Digital Signs: Selecting a player
Having chosen your display and having picked a location you now need to decide what kind of player to use to drive your display. The most important choice you will need to make is whether to go with a PC-based player or a dedicated flash-memory based player.
PC-based players including ones running Windows or Linux offer the most capabilities including automatic updates to your display content over a network. They may also be able to show more complex graphics featuring multiple independent streams of content and live feeds like news, traffic or weather information. PC-based players are normally based on small-form factor PCs and increasingly use fan-less designs based on Intel's Atom processor. PC-based players can drive more than one screen with different content if they are equipped with a multi-monitor capable graphics card.
Dedicated flash-memory-based players are small, solid-state devices with no moving parts. They typically support an assortment of flash memory connectors including USB, SD, CF and MS as inputs. They may have a VGA, component, composite or S-video output to connect to your display. Unlike PC-based players they are single-function devices with no software to customize or update. They can loop your content over-and-over, day-after-day with no maintenance. A simple setup menu allows you to select what kind of display you want to use and how fast to move between images. When they are turned on they begin playback of the images and video they find on any inserted flash card within seconds. They are typically very reliable and consumer little power. For content that changes daily or less frequently they are an ideal playback device.
If you want to use multiple screens showing the same content you might not need multiple players but can instead use a video-splitter to amplify and distribute the video signal from one player out to multiple screens over CAT5 or coax wiring.
You can also find some all-in-one digital signage solutions that have both a screen and a player in one enclosure. This includes digital photo frames and some digital signage players. Some self-contained players contain a PC, others include a flash-based player, in essence they behave as a combination of a display and a player so the guidelines above apply as appropriate.