What’s the difference between an indoor and outdoor LED display?

29 Sep 2021

London outdoor advertising

Digital display solutions have been used both outdoors and indoors for years now, with the latter being used for everything from wayfinding to welcoming and the former generally used for advertising. But on a specific level, what are the differences between screens built for the outdoors and screens built for the indoors? What makes each suitable for their assigned roles and why should you never put an indoor LED display outside or vice versa? Let’s start with the basics.

What is an outdoor LED display?

When you take into account not only the weather but also the effects of potential vandalism and pollution, it’s no wonder outdoor displays are engineered slightly differently from their indoor counterparts. These displays are housed in modular cabinets that are stacked together to create larger displays. These displays will also typically have high IP (ingress protection) ratings to protect them from the weather and pollutants. Some might also be designed to mitigate the risk of lightning strikes. 

Generally speaking, outdoor LED displays use different technologies because of their more rugged design and greater levels of brightness. These are screens that require a lumens rating of at least 5,000 to 7,000 nits in order to be seen as clearly in direct sunlight during mid-afternoon in Las Vegas as they are in the middle of the night in London. They might also include fans and air conditioning systems to keep them working in warmer climates, although generally these aren’t required in the UK.

What is an indoor LED display?

In many ways, indoor LED video screens function identically to their outdoor counterparts but they don’t need to be engineered to withstand the same rigours. There are still challenges though. For example, outdoor displays are generally mounted beyond the reach of the general public, whereas indoors displays might be at risk of bumps, scratches and spills, as well as more premeditated damage. 

Indoor displays are also generally significantly easier to install and are not as bright as outdoors displays with typical lumen levels of between 800 and 1,200 nits. They have greater contrast ratios, so can create deeper and better blacks by using black LEDs. If you were to use an outdoor display indoors, you’d probably end up getting complaints from customers and staff as outdoor displays tend to use white LEDs due to the higher brightness levels required.

What makes them so different?

At a fundamental level, outdoor displays have been designed to be more resilient, not only to the weather but to general wear and tear. There are, however, also more specific differences to consider when schooling yourself on the basics:-

SMD and DIP - Right now, the dominant tech for indoor LED displays is surface mounted diodes (SMD). SMD lights are significantly smaller than their older DIP equivalents and can deliver higher definition images.

Distance - Outdoor LED screens are often viewed from a distance which means the individual pixels can be placed much further apart. An average indoor display will have a pixel pitch (the space between pixels) of around 4mm or even less, whereas outdoor displays often have a pixel pitch in the range of 6 to 10mm.

Cost - Install costs are always going to be almost entirely dependent on location, regardless of whether they’re indoor or outdoor.

Image: Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com


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