Panel PC

What is Better – Panel PC or Rugged Box PC with Touch Screen Display?

Posted on July 26, 2022

Embedded computers come in various form factors. Most commercial and industrial applications pair these PCs with touch displays to make them more intuitive to use. But the manner in which the display is integrated is important as well.

You can go for a Panel PC, which combines the computer with a touch screen display in a single device, like a touch tablet. Alternatively, you can stick to a standard box embedded PC, simply interfacing it with a separate touch-capable display.

This begs the obvious question – Which approach is better?

Should you choose a panel PC, or stick to a two-piece setup? What are the pros and cons of both approaches? When is it a good idea to pick a panel PC, and when is it better to keep the display separated?

Let’s find out.

Panel PC vs Box PC With Touch Display: In a Nutshell

First of all, it should be noted that there is nothing inherently wrong with any of the approaches. Whether you install a panel PC or a discrete rugged computer with an attached display, it will get the job done.

That being said, there are scenarios in which a particular setup is more suitable. For example, Panel PCs are great in situations where installation space is limited, and external cabling is not preferred.

On the other hand, a box PC with a touchscreen display is great for applications requiring a small screen. This way, the embedded computer itself can be built and installed separately, while keeping the display size limited.

The Advantages of a Panel PC

With a Panel PC, you get a fully functional computer complete with a touchscreen display. There are no external cables, no separate installation – it is ready to use out of the box.

This makes panel PCs the perfect choice for high-mobility applications. Such a computer can be carried around the premises while staying connected to the main server through wireless connections.

Panel PCs are also ideal for low-space installations. Smart Kiosks and other user-friendly computing installations often take advantage of the smaller footprint of a panel PC. This also makes them excellent for most industrial automation setups, where the installation space is rather limited.

Then there are the aesthetics. Compact panel PCs look better, can be installed easily, and are very user-friendly. This makes them great for most consumer-facing commercial setups, where a sleek panel computer can be mounted on a wall or a recessed counter. IP66-rated waterproof panels are also used in high-hygiene environments, such as healthcare or food industries, being easier to clean and remove if required.

The Advantages of a Box PC With Separate Display

While panel PCs are incredibly versatile, performance is what defines a rugged box computer. Thanks to their larger size and better fanless cooling, box computers can support more power-hungry processors and GPUs. This makes box computers a must for demanding applications.

A two-piece setup also decouples the display from the computer, making it easier to troubleshoot a fault. Displays get damaged frequently in harsh industrial environments, which would mean replacing the whole computer if it was a panel PC. But with a box computer, you can just replace the screen, which is always cheaper.

Box computers are also utilized when non-standard screen sizes are required. Whether you need a smaller display without sacrificing processing power or a larger screen than offered by panel PCs, a two-piece installation works best.

The Verdict

When it comes to embedded computers, a one size fits all approach rarely works. Different PCs are suited for different types of applications, and it is the same with Panel PCs and box computers.

For most use cases, a panel system works best. The integrated touchscreen makes installation a breeze and requires very little space as well. If you choose a waterproof version, the sealed unit can also resist spills, allowing it to be used in proximity to liquids and cleaning agents.

That being said, there are still a few scenarios in which a separate display works better. Even though panel PCs have come far, they still cannot match the performance of a powerful box computer, owing to size and energy constraints. Going with an embedded box computer also gives you the freedom to choose a custom display size, apart from making the display easier to replace.