What's the Difference Between Commercial and Consumer Displays?

If your business needs a display for your conference room or digital signage you can choose between commercial displays and consumer displays. Their basic functionality is similar. Each display shows a visual message to the audience. However, the capabilities beyond that vary dramatically.

Companies often wonder what the difference is between commercial and consumer displays. Is a commercial display worth the investment?

What is a consumer display?

Consumer displays can be found at everyday department stores and big box houses. It’s your standard at-home TV. They have speakers built into the visual component for ease of use. They may also have a tuner and a table stand. These displays are designed for at-home use.

What is a commercial display?

Company corridor with light wood walls and two conference rooms with chairs and tables. Concept of negotiation. Mock up. 3d rendering
Commercial displays are available through professional AV channels. They are manufactured using better, and more expensive, components. These displays have increased reliability, especially when used for extended periods of time each day. The warranties on commercial displays are far better than on the consumer products. Commercial displays are also brighter than the consumer products. This is an important feature when using the displays in brightly lit conference rooms or public meeting spaces. From an aesthetics perspective, commercial displays often have cleaner lines than their consumer counterparts.

Can I use a consumer display in a meeting room?

Opting for a commercial display for digital signage is an easy choice to make once you see the difference between consumer and commercial functionality. Commercial displays offer portrait orientation, longer run-times, better control and more thorough warranties. With the heavy use of digital signage and costs associated with a down system, commercial displays are hands-down a better option.

But what about a conference room? Can displays be an easy place to cut costs without affecting user experience? It’s an enticing question and one we get often. There’s a balance between cost and benefit of displays. At what point does the law of diminishing marginal returns kick in and the added functionality just isn’t worth it?

While we can’t speak to your business case specifically, we do have a lot of experience installing (and more importantly supporting) displays. Here’s what we’ve discovered from integrating displays in hundreds (maybe even thousands) of meeting rooms.

Commercial is best. Even at the higher price point, we recommend it.

Conference rooms are typically used for group meetings. In many companies, these meetings consist of managers, directors, VPs and the C-suite. Pick a week and look at the meetings scheduled in your conference room. Say there’s an average of 4 people in each meeting and the room’s in use an average of 5 hours per day.

Now imagine the display goes out, and it will be three weeks until it can be replaced. No sharing content at internal meetings, no video conferencing with partners, no client presentations. Take it a few more steps, and you can easily quantify a loss of productivity caused by a down display.

Commercial displays are one way to mitigate that risk.

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What makes commercial displays and consumer displays different?

Performance

Commercial displays are able to function in a portrait orientation. This may not be relevant for conference rooms but is important when used for digital signage. Many consumer displays are not able to support cooling while in portrait mode, which could lead to failure.

Commercial grade displays are built with higher-grade and heavier-duty parts and components designed to handle many continuous hours of wear and tear. Along with an increased resistance to deterioration, these high-quality parts also extend the lifespan of commercial display solutions far beyond that of consumer models.

The typical consumer may have their display on for a few hours a day. In a business environment these displays can be on for many more hours, sometimes exceeding the typical 8-hour workday. Commercial displays are designed to handle these extended run-times with ratings like 16/7 and 24/7.

Want your logo or marketing message to display on the screen when it’s not in use? Commercial displays protect against image retention, which helps prevent the logo or message from appearing ‘burned in’ to the screen after it has been shown for extended periods. If you’re sharing a constant image or steaming a news station that features the logo in the same location (think ticker box at the bottom of a screen) you may notice a consumer display shows a faint copy of the logo layered on your screen during your next video conference.

Warranty

AV systems are complex and choosing a commercial display reduces the risk of one variable in the system. When approached from a business perspective the commercial displays’ decreased downtime reduces lost productivity by the staff intending on using the space – especially in executive spaces where productivity and man-hours come at a premium. Layer that with the fact the warranty may not cover you if the display is in a business environment, and you could be looking at a full-cost replacement. With each display that goes down, there is lost time and productivity spent on troubleshooting the problem and arranging a repair or replacement. A repair could take several weeks to be received, repaired and sent back by the manufacturer. If the replacement is purchased to match the existing display(s), it could take anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks (or longer) to obtain a replacement and install it.

Control

Commercial grade displays incorporate a 9-pin RS-232 serial port for external control by a 3rd party control system like Crestron, enabling advanced control of the display. In addition, the serial port can allows a digital signage player to control the display, offering full control of the screen remotely. It also provides the ability to power the display on and off automatically, like at the beginning and end of day. This can save valuable display life and building energy while maximizing user ease-of-use.


Some consumer displays have “automatic power” or “auto-switching” functionality. However, these functions are inconsistent between manufacturers and even between their own models.


Auto-switching functionality in consumer displays can be unreliable. Sophisticated video transmission solutions enable switching between content sources by consistently producing a sync signal from the transmission solutions. A loss of sync leads to the interoperability of the “smart” internal functions. So, a loss in sync could disrupt the auto-off function leaving your display on until someone uses a remote control to manually power it down.

Do I need a consumer display or a commercial display?

AV systems are complex and choosing a commercial display reduces the risk of one variable in the system. When approached from a business perspective the commercial displays’ decreased downtime reduces lost productivity by the staff intending on using the space – especially in executive spaces where productivity and man-hours come at a premium.

With each display that goes down, there is lost time and productivity spent on troubleshooting the problem and arranging a repair or replacement. A repair could take several weeks to be received, repaired and sent back by the manufacturer. If the replacement is purchased to match the existing display(s), it could take anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks (or longer) to obtain a replacement and install it.

A commercial display may not cost as much as you think. The relative cost of display solutions has  been decreasing drastically over the years as the technology has changed and improved.  One thing that has not changed is that old saying: “you get what you pay for”. 

When you choose a commercial display, you’re getting a better quality product with greater capabilities. It’s a more rugged solution that the manufacturer stands behind. It’s designed to last through years of continued use and provides the peace of mind knowing that when you just want to get to work the display will be there to help you get the job done.

For more information, Samsung has a great infographic comparing and contrasting consumer and commercial displays for digital signage use and is also relevant for conference rooms.