Hardware Comparison: PanelView Plus 7 vs the PanelView 550

The PanelView 550 Standard Terminal HMIs have been in service for many years. Introduced by Allen Bradley to facilitate factory automation and provide real-time actionable data to users and technicians, the 550 Standard was a workhorse. The units were sturdy and reliable and were scalable across a wide range of applications.

As automation capabilities have improved through more flexible communication, onboard capabilities provided by machine OEMs and further connectivity on broader networks, Allen Bradley introduced HMIs such as the PanelView 7Plus to provide a more flexible HMI platform to monitor and control devices for even more applications.

Comparing the legacy PanelView 550 and the PanelView Plus 7

To fully understand the improvements in the PanelView Plus 7 over the PanelView 550 Standard, here is a direct comparison of the key features and capabilities of both.

Screens

The importance of HMIs in modern factories is undeniable. And screens and alarms on HMIs help monitor and control the condition of the equipment, allowing them to make faster and more informed decisions on machine condition. The PanelView 550 allows connection to a single controller and has a max screen count of twenty-five screens and up to 200 different alarm messages.

The PanelView Plus 7 also permits connection to a single controller. However, the Plus 7 offers up to 100 screens and as many as 500 alarm messages. This gives operators and automation system engineers the flexibility to add deeper understanding of conditions and more analysis of real-time performance.

There are also considerable differences in the resolution and interface of the screens as well. The PanelView 550 was offered as a touch only, keypad only and touch keypad combination. But it is also a monochrome screen.

The Plus 7 is a full color display with higher resolution and full color. The Plus 7 also offers more versatility in screen size with 4” 6”, 7”, 9”, 10”, 12” and 15” versions compared to the 550 and 550T (touch) which offers only a 5.5” display. Three of the PanelView Plus 7 variants, the 4”, 9” and 12” are also offered in wide screen.

Operating System

The PanelView 550 series was flexible for its time by offering a Windows-based operating system. Along with other PanelView Standard HMIs such as the PanelView 300, 600, 900 and 1000, the 550 could run Windows editions such as Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, XP and 7.

By contrast, the PanelView Plus 7 uses the Windows CE operating system. Windows CE is a very versatile OS that is used in many automation systems designs. Windows CE is scalable and many OEMs match operating system features to those of the devices embedded in new equipment. In turn, automation designers can also take advantage of this to tie their control system, including HMIs, to the capabilities of devices on their network to create a more seamless Windows-based ecosystem. Windows CE also has desktop functionality to allow third-party applications to be configured.

Software

The PanelView 550 Standard series, like the other Standard models, uses PanelBuilder 32 software. This software was a 32-bit product that worked with a variety of Allen Bradley products such as MicroLogix, ControlLogix, CompactLogix, and FlexLogix as well as both PLC and SLC controllers. The software is now discontinued and no longer available.

The PanelView Plus 7 uses Allen Bradley’s FactoryTalk View Machine Edition. This version is dedicated across the Plus family of HMIs and allows users to emulate an application on a PC. This software further enhances the link between OEMs and system designers to speed commissioning time.

The software also takes advantage of the PanelView Plus family’s color screen and high resolution to improve the operator experience. Highly scalable, the newest versions have even increased the number of supported devices and have improved programming to streamline common tasks. Users have direct access to documentation.

FactoryTalk View Machine Edition also allows users to access non-controller devices through use of EDS parameter tag browsing or CIP data table tag browsing. Applications are also easier to update because of the software’s ability to allow cross referencing. This allows for quick updates as well as direct links to objects to improve troubleshooting.

The software is intuitive, and “wizard” driven to for runtime application conversions where data is retained from older projects. This improves flexibility by allowing past versions of projects to be retained and keeps system designers and programmers from having to upgrade software or firmware.

Communications

PanelView 550 Standard HMIs were designed for an evolving communication protocol environment. Because of this, the 550 is offered in a wide array of variants that are specific to the type of communication protocol being used. There brings a distinct disadvantage in terms of interoperability based on the communications port of each controller meaning the units cannot be interchanged. This increased cost for replacements and made the 550s less cost-effective compared to the PanelView Plus 7 and the other Plus variants.

