5000nits monitors, the world’s brightest?


This photo is not the best way to show off the high brightness of that 5000nits customOcean monitor — because any LCD can look good at dusk — but how could I possibly pass up sharing such a lovely image of the amazing modern J Boat Hanuman?  And while 5000nits may be a new company, there’s no denying that they’ve already scored some serious customers; after all, it’s the legendary Jim Clark’s wallet behind this Royal Huisman artistry.  There’s also some evidence that 5000nits really does put the juice to its screens…

I like it when manufacturers publish comparisons of their features versus the competition, even if I regard them with skepticism.  But the number that really jumps out on this analysis by 5000nits of the 19-inch marine monitor market is arguably not even a positive feature.   At 400 Watts, the 3,000 nit customOcean Line monitor is supposedly using more than four times the power of even its closest competitors (at 1,000 nits), even though they’re almost all using LED backlighting.  Holy cow!  Maybe this is the brightest monitor ever seen in a super sloop’s cockpit, or elsewhere?  (Except, perhaps, for the 5,000 nit units that gave the company, which apparently have to be water cooled!)
   Now for the skepticism.  It’s long been my understanding that a nits measurement is only a crude indication of how a screen actually looks in direct sunlight.  Anti-reflective coatings, contrast, color saturation, and who knows what voodoo also contribute to a display’s overall readability.  And transflective properties (as promoted by companies like Argonaut) don’t show up in nits readings at all.  So figuring out the best monitor, and especially the best value, is not easy…though you may be thinking that they’re all out of your league anyway.  Me too!  But I do appreciate the difficulties of building for such a tiny niche as high bright marine monitors, as discussed once in an entry on AmbientNav (which is at least one of the companies that should also be in the comparison above).
   One thing I am pretty sure of, though, is that screen brightness is critical if you’re doing your navigation out in the open.  That’s a big reason why I doubt that iPads and their kin will put the dent into the dedicated marine electronics business that some people think they will (as much as I like them for other purposes around a boat ).  Or at least until a truly bright, low power screen technology really emerges.  It’s also why the current crop of MFDs, which all seem pretty readable to me in sunny conditions, don’t look quite so expensive when compared to standalone monitors.  Screen readability really matters, don’t you think?  And isn’t Hanuman something else again?

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

19 Responses

  1. Patrick - sv Deep Playa says:

    Pixel Qi is the technology you want to look for in tablets, usb add-on monitors, etc.
    backlit screens, where you can also turn off the backlight to save power! It’s also a touchscreen.
    Now if I can just find someone to waterproof a usb monitor version, we’re set!

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Yeah, the pictures and claims on Pixel Qi’s site look great, but they were supposed to ship “millions of screens” in 2010, and there was already skepticism when they made that claim:

  3. Andreas says:

    So how come manufacturers can make entire 10″ or 12″ sunlight readable chartplotters (including GPS and sounders and accessories for under $3000) and a simple screen costs $6000??
    I would be very happy with a bunch of affordable (less than $500) 10 or 12″ screens around my pilot house. The markup on marine computer gear is insane…It’s even higher than industrial stuff…

  4. 5000nits.com says:

    I would be happy to discuss waterproofing your technology. call Joe @ 1-888-935-9678 or [email protected]

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    5000nits asked me to credit partner RadioZeeland DMP, who manufactured Hunamen’s displays using 5000nit’s technology, and Cory Silken for the beautiful pictures.

  6. 5000nits.com says:

    Smaller LCD’s pass 3 to 4 times as much light so it are much easier to increse their brightness.

  7. Derek says:

    5000 NITS – Watercooled! I spend my life trying to keep water out of my electronics, these guys are pumping it in deliberately! Hope all their plumbing is seriously reliable and vibration proof.

  8. Fishwife says:

    I’m disappointed by 5000nits website. They don’t give me enough information to decide that they have a product that is so far ahead of the competition they they warrant a phone call, let alone that they can compete with established players in the glass bridge game. If this is a company with a technological edge, they are missing out on communications. Three months away from a refit, I don’t think they are going to feature in my plans.
    To illustrate my comments, go to the website, click on the water-cooled link.. An illustration that two different sizes of product can ‘almost match’ is not my idea of specifications.

  9. Jake Hawkins says:

    5000 NITS
    Smaller LCD’s pass 3 to 4 times as much light so it are much easier to increase their brightness.
    Could you elaborate on this point? I’d never heard this fact and can’t work out why it would be true.

