When is all-in-one a bad idea?

October 1, 2007 by Dave Haynes

A few of us were yakking the other day about some things, including hardware developments like all-in-one flat screen displays with media players integrated right into the units.

A press release today from DT Research reminded me of it:

Large Touch-Screen LCD Enables Digital Sign and Kiosk Applications to Run Simultaneously
SAN JOSE, Calif., – October 1, 2007 – DT Research™, Inc., an industry leader in the development of information appliances for vertical markets, today announced the immediate availability of the WebDT™ Signage System – an all-in-one, industrial-grade system that illustrates the convergence between digital signs and kiosks. The WebDT Signage system offers 37-inch and 47-inch flat panel displays with optional infrared touch-screens that can be activated over eight independent zones or over the entire display. Businesses can now use one computerized system to display dynamic content, execute self-service applications, run interactive educational programs or operate a combination simultaneously.

The notion of an all-in-one unit is attractive, certainly when it comes to ease of installation and the overall look of a display in a public setting. Just about any of us who’ve had to get their hands dirty and fingers pinched in this game have slapped little PCs on to the backs of displays or up in ceilings, and wished there was something a little cleaner and easier.

The problem — and this can be debated — is servicing an all-in-one unit. It’s great if the thing is 15 inches and parked on a shelf-edge. One tech can walk in and swap the thing out in seconds when something goes wrong. But when it is a 37 inch unit or bigger, hanging off a wall or a ceiling mount pole, it will take two people to get the thing down and a replacement back up … simply because the units are too unwieldy for one person. So double your labor costs and think about renting a man lift every time there is an issue.

The wild card here is a slot-loaded thingdoodle. Over the last few years a few manufacturers have come on and off the scene with screens that had a slot in the back that would hold a single-board computer. Problem was, the horsepower on the things tended to be pathetic. The advantage, however, is one tech can hop on a step-ladder, slide out a bad actor PC, and snap in another and the screen can be back in action.

So … all-in-ones can be good, but think it through before deciding these things are magic.

  1. Michael says:

    Mmm. The secret for large screens, it seems to me, is an “integrated” unit where the player portion is detachable and easily exchangeable. Surely?

  2. Andrew says:

    Exactly what DT Research is trying to accomplish using the “integrated but detachable” concept. I’m not so sure about the computing unit being underpowered. Sure if you talk about streaming move than 2-3 zones of movies maybe it’ll bog down the player but who in their right mind would be doing that in an actual setting? Unlike several years ago, most computers are powerful enough today to accomplish most playlists.

  3. […] have some fairly big reservations about large all-in-one units being put out into the wild for signage networks. But I must admit […]

  4. Andy says:

    DT Research’s all-in-one digital signage system is unique in that it provides an industrial, modular design – providing both the aesthetics (no lose wires, etc.) and durability necessary for commercial use. The modular design offers the flexibility to “remove” the media player from the display, enabling cost-effective and easier upgrades. On your blog posting you raised concerns about the power of the computing unit in all-in-one systems, which is valid. However, this is not the case for DT Research as our DS3700 and DS4700 models offer an LCD-integrated computing display, which run the Windows XP Embedded operating system with x86 processors, which is highly durable and comparable to any digital signage appliance. If you’d like to learn more about the specific benefits that DT Research’s digital signage system brings to the market, please feel free to contact me directly.

    Best Regards
    DT Research

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