Last Fall, we published an article that gave a brief overview of the reasons to invest in a REAL solution for your outdoor TV needs. Today we’d like to elaborate on that article in an effort to help you become a more knowledgable consumer. At The Backyard Bartender, we’ve settled on two TV suppliers and one enclosure supplier that we think are at top of their specific segments - we think this will provide you with a wide selection of product, and a good balance between features and pricing.
Your First Decision - Budget
Let’s start with the sticker shock. Solutions for outdoor TV range from around $1,000 to well over $25,000. Before you read any further, you need to have a general idea of what you can afford, and what you want to actually pay. We’ve all had buyer’s remorse - that horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach after a major purchase - and it is frequently a result of spending more than you expected on an item. With outdoor TV, you need to understand that the market is much more limited than that which exists for indoor TV, so naturally the prices will be higher than you’ll find in your local box store. In addition, the technology requirements are much higher, in order to provide you with a solution that can handle the extremes of the outdoor environment.
Other than screen size, which we won't cover in this article, the reasons for the wide range of prices are detailed below, feature by feature. There are two tables at the end that will help you stack up each solution against the others with regards to features and pricing - hopefully you'll be better equipped after reading to be able to make a more educated decision. Let’s start off by looking at the biggest impact on the features you will choose - the environment in which you’ll be watching your TV.
I’m sure you already know where the TV will sit in your backyard. Personally, I like to be able to watch sports from my pool or hot tub, but I also want to be able to sit at my Backyard Bar and catch the highlights. You may just want to relax under the lanai while sipping a cocktail, watching the news. Whatever your situation may be, the location of your TV will dictate the features you need, and that will dictate the price you pay. Let’s look at the environmental factors in detail:
If you live in the northern part of the country, chances are you won’t be watching TV outside when the snow is piled up to the roof (unless you have a killer hot tub!). Assuming you don’t mind taking the TV inside for the winter (the mount can remain outside), you can pay less attention to the minimum non-operating temperature for your outdoor TV, as long as you make sure you take it inside before frost begins to appear. The same is true is you live in a southern location that rarely sees temperatures dip below freezing. However, if you live anywhere other than the deep south and don’t want the hassle of always moving your TV, you will want a solution that can cope with the cold. If your winters are extreme, you will also want the added protection of a TV heater, which will protect you down to -40 F.
High temperatures pose an equal risk - you need to keep in mind that the sun can easily cook your electronics even if they aren’t directly exposed to its brilliance. If your daytime temperature hits 100 F, keep in mind how much hotter it gets in a closed, non-air-conditioned space. A normal inside TV can’t handle much in excess of 100 F, so you can bet it’s not going to be happy outside.
If your TV lives under a full fixed cover like a lanai, rain shouldn’t be a problem. However, what if your lanai is close to the pool - any chance of water splashing the TV? Then there are sprinklers… you get the idea. If there is a chance of water hitting the TV, the last thing you want is for the drips to get into the body. At that point, not only can the moisture can damage, but you are open to corrosion. So if you have any doubts, you may want to invest in full water protection.
Other than water though, each area of the country is subject to its own special mix of catastrophes waiting to happen. If you live on the coast, salt and moisture in the air combine for a huge risk of corrosion. Much of the country suffers from high humidity, and this also poses a threat to the guts of the TV. On the other hand, those who live in parts of the southwest should be equally concerned about dust infiltrating the innards, choking the electronics, and posing a safety hazard due to fire. This is why your regular TV is not warranted for exterior use - it simply doesn’t have the filters and other safety measures in place to ensure that it can be used safely outdoors. Virtually all of our solutions are made with these things in mind - the main difference lies in the extent of rain/direct water protection.
This is where a bit of learning is necessary. There are many variables involved here, but the biggest impact on viewing conditions is the sun. First, as we said above, you may want to mount your TV on a wall by the pool in direct sunlight. This means you need to take into account the following: the picture must compete with sunlight, the TV must have extra protection against the direct heat of the sun, and reflections may cause havoc with your ability to watch the TV. Even if your TV is in the shade, the general brightness of a sunny day, combined with reflections from other areas of your backyard, will both factor into your ability to enjoy the show.
In terms of features, here is what you need to know:
To combat bright light, especially direct sunlight, you need to increase the illumination of the TV screen. TV illumination is measured in “nits”. You don’t need to know what they are (unless you are a geek like me), but you need to know the relative difference between various solutions in order to understand your needs. An indoor TV typically has an average illumination of 300-350 nits. A TV installed in a shadowed, protected location should be at least 350 nits, but 400 nits is a huge improvement. If you’re going to place a screen by a pool or in any location that receives direct sunlight, it must be at least 700 nits to appear bright.
The second element you need to combat in order to properly see your TV image outdoors is reflection. The most effective way around this problem is to use some type of anti-glare screen. Alternatively, you will need to carefully check all viewing perspectives for reflections prior to installing your TV.
This one may seem strange, but it is something to consider. If your TV is in the backyard, there is always a chance that someone is going to decide that throwing a ball or frisbee around is completely appropriate. That’s not the only hazard either. A bird crashing into your TV at full speed, or debris blown about in a windstorm, could both be disastrous, Safety glass will make sure your screen doesn’t shatter. Of course, you could always put a mesh screen in front of your TV…
We haven't mentioned screen size, nor have we mentioned resolution. Both of these issues are not specific to outdoor TV, except to the extent that you will want the biggest, best looking screen you can get. Regarding size, it's a personal decision. Regarding resolution, even if you have 4K stamped in your mind as the minimum standard, keep in mind that HD can deliver stellar results for almost all content - the other factors will have a far greater impact on your satisfaction outdoors.
Finally, keep in mind that each solution has its own list of included features, as well as optional add-ons. Add-ons add up, so you need to be certain you are comparing apples to apples if your budget is of any concern. Below we’ve provided a comparison to help you with that analysis.
The final table below provides some insight into the "bottom line" price, using a 55" TV as a guide.
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