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Five Tips for Maximizing Brightness with Outdoor Displays

Two thousand nits is bright, but it pales – literally – compared to direct sunlight. That’s one challenge when finding displays bright enough to provide a consistently great viewing experience outdoors. Here are five tips to consider:

1. Pick the right amount of brightness for each location. The decision can get challenging when the installation spans a single large facility, such as a stadium, or multiple facilities, such as a chain of quick-serve restaurants. A single spec might not cut it if some displays will be subject to more ambient light than others.

“For shaded areas, we recommend an LED or LCD display with at least a 700 cd/m2 of brightness,” says Brent Sanders, Panasonic System Communications Company of North America business development manager for food services. “For displays in direct sunlight, we recommend a full 1,000 cd/m2. Anti-glare overlays can also help increase outdoor visibility.”

Anticipate fading and budget accordingly. Some displays will lose 10 percent or more of their brightness annually, which means they can become unviewable after three or four years. One option is to pay a premium for technologies, such as MRI’s BrightVu, that hold their brightness longer. Another is to go with less robust units and budget for a faster replacement schedule.

Don’t overlook how protection affects brightness. Measure brightness through any cover glass or protective film rather than only at the display’s surface. Also, make sure that the protection isn’t against just vandalism and the elements. If condensation can form on the inside of the unit, that also diminishes brightness.

4. Plan for solar clearing. Over time, sunlight heats LCD crystals to the point that they form black splotches. A backlight at full brightness can hasten solar clearing by adding to the heat. Look for LCDs that have higher temperature ratings, as well as ambient light sensors to automatically throttle down the backlight.

5. Test. Even the most honest specs provide only a guide for how a particular model will fare in a particular location. That’s why Taco John’s began testing digital menu boards in July and won’t stop until after this winter is over.

“In Cheyenne, WY, we have bright sunshine 302 days of the year, and this board faces south, so we are watching how well this test unit performs under these conditions,” says Shawn Eby, Taco John’s vice president for operations. “For our test, we wanted to be sure that we put the board in the most difficult position to see how well it performs.”