While Android devices continue to be very popular at the low end of the digital signage market, we see new ultra-small Windows PCs ready to compete on price and features.
These new PCs emulate the Android form factors we have grown accustomed to. Take for example the “HDMI Sticks” (they have a USB memory stick form factor and a HDMI connector at one end). Intel recently launched their Compute Stick which features 2Gb of RAM and 32Gb of on-board storage (expandable using an SD memory card). You get Intel HD graphics and HD audio powered by a Quad-code Intel Atom Processor.
Another interesting device is the MINIX Neo Z64 which can be ordered with either Android or Windows 8.1 with Bing. The MINIX Neo Z64 looks like a small square box but the device’s specs are similar to the Intel Stick. In fact, if it weren’t for the external WiFi antennae and MINIX branding, you probably couldn’t tell this unit apart from an Apple TV box. And that’s a good thing. As efficient as the latest generation Intel quad core processors are, they still run a bit hot so the larger form factor really helps dissipate heat and keeps things humming along.
So what are the advantages of deploying these small Windows devices over Android?
- Android used to have a big price advantage because the OS was available for free but these new devices run on Windows 8.1 with Bing. This is a free version of Windows that is offered to hardware manufacturers. There is no more “Windows Tax”.
- Android based devices lack reliable remote control software. There are some options but they rely on having a user at the device able to launch the remote session. Windows still has the most mature and secure remote control options.
- There are more player software options that run on Windows and many of these software applications have been around for years. They are proven and reliable.
- Multimedia performance is on par with many Windows PCs running on i5 processors.
So will these small devices replace the traditional PC player? Not anytime soon. You still need a more potent PC to drive multi-screen installations and some applications require more storage than your can cram in one of these small units. However these new Windows devices can certainly compete on features and price with any currently available Android player.
If you are planning a menu board, lobby or other similar project, you should check out these products.
We are currently testing out some of these devices and we will post our findings in future articles.