If you are thinking of choosing a digital signage player, there is a high possibility that your first choice will be Windows or Linux-based PCs, but you also have other options in the market. Chrome OS, systems on a chip (SoC) and Android players are gaining popularity in recent years. They have become a preferred choice among digital signage network owners and operators. It all depends on your needs and the platform that meets them effectively. If you are having trouble figuring out which option suits you, the following breakdown should make your work more comfortable during selection:
Windows or Linux
The best application for this is in digital signage networks with 4K & 8K signage content delivery, Ad-based and extensible networks, big number of third-party integrations, advanced remote hardware control.
PCs have been regarded as a common choice for digital signage players for some reasons. The following are some of the pros to take note of:
· They are powerful
Most companies provide ready digital signage players for PCs. Likewise, PCs are powerful, but if you want to achieve 4K creative, use external data feeds or enhance interactivity, you need have to go for extra power.
· Familiarity and extensibility
Most leading digital signage software companies support some PC operating systems such as Windows and Ubuntu. Also, you can access cloud computing and audience measurement needed by most business owners from other entities. Such options are crucial for networks that intend to carry out adverts.
For networks that want to unlock the actual value of their inventories, data tracking and reporting capabilities are essential, and PCs open doors to endless possibilities.
· You don't get locked into one specific platform
PCs driven networks are the best since they do not limit you whatsoever. If you don't like the digital signage software you are using, you can switch to something different that you feel more comfortable with. Most established players used in other OSs do not always have that option.
· Expenses and complexity
High-end signage players need costly components making large networks such a challenge to build and maintain because of the massive computing power required. It is time-consuming to install and connect players to various screens on a specific network compared to installing integrated systems.
Android players are best applied in less-expensive projects with clear and simple tasks in content management.
· They are inexpensive
One of the reasons why most people would opt for Android players is the chance to save on cost. When you look at the cost per player, you will be saving much more if you opt for Android over PC-based players with the same features. They also consume little power, so you will not have to pay for such expenses that can get quite costly, especially if you run a small organization. Another big thing, that you don’t need to pay for the OS itself, unlike Windows licensing. All in all, Android players are an affordable option for powering digital signage.
· Ease of use
Android players are quite comfortable to use. All you need to do is plug in, load your digital signage software and begin providing your content to your target audience. So, in order to set your network up you do not really need to be a tech-savvy or to pay to professional system integrator for that service.
· A lot of screens with OS inside
Android players now are not just about TV boxes or HDMI dongles. Today there are a lot of reliable and cost-effective Android TVs within the market, which you easily are able to use as a digital signage without need of using any external hardware with it. And taking into account, that most of the modern digital signage software producers support Android platform in full placing their apps right in the Google Play Store, it seems to be the most cheap and convenient way to deploy your digital signage network nowadays.
· Weak opportunities for third-party integrations and remote hardware control
There are hundreds of modifications of Android operating system within the market. It means, that, in fact, each hardware media player based on Android has its own customized OS inside, unlike the Windows, which is always Windows wherever it is installed. As a consequence, this dramatically reduces the opportunities for simple or more complex integrations with third-party data sources, services or software, because it is hard to develop the versatile solution, that will work for any Android devices in the same way. That’s why in most cases each integration entails additional coding, which is time-consuming and quite expensive. For the same reason, a second drawback occurs. When the Windows-powered devices, as a rule, give you the wide range of opportunities in the sphere of remote hardware control via HDMI (turn on/turn off the screen, select an input, change the screen’s settings and etc.), Android players are rather limited in these tasks.
So, if you want to use an Android player, it will help to know that it will be pretty useful with networks with more precise content demands, like university campus, quick-service restaurants, grocery stores, hotels’ lobbies, medical centers and etc. If you don't have complex needs with number of integrations required, you are most likely to be happy with Android solutions.
Chrome devices are good option for the simple budget projects with basic videos and images as a content.
Chromebits and chrome boxes have become quite popular over the last couple of years, and for a good reason: They are cheap. Despite being less costly, it offers native support for HTML5 media, facilitating functions like animations, responsive sizing and other digital signage benefits.
· Availability of the single app kiosk mode
The good thing with the single app kiosk mode for the Chrome OS is that it gives you a window that appears fully on your display and prohibits other users from accessing the OS menus and options. This way, you get access to regular updates, enhanced security, and improved features long term.
· The hardware is quite limited
Most chrome devices have a memory of 2GB and 16GB storage, which is insufficient to run massive projects. Likewise, the best digital signage platforms do not support the Chrome operating software, limiting usability.
Fit for the big networks with simple tasks, where it is nice to save on purchase and installation fees of the external media players.
· One hardware in the setup
SoC means System on Chip. This tells you, that you won’t need to purchase and connect any additional hardware to your display in order to connect it to the CMS, because your display is already connected thanks to the pre-installed OS and software inside. So, this is only one hardware item to power and to maintain, which is surely more convenient and cost-effective.
· High level of support by display manufacturer
SoC significantly increases your possibilities in remote display control, because, as a rule, managing software will be customized for using with the specific hardware models. Today, there is a couple of well-known commercial display manufacturers within the market, who can afford to aggressively boost this solution and, of course, they do so. There are Samsung with its Tizen OS and LG with Web OS. Also, I would highlight Philips, which doesn’t develop its own OS, but promote SoC solution based on Android.
· Small selection of managing software and integration concerns
Most of the display manufacturers working with SoC, offer their own digital signage software, which is surely already pre-installed on the screen. But all of these software solutions have their own cons, starting from the poor functionality and finishing with pricing. Even less flexibility in these solutions is added by the fact that at the moment specific operating systems are supported by a very small number of professional digital signage software players. More than it, different system limitations and slow decision-making process in the teams responsible for OS development make custom external integrations practically impossible.
The bottom line
You can choose any of listed options for your project, because each of them can meet your needs depending of what are you going to build and ultimately to get. But if you have clear management tasks and even perhaps not only with videos and images, but with dynamic streams and interactive content, I would definitely advise you to take a closer look to the Android-based players by Look DS. This solution will dramatically reduce your deployment costs while providing the simplicity, reliability, functionality, and flexibility you’re looking for.