  10. 5000nits-nsb says:

    as i understand it there is a mask on the LCD glass that surrounds each pixel/thin film transistor. the mask is opaque and i would guess carries the circuitry for each pixel. for reasons not entirely clear to me on smaller screens the mask covers a relatively smaller percentage of the screen and the pixels a larger percentage, thus the smaller screens pass more light and require less backlight to achieve the same brightness. the LCD display we use passes only 3.4% of the light from our LEDs. hope this is more enlightening than confusing.

  11. 5000nits-nsb says:

    sorry to disappoint, we have a lot of work to do and will be improving of website in the near future.

  12. 5000nits-nsb says:

    our fittings are definitely top of the line. for those who are less intrepid we offer air cooled displays as well.

  13. Matt Marsh says:

    That J boat is absolutely gorgeous. There is just no arguing that. It seems to be a trait of the class.
    Re. brightness: Yep, it matters. Dimmability matters a great deal, too. Our normal range of vision spans about eight orders of magnitude, from about 100,000 lux for an object in bright sun to 0.001 lux or so on a starry night. A display that’s more than about 10-50 times brighter than ambient is hard to look at and screws up night vision; a display that’s more than 10-50 times darker than ambient is really, really hard to see.
    I have yet to come across a laptop, a mobile gadget, or a reasonably priced monitor that is both sunlight-viewable and that dims enough to be usable at night. This probably goes a long way towards explaining why so many boaters will choose a pricey, small-screen chartplotter instead of a laptop with nav software; even low-end chartplotters these days have pretty bright screens.
    That said, I’m looking at the specs on the monitor referenced here, and I’m not particularly impressed. $8500 for a 21 pound, sunlight viewable 19 inch 1280×1024 monitor (0.29 mm pixel pitch, coarse enough that it’ll look blocky to folks with good vision) that draws 400 watts? Other than the price, that sounds an awful lot like a mid-range CRT, circa 2001. I can buy 50 or 60 conventional LCDs of the same size and resolution, and still be ahead in cost. This is 2011; we should be able to build a high resolution (pixel pitch 0.2 mm or better) waterproof display that works in both sunlight and moonlight for less than the cost of a nice used car.

  14. 5000nits-nsb says:

    we agree that dimmability matters as much as brightness, our screens can be dimmed so that in a totally dark room the display can just be seen. this feature was designed in from the start.
    fyi, 1280×1024 is the native resolution for most 19″ LCDs so the .29 mm pitch is fixed by the screen size/resolution – that’s why a 17″ has a tighter pixel pitch.
    but you are right about pricing, my screens cost more than the car i drive, what’s that about?

  15. John K says:

    Pixel Qi panels are finally shipping in the Notion Ink adam tablet – http://www.engadget.com/2011/01/19/notion-ink-adam-ships-tomorrow/

  16. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Here’s a taste of how Pixel Qi compares to an iPad:
    Impressive, but my experience with transflective screens is that often they have to be at just the right angle to work well. Also, Pixel Qi seems way late delivering in quantity. We shall see 😉

  17. andrzej says:

    I swallowed the bait and purchased one of the PixelQi replacement screens. I also bought a refurbished samsung netbook and installed that pixelQi screen, as well as installed the CE Beta. I’m very satisfied with the resulting product!!!
    I should note that the screen is viewable from the same angles as my other netbooks and that the colors in “non-daylight mode” are equivalent. In daylight mode, the screen reverts to 256 shades of gray, which is somewhat better than the e-reader tablets (nook, etc). The subtle differentiation of the grays is sufficient for use in navigation in the cockpit during sunlit days. I had briefly explored the idea of using the PixelQi display as a second monitor attached via USB or Ethernet. A German company reported to be producing such a solution actually produces just the electronics control board, and the remaining components need to be custom fabricated. I’ll wait until summer to see if an off the shelf solution materializes. Such a solution would be great. Put the monitor in a plastic bag, run a waterproof wireless USB keyboard/trackball and we have a all weather cockpit solution, though only on a 10″ screen, but for under $500.

  18. Patrick - sv Deep Playa says:

    Andrzej, I’m waiting for the same thing!

  19. 5000nits.com says:

    Our LED back light technology, developed for NASA, is among the first ever created. It provides the main lighting for the space shuttles and the International Space Station.
    We are also a green product. LEDs draw 25 percent to 50 percent less wattage as other lighting sources.
    Our exterior screens are three times brighter than those of our competitors. That’s why they’re $1,500 more than our competitors’ screens. Our interior models are as bright as the competition’s exterior models, and they cost less.

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