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Modern Electronic Paper Displays vs. High Brightness Displays for Outdoor Applications

Updated: Jul 9


The Benefits and Tradeoffs of Modern Electronic Paper Displays vs. High Brightness Displays for Outdoor Applications

In the realm of outdoor applications, choosing the right display technology is crucial. Two prominent contenders in this space are Electronic Paper displays and high brightness LCD or displays.  

Electronic paper goes by many names: e-paper, sometimes spelled as ePaper, electronic ink, and (generically, after the company that manufactures it) also e-ink. Electronic paper displays made their commercial debut in eBooks and eReaders. All of these names describe the same thing: a reflective display technology that mimics the appearance of ordinary ink on paper.

Mainstream LCD’s that are modified to perform in outdoor applications, are often referred to as high nit (a measure of brightness) and ruggedized displays. Each technology offers distinct advantages and faces unique challenges when used in outdoor environments. This blog explores the benefits and tradeoffs of these display technologies, focusing on how they address common challenges in outdoor display projects.

Understanding the Challenges of Using Displays Outdoors
Using displays outdoors faces several challenges that differ significantly from indoor use. Visibility in direct sunlight, power consumption, durability, viewing characteristics, protects from vandalism are major considerations on any outdoor solution design.

  1. Visibility in Direct Sunlight: Bright sunlight can wash out display content, making it difficult to read.

  2. Power Consumption: Many outdoor applications, like digital signage or public information displays, require constant operation, necessitating efficient power usage. Higher power consumption also generates unwanted heat in the system

  3. Durability and Weather Resistance: Outdoor displays must withstand various weather conditions, including rain, snow, and extreme temperatures.

  4. Viewability at Different Angles: Displays should be easily readable from various angles as viewers may not always be directly in front of them.

  5. Content Refresh Rates: Depending on the application, the need for frequent content updates may impact display performance.

  6. Vandalism: Public use kiosks, terminal and information systems are susceptible to unintentional damage from the elements or intentional damage from vandalism.

 

Modern Electronic Paper Displays
Benefits:

  1. Readability in Sunlight: Electronic Paper displays excel in direct sunlight. Their reflective technology mimics the appearance of ink on paper, providing high contrast and readability without glare.

  2. Low Power Consumption: Electronic Paper displays are highly energy-efficient. They only consume power when updating content, making them ideal for applications where displays need to be on for extended periods without constant power supply.

  3. Wide Viewing Angles: Electronic Paper displays offer excellent readability from almost any angle, which is crucial for public displays viewed by people passing by from different directions.

  4. Durability: Electronic Paper screens are generally durable and can be designed to withstand harsh outdoor conditions, including wide temperature ranges and exposure to moisture.


Tradeoffs:

  1. Low Light Visibility:  Electronic Paper displays have poor visibility in low light conditions because they rely on ambient light to be readable. Front lighting which replicates ambient lighting or backlighting options can be added to enhance readability in dim environments, at additional costs however.

  2. Slower Refresh Rates: Electronic Paper displays typically have slower refresh rates compared to high brightness displays, making them less suitable for applications requiring fast-moving video or animations.

  3. Limited Color Options: While there have been advancements in color e-ink technology, the color range and vibrancy still lag behind high brightness displays.

  4. Higher Initial Cost: Electronic Paper displays can be more expensive upfront compared to traditional LCDs or LEDs, although their low power consumption can offset this cost over time.

  5. Supply Chain: Electronic Paper is a relatively niche market and specialized production processes can sometimes lead to supply chain constraints and higher costs compared to more mature display technologies.  However, as we look to the future, several Electronic Paper trends and innovations are set to expand its applications and enhance its performance. 


High Brightness Displays
Benefits:

High brightness TFT LCD displays offer vivid, full-color visuals and fast refresh rates, ensuring visibility even in direct sunlight and seamless handling of dynamic content. Their adaptability with ambient light control and established supply chain make them a dominant choice for various applications.


  1. Bright and Vivid Display: High brightness TFT displays (LCD) are designed to produce vivid images, making them visible even in direct sunlight.

  2. Fast Refresh Rates: These displays can handle video and animations seamlessly, which is essential for dynamic content and advertising.

  3. Full-Color Range: High brightness displays offer vibrant and full-color visuals, which are more engaging for many types of content.

  4. Adaptability: Many high brightness displays come with adaptive brightness control, which adjusts the screen brightness based on ambient light conditions to optimize visibility and power consumption.

  5. Supply Chain: TFT LCD Technology is highly mature and well-established in the market making it the dominant choice for a wide range of display applications with solid supply chain and cost benefits.


Tradeoffs:

High brightness displays consume more power and generate more heat than e-ink displays, potentially impacting longevity and reliability, especially in hot climates. Despite their brightness, they can still suffer from glare in direct sunlight, and while designed for outdoor use, they often require additional cooling and heating solutions to handle environmental factors.


  1. Higher Power Consumption: These displays consume significantly more power than e-ink displays, which can be a limiting factor in some applications.

  2. Glare Issues: Despite their brightness, high brightness displays can still suffer from glare in direct sunlight, which can affect readability. Although there are anti glare and anti reflection solutions, these have associated costs tied to them.

  3. Heat Generation: High brightness displays tend to generate more heat, which can affect their longevity and reliability, especially in hot climates.

  4. Environmental Durability:  While many high brightness displays are designed for outdoor use, they must still contend with environmental factors often including active cooling and heating solutions for example.


Choosing the Right Technology


The choice between Electronic Paper and high brightness displays largely depends on the specific requirements of the outdoor application:


  • For applications like digital signage, public information boards, and other static or semi-static displays where power efficiency and readability in direct sunlight are crucial priorities, Electronic Paper displays are often a good choice.


  • For dynamic content like video advertisements, interactive displays, and applications requiring vibrant colors and high refresh rates, high brightness displays are typically more suitable.


Conclusion

Both modern Electronic Paper and high brightness displays have their place in outdoor applications, each bringing unique strengths to the table. Understanding the specific needs of your application, such as the importance of power consumption, refresh rates, visibility in direct sunlight, and color requirements, will help guide you to the right choice.


Understanding business and financial objectives may also influence which direction to choose.


As technology continues to advance, we can expect both types of displays to further improve, offering even better solutions for the challenges of outdoor display use.


If you'd like to learn more about displays for outdoor use visit

 

About DCL Technologies


DCL designs high quality display solutions that meet our clients' overall objectives.

Our mission is to be the easiest display solution provider to do business with.


Our differentiator is a focus on delivering the best experience to our clients, at every desk. Our core value strategies are focused on making it easy for Engineers, Designers and Purchasing to get things done.

 

Contact:

Andrew Blum

DCL Technologies

800-407-8917




 

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