ownership, and more.