Variable message signs vs LED signs

While trailer mounted variable message signs (VMS) and LED signs share similarities, they are actually quite different in their design and usage. VMS boards primarily display text and are most commonly uses on roads to capture a driver’s attention as they pass by. They often display simple text messages with the objective of providing a message drivers passing by will actually have time to read. The LED board works more like a media player instead.

Usage Scenarios

One colour amber boards are often used for road and traffic announcements, road closures, traffic delays and public service announcements. Five colour VMS boards are often used for advertising and promotional purposes including sales, store trading hours and so on. Full colour LED boards (FCP10) on the other hand are primarily used for advertising and promotional purposes with the ability to not only show text, but images and full motion video as well. This makes them highly suited to product launches, sales and concerts for example.

Power Requirements

VMS boards are power efficient display signs with the ability to be completely powered using solar panels and batteries. As such, they are perfect as outside displays on the road, in car parks, work sites or at events. The FCP10 boards feature many more LED’s than a VMS board and also a computer to handle image and video playback. These extras come with increased power requirements and the sign requires access to mains voltage. While still used primarily outside, it means the FCP10 needs to be fairly close to a power point or be powered by a generator.


Since both boards are trailer mounted, they’re fully mobile units that are easy to tow with little difference between them.


Both board types use powerful LEDs which can be clearly seen even in daytime. Five colour VMS boards are more likely to attract attention than an amber board, which is why they’re used for advertising and promotional purposes. FCP10’s are sure to catch the attention of passing by traffic with colourful images and graphics, but video is best suited for pedestrian traffic instead. While highly visible, depending on the composition and colour usage in images and video, FCP10 can be harder to make out at a distance than the text based VMS board which simply features text on a black background, so it’s best to use highly contrasting graphics where possible.

To discuss your signage needs, contact the team at ETC Hire.