As Google digital signage grows, so do the pieces of hardware and software available to users. Google has stepped up with different kinds of hardware to help users make the most of their technological needs.

The hardware required to complete a digital signage solution is typically a commercial-grade screen and a media player. There are lots of options out there for displays.

There are also lots of options out there for media players, and for Google, that includes the Chromecast, Chromebit, and Chromebox. 

But what’s the difference between the three?

Between Chromecast, Chromebit, and Chromebox, it can be confusing to determine which device you need if you’re considering Google digital signage. Are there serious differences between the three? If so, what are those differences? What are the pros and cons of each?

Once you figure out which you need, you then have to consider which operating system you’re going to use.

Google Chrome makes sense to use, and is considered the most secure operating system in the market.

That’s great and all, but what does all of this mean?

We’re about to end any confusion you might have regarding these three options, giving you clear definitions on what each does, how the right hardware can best serve you, and what the pros and cons are of each.

What is a Chromecast?

Let’s clear this up right away: the Chromecast was created as a consumer product, not for enterprises or for digital signage. Since it can display content to a screen, many people have the misconception that it’s a digital signage solution. That’s why we’re including it in our list: because many buyers don’t know what they’re getting themselves into.

Short answer: the Chromecast is not a digital signage solution.

Long answer: you could hobble along if you really wanted to. More on that in just a second, but first a bit more about the product.

Chromecast, born in 2013, and is a media-streaming device that plugs into the HDMI port of a screen, allowing the user to stream content. The device is fairly small and is shaped like a mini hockey puck.

How it Works
The small, round device plugs into your HDMI port and connects to a Wi-Fi network. It acts as a portal for the content on your computer or smartphone to be cast onto your display.

Basically, Chromecast users can cast their favorite content on the Internet from their computer or smartphone to the nearest big screen.

Cost
The average cost of Chromecast is $35.

Pros
– Because the content is streamed directly from the Internet, the battery on your
phone or computer won’t drain quickly.
– Chromecast is now supported by 4k.

Cons
– Requires a dedicated device to stream content
– No central way to manage content for multiple screens or locations
– Not compatible With Blackberry or Windows Devices.
– Requires a strong Wi-Fi connection.

How would I use it?
If you’re a small business with just one digital sign in your store, the Chromecast might work for you if you’re okay with having a dedicated computer or device to stream the content.

Since this is for a small business use-case, most small businesses wouldn’t be too happy with the unnecessary cost of a dedicated computer or tablet to stream content, and rightfully so. This is why the Chromecast really isn’t a digital signage solution.

Using Chromecast for more than one display can make it difficult to manage because there is no central management solution. But just because it’s not meant for digital signage doesn’t mean it’s not a great tool for the office…

What else can I use it for?
This little number is ideal for presentations.

It can also be used to play games. Try Trivia Bash and Just Dance Now before your big presentation to loosen you up.

Or not.

Play whatever you like, really. There are about 100 games for Chromecast that can be found in Google Play.

Finally, consider a little music before your presentation. If you subscribe to Spotify, you can cast tunes in the boardroom before the presentation. Your device will need to be on the same Wi-Fi network as your Chromecast. Pandora can also be cast through your device.

What is a Chromebit?

Announcement: Due to a high device failure rate, Skykit doesn’t support or recommend using a Chromebit for Google digital signage at the time of this writing. The OEM is currently working to resolve this issue.

Chromebit, born in 2015, is a small device that runs on Google’s Chrome OS operating system. The stick-like device closely resembles a thumb drive. Chromebit, when plugged into the HDMI port of a monitor, acts like a tiny personal computer. It allows the user to add a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse.

How it works
The Chromebit allows the user to get on the Internet and use Google’s browser-based apps without carrying a laptop. Basically, it’s a portable computer.

Cost
The average cost of a Chromebit is $89. 

