Let’s add a dirt cheap screen to the Raspberry Pi B+ #piday #RaspberryPi #Raspberry_Pi


Via Reasonably Correct.

Recently the internet noticed the Raspberry Pi could drive LCD panels using DPI. This allows very inexpensive displays to be used with basically no additional hardware.  In this post we dive into the hardware required, the software configuration, how to read screen datasheets, and basic troubleshooting.

A quick word of warning, this is an advanced project. The rewards are significant but it’s difficult to get right.
There are no specific prerequisite skills necessary, but a reasonable understanding of Linux and digital signals is extremely helpful.

Disclaimer and thanks

I am not an electrical engineer. This post was my first adventure into display technology. I managed to cobble it together from the wonderful posts on the Raspberry Pi forum. Specifically this post: http://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=100&t=86658. It’s great reading on it’s own, and most of the information here was derived from it.

A special thanks to forum users “Fat D”, “ceteras”,  and most of all “Gert van Loo” for this project: https://github.com/fenlogic/vga666. With out it this wouldn’t be possible.

Additional thanks is due to Shannon Geis for editing this post, and Lady Ada at Adafruit Industries who posted the video that brought this to my attention.

DPI is awesome

The main reason is because it’s wonderfully stupid.

DPI stands for Display Parallel Interface (or possibly Display Pixel Interface depending on who you ask). It allows you to use very cheap displays by driving them manually. The Raspberry Pi supports this but it may not be right for every project.

  • Very fast, easily driving our display at 60hz.
  • No complicated interface hardware.
  • Pixel perfect output. Digital, not analog.
  • Easy to understand protocol.
  • No bulky connectors.
  • Very inexpensive.


  • Eats a lot of GPIO pins (All of them at true color, but more on this later.)
  • Not widely adopted on the Raspberry Pi, making online help hard to find.
  • Ribbon cables are easy to break if you’re not careful.
  • Short range. If you want your screen 10 meters from the Pi use HDMI.
  • There will be maths, this isn’t plug-n-play.
  • Almost zero official documentation.

Bill of materials

Total cost at time of writing is less than $50, putting this into impulse buy/weekend project territory. You can also use the 7-inch screen Adafruit sells or any 40pin DPI screen, but some of the numbers later are probably not going to jive with it. You will have to find your own way there. Similarly, I’m not using touch screens because I’ve never seen a touch interface that wasn’t terrible, and it lowers the cost a bit. If you want to add touch you’re going to need a touch controller, but that’s another blog post.

Read more.

Featured Adafruit Products!


40-pin TFT Friend – FPC Breakout with LED Backlight Driver: This breakout board is something we designed in-house to help us work with ‘dot-clock’ 40-pin TFT displays that require the RGB pixel data to be clocked in continuously. These displays have 40-pin Flex PCB (FPC) cables and often require a boost converter for the backlight LED, which makes them annoying to breadboard. To make them breadboardable, we stuck a 40-pin FPC and a FAN5333-based backlight driver with adjustable current onto a labeled breakout board. Now you can poke and probe each pin! Read more.


5.0″ 40-pin 800×480 TFT Display without Touchscreen: This 5.0″ TFT screen has lots of pixels, 800×480 to be exact, and an LED backlight. Its great for when you need a lot of space for graphics. These screens are commonly seen in consumer electronics, such as miniature TV’s, GPS’s, handheld games car displays, etc. A 40-pin connector has 8 red, 8 green, and 8 blue parallel pins, for 24 bit color capability. Read more.

998Each Friday is PiDay here at Adafruit! Be sure to check out our posts, tutorials and new Raspberry Pi related products. Adafruit has the largest and best selection of Raspberry Pi accessories and all the code & tutorials to get you up and running in no time!

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here: adafruit.com/editorialstandards

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in! adafruit.com/mastodon

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community! http://adafru.it/discord

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers – CircuitPython.org

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at AdafruitDaily.com !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.