Tips & Guides

How to Turn a TV Into Digital Signage

Digital Signage TVs

Getting started with digital signage doesn’t need to be expensive, in fact, you may be able to use TVs or computer screens that you already own. Your tech will need to meet some minimum requirements that we’ll look at below, but any new-ish TV is likely to fit the bill.

Depending on the scale of your project and budget, and the impression you want to make, sooner or later you might want to graduate to professional screens. These are much more expensive, but specially designed for signage, so have some big advantages over TVs. We’ll take you through the pros and cons.

What you need for digital signage

Before we jump into the detail, let’s look at where TVs fit within a digital signage set-up. The components of digital signage are:

  • the displays,
  • a digital signage player that connects to the display and delivers the content to it,
  • your content,
  • and a digital signage content management system (CMS) – a platform/interface to control what content appears on your displays, when it appears and when it’s updated.

So, to work for signage, a TV needs to be able to fit into this set-up; you need to be able to connect it to a digital signage player or a PC running a digital signage application, and it needs to be able to handle your content nicely.

Using a TV for Digital Signage

Any TV with a HDMI port will work. So, using your TV for digital signage is as simple as plugging in a digital signage player with a HDMI cable, for example, Cenareo’s Plug & Play player. This lets you control the TV from your content management system and start showing content.

You’re not likely to find a modern TV without a HDMI cable, and a very few even have a DisplayPort connection, designed for monitors, that can handle high resolution content more smoothly at a faster refresh rate.

If you’re looking to buy a new TV rather than use what you already have, there are a couple of things to consider: what content are you going to show, and where is your signage going to be?

When TV buying, your resolution options are Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) or Ultra HD/4K, four times higher than full HD (3840 x 2160). What you need depends on what content you’re going to show. Are you going to be creating content in 4K? Things are moving that way, so do you want to futureproof your purchase? Really depends on how much cash you want to splash right now.

Secondly, where are you going to put the TV(s)? Will it be on your reception desk, or do you want it on the wall above your counter? Check the stand or wall mount options that the TV comes with, you might need brackets if these aren’t included.

Do you want to show signs in portrait rather than in landscape? If so, look for a TV that has a thin frame (bezel) that’s the same width all the way around, otherwise you’ll have one thick border in the ‘wrong’ place that could look weird.

One other consideration for the position of your TV(s) – if you have ambitious plans for your signage – is that you can’t use consumer TVs to create video walls. The bezels are too thick, and TVs aren’t designed to be able to show one section of an image or video in the seamless way you would need. For that you will need a professional display. Which leads us nicely on to the pros and cons of consumer vs pro.

Digital Signage TV Screens

Not all TV screens are made equal and what’s good for your lounge isn’t necessarily good for your lobby. Professional (also called commercial) displays are a lot more expensive than TVs but might be worth the investment if you need your signage to be on most of the time, or to be in a really bright area, or if you do want that slick video wall.

What’s the difference? Apart from price, the obvious one is that a TV has a TV tuner and a professional display doesn’t. Professional displays are brighter, sturdier and can operate for up to 24 hours a day within a warranty. If you’re using a TV as a digital signage display and it breaks, you’ve almost certainly broken your warranty agreement, so won’t get any service or a replacement from the manufacturer.

TVs are designed to be used for approximately eight hours a day, whereas you might want your signage to be on all the time in your shopfront. While professional displays can handle this, TVs that are used for long periods can start to get colour and image issues. For example, ghosting, where an image stays on screen after the content has changed, or burn-in, where some of the pixels freeze.

You also get more positioning options with professional monitors. While you can put a TV in portrait mode, it won’t like it. A pro display is designed to be put on the wall in portrait and landscape and has the right fan placement to make sure it doesn’t overheat.

With thin bezels and sturdier housing, you can make show-stopping signage by putting multiple monitors together, as a wall, a tower, or staggering them up a staircase, with your content running seamlessly across. If you’ve got the budget, you can let your imagination run wild.

With the latest professional displays, you can also get digital signage players included within the display itself, so you don’t need that extra bit of kit.

Easy to use Digital Signage content management

Whatever your project, whether you want to try digital signage for the first time using a TV you already have, or you’re upgrading from a TV to a commercial display, or you’re planning a fleet of 100 screens, Cenareo is here to help.

Our CMS is easy to use, requires no technical knowledge and allows you to focus solely on your messaging strategies. Get in touch to see how we can help you.

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