Booths at events are getting more tech saavy. Banners and printed signs are making way for TVs and digital displays. But one of the struggles is finding a really good way to control these devices, a way that is not only dead simple but affordable. We’ve used many different methods over the years. I’ve seen laptops hooked up physically to a TV but that is always a pain as the person whose laptop you are using rarely wants to give it up for the duration of the show. Even if you had a dedicated laptop for this you also have the trouble of making sure the laptop stays charged and people don’t trip over the cords.
At one show I used an iPad along with the Status Board app. This too wasn’t perfect as I found using apps to be a bit limiting and the iPad requires too many special adapters that if lost cannot be quickly replaced. Lately we have been using Chromecasts but they rely on a good Internet signal which is often not possible. If you can’t get the Internet to cooperate you are dead in the water which is the worst possible outcome when running an event.
So I’ve come to realize that the best option is one that does not require the internet at all. I have been looking into using some of those PC on a stick concepts (like the Intel Compute Stick) as they are small, cheap, plug right into the TV and don’t require the use of the Internet. The only flaw I see is to manage them you need a wireless keyboard/mouse and I don’t like to rely on too many pieces. If the keyboard/mouse don’t get included in the event kit you in a bit of trouble.
Finally I think I came upon a solution that I like, using a Windows tablet. Bear with me here, I know I lost 70% of you at “Windows”. Here is why I think this is the best solution. First, you can connect the tablet directly to the TV, you don’t need to use a streaming device. Not depending on the Internet is a huge win. You can also connect it without any fancy cords. You can use a HDMI or mini-HDMI cables which are easy to source if it gets forgotten/lost and it’s a cable people might actually have on hand compared to special expensive Apple ones.
You can operate it via the touch screen so you don’t have to worry about having a wireless keyboard/mouse. It also runs full Windows 8.1 (but I’ll probably install 10 beta on it) so you aren’t at the mercy of apps, you have access to a full desktop environment. It also charges via USB and is pretty cheap. I can get a Dell Venue 8 for around $180, which has pretty good specs.
So what do you think of my plan?