Panel PCs are specialized computers that are designed for industrial applications. The personal computer or PC is embedded in a flange or panel, allowing operators to monitor or manage industrial processes. Flat panel PCs combine a liquid crystal display (LCD) and touchscreen in a rugged enclosure. The front panel may be waterproof or readable in sunlight for outdoor applications. Often, sun readable panel PCs are used in outdoor kiosks, automatic teller machines (ATMs), and other applications that require a bright LCD. These industrial computers may connect to a local area network (LAN), or support wireless communications standards such as WiFi or Bluetooth®, a registered trademark of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG).
Specifications for panel PCs include process type, memory and storage, drive options, and interface options. The speed of the central processing unit (CPU) and the number of processors controlled by the computer are also important considerations. Because panel PCs are designed for industrial applications, they often feature a membrane keypad interface or a tactile keyboard interface. Membrane keypads are comprised of momentary switches covered with a thin, pliable layer. They have a very thin profile. Tactile keyboards have raised buttons. Panel PCs with touch screens are also available.
Panel PCs differ in terms of resolution, a measurement which is expressed in pixels. Choices include 160 x 160, 320 x 240, 320 x 320, and 480 x 160. Video graphics array (VGA) supports graphics at a maximum resolution of 320 x 200 pixels in 256 colors, or 640 x 480 pixels in 16 colors. Panel PCs that use super video graphics array (SVGA), extended graphics array (XGA), and widescreen extended graphics array (WXGA) are also available. Variants of these display types include super extended graphics array plus (SXGA+), ultra extended graphics array (UXGA), widescreen super extended graphics array (WSXGA+), and widescreen ultra extended graphics array (WUXGA).
Panel PCs may be housed in NEMA or IP enclosures to protect electrical components and prevent the ingress of contaminants such as dust and water. NEMA enclosures are rated by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), a non-profit organization that recommends safety standards for electrical equipment. IP enclosures comply with Ingress Protection (IP) standards from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). NEMA ratings indicate whether panel PCs are suitable for hazardous or non-hazardous locations, and designed for indoor or outdoor use. Types 1, 2, 12, 12K and 13 NEMA enclosures are rated for indoor use in non-hazardous locations. Types 3, 3R, 3S, 4, 4X, 5, 6, and 6P enclosures are rated for both indoor and outdoor use in non-hazardous locations.