A lot of organizations that make the leap to digital signage make the same old mistake: they buy the cheapest media streaming device on the market, only to immediately regret that hasty decision when they realize it doesn’t offer the digital signage functionality their business needed in the first place.
We’ve seen it too many times to count by now, and the most common culprit is Google’s Chromecast.
Don’t get us wrong though, Google Chromecast isn’t a bad device. It’s just not cut out for commercial digital signage use. It has minimal processing power, almost no storage, and can’t sufficiently handle most apps and features needed to run digital signage effectively.
In short, the Chromecast is a very limited consumer media device that relies on your phone or PC to do all the heavy lifting of streaming content to your screens. The Chromecast itself brings very little to the table.
On the bright side, however, there are numerous other Chrome OS and Android digital signage players for 2020 that are a bit more expensive, but way better when it comes to overall performance. And a few extra bucks for a wildly better device is a trade-off we’d take any day of the week.
Why Chromecast digital signage is a bad choice
Chromecast digital signage seems like a tempting option when you factor in its cheap ($35) price and that it allows users to run content straight from a web browser on almost any device to a screen. Without knowing better, it would appear to be an attractive, low-commitment, short-term digital signage solution.
Unfortunately though, users will quickly realize that the Chromecast is not optimized in the least for running 24/7 digital signage and will encounter numerous problems trying to do even the simplest of tasks.
Essentially, you’d be stuck displaying one-to-one content from your phone’s web browser to a display, which offers you little-to-no content versatility. Pretty much any other digital signage functionality you might need would be out of the question.
Chromecast is limited to Progressive Web Apps (browser apps). These are by far the least stable and secure way of running digital signage, which means your Chromecast digital signage will without a doubt struggle to handle 24/7 signage deployments running anything other than extremely basic content.
Unlike browser apps, dedicated desktop or Android apps are optimized to focus more system resources on performance factors such as connectivity, storage for playlist caching, and provisioning with features such as auto-launch at startup. These are all things that lead to a much more seamless and stable digital signage experience for viewers.
That’s why running digital signage through a dedicated app on a more powerful Chrome OS or Android device is paramount. If you go at it with a Chromecast, your digital signage will at best be boring, and at worst be unreliable and clunky.
3. Long term use
For long term use, it’s much more cost-effective to use a media device that was designed—at least in part—with digital signage in mind. Android devices powered by digital signage apps almost always perform much better than Chromecast web apps, thanks to their robustness and flexibility.
If displaying web content is something you want to do on your digital signage displays, there are Android and desktop apps designed specifically to do just that—and far more reliably than Chromecast digital signage can.
In particular, our Desktop Electron App and our Geckoview Android web view are both optimized to run web apps smoother than a Chromecast can.
Why we prefer Android digital signage over Chrome
Although Android media players vary drastically in quality, we typically recommend them over Chrome digital signage devices for several reasons.
First and foremost, the best Android digital signage players usually are more versatile, reliable, scalable, and better performing than their Chrome digital signage counterparts.
More than that, though, they are far easier than Chrome devices to set up thanks to their automatic USB provisioning. Android USB provisioning allows digital signage adopters to use the same USB stick to quickly and easily pair multiple screens and media players in mere minutes.
Android and Chrome media devices are roughly priced in the same ballpark, anywhere from $50-200.
Best Android option: Nvidia Shield TV
The Nvidia Shield TV and Shield TV Pro are the best digital signage player options on the market right now when you factor in cost, performance, storage, ease of use, automatic provisioning, 4K video playback, and intuitive remote control capabilities.
While other Android and Chrome devices might beat out the Shield TV and Shield TV Pro in one or two areas, in terms of all-around value, the Nvidia Shield TV is the clear winner.
The Nvidia Shield comes in at $150 while the Shield TV Pro costs just $50 more.
Best Chrome alternative: Chromebox Mini
Those looking for a cheap Chrome OS digital signage device should check out the AOPEN Chromebox Mini. The number one thing about the Chromebox Mini for digital signage is that it has similar capabilities as other commercial and educational Chromeboxes on the market for less than half of the cost.
The base Chromebox Mini model starts at $189. Other Chromeboxes will run you north of $400.
It’s small, portable design also makes it the perfect choice for use in Google Chrome Kiosk Mode with touchscreen displays.
It's important to note that all Chrome devices require an Enterprise license for Google Admin to run digital signage in kiosk mode. This costs an additional $50 USD/year per device.
We know full well that many businesses without a ton of resources want to invest in digital signage. We understand the temptation of going for the cheapest option is strong. But trust us when we say that shelling out a little bit more money goes a long way in today’s digital signage market.
There’s a world of difference in what your digital signage can accomplish between a Chromecast and say a Chromebox Mini or Nvidia Shield. So why not get more bang for your buck and spend that extra bit of cash? It’s absolutely worth it.
To get started with digital signage, sign up for TelemetryTV’s 14-day free trial to gain access to a wealth of apps, features, and templates that make crafting high-quality digital signage content a breeze.
And while you’re at it, check out our 6 tips for evaluating the best digital signage players!