Cabinets are just a little larger than a dartboard with doors on the front so that when the board is not in use, you can close the doors and not see the board. The insides of the doors have chalk scoreboards attached to them. Most cabinets have some sort of decorative design on the outside of the doors.
Pros: They are nice looking and already come with a place to store your darts and two chalk scoreboards (some even have lights).
Cons: They can be quite expensive, easily twice as much as their backboard counterparts (usually more). The chalk scoreboards that come with them wear out faster than the larger ones you can buy separately. Reading the scores can also be difficult since you do have to write smaller. Due to the cabinets small size, many darts will hit the doors and the scoreboards if the thrower is not that experienced, tearing up the scoreboards even more.
Backboards are considerably larger (protects a larger area of the wall) than the dart cabinet. They are generally made of a pressed wood and covered in fabric, many have a wooden frame. The one I bought back in 1988 has managed to survive 3 moves and 1000's (many 1000's) of hours of throwing.
Pros: Protect a larger portion of the wall, less expensive.
Cons: The cheaper ones do not come with a scoreboard or light (the more expensive ones do).
Recommendation: It's really all personal preference, but let me give you a scenario and then you decide. You just finished moving into a brand new house and are throwing a party. Four hours into the party, someone yells out "Let's throw darts!". Less than 1/4 of the people you invited over have ever thrown a dart before and all of them have been enjoying their favorite 'cold beverages' for the last four hours. Which would you rather have on the wall?
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