Pros
– Swivels, fits into small places.
– Great option for mobile workers.
– Comes with 100GB of Google Drive space for documents, photos, and other files.
– Can be used as a portable kiosk.

Cons
– Not for use for video games.
– Offers 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage.
– Worthless if you don’t have access to a monitor or TV.

How would I use it in my digital signage campaign?
Thanks to the Chrome Management Console, you can manage thousands of devices and remotely control your content showing on each display. This device can be used for enterprises and other large-scale businesses.

What else can I use it for?
If you need to power your guest kiosk or want an electronic sign-in option at your desk, the Chromebit can accomplish that for you. Add a display and you’ve got a nice little space to direct guests who might also need Internet access.

Schools can use this same kind of option to track library books. Larger schools, like colleges and universities, can use the stick devices as a portal to access the school’s learning management system.

What is a Chromebox?

The Chromebox, born in 2012 , is small computer box that runs on Chrome’s OS. The idea is that you can set the box on your desk, plug in a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, and set up your own little desktop computer.

How it works
Chromeboxes primarily support a single application at a time. They rely heavily on an Internet connection for software functionality and data storage. That connection, via a local area network, can be wireless or through an Ethernet port.

Cost
$150 $690 (depending on model).

Pros:
– Central Management
– Kiosk Mode
– Upgradable RAM
– Automatic software upgrades
– Various models to choose from that support different requirements like 4k
– Security and virus protection

Cons:
– Requires an internet connection to run

Who uses a Chromebox for Digital Signage?

Because of the Chrome Management Console, it’s easy to use Chromeboxes to control many screens on a large scale. You’ll find Chromeboxes behind digital signage everywhere from retail stores to universities.

For our case study, let’s turn to The University of Toronto Mississauga.

This university chose the Chromebox to power their Google digital signage after realizing their previous solution was both expensive (at $1,300 a unit) and time-consuming. Each time they wanted to update and configure the software, it took hours of IT work. Chromebox’s ability to update automatically was definitely appealing, as did its price tag.

They now have 25 Chromebox-powered displays, which they use to alert their 12,500 students to events, shine the spotlight on exemplary professors, and feature exciting research projects.

Conclusion

Every digital signage campaign needs a media player to support the content that will be used in the campaign. Depending on the size of your campaign, Chromecast, Chromebit, or Chromebox could be your answer.

Chromecast might work for small businesses running one screen on the premises. A strong Wi-Fi network is needed to support the content.

This option is more expensive than first glance since you need a dedicated computer or device to cast content to the screen, especially for newer businesses just dipping their toes in digital signage waters.

Chromebit is a digital signage player but cannot do 4k and has limited power. Unlimited devices and displays can be controlled remotely with this option, thanks to the Chrome Management Console.

Wait until the OEM fixes the bugs with this device before choosing it for your player.

Chromebox is a great option if your business requires a kiosk. While the Chromebit can alternatively accomplish the same thing on a smaller scale, the Chromebox packs more of a punch.

The Chromebox is the enterprise-grade digital signage player from Google.

Finally, Chrome OS is a stable operating system, built from the ground up with security in mind. Features like verified book and data encryption ensures that no malicious software will take over your data.

Unlike other operating systems, Chrome OS allows a digital signage administrator to automatically run their digital signs the second the machines are turned on. It also prevents users from hijacking the device for other purposes.

Chrome OS is updated seamlessly in the background, too, preventing the need for additional patch management systems or needing to manually update your device.

Gone are the days of administrators needing to worry about making sure their devices are updated, or making sure that latest security vulnerability was patched.

Chrome Management takes care of this, giving the administrator control over timing and distribution of the patches so the administrator can automatically scan for updates.

So there you have it.

Chrome, chrome, chrome. Easy, right?
Each device has its pros and cons. Look them over carefully to determine which pros matter most to you and which cons you can live with.

Now that we’ve cleared the smoke for you, which option do you have more questions about? Which option do you use now, and is it giving you what you need?