Mirage vision 580Spring is here, and with it comes baseball, early flower blossoms, budding tree leaves and the warming sun – let’s go outside and watch TV!

That’s right. I said watch TV. One of the few remaining growth areas of the television market comes from big-screen LCD TVs with special cabinetry designed to resist the elements. It’s the perfect addition to that updated porch, patio or pool side. Now you can impress the neighbors by taking a lap of the pool while monitoring the latest illegitimate pregnancies on “Days Of Our Lives.”

SunBriteTV and electronics retail giant Best Buy gave the trend further credibility this week by revealing that weather-proof TV placements are expanding from 58 dedicated Best Buy outdoor entertainment merchandising areas to a total of 181 in the retailer’s high-end Magnolia A/V departments across the United States and Canada.

More on the outdoor television movement after the break:

Big Blue, like other savvy retailers, has been chasing a burgeoning $4 billion outdoor living industry, and offers an assortment of quality weather-proof gear for the porch and patio. These stations include such key brands as: Bose, Definitive Technology, Klipsch, Niles, Peerless and Yamaha.

A trend-driving member of the team is SunBriteTV, a manufacturer of weather-resistant LCD TVs for both consumer and commercial applications. The company’s push to expand distribution from custom installers to more mainstream retail venues isn’t new. It placed a handful of models with regional TV appliance chains shortly after the introduction of the affordable Signature Series a few years ago. Although more expensive than similarly sized TVs intended for indoor placement, pricing for SunBriteTV’s entry line brought outdoor TVs within the realm of possibility for consumers with big plans for the backyard.

A word of caution: some people living in climate-friendly locations of the country have reported successfully placing indoor TVs outside under the protection of a porch roof or similar rain shield. For most of us, however, extreme temperatures, direct sunlight, high humidity, dust, bugs and condensation are all enemies of sensitive electronics and make necessary a special TV optimized for the elements.

While rain seems like the most obvious TV killer, a bigger problem comes from extreme heat and cold, and most outdoor TV brands have developed a range of sets designed for top performance in the bright light and high heat of the sun. Make sure you take day-long placement conditions into account before investing in a model. Also be aware that many lower-priced outdoor TV models are designed for shaded conditions.

Outdoor televisions feature elaborate watertight cases that keep out the elements. In addition many add special heat sinks or ventilation systems that keep electronics from overheating. Heaters are also added to some models to prevent damage from sub-zero temperatures felt in Northern regions of the country. Top-end models will also offer high-brightness levels to produce optimal picture quality in direct sunlight, while ambient-light sensors will help dim the picture down in the evening to match conditions.

You’ll find a wide range of screen sizes, features, and prices both online and in some stores. But unless you are a licensed electrician or experienced contractor, you’re best off consulting an A/V specialty dealer, like a Magnolia department, or custom installer equipped to not only mount and setup the TV, but ensure power and source connections are equally shielded against the elements.

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The following is a look at some of the manufacturers offering outdoor TVs today:

MirageVision is an outdoor TV assembler adept at taking the core components of popular off-the-shelf TVs and fitting them into specially designed cabinetry. The brand offers not only some of the largest screen sizes available – it is currently the only brand to supply a line of all-weather 4K Ultra HDTV models. The company’s entry Silver Series, which is suitable for non-direct sunlight placement, includes screen sizes of 24 ($750 suggested retail), 32 ($950), 40 ($1,350), 46 ($1,650), 55 ($1,950) and 70 ($3,450) inches. All models have Full HD 1080p LED LCD panels expect the 24 and 32, which are HD 720p.

The step-up Gold Series, which has better picture quality and can be placed in sunlight, has screen sizes including: 22 ($850), 28 ($1,150), 32 ($1,450), 40 ($1,750), 46 ($2,250), 55 ($2,950), 60 ($3,250) , 65 ($3,950), 70 ($4,750), and 80 ($6,950) inches. All models have Full HD 1080p LED panels except the 22, 28, and 32, which are HD 720p.

