LED video wall displaying manufacturing scene

Compare Video Wall Types

What kind of video wall is right for you?

LCD? Projection cubes? Direct view LED? If you’ve started researching display types, you’ve probably encountered all of these options and more. So which one is right for you? Well, that depends. Every display technology has unique strengths and weaknesses, and will be better-suited to some applications than to others. To help you get started, we’ve created a quick guide to the four leading display types. Find out how they work, where they’re used, and their key strengths and limitations.

LCD Video Walls

LCD video wall in a university

LCDs (liquid crystal displays) are one of today’s most popular display options. You’re probably already familiar with LCD technology due to its widespread use in consumer electronics like smartphones, computer monitors, and television screens.

How LCDs Work

An LCD is a flat panel display composed of a layer of liquid crystal between two pieces of polarized glass. When an electric current is applied, the liquid crystals shift, allowing light to pass through to create an image. Liquid crystals don’t produce their own light, so backlights are arranged behind the glass to illuminate the display. LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are the most common type of backlight used in modern LCD displays.

LCD video walls are built from a tiled array of LCD displays attached to a mounting system. A wide variety of mounting options are available, including freestanding, wall-mounted, curved, and even portable.

Common Applications of LCDs

  • Control room operations
  • Education and research
  • Conferencing and presentations

Advantages

High resolutions
Due to their high pixel density, LCDs can provide some of the highest total resolutions of any technology available today. LCD video walls can display text, images, and video in sharp detail.

Reliable and resilient
LCDs are extremely reliable and can support 24/7 operations for years on end with no down-time. Since they’re composed of solid-state electronics and have no consumable parts, they’re also very resilient to environmental stressors like vibration, humidity, and UV light.

Low total cost of ownership
With minimal maintenance requirements, low power consumption, and long lifespans, LCDs offer a very low total cost of ownership, making them one of the most affordable display options in the long term.

Disadvantages

Bezels
When LCDs are tiled together to create a video wall, bezels (or seams) are visible between the individual panels. Bezels may be seen as distracting in immersive applications like simulation or in cases where detailed charts are displayed. Fortunately, manufacturers reduce bezel width with each new generation of displays, and bezels as narrow as 1.8mm are available today.

Image retention
In applications where a static image is displayed for an extremely long time, LCDs may experience image retention. This occurs when the liquid crystals develop a “memory” for the position they’ve been holding and fail to shift when the image is finally changed. In most cases, image retention is minor and temporary.


Direct View LED Video Walls

LED video wall featuring blue car

Direct view LED, also simply called “LED,” has recently emerged as an exciting new indoor video wall display type. Direct view LED isn’t actually a new technology: it’s been used for decades in large, outdoor signage, but has traditionally lacked the resolution needed for close-proximity indoor displays. All of this changed with the recent development of very small LEDs, which have allowed manufacturers to produce much higher-resolution LED displays. Today, direct view LED is one of the most desired display options for indoor video wall systems.

How Direct View LED Works

An LED display consists of hundreds of tiny LEDs (light emitting diodes) mounted directly on a flat panel. Each LED is essentially a miniature lightbulb that emits colored light when a particular voltage is applied to it. Clusters of red, green, and blue LEDs are grouped to create the full-color pixels needed to produce an image. Since the LEDs themselves produce the pixels, the size of the LEDs and the distance between them (known as “pixel pitch”) determines the resolution of the display. Displays with very small LEDs and a fine pixel pitch will produce higher resolutions than displays with bigger LEDs and a large pixel pitch. However, these higher-resolution displays are also dramatically more expensive.

LED video walls are built from a tiled array of LED displays. Some LED displays come with a mounting system built in, while others require the use of a separate mount. The narrow profile of LED displays allows for virtually limitless mounting options, including freestanding, wall-mounted, ceiling mounted, curved, and more.

Common Applications of Direct View LED

  • Large scale architectural and signage displays
  • Control room operations

Advantages

Extremely bright
Direct view LED offers the highest maximum brightness of all leading display technologies. This makes LED an excellent solution for spaces with significant ambient light.

Reliable and resilient
LED displays are very robust and reliable, and can withstand a wide range of temperatures and humidity levels. The expected lifespan of most LED displays is similar to that of LCDs.

Seamless
Since LED displays have no bezels, they can be tiled together to create a completely seamless video wall, delivering an immersive, high-impact visual experience.

Disadvantages

Lower resolutions
While the latest indoor LED displays can provide far higher resolutions than previous models, they are still much lower-resolution than competing technologies like LCD and rear projection. For applications where highly-detailed content must be viewed at close-proximity, LCD and projection-based systems may still be preferable.

