Innovation

Raspberry Pi touchscreen round-up: From cheap tiny displays to tablet-sized panels

A selection of touchscreens available for the Raspberry Pi, and one eInk screen you might like to try.

The $35 Raspberry Pi is a remarkably capable computer for the money but, unlike many modern devices, doesn't ship with a screen.

Due to the Pi's remarkable success, a broad range of displays are now available for the tiny machine, from pocket to tablet-sized screens.

Even better, many of these are touchscreens, letting the user control the Pi without hooking up a separate keyboard and mouse. And if you just need a simple black and white display that consumes very little power, you can even augment your Pi with an eInk screen.

SEE: Inside the Raspberry Pi: The story of the $35 computer that changed the world (PDF)

Here are a selection of touchscreens available for the Raspberry Pi, and one eInk screen you might like to try.

Tiny - Adafruit PiTFT Plus TFT touchscreen

What is it: This petite screen measures just 2.8-inches but is capable of being used to control the Pi via its official Raspbian OS.

It may only be 320x240 resolution, but it is fast enough to enjoy smooth video playback and the Raspbian desktop can be configured so it is usable on such a small screen.

That said, it is a resistive touchscreen, so don't expect it to be as responsive as a touchscreen on your typical modern smartphone and requires a good deal of setting up in the Raspbian command line to get it up and running, although full instructions are provided.

The displays sits on top of the Pi, connecting via the board's GPIO pins and works with the Pi Zero, Pi 3, Pi 2 or Model A+, B+.

Where to buy: Available from Adafruit

Price: $35

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Image: Adafruit

Small - Bangood touchscreen case

What is it: This new Raspberry Pi case seems to have struck a chord with Pi owners looking to add low-cost touchscreen displays to Pi-based media centers or home automation systems.

The 3.5-inch screen is housed in the top of the Pi case and has a resolution of 320 x 480. The case has openings for all the Raspberry Pi ports, including power, microSD Card, Ethernet, USB and so on. While the case has holes for an attached cooling fan, it's not possible to use the touchscreen and a cooling fan at the same time.

There are some downsides, the screen is slow to refresh, making it unsuitable for gaming or watching a video, and has a resistive touchscreen that require greater force to recognise touch than typical capacitive displays. To help interact with the screen, the case comes with a stylus.

Where to buy: Available from Bangood

Price: $16

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Image: Bangood

Medium - official Raspberry Pi touchscreen

What is it: This seven-inch display is particularly easy to get started with, due to being the official Raspberry Pi Foundation touchscreen for the Raspberry Pi.

The 800 x 480 capacitive touchscreen recently gained support in the mainline Linux kernel, meaning it should enjoy support in the major Linux-based operating systems that run on the Pi, as well as the official Raspbian OS.

Compatible with the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and A, the display's drivers supports 10-finger touch and on-screen keyboard in Raspbian, and it is powered via the Pi's GPIO pins and hooks into Pi's DSI (Display Serial Interface) port via a ribbon cable.

Where to buy: Available from Adafruit

Price: $79.95

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Image: Adafruit

Large - Waveshare LCD display

What is it: If you're looking for a higher resolution, tablet-sized screen, there are a few options available.

This 10.1-inch IPS display from Waveshare sports a resolution of 1280 x 800 and can hook into the Raspberry Pi via HDMI and via a USB Type A to microUSB adapter cable, which needs to be bought separately.

The capacitive touchscreen is protected by toughened glass and promises to work with any Pi running Raspbian, Ubuntu, Kali Linux, Retropie, or Windows 10 IOT Edition, without the need for dedicated software drivers.

Where to buy: Available from Waveshare

Price: $109.99

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Image: Waveshare

Something a bit different - Adafruit PaPiRus eInk display

What is it: If you're after a display that only needs updating periodically, this 2.7-inch eInk screen provides a low-power option that mimics the look of ink on paper.

The screen plugs into the top of any model of Raspberry Pi from the second generation onwards, thanks to being available as a HAT that connects to the board's GPIO pins.

The 264x176 resolution screen is designed to be used for signage or a display that only needs updating at intervals.

Also included is a battery-backed real-time clock (RTC) with wake-on-alarm functionality, via an optional reset pin, and four optional slimline switches.

Where to buy: Available from Adafruit

Price: $49.95

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Image: Adafruit


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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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