Testing the new Raspberry Pi touchscreen display

Mediacenter and Car PC

The Raspberry Pi functions in many homes as a media center. Distributions such as OpenELEC and OSMC come with an optimized Kodi media center for the Rasp Pi. Makers are also using the Rasp Pi to construct Internet radios from old radio models. One of the most impressive of these types of projects is the portable VCR Raspberry Pi media center. You'll find detailed instructions for building your own media center online [3].

Up to now, one of the challenges for such a project has been to find a suitable display screen. Most screens did not have a large enough diagonal to play movies. Nor did they have a touchscreen, energy efficiency, and simple connection capabilities. Now you won't have to look much further than the Raspberry Pi screen. It is possible to use batteries intended for smartphone and tablets to supply the additional 2.25 Watts needed to operate the screen.

As it turns out, OpenELEC and OSMC are still overtaxed by the screen. Both manage to put their images onto the screen, but with some distortion. Moreover, the current version of the Kodi media center does not yet react to touch entries. The latest changes to the OSMC kernel [4] indicate that these problems might soon be a thing of the past. In the future, it should be possible to build a portable media center with a touch-optimized skin like Rapier [5] or Re-Touched [6].

If you want to use the Rasp Pi together with a touchscreen display as a PC in your car, you will need to overcome a number of challenges. The bright display is easy to read even in broad daylight. With its 70-degree angle of vision, the screen is also clearly readable from the side. However, the display is too big due to a large edge.

Altogether it measures 194x110mm, and a double DIN slot only has enough space for a device measuring 180x100mm. It seems appealing to think about cutting off the part of the glass edge that extends past the screen with a glass cutter. However, Clive Beale from the Raspberry Pi Foundation assures us that this procedure only works in rare cases [7], and of course, the user would lose any product guarantee.


The touchscreen display from the Raspberry Pi Foundation is suitable for those hobbyists who don't want to connect a big monitor to the mini computer. The screen is an especially good match for all projects that need a display and simple data entry capabilities. For instance, you could use the Rasp Pi display for a weather station, an FHEM front end, or an SIP door phone system. However, you might need additional software. Genuine dual-screen operation is not possible yet under Raspbian, and the typical Linux systems still struggle with touch gestures. Toolkits like Kivy [8], which you can also install on the Raspberry Pi, help developers create touch-friendly applications quickly.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is also thinking about additional display screens. Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton has mentioned a possible future 10-inch screen with full HD resolution. If a 10-inch screen ever appears, the Rasp Pi will work as a full-fledged mobile tablet.

The foundation has no official plans for a case that will hold both the Raspberry Pi and the display screen, but some members of the community have stepped up with ideas. For example, MCM Electronics, the US branch of Farnell element14, has released CAD data for a suitable 3D-printed cover. Additionally, Pi3g, where we got our test touchscreen, is already developing a special case for the new Raspberry Pi display.

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