HMI: Panel PC vs Rugged Box PC with Touchscreen Display – What should I use?

Panel PC vs Box PC

When integrating touch displays with embedded computers, there are two main options: a Panel PC that combines the computer and display in a single device, or a standard Embedded Box PC with a separate touch-capable display. But which approach is better? This article explores the pros and cons of both options and provides guidance on when to choose a Panel PC or Box PC and separate display.

Panel PC vs Box PC With Touch Display

It’s important to note that both approaches – using a Panel PC or a discrete rugged computer with an attached display – can be effective. However, there may be circumstances in which one setup is more suitable. For instance, Panel PCs are a good choice when space is limited and external cabling is not desired. On the other hand, a Box PC with a touchscreen display may be better for applications that require a small screen, allowing the embedded computer to be built and installed separately while keeping the display size minimal.

Panel PC vs Rugged Box PC

The Advantages of Using a Panel PC

A Panel PC is a fully functional computer with a built-in touchscreen display, eliminating the need for external cables or separate installation. This makes Panel PCs suitable for high-mobility applications, as they can be easily carried around and connected to the main server wirelessly.

Panel PCs also take up less space, making them ideal for smart kiosks and other user-friendly computing installations, as well as most industrial automation setups where space is limited. They also have a more attractive appearance, which is beneficial for consumer-facing commercial settings where they can be mounted on a wall or recessed counter. Additionally, waterproof Panel PCs with an IP66 rating are often used in high-hygiene environments like healthcare and food industries because they are easy to clean and can be removed if necessary.

Panel PC vs Rugged Box PC

The Advantages of a Box PC With Separate Display

While Panel PCs are versatile, box computers offer better performance, thanks to their larger size and improved fanless cooling that allows for more powerful processors and GPUs. This makes small form factor box computers a good choice for demanding applications.

A two-piece setup also allows for easier troubleshooting, as the display can be separated from the computer if necessary. Displays are prone to damage in harsh industrial environments, and replacing the entire computer can be costly with a Panel PC. However, with a box computer, it is possible to simply replace the screen, which is typically more affordable.

Box computers are also useful when non-standard screen sizes are needed, as they allow for flexibility in display size without sacrificing processing power.


When it comes to embedded computers, it is important to consider the specific needs of the application. Panel PCs and box computers each have their own advantages and may be more or less suitable depending on the use case.

In general, Panel PCs are a good choice for most situations due to their compact size and easy installation. They are also often waterproof and resistant to spills, making them suitable for use near liquids and cleaning agents.

However, there are instances where a separate display is a better option. Box computers offer more powerful performance and the freedom to choose a custom display size. They also allow for easier replacement of the display if necessary. Ultimately, the right choice between a Panel PC and a box computer with a separate display will depend on the specific requirements of the application.

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