The Diamond Series has screen sizes that include: 24 ($1,450), 32 ($1,950), 40 ($2,550), 48 ($3,450), 55 ($3,950), 60 ($4,450), 65 ($4,950), 70 ($5,450), and 80 ($7,550) inches. All models include smart TV features and have Full HD 1080p resolution.

The top-end Diamond E Series has screen sizes that include: 40 ($2,950), 55 ($4,950), 60 ($5,950), 65 $6,450), 75 ($6,950), 84 ($18,550), and 90 ($14,450) inches. All models include smart TV features and 4K Ultra HD resolution, except the 90-inch, which has a Full HD panel.

 Peerless offers its AV 47 outdoor TV ($2,999) 47-inch all-season outdoor Full HD 1080p LED LCD TV that can operate in a temperature range of -24 to 124 degrees Fahrenheit. Designed to be completely maintenance-free, the 47-inch model has an aluminum frame and safety glass to shelter it from the elements.

Séura offers two lines of all-weather and humidity resistant FullHD 1080p LED LCD TVs called Storm and Storm Ultra Brite. Séura, which is based in Wisconsin where the weather can be extreme, uses a powder-coated chassis, non-corrosive precision O-ring system, two-stage filtration and a weatherproof media compartment. Sets are sold primarily through custom A/V designers and installers. The company’s new Storm Outdoor TV line, intended for shaded placements, is offered in screen sizes including: 42 ($2,899 suggested retail), 55 and 65 ($3,399) inches. Each is engineered to operate in temperatures ranging from -24 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Storm Ultra Brite line is optimized for direct sunlight applications, and includes an Activ-Airflow System with heaters to run in temperatures ranging from -30 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Bightness is rated to 700 cd/m2. The line includes screen sizes of 42 ($4,999), 47 ($5,999) and 55 ($7,499) inches, each one measuring 3.7-inches thick, and offering a tapered silhouette design with seamless glass face.

SkyVue offers three series of NexGen (NXG) outdoor Full HD 1080p LED LCDTVs, many with integrated WiFi streaming and standard 20-Watt outdoor speaker bars. All feature rust-resistant powder-coated cabinetry. Series include: the NXG Non-Direct Sun, the NXG Direct Sun 500 (450-500 nit brightness) and the NXG Direct Sun 700 (700 nit brightness).

Screen sizes in the NXG Non-Direct Sun include: 32 ($1,849, all prices suggested retails), 42 ($2,499), 46 ($2,845), 55 ($4,049) and 65 ($7,045) inches. Brightness is listed at 450 nits, contrast is 4,000:1 and the refresh rate is 60Hz.

The NXG Direct Sun 500 also includes screen sizes of: 32 ($1,999), 42 ($2,649), 46 ($2,995), 55 ($4,199) and 65 ($7,195) inches.

The NXG Direct Sun 700 includes screen sizes 42 ($2,999), 46 ($3,395), 55 ($4,599), 65 ($8,095), 70 ($8,695) and 80 ($9,995) inches.

SunBriteTV offers two outdoor TV series (Signature and Pro) optimized for various placements including areas that get some or a lot of direct sunlight, but the more affordably priced Signature Series TV line, which is not designed for direct sunlight, put the company on the mainstream retail map. The Signature series is fully rain, moisture and temperature resistant. The line includes four screen sizes of Full HD 1080p LED LCD TVs including 32 ($1,495), 46 ($2,845), 55 ($4,095), and 65 ($7,695) inches. Models in the line are made of powder-coated aluminum exterior cabinets, run within an operating temperature range from -24 to 122 degrees and include a water-tight cable entry system. The 55-inch SB-5570HD includes a 20-Watt weatherproof detachable speaker module, dust cover and weatherproof remote.

Pro Series models have screen sizes of 32 ($2,995), 47 ($4,295), and 55 ($5,745) inches. Each is designed for placement in direct sunlight, can withstand temperature ranges from -24 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, has Full HD 1080p resolution, and a 60Hz panel.

Now, don’t swim too close to the screen. You might hurt your eyes.

By Greg Tarr

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