A digital signage player (also “media player”) is a small computer used to show digital content on any public digital display. Any TV you see in a public space is typically powered by a media player, such as hotel lobbies, airport terminals, digital menus, digital directories, or stadiums.
We created an FAQ to answer the questions we hear most about digital signage players. We hope you find it useful.
Have a question that isn’t answered by the FAQ? Please let us know and we’ll answer it, then add it!
There are two things you need to get started with a digital signage player. First, you’ll need a software to run on the media player, called a “content management system”. Next, you’ll need a TV/display to plug the media player into to show your content. Many media players come with a content management system preloaded onto it. Enplug’s device for example comes ready to plug in and play.
A CMS is the software running on a media player that knows how to play certain types of content, such as images, video, or streamed content like tweets, weather, or news. Sometimes, the CMS is referred to as “digital signage software”.
Media players come in several sizes. In general, Android-based media players are very small, ranging from the size of a USB stick to a small computer that fits in the palm of your hand. Windows media players are larger, up to the size of a small desktop computer.
Media players are very easy to set up. Simply plug it into power, connect it to your TV, and optionally connect it to the internet, and you’re ready to go! Media players can sit on solid surfaces with no special stands or other equipment. If you plan on mounting your media player behind your TV, you’ll need adhesives or other mounting materials.
CMS softwares usually store digital content either on the internet, or on the media player itself (or “locally”).
Internet: Content is updatable via a website or software program. You don’t need to touch the media player to update the content running on it. Oftentimes, a CMS will “cache” content downloaded from the internet on the media player itself, so that if internet connection is lost the media player will still have content to show.
Locally: Content is stored on the media player itself, such as on the hard drive. In order to update the content you need to manually access the media player.
Network: Some enterprise digital signage software solutions require you to have a server located on premise that serves content to players on your local network.
The digital content you can play depends on the CMS software you use on your media player. Most CMS software can show images. If you need to show anything else, you should check your CMS to see if it can play the content you want before purchasing.
Common types of content in digital signage are:
You need a media player if you’re a business showing digital content to your customers. As of 2015, the cost of media players is so low that it is always better to purchase a reliable, dedicated media player than it is to use a personal laptop or other computer.
You typically do not need a media player if you’re using digital signage for a one-time event and have an alternative computer you could use, like your laptop. Examples of this include weddings and parties. In this case, you probably shouldn’t invest in a media player you won’t use again. You can download a CMS software onto your laptop and connect your laptop to your digital display via HDMI, VGA, or DVI.
Millions of businesses use media players to show digital content in their corporate offices, in airport terminals, in hotel lobbies, and on virtually every other public display.
Using HDMI cable or any other cable that both your media player and your TV supports, such as VGA, DVI, composite cable, etc. Most modern media players and TVs both support HDMI.
Media players range in technical specifications depending on cost. Most players can be grouped into three performance buckets:
Low: Low end players are usually ARM based devices in the form factor of a small box or ‘HDMI stick’. These devices usually run Android. Depending on the vendor, the polish may vary drastically. Modern low end players are capable of high definition video playback. WiFi, 1GB+ of memory and 8GB+ of on board storage is typical.
Medium: Medium range players may have high end ARM SoC’s that feature 4-8 cores, or dual/quad core x86 processors, usually from Intel’s Atom or Celeron ULV lines. These devices might run Android, Linux, ChromeOS or Windows. This range of devices is typically the highest needed for the majority of digital signage use cases. Our own Enplug devices fall into this bucket.
High: High end players fall into two categories; either proprietary devices intended for use with enterprise solutions – or high end X86 PC’s that are placed in a ‘digital signage player’ form factor. The high end X86 pc category is usually overkill and provides no additional benefit over a properly configured lower cost solution.
1. Size: Media players are typically much smaller than desktop, laptop, or tablet computers.
2. Configuration: While any device running digital signage can be called a media player, a typical consumer PC will be running extra software and configured for home/office use rather than dedicated digital signage playback.
Media players typically use either Linux, Android, or Windows. Most low-cost media players use Android, while most high-cost media player use Windows or Linux. “Chromeboxes” running ChromeOS are a relatively recent development and generally sit in the middle in terms of price.
Many companies around the world sell media players. Most major computer manufacturers have a digital signage player available, such as Cisco, Dell, and Intel. There are also many smaller companies that make or resell media players.
There are several considerations to keep in mind:
1. Function: make sure your media player either comes with or is compatible with a CMS software that can play the content you want. Your media player should support the type of content you are trying to play and the resolutions you are targeting
2. Compatibility: Make sure the media player you choose is compatible with the digital signage software you plan to use. Also look for compatibility with hardware if you have existing AV infrastructure like video matrixes.
3. Reliability: a faulty media player will ruin the experience for the audience of your digital signage.
4. Cost: not all media players are created equal, and you don’t always get what you pay for. Most businesses don’t need media players that cost more than $300.
Enplug digital signage software was co-founded by CEO Nanxi Liu and CTO Tina Denuit-Wojcik in 2012 to enable organizations to use customized real-time streaming content to create engaging external and internal communications.