When installing any new hardware, choosing the best way to connect digital signage is vital. Screens are often in disparate places and the connection that you choose will affect how it will perform. So that you set yours up right first time here’s a run down of the options available.
Professional digital signage media players rely on HDMI to connect to a large format display. This has several distinct advantages – foremost the delivery of 1080p and 4K content. Bear in mind that according to HDMI 1.4 specifications, in order for an HDMI cable to be considered ‘high-speed’, it must be able to pass 3,840 x 2,160 pixels at up to 30 frames per second, and 4,096 x 2,160 at 24 frames per second. What this means is that even the cheapest high-speed HDMI cable can pass the maximum resolution possible with the current generation of Ultra HD 4K displays – so don’t waste cash on expensive cabling.
DisplayPort supports audio and means that businesses can use laptops and PCs to feed large format displays. Higher refresh rates and resolutions than standard DVI mean it delivers better content quality, as well as 4k at 60mhz. Because it’s a single lead running from the back of a PC, it’s possible to get multi-screen cables that offer up to four outputs from a single input. For a series of digital screens this is a good, inexpensive and high quality option.
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Mini-PCs and Micro PCs are a becoming a firm favourite for deploying single screen large format displays and digital single installations. Units such as the ASUS Chromebit are cheap, easy to maintain, and require no external routing of wiring. They do require a strong WI-FI signal, however, in order to feed an control content. The disadvantages of this method are obvious – if the area into which you’re broadcasting has a weak or intermittent WI-FI signal then you’ll need to boost it or look a alternative options.
USB cables won’t transfer audio and video from a PC or media player. But you can broadcast digital signage content using a USB stick, so long as your display has an on-board media player. This can be a good solution for businesses that require a single large format display, running independently in a specific area. For example, business receptions and hotel foyers can run signage content on a loop, without requiring cabling to and from the display.
MHL is a relatively unknown and undervalued connection technology, but its potential for digital signage is huge. In essence, it connects a phone or tablet device directly to a large format display. One end of an MHL cable will plug into the micro USB port on your phone or tablet, while the other will plug into an HDMI port on a large format display and your phone’s screen will then be mirrored on the external screen. This is a great option for small businesses where costs and complications can be kept low. If you’re planning on running a network of displays, however, it isn’t a feasible choice.
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