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Video Review: Westinghouse Digital Electronics neonNow and neonSource

Jun 8, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer

Software-and-player combination offers a professional-looking entry into basic digital signage.


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NEONSOURCE

Surprisingly, neonNow and neonSource are being developed by two separate design teams. There are a few superficial similarities in icons, but very little apparent effort to create a product family, and that’s too bad. NeonSource’s functionality goes beyond that of neonNow, and it could be a logical stepping stone as users become more sophisticated.

The most important difference with neonSource is MosaicView, which adds multiple-pane and text-overlay support. Admittedly, there are just two splitpane layouts from which to choose—a vertical banner either left or right—in addition to a full-window option, but you can add overlay text along the top, bottom, or either side of the image. A text editor allows you to slide the text in from any direction, although oddly, it cannot crawl all the way across the screen, meaning the messages have to be short or they will be cut off.

NeonSource’s timeline is a more traditional horizontal presentation, displaying the sequence order and total time (you can click on each slide or video to see its own duration in an information box in the upper-right corner of the interface). Here, you can reorder content by simply dragging and dropping. Adding new content is as easy as clicking on one of four content-type buttons, then choosing an image, text overlay, video clip, or a live video feed from the content library. It’s that last option that gives neonSource its name, and it’s a very flexible feature for signage that’s constantly running in a waiting room or public gathering place, for example.

On the other hand, there is no neonNow text editor in neonSource. You can import any kind of graphics, including text-based JPEGs of PowerPoint slides, but this is an area where the two development teams need to work together. Westinghouse says it plans to add more text support into neonSource in an upcoming release.

There are a few other caveats. Westinghouse Digital deserves kudos for keeping things simple, yet history shows that keeping it simple can’t mean keeping it under-featured. NeonNow needs basic font selection, and neonSource has bugs in its titling. Both need an easier way to import content and templates and, more importantly, a way to manage content. The simple scrolls are great, but after a month of adding new messages and images, those scrolls and unordered searches will get frustrating. NeonNow needs to either do a better job of resizing imported images or give users very specific instructions on sizes and formats of what can and cannot be used. Or both. Users should also be able to save projects and timelines so users can play ahead or have a weekend sequence that’s different from the weekday one.

Still, both products are usable now for basic digital signage messaging in a manner that appears very professional. With Westinghouse Digital planning to add many of the above features, as well as remote administration support, one can expect to grow as these tools do. Ultimately, they both fill a much-needed niche as digital signage reaches a broader audience. Admittedly, the cost of each feels like early pricing that will in time become discounted, yet it’s a small part of a digital signage infrastructure. And of course, Westinghouse Digital can deliver the entire solution and probably bundle the software at a pretty good price.


PRODUCT SUMMARY

  • Company: Westinghouse Digital Electronics
    dss.wde.com
  • Product: neonNow and neonSource
  • Pros: Easy-to-use digital signage creation tools allow nontechnical users to build and update professional digital signage presentations; intuitive and simple interfaces.
  • Cons: Early version software omissions; need easier way to import and manage content.
  • Applications: Any basic digital signage application where budget is key.
  • Price: $799 (neonNow or neonSource); $1,699 (neonPlayer)

SPECIFICATIONS

neonNow and neonSource:

  • Supported formats: JPEG; PNG; MPEG-1, -2, and -4; H.264; AVI; WMV; SWF
  • Output resolution: 1920x1200
neonPlayer M470SWP:
  • Operating system: Windows XP Embedded
  • Output resolution: 1920x1200
  • Video outputs: 15-pin VGA, HDMI
  • Video input: 3xRCA component (480i/p)
  • Audio inputs: Stereo RCA, SPDIF
  • Hard drive: 160GB 7200rpm SATA2
  • Dimensions: 11.8”x2.5”x9.4”
  • Weight: 7lbs.
  • Warranty: One year parts and labor



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