Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Advertisement

Updated January 2017

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, home computers didn’t rely on dedicated monitors to display operating systems, applications and games.

In those days, things were far simpler. Instead of paying extra for a monitor, the majority of home computer and console owners were happy to use their televisions. It might seem odd now, but 30 years ago people thought little of ignoring TV programs to play video games.

For some, the situation hasn’t changed all that much, with games consoles often connected to the family TV. But as far as computers go, the PC model of a dedicated monitor was eventually widely adopted. It would be unusual to see a home PC connected to a television, even if it isn’t impossible.

If you think about it though, the option to connect to different types of display unit is pretty flexible. This must surely have been in the minds of the Raspberry Pi developers when they were deciding upon how their users might use the computer.

Despite its modest dimensions, the Raspberry Pi supports 5 methods of hardware display output, enough to cover pretty much any output device you can think of.

Advertisement

What the Creators Say…

When I spoke to Raspberry Pi Foundation co-founder Eben Upton following the Pi’s launch, he explained that the stripped-down computer was borne from the spirit of the 8-bit era.

“It’s a very cheap Linux PC, device in the spirit of the 1980s, a device which turns your TV into a computer, plug in to TV, plug a mouse and a keyboard in, give it some power and some kind of storage, an operating system and you’ve got a PC.”

Several different connections are supported from the Raspberry Pi. The original device features HDMI and RCA, while the most recent model, the Raspberry Pi 3, has only the HDMI and the magical 3.5 mm media port.

Raspberry PI 3 Model B A1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU, 1GB RAM Raspberry PI 3 Model B A1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU, 1GB RAM 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU, 1 GB RAM Buy Now At Amazon $10.27

So how do you use these connectors to hook your Raspberry Pi to a monitor or TV?

It’s Got HDMI!

One of the most exciting things about the Raspberry Pi is that each version comes equipped with a HDMI connector, meaning that anyone with a HDMI-compatible TV (which is the majority of people in North America and Europe) can easily connect the device to their living room television.

Along with the SD card and power supply, the HDMI cable is one of the most important pieces of equipment The Hardware You Will Need To Build A Raspberry Pi Media Center The Hardware You Will Need To Build A Raspberry Pi Media Center With so many ways of using it, you shouldn't be surprised to find that the Raspberry Pi has sold over 1 million units. Although designed for one key purpose (programming) this small credit card-sized computer... Read More  that you can use with your Raspberry Pi, which means that in theory you can connect it to a wide selection of televisions and even modern desktop computer monitors.

CanaKit Raspberry Pi Zero Starter Kit CanaKit Raspberry Pi Zero Starter Kit NOTE: This kit includes the standard version of the Raspberry Pi Zero and does NOT include wireless connectivity Buy Now At Amazon $29.89

HDMI is ubiquitous, available on the original Raspberry Pi, the Model B revisions, the Raspberry Pi 2, and the Raspberry Pi 3 The Raspberry Pi 3: Faster, Better, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth The Raspberry Pi 3: Faster, Better, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Today, the Raspberry Pi foundation announced the release of the Raspberry Pi 3. It's the most significant update to the popular line of low-cost computers yet. Read More . It is also present on the Pi Zero Getting Started with Raspberry Pi Zero Getting Started with Raspberry Pi Zero Whether you bought a magazine with one glued to the front, or found a kit online, the chances are you're now the proud owner of a $5 computer: the Raspberry Pi Zero. Read More , although you’ll need a mini HDMI adaptor to use HDMI here.

Sadly, not all televisions and monitors have HDMI connectors.

Using a HDMI to VGA Adaptor

In the event that your chosen display unit doesn’t have an HDMI connector, the first thing you should do is check whether or not it has a VGA connector – the D-shaped connector that has been commonly found on computer monitors for the past 20 odd years. If your monitor is VGA-compatible, then all you will need is a HDMI to VGA adaptor in order to use your Raspberry Pi with that device or cable type.

VicTsing Gold-Plated HDMI to VGA Converter Adapter for PC, Laptop, DVD, Desktop and other HDMI Input Devices - Black (VS1-VC38BVT-VD) VicTsing Gold-Plated HDMI to VGA Converter Adapter for PC, Laptop, DVD, Desktop and other HDMI Input Devices - Black (VS1-VC38BVT-VD) Ultra-MINI, UNIQUE DESIGN. HDMI TO VGA converter can transport video from HDMI compatible device to a monitor or projector with VGA port. With this gadget, you can enjoy HD video in large screen. Buy Now At Amazon $8.99

You’ll also need to make a small change to the config.txt file that Raspberry Pi uses when it boots.

