Ask any installer how much a videowall costs, and you might be in for a long conversation. Understandably so: these systems are kind of a modern marvel in the technology world, with the tech’s quality rapidly increasingly year-over-year and prices steadily going down. How much a videowall costs now, in late 2020, is subject to change by late 2021 (and we’ll do our best to update this article as time passes). But in general, what should buyers expect to pay?
Wrapping your head around LED videowall prices
One reason why it’s difficult to simply list median prices for you here is that videowall costs can fluctuate based primarily on size.
But one other important factor is aspect ratio. Specialty sizes require specialty media players and content, which drives up costs and complexity of installation significantly.
Most media is produced for 16:9 aspect ratio, so anything different from that will exponentially increase costs. This may be useful in more artistic settings such as museums, galleries, or high-end motels, but not necessarily in corporate or mid-range retail settings.
Lionel Felix, an integrator with years of experience and founder of Felix Media Solutions, does have some good news, though.
“Costs have been coming down where every 18 months, it comes down by about half,” he says.
“Last year, we were quoting systems in 120- to 165-inch range — complete hardware purchase only, before installation costs — $45,000 to $120,000, depending on the manufacturer, size and pixel density of the solution.”
“Another example of our pricing: in an auditorium which sits 300, a two-wall solution with a minimum viewing distance of 15 feet away, we sold those two screens at $440,000 with most of that being the hardware. Installation was fairly simple.”
“About 20% of budgeting should be allotted to the installation of the wall. Larger projects need a construction company to put a drywall up to exacting specifications. Ideally, they should have done work on these projects before.”
Most expensive parts of a videowall system
You’re going to start hearing and reading about “pixel pitch” often if you’re seeking to purchase a videowall, so you should know what this important factor means.
According to manufacturer Planar, “pixel pitch describes the density of the pixels (LED clusters) on an LED display and correlates with resolution. Sometimes referred to as pitch or dot pitch, the pixel pitch is the distance in millimeters from the center of a pixel to the center of the adjacent pixel.”
Essentially, a smaller pixel pitch allows for a closer viewing distance (or how close you can stand to the screen without it looking pixelated).
Note that a 2.5 mm pixel pitch is on the higher end for an indoor solution. More typically, indoor systems require 1.7 or 1.5 mm pixel pitch. This can increase the price depending on the screen manufacturer chosen by your integrator.
The main components of videowalls include the chassis (aluminum frame which come in 16:9 aspect ratio or a square), the power supply, a video card and the choice for redundant video cards, and power supplies. Then, subpanels (the LED screens themselves) pop into place on PCB board.
Because these systems are so modular, middle-of-the-road quality is usually just fine. You can tell your integration partner that – they’ll be relieved you aren’t demanding the absolute cheapest option.
By far, the most expensive part of a videowall is the subpanel, or the individual LED panels which stick into each frame.
They’re projecting the light you look at and are driven by the quality of the LED diodes. They have to reproduce the light accurately and as such are very complicated systems in their own right.
Color-matching LED walls have an almost-infinite contrast ratio. Their ability to reproduce very accurate colors and images is what drives their high price point.
“Something like a 165-inch wall should cost somewhere in the $60,000-80,000 range for high-end screens; back it down about 25 percent for solid, average systems (including scaler, spares, the whole kit),” Felix says.
“For about $25,000, 165-inch range and below, you can get lower-quality, less-precise images.”
Getting the most out of your investment
IT people are doing product comparisons based on specs. But Felix says they need to be willing to understand pixel sizes, what is and isn’t on their network, security implications, etc. before a project begins.
“There are so few network implications to these projects that it usually isn’t an issue. AV over IP projects are usually provided on the integrator’s network.”
More importantly, IT needs to understand schedules and tech details of the player itself: a Mac Mini? A fully-industrial media player? They need to understand the player even if they don’t want anything to do with the content which is played from it.
Don’t be fooled by those LED videowall prices on Alibaba or other discount marketplaces. Felix says those mega-cheap solutions will only lead to headaches.
“Lesser-quality color representation from the subpanels will make the videowall look weird; similar to how cold color temperature in warm lighting looks awful. They’ll also be incredibly easy to break and don’t typically have reliable warrantees.”
“Plastic chassis: beware! If you find it online for cheap, know that these chassis will be warped and wobbly, like a bad picket fence. They should be thrown out of consideration immediately.”
The difference between panels is notable: even a layperson could see them and notice the difference in quality. There are many manufacturers out there with an enormous quality differentials, so make sure your integration partner spells out the options clearly… and yes, you should go with a technology integrator for a project like this.
If the screen manufacturer in question doesn’t have a U.S. office and supply house, that’s a red flag. It’ll be another headache if something needs replacing down the line.
Lastly, for those who are the tightest of budgets, a TV-based videowall solution may be the best option. They’ll have seams down the middle (because of the margins on the TVs themselves), but they can be about 50% less expensive than an LED solution.
Just make sure your integrator partner chooses a front-serviceable screen — that’ll be easier to service down the line.
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