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Digital signage hardware 101

National Museum of Computing

Digital signages are usually a brand’s first outreach to the general public. In most cases, they are the most interactive form of advertising as well, ultimately increasing the frequency of foot traffic to your store if done right. As a new user in the digital signage space, knowing the right strategy and technology to adopt might be difficult. Particularly if you lack the technical skills and ample knowledge of the components required to operate signage applications. In this guide, you will find the various types of digital signage hardware devices and how they compare among the numerous technologies. 

Requirements for digital signage 

Each user will require a display screen and a media player in order to deploy a digital sign. In addition, you must supply a power source, WiFi access, and a deployment location. Let’s dive in and explore the wide range of options for your digital signage screens and players before considering how to choose the best one for your needs.

Digital signage displays

The electronic screen that visual information is shown or transmitted to is referred to as a digital signage display. It is merely the apparatus that enables the user to examine graphical, textual, and visual content. Some display screen types support interactive touch technology, making it simple to navigate between elements of the projected content. However, the key features that a digital signage display should include high brightness, high-resolution video output compatibility, and a good adjustable contrast to ensure that images and video feeds are displayed at the best quality. 

There are essentially three basic types of digital signage displays that are commonly used in digital signage solutions. They are;

  • Video walls
  • Commercial displays 
  • Consumer TVs

Video walls

A video wall often referred to as a display wall, is a large visual area made up of numerous smaller screens that are arranged closely together like tiles to create a single giant display screen. They were originally created by connecting many closely spaced televisions or monitors to create a single, larger screen.  

Video walls are created with a series of at least four small screens, positioned tightly together. These digital signage displays are synchronized to forge a larger display and function as a single screen. Due to its flexibility, video walls can be set up in almost any size or design, however, you will find them in sizes starting from 2m x 2m. 

Most users adopt TV video walls because it is the most affordable way to create a large display with an advantage in flexibility. However, the performance of the entire video wall could be impacted if one of the screens in the display stops working. Video walls can also be set up indoors or near a window to only be utilized indoors, extending their flexibility.

Commercial displays

Commercial displays are high-definition screens designed primarily to meet the needs of business operations and brand marketing. These electronic displays are typically large enough to draw customers, enhance the customer experience, and ultimately improve sales. They are available in a variety of sizes and are usually built with different types of panel technology. 

Essentially, the most popularly used commercial display signages are built in these two major panel types: 

  • Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD) 
  • Light Emitting Diodes (LED) 

LED screens use a network of LED lights that, when viewed as a whole, produce images, as opposed to LCD panels, which are constructed with layers of frames that combine to form images.

Using a commercial display for your digital signage will afford you these key feature;

  • Longer runtime ranging from 16 hours to 24 hours 
  • Portrait mode 
  • Higher brightness and contrast 
  • After-sales support and warranty 
  • Built-in media player 

Consumer TVs

Consumer TVs are display screens that are mainly designed for home or personal usage, although they are frequently employed by many brands as a visual alternative for digital signages. These TVs are designed to operate for a shorter amount of time—up to about 8 hours every day. Consequently, using a consumer TV for digital signage on a 24/7 basis will eventually result in the TV losing quality.

However, consumer TV offers a myriad of possibilities with Smart TVs giving the user amazing features like built-in signage software for easy content management and deployment. 

Commercial displays vs consumer TVs 

Simply said, consumer TV displays are the kinds of screens that are primarily made for the home. However, retail stores have accepted them widely, and you might even see them used as a signage screen in most eateries.

TV

On the other side, commercial digital signage displays are created expressly to meet the needs of signage solutions in bigger business contexts. Commercial displays for digital signage are typically used in offices and business settings.

