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Buyer's Guide to Digital Signage Players

If you've spent much time working with information technology, you know there are a couple of schools of thought to deploying network systems: Build them yourself, loading the required software on computers you purchase separately; or buy a dedicated appliance that's (hopefully) ready to go out of the box. Digital signage players similarly come in both flavors.

If you've spent much time working with information technology, you know there are a couple of schools of thought to deploying network systems: Build them yourself, loading the required software on computers you purchase separately; or buy a dedicated appliance that's (hopefully) ready to go out of the box. Digital signage players similarly come in both flavors.

What follows is a sampling of appliances that aim to speed setup of signage networks in an all-in-one player. But we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that the market also includes a selection of prominent, powerful software players that can be loaded on your choice of computing platform. Scala Player, for instance, will run on a variety of hardware devices, including photo frames. Similarly, player software from companies such as BroadSign, Harris Corp., and X20 Media offer the flexibility of BYO hardware. Either way, the player is the tip of the iceberg.


Black Box Network Services
www.blackbox.com/go/icompel

Black Box Network Services

Black Box Network Services

Model: iCOMPEL HD Plus Digital Signage Appliance
Price: $3,400
Inputs/outputs: HD15 F, DVI-I F, RJ-45, DB9 M (RS-232), 2x 6-pin mini DIN F (mouse, kyboard), 6x USB Type A F, 2x 3.5-mm F audio line in/out
Output formats and resolutions: VGA and DVI-D up to 2,048x1,536, including 1080p (max. internal processing capability: 1080i)
Supported media: HTML, JavaScript, Flash, Real, MPEG 1-4 (DivX), AVI, QuickTime, GIF, TIFF, JPEG, PNG, scrolling or static text, RSS feeds, MP3, WAV
Streaming video support: Yes
Network connectivity: Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mbps
Local storage capacity: 500 GB
Bundled software: Integrated, flash-upgradable proprietary management and design software with preloaded layout designs and scheduling tools
Operating system: Linux
Power consumption: 60W
Form factor: 3 x 11 x 10.5 inches

The iCOMPEL appliance works out of the box with all software preinstalled. Software updates are free, plus lifetime 24/7 tech support, reducing total cost of ownership. The browser-manageable iCOMPEL comes with a number of professionally designed screen layouts and drag-and-drop tools, allowing users to distribute video, audio, and RSS feeds to one or many multizone screens quickly. Scaling from a single screen to multiple screens is a matter of adding iCOMPEL units to the network.


BrightSign
www.brightsign.biz

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BrightSign

Model: HD1010
Price: $650
Inputs/outputs: HDMI, DVD, RS-232, USB, Ethernet, Component, GPIO
Output formats and resolutions: HDMI up to 1080p; HDMI/VGA, 1,360x768, 1,024x768; VGA, 800x600, 540x 80
Supported media: MPEG-2 H.264, MPEG-4 Part 10, RSS
Streaming video support: Yes
Network connectivity: Ethernet, Wi-Fi
Local storage capacity: N/A (uses SDHC cards)
Bundled software: BrightAuthor presentation creation, BrightSign Network Management hosted networking
Operating system: Embedded controller chip
Power consumption: 5V/3.0A
Form factor: 6.6 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches

The HD1010 delivers a customizable family of controls, zones, synchronization, and scheduling, plus support for an AV expansion module. Networking and Wi-Fi networking capabilities allow the HD1010 to remotely deliver content and live video feeds. As a PC-free appliance, the HD1010 delivers a plug-and-play platform compatible with most standard media files, now including MPEG-4 Part 10/H.264. Playback is accomplished via SD cards containing content and playlists or streamed through software-free applications. The free BrightSign Network Manager provides a secure Web-based application for your own servers or a low-cost subscription hosted service.


Cisco
www.cisco.com

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Cisco

Model: Cisco Digital Media Player 4400G
Price: $1,600-$2,300
Inputs/outputs: RCA video, S-Video, mini 3.5-mm stereo audio Jack, SPDIF, HDMI, RS-232, USB
Output formats and resolutions: MPEG-1, -2, and -4; Windows Media9 and VC-1/analog video; HD up to 1080p at 16:9
Supported media: MPEG-1, -2, and -4 Part 10 in SD and HD, graphics, Web content, Adobe Flash 9 animation, Windows Media 9 and VC-1, MP3 audio, tickers
Streaming video support: Yes
Network connectivity: Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mbps, 802.11 B/G
Local storage capacity: 4 GB Compact Flash card
Bundled software: Cisco Digital Media Suite, Cisco Application and Content Networking System, and Cisco Wide Area Application Services products
Operating system: Linux
Power consumption: Peak, 30W; average, 15W
Form factor: 10 x 8 x 2 inches

The Cisco Digital Media Player (DMP) 4400G is a solid-state, IP-based system that handles display and playback of rich digital media–including HD live broadcasts or on-demand video, Flash animations, and other Web content–across a network of digital signs. Manageable as a standalone device, the 4400G functions as part of the integrated Cisco Digital Signs and Cisco Cast systems, and as a customizable publishing endpoint. The DMP 4400G can be connected to any on-premise display at any location.


