Are System-on-Chip Displays The Future of Embedded Signage?

Faith Ngaruiya
May 13, 2024

One thing you can say about System-on-Chip displays is that they’re self-sufficient. Only a power supply and internet connection are needed. And yet, embedded signage SMEs argue that the limitations of SoC displays rob end-users of the flexibility that a powerful PC-based media player excels at. 

"SoC can be used as an all-in-one display to show multizone content, and some can also be used for touch applications … however, could it easily be used for a touch payment application with advertising elements along with audience measurement?" says Drew Harding, head of sales and marketing at Eclipse Digital Media "Not really, but the media player can be. What about delivering 4K content to a video wall with a range of display sizes mounted in various angles? Again, not really. A media player provides more flexibility for these types of scenarios based on the range of graphics cards, processors, and drivers available.”

Samsung was one of the first companies to use System-on-Chip (SoC) technology in digital signs, starting with their Smart Signage Platform. The earlier versions dating back to 2013 had limited capabilities, but SoC manufacturers are now using advanced technology that rivals or even exceeds media players.

Ultimately, the best choice, whether a media player or an SoC display, boils down to the application and the complexity of the deployment. With that said, this article will take a closer look at SoC displays, their advantages, and whether or not they hold the future of embedded signage. 

What are System-on-Chip Displays

The idea behind System-on-Chip technology is that multiple components of a computer or electronic system are integrated into a single integrated circuit(IC) chip. Traditional digital signage setups require a display plus a separate media player connected via cables. But with SoC displays, the core components of a computer directly integrate into the display itself. This means they have their own processor (CPU), graphics processor (GPU), memory (RAM), and sometimes storage within the frame of the display.

You can think of SoC displays as similar to your smart TV at home but with more robust processing power, increased reliability, and features designed specifically for digital signage use.

SoC displays come in different sizes with differing brightness levels for use in indoor and outdoor applications. The operating hours also vary at 16/7 or 24/7, which is an aspect to keep in mind in case you intend your digital signage to work round the clock. 

Why SoC Displays are Game Changers for Embedded Signage

Simplified Installation and Maintenance

Since SoC displays consolidate all components into a single package; no external media player is required, and the hassle of managing additional hardware, cables, and amounting is replaced by a cleaner more efficient installation process. Maintenance is similarly streamlined, as IT teams have fewer components to troubleshoot. A Total Cost of Ownership report by Samsung showed that installing a typical smart display saves around 30 minutes compared to traditional displays—you just mount it, plug it in, and connect to Wi-Fi, and you're good to go.

Cost Savings

The upfront cost of an SoC display is $1,600 on average and saves you up to 32% compared to a traditional deployment. There's no need to purchase separate media players, reducing both initial hardware investment and ongoing power costs. With digital signage installations, the longer they take, the more they’re going to cost. So, the simplified installation and maintenance process does indeed lower the labor and support expenses.

Energy Efficiency

Display controllers, processors, memory, and other peripherals in digital signage displays contribute significantly to the overall power consumption of the system. On the other hand, SoC displays are engineered for power efficiency, since all these components are integrated into a single chip. 

A normal digital signage system, for instance, might consume 10-15 watts or more, depending on the components used, an SoC display solution can often operate at power levels as low as 2-3 watts or even less.

SoC Display

What Applications Are Unsuitable for System-on-Chip Displays? 

Simultaneous Multiple Video Playback

Compared to dedicated media players, SoC displays have limited processing power and are only meant to handle basic multimedia tasks. With multiple video playback, the processing power may not be sufficient to decode and render more than one high-resolution video simultaneously. In a retail store, for instance, the SoC display cannot simultaneously display a promotional video and run an interactive product catalog for browsing and selecting items. The video may stutter or drop frames, and the catalog may become unresponsive or laggy.

Another reason is that multiple video streams require a significant amount of memory to store the uncompressed or partially decompressed video frames, and this can quickly exhaust the available resources on an SoC display. And since these displays are gaining popularity for their cost-effective nature, adding high-end processors and increasing memory capacity could drive up their cost, which reduces their cost advantage.

Large-scale Deployments That Require High-Resolution

When displaying 4K content on a video wall, each display panel requires substantial processing power to handle the high-resolution content and ensure smooth playback. In a normal video wall set-up, dedicated video wall processors or external media players synchronize the content across all the displays in the video wall to achieve a seamless and uniform visual experience, especially in cases where the video wall forms a single large image or video. 

With an SoC, the processing power is typically fixed and shared among all the displays connected to it. This fixed processing power may be sufficient for a small-scale video wall or individual displays, but it can become a bottleneck when dealing with a larger video wall or irregular display arrangements.

Additionally, video walls often require the ability to scale and expand over time. As the number of displays increases, an SoC may struggle to keep up with the demand for processing power. Upgrading or replacing an SoC-based system to accommodate more displays or higher resolutions may be challenging since the system's processing capabilities are tightly integrated into the chip.


Newer SoC display models are using HTML5 technology to drive interactivity. All you need is to point the display to your desired webpage or application. This might seem straightforward, but Dave Haynes, an industry expert in digital signage argues that repurposing a web page for digital signage may not be a good idea. Text, images, and interactive elements designed for a computer screen viewed up close can become difficult to see or interact with from a distance on a large digital signage display. The best approach is to: 

  • Take elements from your existing website or mobile app, like design and key visuals.
  • Use these elements to create a custom version specifically optimized for the larger screen format of digital signage.
  • In the case of interactive displays, ensure the interactive elements are designed for touchscreens instead of mouse clicks.

Although SoC displays can detect basic touch inputs, they’re incapable of responding to more complex gestures which means that multi-finger swipes or pinch-to-zoom features for more detailed product exploration may still be a challenge. 

Okay, So Where Can I Use SoC Displays?

That’s a good question because system-on-chip technology is ideal for most digital signage applications. They’re just like your normal commercial displays, only without the clutter of additional components, and much more affordable in the long run. You can use them for advertising, interactive wayfinding and navigation, menu boards, employee communication, social media displays, and more. 

The main consideration is deployment and the complexity of your digital signage needs. SoC displays are well-suited for deployments with a small to moderate number of individual displays. If you’re looking for more advanced features, and interactivity options for intensive deployments, a powerful media player would make more sense.


SoC displays may not be a one-size-fits-all solution, but they offer a powerful and cost-effective alternative for a vast segment of the digital signage market. Their simplicity, affordability, and growing capabilities make them a compelling choice for businesses wanting a streamlined and user-friendly signage experience. As technology progresses, SoC displays are expected to become an even more dominant force in shaping the future of digital signage.

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