To further complicate selection of appropriate part numbers, these differences had to be replicated across the different screen sizes available within the 550 series as well as between the touch and keypad versions. Examples of the number of variants available by communication protocol include:

  • ControlNet – 2
  • DH-485 – 4
  • RS-232 DH-485) – 4
  • DH+ – 2
  • Ethernet/IP – 2
  • Remote I/O – 1
  • DeviceNet – 2
  • RS-232 – 1
  • RS-232 (DF1) – 1
  • ControlNet – 1

By Contrast, the PanelView Plus 7 only has a port supporting EtherNet/IP. This simplifies part number variation immensely, limiting it to screen size variants. However, the advantages of the Plus 7’s use of Ethernet/IP over other communication protocols goes beyond ease of use and ordering. Ethernet is a faster and more reliable method of communication. It is also more flexible as it provides both the physical and data link layer compared to other protocols such as RS-232. This makes EtherNet/IP more flexible in its application and of more value to a wider range of applications.

550 Standard terminals can reach a physical limitation limiting scalability. Because each device using a serial connection needs one communication port per device, the cabling and added serial ports at a hub or computer may not be enough. With EtherNet On the Plus 7, the system can be scaled much more effectively. This reduces cabling, time and costs less to deploy over a wide range of controllers and connected devices.

General Differences

In addition to these key differences, there are many feature-based differences that apply to both functionality as well as the evolution to a more modern device in the Plus 7. These include:

  1. Input – The Plus 7 is only touch screen reflecting today’s touchscreen trend among most devices. The PanelView 550 consists of touch, touch and keypad combo and keypad only.
  2. Display – The Plus 7 has a Windows CE operating system and FactoryTalk View Machine Edition software. This makes the Plus 7 user experience more detailed and involved with greater visualization of machine conditions. It has a color screen thin film transistor (TFT) that allows more detail and richer colors. Resolution on the 4” models is 480 x272 and 640 x 480 on its 6” versions. Both are VGA with 8-bit color graphics. The PanelView 550 has a blue tone monochrome on all model variants.
  3. Backlight – While a small consideration, backlighting is the one area where the 550 is a bit stronger by comparison to the Plus 7. The 550 backlight offers 100,000 hours of service while the Plus 7 offers only 50,000 hours and the backlight on the Plus 7 is also not replaceable.
  4. Memory – The PanelView 550 memory consists of 170 KB, exceptionally low by today’s app hungry standards. It also has 240 KB of nonvolatile RAM. The PanelView Plus 7 makes up for this deficiency by offering 512 MB of both RAM and storage with 80 MB of nonvolatile RAM.
  5. Memory Cards/Slots – The PanelView 550 supports an ATA memory card. The PanelView Plus 7 has a secure digital (SD) card slot that can be used to store application files.
  6. USB Ports – Given its age within the space, it is not surprising that the PanelView 550 does not offer USB. This is a reality of many older controllers and devices in general. Plus, the 550 is sized to be small and fit into small footprints. With little room to spare, no PanelView 550s offered USB, instead only offering the single communication port for the selected protocol. The Plus 7 offers one USB 2.0 high speed port for the host as well as one USB-B high speed 1.0 port for connecting to a device.
  7. Ethernet Ports – Among the PanelView 550 series model variants, there are models that offer EtherNet, but they are one of many communication port offerings as previously discussed. The Plus 7 only offers either a single EtherNet port or two EtherNet port depending on model. For models ending in the number 21, the EtherNet port is a single 10/100Base-T, Auto/MDI-X port with IEEE1588 support. For models ending in the number 22, the Plus 7 offers two, 10/100Base-T, Auto/MDI-X ports that can support linear, star or DLR topologies.
  8. Power – The PanelView 550 can operate both AC and DC for the keypad and keypad touch combo model variants. The touch only model variants only operate on DC. On DC, all model variant’s input voltage ranges from 18…40V DC. On AC for the keypad and keypad touch combo, input voltage ranges 85…264V at 47…63 Hz. The PanelView Plus 7 by comparison only operates using DC power. For the Plus 7, input power ranges from 18…30V DC.


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