Designing the Outdoor TV Experience


More and more performance homes are featuring outdoor entertainment systems.


SINCE THE DO-MORE-AT-HOME PARADIGM SHIFT POST-COVIDTechnology Designer Magazine has shared the many investment trends homeowners made that optimized their homes both indoors and outdoors. Beginning with robust wired and Wi-Fi networks which reach every square inch of the home for lightning-speed Internet access required for work, school and entertainment, options including expanding the outdoor experience with kitchens, entertainment hubs, pools/hot tubs, and related amenities are keeping everyone busy these days. And outdoor TVs as a category of the overall consumer TV business is growing rapidly. Here are some thoughts on the subject so you can plan your spring outdoor entertainment upgrade effectively.

For background, I was recently discussing outdoor TV technology and outdoor entertainment in general with Eric Smith of Intech AV; here are some of my notes: “We have seen an uptick in our outdoor TV sales and installs over the past two years and it does appear to be a consistent growth area, especially for our new-build projects.” Regarding the class of outdoor TV technology, Eric shared, “Intech has only used the Samsung Terrace Outdoor sets since they launched; their sets are twice as bright as the mainstream competitors, and they feature an onboard Smart TV App platform which is a big advantage.” Eric also mentioned that they collaborate with their networking specialist in supporting each of the locations planned for the TV and audio system — hard-wired Internet access is preferred over Wi-Fi due to much superior performance for today’s hi-res video displays. Many installations are in and around the pool area, which requires positioning the TV in consideration of the direction of the sun.

As outdoor TVs become more popular, manufacturers are engineering them to withstand exposure to the elements, and the prices tend to be expensive. And for good reason. Many manufacturers will caution the placement of their TVs to avoid sunlight shining directly on the screen. The expectation is that you will be able to place them in a shaded area, such as beneath a patio roof. Every professional I’ve talked to about outdoor entertainment agrees that you need specially designed and constructed products — do not put a regular TV outdoors, as they are not designed for that usage.

With more outdoor TV size choices and protection ratings from the elements, placement options are virtually limitless. In other words, outdoor TV design and fabrication attributes determine both their optimum placement and/or placement limits.

outdoor vs. indoor TVs

Indoor TVs are designed to function in more limited temperature ranges and lack weatherproofing to protect the screen, cabinet and circuit boards. A typical indoor TV would not last long in excessively moist air or when exposed to wind-blown rain and temperature extremes.

Outdoor TVs are designed with a weatherproofing cabinet for placement outside for years of rain, snow, dust, dirt, insects, extreme temperatures, and direct sunlight energy. The screens are impact-resistant and have a sealed A/V connections compartment. The remote controls are equally resilient to weather conditions.

Intech has only used the Samsung Terrace Outdoor sets since they launched; their sets are twice as bright as the mainstream competitors, and they feature an onboard Smart TV App platform which is a big advantage.”ERIC SMITH

• Rust and erosion-resistant materials that shield dust and moisture away from internal circuitry and the panel boards
• Watertight seals to prevent seepage around cables
• Outdoor TVs are well-enclosed to prevent damage from bugs and insects
• Better temperature control design that protects the TV from both hot and frigid days
• Brighter screens to shine through the sun’s glare so they are easier to view on a bright day
• Warranties that stand behind their promoted specifications


This specification rating is more important for outdoor TVs compared with indoor TVs because of its exposure and proximity to sunlight. Designers should consider where the TV is positioned relative to the sun if daylight enjoyment is an important requirement. However, there are several outdoor TVs specifically designed for full sunlight exposure. These sets are generally more expensive because they are also designed to stand up to heat. Keep this in mind because lesser-engineered TV brightness levels may be reduced when the temperature from the sun or weather conditions are high.

anti-reflective screens

This design attribute is just as important for outdoor TVs and no different than indoor TVs. Designers should consider where the TV is positioned relative to the sun if daylight enjoyment is important. A TV placement planned for partial sunlight or shaded spaces are susceptible to reflective glare and will simply require a higher performance anti-reflective screen specification.

TV sound and audio

Many outdoor TVs are either matched with an accompanying sound bar audio solution or feature a powerful built-in audio speaker system which would normally suffice. However, audio can be an equally important planning consideration if something grander is in order and if there is a lot of outdoor noise to consider while watching TV. The technology designer will be able to determine what audio will support a normal eight- to 10-foot viewing distance for an entire pool area or backyard for great sound.


Outdoor TVs are designed specifically to stand up to the out-of-door elements. Cold, hot, humidity, rain, dust and physical impact. For any TV planned for permanent placement outdoors, careful consideration of its specifications determines what the TV will withstand.

The International Electrotechnical Commission industry standard, Ingress Protection, a.k.a. as an “IP” Rating, is a two-digit code that rates the level of protection against the penetration of particles (first digit), and liquids (second digit) in electronic device enclosures. A first numerical value of five means dust resistance but a value of six is dust-tight protection. The second number rates resistance to liquid (or, more accurately, liquid applied under some level of pressure). The range goes from one to eight, where one is for “dripping water”, and eight is for “full immersion in over three feet of water.” So, as an example, an outdoor TV with an IP66 rating means its protective cabinet is dustproof and will withstand a powerful jet of water spray.

network support for entertainment content

It is possible to deliver content to an outdoor TV exclusively via Wi-Fi, including the ability to cast content from a phone or tablet. Both options eliminate the need for elaborate cabling support. However, this would require a robust Wi-Fi signal and a Smart TV platform that accommodates streaming content services including cable services that support apps that deliver their programming without the need for a cable box.

Of course, just like indoors, a wired network connection will provide a superior audio/video experience compared to a wireless (Wi-Fi) connection. So planning is paramount. Your technology designer needs to plan for power requirements, wired networking, cable runs, as well as providing support for the full spectrum of local, live and streaming content options. Get a qualified professional in early to avoid costly mistakes – outdoor entertainment done right is worth the extra time spent planning and reviewing design options.

TV placement

When planning where the TV will be placed, there is really no limit since outdoor TVs come with recommendations for full sun, partial sun and shade, and full shade. Where the display is placed can also determine the TV weatherproofing rating so that the TV can also safely operate within the temperature ranges in the area where you live. Outdoor TVs have always been more expensive, but prices are dropping, and larger screen sizes are being introduced. However, the selection options get pricier for larger screen sizes and if the TV is to be viewed in direct sunlight.

• How much ambient lighting from the sun will hit the TV’s screen
• A viewing area with shady and sheltered areas including screened porches, covered patios, or inside a garage is ideal
• Partial-sun spaces with more sunlight, such as on an open porch, beneath an extended awning, or under a gazebo simply require a brighter TV
• To get that big-screen experience, your audio design is just as important as where the TV is mounted

final thoughts

The homeowner should also consider the Smart TV user interface if the design plan does not incorporate a whole-house control system (Crestron, Savant, Control4, etc.). New for 2023, there will be outdoor TV models featuring the new and powerful Google TV platform that supports an enormous selection of movie and entertainment choices. A true cord-cutting solution for any level of installation, the Google TV platform supports hands-free control and Google Assistant.

The bottom line is that there are many options and some great outdoor entertainment options that you should bring in a professional technology designer early in the design process to review. Because a dynamite visual and audio experience poolside really is the pinnacle of outdoor entertaining.