High initial cost
Although prices are expected to decrease over the next few years, the price-point of higher-resolution LED displays is currently several times the price of LCDs, putting this technology out of the reach of most customers.


Blended Projection Systems

Blended projection with shark and coral

Blended projection systems combine the output of multiple projectors to produce an image that is larger or higher-resolution than could be generated by a single projector. Blended projection systems can display high-resolution images on a completely seamless surface of virtually any size and shape.

How Blended Projection Works

Blended projection works by overlapping two or more projected images and gradually cross-fading their edges to produce a single, seamless image. A blended projection system can be designed with rear or front projection. In a rear blended projection system, the projectors are placed behind the screen in an enclosed room, where they either project light directly onto the screen, or onto mirrors that then reflect it onto the screen. In a front blended projection system, the projectors are mounted in front of the screen surface and reflect light directly onto it.

Instead of tiling together multiple displays like an LCD or LED video wall, a blended projection system blends the output of multiple projectors to create a large display surface.

Common Applications of Blended Projection

  • Simulation
  • Education and research
  • Architecture and engineering

Advantages

Seamless
Blended projection systems produce a completely seamless display surface, making them an excellent solution for immersive applications like simulation.

Any shape display
With additional image mapping and processing, a blended projection system can produce images on curved, angular, or even spherical surfaces.

Any size display
When several very bright projectors are used, a blended projection system can produce an extremely large display surface that still appears bright and sharp. Since the size and resolution of the image depends only on the number and type of projectors used, the display surface can theoretically be as large as desired.

Disadvantages

Vulnerable to ambient light
Ambient light will heavily impact the brightness and contrast ratios of a blended projection system. Systems designed with front projection are especially vulnerable to ambient light and may require very bright projectors to produce sufficient contrast ratios.

Large footprint (rear-projection designs only)
Rear blended projection systems require a large enclosed room to house the projectors, which may demand up to 14 feet of floor space. Space is not an issue with front blended projection systems since the projectors are mounted in front of the display screen and don’t need to be enclosed.

Not easily scalable
Compared to tiled systems like LCD, LED, and cubes, blended projection systems are costly and labor-intensive to scale over time. Significant changes must be made to projector placement and lens alignment, and the projectors often need to be replaced completely. The screen must also be replaced since a larger display surface will be required.


Rear Projection Video Walls

Rear projection immersive environment with touch control

Like LCDs, rear projection displays (sometimes called “cubes”) are an enduringly popular display option. This display type has existed for many years and is available in a range of sizes and resolutions.

How Rear Projection Cubes Work

A rear projection display consists of a projection system and mirror encased in a sealed cube. The cube enclosure is used to limit the effects of ambient light and improve the brightness and contrast levels of the displays. Inside the cube, the projector shines light onto a mirror, which then reflects it onto the display screen to produce an image.

A projection cube video wall is built by stacking multiple cubes on top of each other in a tiled array. Cubes can be arranged in flat, curved, and even non-rectangular arrays. While they are generally too heavy to be wall-mounted, they can be built into a recessed space so that the display surface is flush with the surrounding wall.

Common Applications of Rear Projection Cubes

  • Control rooms and operations centers
  • Simulation
  • Education and Research

Advantages

Virtually seamless
With seams, or “mullions,” as narrow as 0.2 mm, an array of rear projection cubes can appear virtually seamless while still providing the scalability of a tiled display system.

Many shapes and sizes
Cubes are available in a wide range of sizes and aspect ratios, so they offer a great deal of design flexibility. Cube video walls can be flat, curved, or non-rectangular. The availability of very large cubes also makes this display type a cost-effective solution for very large video walls.

High reliability
While legacy models used lamps as a light source, most modern cubes use LED backlighting, eliminating the need for regular maintenance downtime. LED-backlit cubes are extremely reliable and can be used 24/7, making them suitable for mission-critical applications.

Disadvantages

Large footprint
Compared to LCD and LED, rear projection cubes have a large footprint. Most are at least 24” deep and are very heavy, so they must be mounted on the floor or a solid platform. Rear-serviceable models will require additional space behind the displays to provide access to the cubes.

Vulnerable to ambient light
While the enclosed design of rear projection cubes helps reduce the effects of ambient light, cubes still can’t produce the same levels of brightness as LCD or LED displays. Some ambient light control will always be needed to ensure that display content is clearly visible.

Limited viewing angle
To achieve sufficient brightness, rear projection displays focus light toward the on-axis viewer, so viewers located at wider angles may notice significant light fall-off and color uniformity issues.


White paper icon

We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to today’s leading display types! Want to learn more about choosing a video wall display? Our white paper, A Comparison of Video Wall Technologies, provides detailed explanations of seven popular display types and compares qualities like resolution, brightness, reliability, cost of ownership, and more. Download it here!

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