There’s lots to love about the new Raspberry Pi Zero 2. From the fact that it costs just $15 (making it the most affordable computer on the market), to a sweet upgrade to the CPU, it’s an intriguing addition to the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s product line. But how does it stack up when it comes to powering digital signage? Can a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 digital signage solution support business-grade use cases? That’s exactly what we set out to determine.
The vital specs and what they mean for Raspberry Pi Zero 2 digital signage
While Raspberry Pis offer immense value in an educational environment, they also provide huge benefits when applied to business solutions. Specifically, these small but mighty microcomputers are transformed into robust and reliable media players for digital signage deployments. However, the Raspberry Pi Zero 2’s hardware specs differ significantly from those of the more powerful RPi4. But does this impact enterprise-grade performance? Firstly, let’s take a look under the hood.
• 1GHz quad-core, 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 CPU
• VideoCore IV GPU
• 512MB LPDDR2 DRAM
• 802.11b/g/n wireless LAN
• Bluetooth 4.2 / Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
• MicroSD card slot
• Mini HDMI and USB 2.0 OTG ports
• Micro USB power
• HAT-compatible 40-pin header
• Composite video and reset pins via solder test points
• CSI camera connector
Out of all these tech specs, the most important one to note centers around the combination of CPU and memory. Specifically, the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 has the BCM2710A1 die used in the Raspberry Pi 3 along with 512MB of RAM. Although the memory is still limited, there’s lots more CPU power.
What does this mean in real-world use cases and situations for digital signage? Essentially, this CPU upgrade allows the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 to load content faster. This, in turn, translates to better playback for images and videos. So it can definitely offer better support than its predecessor to businesses displaying less-demanding content on their signage screens.
The pros and cons of using it as a digital signage player
This is where our experiment got interesting, because our pros & cons list revealed hidden strengths and weaknesses. More, in fact, than those that stood out at first glance when checking out the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 specs.
On the pros side, firstly we must emphasize affordability. You just can’t beat that $15 price tag – especially when you consider what you get for your money. The Raspberry Pi Zero 2 offers high-quality hardware and capabilities that justify its trailblazer status in this category.
Similarly, you can purchase a complete kit for the Zero 2, including case and cables, at a very low price. Also, the RPi Zero 2’s small size makes it a very convenient digital signage media player. Simply slip it into its case, and you can easily hide it behind your signage TVs. Most importantly, though, the RPi Zero 2 allows you to make live changes to your digital signage content. That constitutes a huge advantage for businesses who update their signage content on a daily basis.
On the other hand, we couldn’t help but notice certain important limitations. One stand-out disadvantage lies in the fact that it only has 512MB of RAM. This unfortunately directly affects digital signage use cases. Specifically, the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 can’t handle media-rich or demanding content. For instance, organizations that deploy digital signage in offices can’t use the RPi Zero 2 to display data dashboards along with apps. Similarly, media-heavy digital menu boards or multi-layered screen layouts wouldn’t run seamlessly with the RPi Zero 2.
Another key point to make is that the Zero 2 only connects wirelessly through WiFi. Since it doesn’t have an embedded ethernet port, you’d have to use a micro USB cable to connect it to your ethernet network. However, it won’t cost you much.
Which Yodeck features can the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 support?
This is the million-dollar question for us and for our clients. What kind of digital signage content can the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 display? Our experiments revealed that if you run simple, straightforward media, it works fine. However, if you want to turn a Raspberry Pi Zero into a Yodeck digital signage player, you can’t display demanding content.
Playlists using a RPi Zero 2 digital signage player
In a nutshell, simple playlists play back great with the Zero 2. For instance, it reliably supports a playlist with images and videos because it loads each media element separately. Playlists that include content such as videos, images and a simple app like a ticker or clock also display well. You can also add other simple apps to a playlist, such as a date and time or weather app.
What about screen layouts?
Similarly, the Zero 2 supports reliable playback of simple screen layouts. For example, a business could use the RPi Zero 2 to display signage layouts that include a video and ticker. Playback also works well when displaying simple screen layout templates. For instance, it supports bare-bones menu board templates or layouts with only text and images but without apps. For this reason, screen layouts should only include up to three layers when using the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 with Yodeck.
Simple apps in playlists and screen layouts
In addition to clock and ticker apps, the Raspberry Pi Zero could easily handle light-weight weather or date and time apps as part of playlists and screen layouts. On the other hand, what it definitely cannot support is data dashboard apps. The RPi Zero 2’s memory can’t meet the hardware requirements of demanding content such as data dashboards and complex layouts with many layers. Dashboard apps refresh constantly in order to reflect real-time data, so that would require a player with significantly more memory.
Does it support Yodeck’s security features?
It might not have the power to support dashboards, but the Zero 2 supports all of Yodeck’s security features. So, for businesses that don’t have demanding content requirements of their digital signage system, but want top-notch security, the Zero 2 can align with their corporate strategy.
Can the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 support USB video feeds?
Yes, it also supports USB video input — with a bit of a tweak. Since it doesn’t have a USB port, you’ll have to use a USB OTG cable to connect a camera to your player. However, the good news is that it’s cheap to get and easy to use.
And now we get to the heart of the matter:
What Raspberry Pi player do we recommend for digital signage?
Although the Zero 2 can support rudimentary digital signage use cases, we can’t recommend it for most businesses. If an organization wants to deploy a digital signage solution that guarantees professional, enterprise-grade performance, our vote goes to the Raspberry Pi 4.
The Zero 2’s much more powerful big brother works perfectly as a digital signage player. The RPi4 unquestionably meets and exceeds business requirements. From displaying data dashboards in real time to powering impressive video walls, it delivers in terms of performance and reliability. In fact, we run thousands of RPi4 digital signage players and it has never let us down. Moreover, its hardware capabilities allowed us to expand our suite of features.
However, the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 can prove an attractive choice in some cases. For instance, if you know for a fact you won’t have increasingly demanding content requirements, go ahead and try it. It won’t break the bank. You can always upgrade to a RPi 4 later on which also comes with a very reasonable price tag.
Similarly, if you want to evaluate a digital signage solution using a free account, get a Zero 2. However, bear in mind that the features you run on it mustn’t exceed its capabilities. Therefore, that means you can’t test out all of the solution’s features to get an objective feel for it. You might still end up investing in a RPi 4 player. But if you feel more comfortable with a smaller hardware investment before making a decision, go for it.
Our final word of advice is the following. Know what you want your digital signage solution to do, and make sure you get a RPi player that delivers.
Want to experiment with the RPi Zero 2 using Yodeck?
Firstly, please note that we only offer Raspberry Pi 4 Players through our Portal, as they fully support our features. Also, we send them out pre-configured with your Wi-Fi credentials as a complete kit, so you’re good to go. Therefore, that means you skip Step #2 below if you purchase a RPi 4 Player from us. However, you’ll have to follow a few simple steps to create a RPi Zero 2 digital signage player:
- Sign up for a Yodeck account (it’s totally free if you run only one screen).
- Then, get your RPi Zero 2 configured by following this simple guide.
- Finally, set up your Player – connect it to your TV screen and to Yodeck (it’s easy!).
Now get some content on your screens and start testing it out!