How well would a "Digital Signage Display" work as a home HDTV?
February 1, 2012 12:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm shopping for an HDTV, and might have lucked into an excellent deal on a Panasonic TH-50PF30U "digital signage display". Help me understand the difference between a consumer plasma HDTV and a digital signage plasma HDTV, because this is the first time I've heard of the latter.

I've been researching and shopping for a 50-inch(-ish) Plasma for several months. I've been pretty settled on the Samsung PN51D6500 or the Panasonic TC-P50ST30. However, I just found out I may be able to get a better deal through my job on a Panasonic TH-50PF30U.

I'm hesitant to jump on the deal, though, because it's billed as a "digital signage display" and not really marketed for home use. So I'm having a hard time finding reviews of it, or really learning what the difference between this sort of display and more consumer-oriented HDTVs is. The limited specs I can find look fine to me (1080p, adequate inputs, pretty standard stuff) but I haven't really been able to get a sense of how color performance, 3D performance, etc compare to the others I've mentioned – sites like don't seem to review these, and even Amazon is light on information.

Anyone familiar with using this (or any) "digital signage" display in the living room? It'd mostly be for Blu-Ray and other HD video content, and 2d & 3d gaming on the PS3. I'm fickle enough to want high-quality color reproduction and smooth 24p playback, but not fickle enough to, like, own calibration hardware or anything.

Mostly I just don't understand the difference between this kind of display and a consumer HDTV – is the difference just the interfaces (controlling over LAN, some other stuff I don't totally understand) or are the panels actually different than what they'd use in a consumer display? Any help is appreciated!
posted by churl to Shopping (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm really surprised that that thing can do 3D! What's the point for a pro monitor like that?

Anyway. it's been a while since I've followed the differences between the consumer and "monitor" versions of plasmas but a few years ago the differences were:

- No tuner
- Stand not included by default
- Generally much, much more tweakable
- No built in speakers
- Picture quality that was in some way superior to consumer models (eg, better color decoding, gamma, etc.). The thing is that the consumer models generally have screwed up color decoding and gamma because customers prefer them that way -- they like pumpkin-colored skin and blue whites.

The panels were almost always the same as the consumer models, although they were sometimes a generation or two behind.
posted by The Lamplighter at 1:06 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lamplighter has the right of it, digital signage is more like a computer monitor and less like a TV. Also usually easier to mount, and you will be able to get it replaced with an identical or nearly identical model a year or so down the road, unlike consumer hardware that changes with the winds.
posted by MrBobaFett at 1:09 PM on February 1, 2012

Maybe I'm being dense, but I don't see a specification for refresh rate. It's entirely possible that it's only 60 Hz, rendering 24p impossible. Most new TVs can do 120 or 240. (I've never been sure of the advantage of 240... I guess it can do 3D interlacing at 24 or 30 fps?)
posted by supercres at 1:16 PM on February 1, 2012

Supercres - plasmas don't run at 120/240hz (generally because they don't need to), but they will run at 48hz, 72hz, or 96hz to display smooth 24p content. Not sure how they handle 3D but they 120/240hz stuff is for LCDs only.
posted by The Lamplighter at 1:22 PM on February 1, 2012

120hz/240hz is mainly to help with the motion blurring inherent to LCDs (and not plasmas). It's really just a happy coincidence that 120 and 240 are evenly divisible by 24, that's not why those refresh rates were originally introduced into displays.
posted by The Lamplighter at 1:23 PM on February 1, 2012

I'd be curious which generation panasonic plasma it's based on, I have a p50gt25 (basically the 2011 version of the ST30) and while the picture quality is phenomenal, it's a bit ass at doing 24p. 48hz is strobey to the point of being nearly unwatchable.
posted by Oktober at 1:34 PM on February 1, 2012

Best answer: As stated, a monitor is just a monitor. No TV, no sound, etc.
So it will only display video that is input from sources such as PS3, cable box, DVD player, etc.
That being said, some monitors have been known to have higher quality picture than TVs of similar size (I'm thinking the Pioneer Elite models that were out a few years back which were more costly than the same size Elite TV).

In reviewing the specs of this model, it looks like it only has 1 HDMI input which could be problematic depending on how many sources you need to connect. My TV has 4 HDMI inputs and I'm using all of them (PS3, Xbox 360, HT receiver, MacBook).

Also, do you have a sound system to complement the monitor? If so, you could run all audio through a receiver.

If you only have one source, or you run all sources through a HT receiver and then to the monitor, it could work well.
posted by nickthetourist at 7:58 PM on February 1, 2012

Response by poster: > Maybe I'm being dense, but I don't see a specification for refresh rate

Ah, you're right. This page says 50-60Hz, but like Lamplighter mentioned it's not meaningful for plasma TVs quite the same way it is for LCD/LED.

> I'd be curious which generation panasonic plasma it's based on

Yeah, likewise; it seems like there's so little information on these, compared to the glut of great info on consumer televisions. If I had to guess I'd say it's the same 'generation' of panels as their other 2011 plasmas (like the linked P50ST30), assuming the second two digits in the model indicate the series. But I don't know if that's the same across different product lines.

> In reviewing the specs of this model, it looks like it only has 1 HDMI input which could be problematic depending on how many sources you need to connect.
... Also, do you have a sound system to complement the monitor?

Saw that, and that's fine; the PS3 will be on HDMI for games/dvd/blu-ray and a computer will be on the DVI for streaming/everything else, which was the plan no matter which TV I ended up with.

This particular model does claim to have speakers in the spec sheets but I wouldn't use them anyways, audio should already be covered.

So, yeah, Lamplighter's specific differences seem fine with me: I don't particularly need a tuner or speakers, and more tweakable/potentially better panel sounds great.

It does look like by "3D Ready," they actually mean that you can buy a >$500 IR transmitter (and the >$100 glasses) and you have 3D. This is crazy cost-prohibitive to me, unless there's a way you can get third-party equivalents or something for that sort of thing? The Panasonic stand is also $100+ which it seems like I'd need if I can't wallmount it.

Lots to think about. It does really seem like they don't expect anyone to be buying these "digital signage" panels for the home.
posted by churl at 9:49 PM on February 1, 2012

I wouldn't buy a TV that has no room for expansion if you decide to get any additional components in the future. These monitors are no longer the great value that they once were. Six or seven years ago the release of new Panasonic monitors was big news on AVSForum but it doesn't look like that's the case anymore.
posted by The Lamplighter at 11:08 PM on February 1, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all of your help. Taking everything here into consideration, along with the final price tag, I'm going to pass on the display. This has been incredibly educational, thouh, and I really appreciate it!
posted by churl at 11:59 PM on February 2, 2012

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