If you’ve seen any of my many Raspberry Pi photo frame posts, you’ve seen me mention the Pi Display. I recently began having problems with my setup, after many months. I didn’t know if it was the RPi or the display. My display was cracked from abuse anyway so I took the plunge and got a new one. And I re-imaged my micro SD card. I’ll be danged if my brand new display wasn’t blanking out, even as the RPi was still booting! That was frustrating. Here’s how I resolved that. I felt I should publish this article because it’s a little hard to find this exact problem with solution described on the Internet.
The good news is that the Pi Display is still available, incredibly. It comes with absolutely zero documentation. It refers you to element14 or newark web sites, I forget. But those sites just display very generic pages and I couldn’t manage to find any real documentation. I assume the product is considered too old or unsupported or whatever. But since I had bought it already and it seems exactly like the one I was replacing, I went ahead and connected it as before.
Note that the display did not blank out during the installation of Raspbian Lite. That’s a strong hint as to where the problem lies. But after installing that and rebooting, the Pi Display shows bland and white horizontal lines, becomes fainter, and then just blanks out altogether. Rather distressing. I don’t recall this problem from the older versions.
I’m still using an old RPi model 3 I have laying around. I guess the new RPi 4 is OK, too. I believe it draws more power though so I actually kind of prefer the old RPi 3’s. You can manage to power both RPi 3 + the PiDisplay from a single power plug if you do it right.
The OS image is Raspberry Pi OS Lite, “bullseye.”
7″ Pi Display – see references.
Random power plug from Amazon. 1.8 amps.
First, note that I had installed Raspbian bullseye – the latest image as of January 2022. Also note that when connected to an HDMI display, this screen blank-out never occurs! What I needed to do was to connect the RPi to an HDMI display (my TV in my case) and do the sudo apt-get update and sudo apt-get upgrade commands. That recommendation you will find everywhere. In addition, I needed to run raspi-config. In there you navigate to do this navigation:
Display Options > Screen blanking > Would you like to enable screen blanking?
I held my breath as I rebooted, and it seemed to want to blank, but then came back a half second later and the display has been illuminated ever since. Now it seems every time I reboot it blanks out as before, during boot, but then “remembers” it’s not supposed to do that and recovers within a second!
How to power both RPi and Pi Display from a single power source
You can connect a short micro USB cable from the USB output of the display to the power input of the RPi – that’s what I do. You could also use the included leads, but I haven’t messed with it.
However, note that – as I found out the hard way – not just any power adapter will do! I started with an Amazon adapter rated for 1 amp. Everything fired up fine, and even ran the slideshow for a bit, but then I guess the power demands were too great and the RPi spontaneously rebooted. So then I switched the system to a larger adapter, also from Amazon – 1.8 amps. So far so good with that one. If that failed, I was prepared with a 2 amp adapter – from a Samsung Galaxy phone. But it seems that will not be necessary.
And this is kind of the beauty of the RPi 3 – you can get away with stuff like that. Your RPi 4 could never do that. It’s a power hog.
The Pi Display is still viable! The price has gone up, but it works. As far as I know in fact it is the “official” display for an RPi. The RPi has a special tab to receive a ribbon cable that connects the two together.
The Pi Display will blank out after a few seconds with newer Raspberry Pi OS images, it seems, even though when paired with an HDMI display this never happens. But it’s easy enough to fix this frustrating problem. Just set screen blanking to No in raspi-config. This ought to better documented on the Internet.
References and related
The Pi Display is a 7″ touch-sensitive LCD display. Its cost is now up to $90. I don’t recommend using its touch capability, but then I don’t like that feature on any display, come to think of it: Amazon.com: Raspberry Pi 7″ Touch Screen Display : Electronics But this latest Pi Display is brighter than my older one. That makes it more visible and enjoyable to watch.
One of my very many posts on creating a photo frame with an RPi and the PiDisplay (but also works fine on HDMI TV’s – I tested it!): https://drjohnstechtalk.com/blog/2021/01/raspberry-pi-photo-frame-using-the-pictures-on-your-google-drive-ii/