Every company wants the best digital signage hardware. That’s a given. But what constitutes “the best digital signage hardware”? How can a company sort through its options and come to a decision that both meets its goals and fits within budgetary constraints?
These can be tricky questions to answer for those unfamiliar with digital signage options, so here, let’s review the main hardware options you’ll be looking at during your project plan.
What kind of digital display do you want to set up? Is it something meant to advertise from a distance? Or are you interested in some type of interactive display that lets viewers engage with the content? Typically, digital signage screens come in three styles:
- LCD: Older screen technology that’s low-cost and versatile.
- LED: Newer technology with brighter illumination and vivid displays.
- Touchscreen: Tactile feedback screens typically used for kiosks, navigational signage, and tablets.
Of course, each screen type is best suited to certain uses. For example, LCDs are a bit old-fashioned compared to LED screens, but they’re often easier on the eyes in close-viewing applications. On the other hand, LEDs excel at clear, bright illumination across longer distances. Understanding the distinctions across different use cases can be tricky, which is why it’s so helpful to get the input of an experienced digital signage integrator as you make your selections.
Digital signage media players are the engines of your signage solution. A digital signage player contains internal storage for your content and content management software and, in essence, is the “brain” of your digital signage solution.
You’ll have several options to choose from here, so make sure you know your goals going in. These days, most commercial digital signage applications are powered by either external players or system on a chip (SoC) solutions:
- External media players are small devices that tether each digital signage display to your content management software, usually done through HDMI or Wi-Fi.
- SoC players are even smaller, about the size of a thumb drive. These systems are a smaller version of an external media player with less storage capacity, yet offer more flexibility in how they’re applied.
Again, bear in mind that your selection here will come down to your project needs. For example, SoC devices turn any screen with a USB port into a digital signage display, but due to their small storage capacity, you’ll be updating and rotating content on the chip frequently.
Most digital signage displays are mounted securely on walls, but this is by no means your only option. Mounting options for digital signage displays can be as diverse as you need:
- Modular, flexible mounts
- Pop-out designs
- Ceiling mounts
- Display board mounts
- Mobile cart mounts
Naturally, you’ll need to think about your signage goals here as well. What type of displays are you setting up and where will they be placed? Ceiling mounts are ideal for permanent, stable displays, while a roving mobile mount will let you show off the display anywhere you need.
Don’t forget about enclosures! It’s easy to get so caught up in the more important hardware decisions that you neglect this important safety feature, but the humble enclosure is a crucial part of getting the full value of your digital signage investment.
And really, the best digital signage hardware nearly always has some type of enclosure. Enclosures protect your displays from the elements, including inclement weather (for outside displays), dust, debris, and vandalism. Newer options may include filters to prevent damage from sunlight exposure, or even built-in cooling systems to moderate the temperature of the display in hotter climates.
Questions for Finding the Best Digital Signage Hardware
Much of your digital signage project will come down to the needs of your company and your digital signage space. But beyond these project-specific characteristics, how can you be sure that you’re choosing the best digital signage hardware? There are three main issues to consider.
What is my budget?
In a perfect world, budget wouldn’t be a factor, but unfortunately, it’s often a defining limitation. Start by coming up with a plan for your digital signage needs, and work with a trusted digital signage integrator to review options. After all, even smaller projects will require a bit of planning,
across hardware selection, installation costs, and ongoing maintenance, so it pays to have an expert help plan out your system.
But the up-front costs are only the beginning. Initial hardware procurement is one thing, but what about the ongoing operational and maintenance costs inherent to any digital signage solution? Don’t feel limited by these costs, but do be aware of them as you work towards finding the best digital signage hardware.
What content will the hardware be playing?
This is a big question that’ll end up determining several aspects of hardware procurement. For example, if you plan to deploy a large, ongoing network of content, you’ll probably need a bigger external media player with more storage capacity than a SoC could provide. In this way, the size of your content network will affect your hardware choice to some degree.
Along the same lines, if you plan to display large, vibrant marketing materials on your sign that are meant to be seen from a distance, you’ll likely have to invest in larger and more costly screen system. Keep these issues in mind as you plan. Though it might not seem like it, content presentation often drives hardware selection rather than the other way around.
What’s the installation environment look like?
The third piece of the puzzle involves the installation environment. And just like our other questions, you’ll need to take a comprehensive look at your signage project to come up with the best options. Naturally, the installation environment will influence what type of screens you deploy and how you set them up. Companies deploying large-scale video walls may need to invest in lower-cost screens to keep expenses down, for example.
This is where your screen display options and your mounting options will coordinate. The end goal of most digital signage installations is to set up the hardware to reinforce – but not overtake – the aesthetics of the environment. This is a delicate balance between creating visibility and maintaining interior décor, and it often takes an experienced eye to come up with the best layouts.
What’s the Best Digital Signage Hardware for My Company?
As always, the best digital signage solution for your company will depend on your needs. But clearly, business owners aren’t without options, and a little pre-project planning can go a long way toward making sure your company goals are met. Put some thought into your digital signage project from its earliest stages and be flexible in your approach.