However, the difference between a commercial display vs TV has a larger scope than just its purpose. We can compare them based on these parameters and key features:

Consumer TVs Commercial displays 
Operating Runtime 16hr/724hr/7 
Max. Brightness Up to 350 nitsUp to 2,500+ nits
Connectivity HDMI inputSupport RS232 input
Portrait mode NoYes
Post-sales support No Yes

Digital signage projectors

Digital signage projectors provide an efficient alternative to video walls when deployed for digital signage solutions. Despite offering similar results in image rendering, projectors are widely used by most brands due to its affordability and ease of use. They allow users to achieve a larger view for digital signage without having to spend more on buying high-end commercial displays.

However, before deciding on to adopt them for your signage solutions, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of digital signage projectors.

Pros

  • Cheaper alternative to large commercial display signage screens.
  • They are portable and can easily be moved if the site of view is changed.
  • They consume less energy compared to other mediums of signage.
  • They only require a one-man installation process which is usually easy and straight-forward. 

Cons

  • They might require a higher maintenance cost while undertaking replacement and repair of parts.
  • They are not as bright as commercial displays and ambient light in the room might tamper with the image. 

Small digital signage displays

Small digital signage displays refers to the type of small format screens that are designed to serve a one-person view at a time. Screens in this category usually come in sizes below 20 inches. They are an ideal choice for signage in places like car showrooms, meeting halls, table reservations in restaurants as well as elevators. 

Pros

  • Smaller screens offer a wider range of uses and functionality.
  • They are more interactive and offer a direct view between your signage content and the audience. 

Cons

  • Initial cost of installation might be high as you might have to buy numerous screens and pay for more labor. 
  • Expert technicians will be required to set up and maintain them. 

Digital signage tablets

Most consumer tablets can be used as an alternative to single-screen signage. Digital signage tablets ranging from 12-inches to 17-inches are usually the most adopted sizes. Compared to dedicated signage screens, tablets offer optimum signage experience at a cheaper cost. 

Pros

  • It is less expensive 
  • They have a touch-interactive screen for easy navigation.
  • Built-in third-party applications and social media feeds. 

Cons

  • It has a limited battery runtime of 10 hours.

Digital signage players

Digital signage players are actual machines that process digital media information and provide the feed to a display. Despite being hardware devices, a digital signage software is used together with signage players to curate, schedule, and playback media content. If you’re looking to run your signage applications on multiple screens simultaneously, a dedicated digital signage player will be required.

camera

Media players

Digital signage media players are portable computers with media playing capabilities for signage content. Images, animations, slides, and videos can be deployed and distributed seamlessly with the help of media players. Media players come in different sizes and designs, however, you should look out for the one that can handle all media file formats.

Pros

  • Easy and seamless curation of media content.
  • Screen sharing and multi-screen support is made possible with media players. 
  • They are designed to run for a long period of hours. 

Cons

  • Some models can be a lot more pricey than USB flash sticks.

Media sticks

For businesses and brands that don’t want to spend a lot of money on a big media player, media sticks provide a cost-effective alternative. When connected via an HDMI port, smart gadgets like the Amazon Fire Stick 4K allow you to smoothly feed media content to the screen. Additionally, even a novice in the field may install it with ease. Despite being far less expensive than their competitors, media sticks deliver exceptional signage performance.

Pros

  • Affordable with low maintenance costs. 
  • Easy procedure to install, set up and deploy content. 
  • Designed for both consumer and commercial purposes 

Cons

  •  Screen sharing and multi-screen support is not easily achievable. 

Cloud-based signage software

Powerful softwares that offers a platform for the creation, management, and distribution of digital signage content are referred to as cloud-based digital signage. These programs allow you to access your resources while your digital signage provider handles the maintenance of its hosting servers. Your signage content is stored on the cloud using these methods. 

Pros

  • No cost of maintenance. 
  • Highly secure content management system with automatic updates. 
  • No extra energy or electricity consumption.

Cons

  • Overall cost of deployment on multiple screens might be expensive for some of the providers. 

Conclusion 

Choosing the right hardware for your next digital signage installation should be a lot less painstaking as we’ve rounded up the perks and downsides of adopting any of the major components in digital signage solutions. 

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