Does 4K even matter?
When I first saw the graphical capabilities of the Playstation 2 as a child, I was blown away by how "advanced" it appeared. Today, a PS2 game appears dated and blocky with strange animations and character models. However, even video games today don't necessarily impress with their ultra-HD graphics. The market has been flooded with so many good looking games that none particularly stand out. Does this same principle apply to 4K displays?
What looks good today won't look good tomorrow
Graphics are constantly advancing in the market. Every day, we hear about a new 4K video wall or another 3D interactive deployment or the latest in VR technology. HD used to be a big deal, but it's now old news.
With this in mind, it's easy to see why companies might feel pressured to upgrade to 4K. You don't want to be left behind, and you certainly don't want to lose credibility if all your competitors are using 4K displays and you are still on 1080p.
That being said, simply upgrading your display won't be enough.
It's about the content, not the resolution
Going back to my video game example, if I saw an advertisement for a fancy shooter video game with the latest graphics, I might look for a second but then quickly go about my business. However, if I saw an advertisement for the Zelda game Breath of the Wild I would take a second look. I wouldn't just look at it for the impressive graphics, I would take a moment because its content appeals directly to my nostalgia and love for the Legend of Zelda series. The same principle applies with displays.
A generic LCD display that gives me good or compelling information will always win out over the fancy video wall that is simply trying to impress me. Graphics alone won't make the sale. It takes relevant content as well.
Suzana Spratley, CEO of Techtap, pointed out in a webinar the danger of using inappropriate content for a high-tech display, showcasing several examples of high- resolution video walls that used content with tiny text or where the content didn't flow naturally across the panels. Even the best display can't save poor content.
Do people look at pixels that closely?
Geoffrey Morrison, a writer for CNET, pointed out in an article that the average TV viewer isn't sitting any closer to the tube than back in the days of CRT TVs. On average, they sit about 9-to-10 feet away from their TVs, and that hasn't changed much with 4K.
With this in mind, it's easy to see why some might choose to skip 4K. Is it really worth it to spend all that money on advanced displays when your customers won't even notice the difference?
However, if the display is designed to be viewed up close and has interactive elements, it might be more worthwhile to use 4K to draw in users.
4K is a tool, not the entire toolbox
It's not my intention to demean 4K. It is a useful tool, which if used properly can really make a display pop. The issue is that it should be treated as just that — a tool — not the entire toolbox.
It's the same principle as integrating interactive elements into digital signage. If it works well with your strategy and audience, then use it. However, if it isn't very effective, all you have is a very expensive toy. Upgrading just for the sake of upgrading can lead to disaster.
Image via Istock.com
Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for DigitalSignageToday.com. His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.www