Data projectors have until recently been the display technology of choice, mostly with a screen sometimes with an interactive whiteboard. However we are now witnessing a definite shift towards flat screen panel solutions in meeting and conference spaces.
Data projectors vs. Panels
Firstly, it makes sense economically. An average to good data projector for a meeting room would cost in the region of $650-700 +GST. For a larger space you would be looking at $2000 plus. New data projectors have a lamp life of 4000-6000 hours so would be expected to last anywhere from three to five years. Mounting and installation would add about $850 +GST onto that price.
A 55-60″ panel suitable for a meeting space or small hall would cost between $2000-3000 + GST and mounting and installation would be $280+GST. The life of a panel is over 10 years.
Then factor in sound which can be as high as $500 installed. You will definitely need extra sound with a data projector but for smaller spaces your built-in audio on a panel may well be sufficient.
Thus the panel works out only slightly more expensive and yet with a significantly longer life expectancy and that is only the start.
Quality of image
Secondly, panels blow data projectors out of the water for quality of image providing high definition and truer colour. With more presenters using more media, this is becoming a pre-requisite.
Thirdly, light is less of an issue, or not an issue at all in the case of an LED panel. As a guide, plasma is suitable for rooms with dimmer or controllable lighting, LCD for moderately bright rooms and
LED for moderate to brightly lit rooms where natural sunlight occurs.
Fourthly, size was always an issue as the larger screens for bigger rooms were prohibitively expensive. No longer is this the case. 60″ plus screens are now reasonably affordable.
Mobility and flexibility
Next and crucially for many, a panel can potentially lead to a greater return on investment if built into a mobile stand and used across the venue. The panel can be used across a number of meeting rooms and it can be used in foyers and bars for entertainment. In downtime it can be a flexible digital signage solution for your own purposes, such as welcome messages and advertising. A dedicated computer can be fitted in the back of the trolley and a webcam for video conferencing can be added to further widen its application.
Using a data projector as a mobile solution is plagued with problems. As the data projector will be on a low trolley or table, the presenter has to deal with shadow and delegates seated behind the projector may find their view impaired. Moving data projectors around, even portable ones can lead to breakages and theft can sometimes be an issue. Cables also end up running across the floor requiring taping or are left as a potential hazard. Increasingly what was once viewed as a high tech solution now seems amateur – such is the way of technology!
Sinead Vincent, Conference Coordinator at Wairakei Resort near Taupo described the wide ranges of uses that they have for their 55″ LCD TV on a trolley, “It is really popular in our board rooms as there is more workspace because the data projector isn’t sitting in the middle of the table. We use it a lot at dinner functions such as reunions where they will have picture slide shows running that can be easily seen by 60 to 70 people. Even at our bigger conferences presenters sometimes use it as their prompt screen when making speeches.” When asked what advantages it had over a data projector, Sinead listed, “ease of use – just plug it in, no need to focus; more space in the conference rooms and a very clear image that is great for presentations with a lot of text.”
If the above points are pertinent to you and you are going to begin looking for a panel solution there are a couple of other issues to consider before purchasing.
Consumer or commercial
Essentially there are two types to choose from – consumer or commercial. Both offer excellent pictures but they are engineered quite differently. The commercial type screens are engineered to work well with a computer and their architecture supports long hours of operation. On the other hand, the consumer type screens are engineered for TV and video and are intended for shorter viewing times. You need to be careful that the panel is actually used for the application that it was designed for or your repairs may not be covered by your warranty. Furthermore, consumer models may not be suitable for wall mounting or trolley mounting without special brackets, as the casing may not be able to support the weight of the panel.
Replacing interactive whiteboards, touchscreens are also increasingly been installed in educational and corporate settings and maybe something that conference organisers will begin to expect in the near future. Price-wise a 55 or 65″ touchscreen does compete with the full interactive whiteboard set up so it is worth considering even one, possibly mobile, for larger conference venues.
Seek expert help
To ensure that you make the right decision we would advise having a chat with someone whose job it is to keep up with all the latest developments in the AV industry. Essentially you need to consider what your main uses are, what kind of inputs you need, how many hours a day it will be used, what kind of look you are after and whether you need a mobile or fixed solution…and then your AV supplier should be able to take it from there.