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Hands-on review: AOpen Commercial ChromeBox for Digital Signage

23 Oct 2015

Digital signage has long been dominated by expensive devices with custom configurations. We looked at a new breed of device that is bucking that trend.

AOpen has long been a leader in digital signage. They’re a Taiwanese manufacturer of both displays and media players used in the segment. While consumer television manufacturers are now dabbling in the digital signage space, AOpen is focused on durable products with commercial grade components and ready for 24-hour, seven-day usage.

This latest product is a collaboration between Google and AOpen to use the ChromeOS platform.

Chrome OS is the perfect operating system for digital signage as it’s centrally cloud managed, secure, easy to deploy and is very lean in comparison to Windows, for example.

Typically, these Chrome devices have a total cost of ownership of 50-70% less than competing devices. They’re a little cheaper upfront, although most of the savings come in the ease of ongoing maintenance and management using Google’s central cloud management tool.

An example of this reduced management is the auto-updating of the operating system each six weeks, which happens without you knowing - even devices years old are always running the latest Chrome operating system.

Google believes this cuts out one of the key reasons holding back wider adoption of digital signage in business, which has been the complicated nature of deployment and management.

The Commercial ChromeBox from AOpen is still purpose designed for digital signage installation. It’s a small flat form factor designed for mounting behind the display. It is fanless, which is important to stop dust and airborne grease being ingested. Everything you expect is included in the tamperproof unit - USB, HDMI, Ethernet, Wifi, Bluetooth - and it uses solid state memory meaning no moving parts.

Each unit can command two independent displays, one that plugs in via HDMI and one via DisplayPort. You could also split the signal for each of these to repeat the same imagery on multiple displays.

It takes five seconds to reboot and returns to the exact place it was last at. So in the event of a power cut your digital signage will be back up and running with no human intervention in just a few seconds.

Although internet connections are quite reliable these days, the unit is ready for it and can continue to display your signage in offline mode.

In summary:

AOpen is manufacturing the display and/or the media player, then the devices run Google ChromeOS and finally a digital signage app is needed to run the content.

A number of digital signage apps are already available through the Chrome Store with leading software developer Scala not far away from announcing availability on the platform.

This AOpen Commercial ChromeBox is an ideal solution for retailers, education or corporate use. It’s inexpensive, purposefully designed for digital signage and very easy to setup and maintain. Well done AOpen and Google, we’re buying two for Techday’s own offices.