DFI Technologies
www.dfitech.com

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DFI Technologies

Model: M100
Price: $995
Inputs/outputs: Ethernet, USB, RS-232, HDMI, DVI, VGA S-Video
Output formats and resolutions: SD, HD up to 1080p
Supported media: DirectX10 and Open GL 2.1 support
Streaming video support: Yes
Network connectivity: Ethernet, 802.11 Wi-Fi
Local storage capacity: 80 GB
Bundled software: None
Operating system: Windows
Power consumption: 120W
Form factor: 1.75 x 15 x 11.8 inches

Designed for digital signage applications and the first in a new series of DFI Tech products, the 1U rack-mountable M100 supports HD video requirements and features up to four video outputs, eight USB 2.0 ports, a 2.5-inch shock-mounted HDD, the Intel Core 2 Quad processor, and an optional discrete video card. Flexible mounting options include rack-mount, free-standing, or VESA-mount.


Gefen
www.gefen.com

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Gefen

Model: Hi-Def Digital Signage Player
Price: $1,199
Inputs/outputs: VGA, 3.5-mm mini-stereo, HDMI, USB
Output formats and resolutions: VGA and HDMI up to 1080p full HD
Supported media: MPEG-1 and -2, DivX, Xvid, H.264 encoding MPEG-4 full HD, and WMV-9 (1080p)
Streaming video support: No
Network connectivity: Ethernet
Local storage capacity: 2 GB flash drive
Bundled software: None
Operating system: Windows
Power consumption: 3W
Form factor: 2 x 6 x 6 inches

Gefen's new Hi-Def Digital Signage Player allows end-users to upload video, customize scrolling text, and select music to be displayed publicly. It provides one HDMI and one VGA output that deliver 1080p video to any display, with analog stereo audio accompanying VGA video. All files can be uploaded through the Ethernet connection or through the USB port for live ingestion. Users control features using proprietary software that comes with the player. They can manage the video, text, and audio content, as well as create and schedule individual playlists.


MediaTile
www.mediatile.com

Model: Component Player
Price: Contact vendor
Inputs/outputs: USB, Ethernet/audio mini plug, VGA
Output formats and resolutions: 1,280x720, adjustable
Supported media: MPEG-1, -2, -3, and -4 HD video; SWF Flash (including dynamic flash support); AVI/WMV video; JPEG; PNG; RSS; Dynamic URL file support; .PPT and .PPS
Streaming video support: No
Network connectivity: Ethernet, cellular wireless, 802.11
Local storage capacity: 32 GB
Bundled software: OS plus application included
Operating system: Windows XP Embedded
Power consumption: 75W
Form factor: 14 x 11 x 2.25

MediaTile Component Players are fully integrated digital signage media players that can be connected to industry standard displays including LCD displays, plasma displays, projectors, billboards, and other devices. According to the company, Component Players are fully automated environments that do not require any on-site interaction, additional software, computer systems, or IT infrastructure to operate. They come standard with cellular-broadband, Wi-Fi, and LAN support. They can be purchased as part of MediaTile's Digital Sign in a Box, which includes displays from 19 to 65 inches.


SpinetiX
www.spinetix.com

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SpinetiX

Model: HMP100 Hyper Media Player
Price: Contact vendor
Inputs/outputs: HDMI, VGA, RS-232, USB, audio
Output formats and resolutions: 1080p
Supported media: MPEG-1, -2, -4, H.264, RSS
Streaming video support: Yes
Network connectivity: Ethernet 10/100 Mbps
Local storage capacity: 2 GB
Bundled software: Hyper Media Director management software or any third-party application
Operating system: Embedded system
Power consumption: 2W
Form factor: 4.13 x 1.02 x 3.27 inches

The HMP100 is SpinetiX's first networked, dedicated appliance, offering an alternative to personal and industrial computers and proprietary dedicated software. HMP100 offers a standard, simplified way to schedule, combine, update, animate, stream, and display video, audio, vector graphics, pictures, and text in real-time with low acquisition and operational costs, according to the company.


Tightrope Media Systems
www.trms.com

Model: Carousel Player 230
Price: $2,950
Inputs/outputs: HDMI, VGA, RS-232, USB
Output formats and resolutions: Up to 1080p and 4:3, 16:9, or 9:16
Supported media: MPEG-1, -2, and -4; H.264; AVI; Windows Media; QuickTime; Flash; JPEG; RSS; Atom
Streaming video support: Yes
Network connectivity: Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mbps, 802.11, cellular wireless
Local storage capacity: 250 GB
Bundled software: Carousel Player Software, Windows Media Player, Adobe Flash, QuickTime
Operating system: Windows XP
Power consumption: 100W
Form factor: 6.5 x 6.25 x 1.88 inches

The Carousel Player 230 includes such features as multizone display, live-TV input options, support for emergency messaging, and streaming video. Carousel players also natively provide interactive touch-panel capability for applications such as wayfinding, menus, and more. Content creation and management is carried out through a Web browser such as Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari.

Note: Information based on survey of manufacturers in December 2009 and January 2010.



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