A quick guide to buying digital signage player: 2022 Edition

5 min read
04 December 2022

Hi there, reader!

This blog is going to be an informative journey, so let’s dive straight into the matter without wasting your time with a long-winded introduction.

Let’s get started with some basics.

Psst, you can skip whatever you already know and go straight to the part that helps you identify the best digital signage players. Click on the relevant section in the table of content below.

Table Of Contents

What is a digital signage player?

Like every car needs a driver (yes, I hear you, but let’s leave Tesla out of the analogy for a moment), a digital signage system needs a media player to drive the content to the digital screen. It takes information from the screen content management software (more commonly known as digital signage software) and acts on that information so that the contents play out on the screen perfectly in terms of the aspect ratio, resolution, audio/video synchronization, video playback speed, and so on.

How does a digital signage media player work?

Before explaining how a digital signage player works, it is essential to know why screens need a media player in the first place.

A digital signage player is like a computer with a software operating system. Just like your PC, it can:

  • connect to the internet

  • download content

  • store content

  • alter the content (to some extent)

  • play the content on the scheduled date & time

Can your screen alone do that?

The answer is ‘No.’

A screen or display is a piece of hardware, an interface that will show you whatever is pushed into it by the media player. It has no brain of its own. It has no power to communicate with the internet.

Digital signage players act as the brain of your display. Every signage player has its own software operating system, which delivers computational outputs on a dumb screen.

You may argue that modern smart TVs can connect to the internet. That is because the media player is built-in within the display. But a decade ago, these screens needed external media players to run any web-based content. Over time, these media players became compact and optimized and were integrated within the display itself, giving rise to smart screens.

Now that the purpose of a digital signage player is clear to us, it will be much easier for you to understand how it functions.

Imagine you want to play a video advertisement on your retail store’s digital display. You can upload the video on your digital signage software application (available on a computer, laptop, or mobile).

Depending on the features of the screen content management software, you can edit the video, define how much screen space it will take up, and other factors. Once you publish your video, it travels as data to a central data server where it gets stored (temporarily).

Once the digital signage media player connects to the internet, it downloads your video from the server, processes it, and commands the display to show it in a specified way.

The digital signage player also has local storage, meaning that once any content is downloaded, the player can run the content even without internet availability.

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Types of digital signage players available in the market

Fundamentally, digital signage players are of two types:

1. External digital signage media players

These player hardware need to be physically connected to the screen (generally to the HDMI input using an HDMI cable).

Example: Chromebit, Amazon fire TV stick, Android media player

2. Built-in media players

When the signage player is embedded within the monitor itself.

Example: Smart TVs based on Android, LG WebOS, Samsung Tizen

However, when you are out buying a digital signage player, you will come across a few specific variations of these two types, such as:

Originally Published as A quick guide to buying digital signage player: 2022 Edition on Pickcel Digital Signage Blog

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