Using a memory card reader on your desktop computer, insert the Raspberry Pi SD card and open config.txt in your preferred text editor.

Look for the following lines:

#hdmi_force_hotplug=1

#hdmi_drive=2

Both options need to be enabled, which you can do by removing the hash symbol and saving. These options enable VGA output through an HDMI adaptor and sets the screen resolution to a low 640 x 480.

If you want a higher resolution, remove the hash symbols from the following lines:

#hdmi_group=1

#hdmi_mode= 4

You will also need to edit these two lines, changing hdmi_group to 2 and hdmi_mode to 16. Remember to save your changes before safely removing and replacing in your Raspberry Pi.

Display Output Using RCA

On the original A and B Raspberry Pis, through to the Model B+ (2014), a third option for displaying output exists — the RCA connector. This is found on the opposite side of the device to the HDMI port, just next to the audio port.

Using a standard RCA composite cable you can connect your Raspberry Pi to any compatible TV (if it doesn’t have HDMI, it almost certainly has a yellow RCA or a SCART socket), and enjoy video output. Note that as soon as an HDMI cable is connected the Pi will switch to that output. RCA can also be switched to SCART with a suitable adaptor, useful if your display has neither RCA, VGA or HDMI connectors.

Depending on your screen resolution, you may need to alter the way in which the Raspberry Pi displays windows. This will affect you if the monitor has a low resolution, but by changing the overscan settings in config.txt you can configure the video output to suit your monitor.

Out of Options? Try the 3.5mm TRRS Connector

Finally, the Raspberry Pi has a barely-used secret. Since the Raspberry Pi Model B+, it has wielded an almost-magic 3.5 mm media port. Capable of handling both video and audio, you can use a breakout cable in the TRRS port to connect up to standard RCA connectors. You’ll find one of these at ModMyPi or Amazon for just a few dollars.

Cable Showcase 10A1-04106 6-Feet Sony JVC 3.5 mm to 3 RCA AV Camcorder Video Cable Cable Showcase 10A1-04106 6-Feet Sony JVC 3.5 mm to 3 RCA AV Camcorder Video Cable 6 feet Buy Now At Amazon $0.68

TRRS is a cheaper and more power efficient port than the old standard RCA connector, which is why it is now found on Raspberry Pi Model B-type boards. Don’t overlook this option!

Display DSI Ribbon Connector

Raspberry Pi devices from the Model A to the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B include a ribbon connector, the Display DSI port. This is intended to connect to a dedicated Raspberry Pi display, standard and touchscreen.

Take a look at our tutorial How to Setup Your Raspberry Pi Touchscreen How to Setup Your Raspberry Pi Touchscreen The Raspberry Pi comes with a variety of useful add-ons, but one piece of kit that has proved particularly popular is the Raspberry Pi 7-inch Touchscreen Display. Here's how to set one up. Read More on how to make the best use of this port with the official touchscreen display or just watch the video.

The Raspberry Pi continues to be a remarkably flexible device (get started with our unofficial guide), surprising users in so many different ways. Do you have a unique way of connecting it to your display?

Image Credit: ABB Photo via Shutterstock.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. john black
    February 21, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    thank you very much for the video but please could you spend more time explaining the ribbon cable.
    it is blue side down i think you said and what about the dark plastic slider which clamps the cable in place.
    i know that it is obvious when you know how but i have had a lot of problems with this.

  2. secret
    August 18, 2016 at 10:47 am

    all os of rpi dosent support rca

  3. Jeff
    July 26, 2016 at 9:49 am

    There should have been a pi display - LCD or OLED that would run off the pi . This is a case of making a product too flexible only to create more problems in doing so.

  4. Anonymous
    June 21, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    @Marco - are you referring to the question about editing the config file on another computer? This can be done by simply sticking the pi's sd card into another computer and opening the file as administrator. Then sticking it back into the pi.

    There are some simple adapters that combine vga and audio from hdmi. Just don't go looking for them on aliexpress.
    Pimoroni, The Pi Hut. Adafruit, etc are the shops to find cheap plug and play solutions.

    As for RCA input, what is the problem? Always better to have more options, I've used it many times when not having an hdmi cable to hand, and if you can't find a hdmi-vga converter, there are cheap RCA to vga adapters out there.

    As for USB to hdmi converters, best to keep it simple. Video over usb seems to be for selected devices, not a universal feature - very probably a no go on a simple device as the pi.

  5. marco
    January 21, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    1) There were some days when C64's and the like - basically toys, I had one and sold software for it - connected to televisions providing an absolutely cruddy and horrible signal. Atari's, others, pretty much the same. OK for pong, not for anything serious. Today however, at least in the USA, a computer with anything at all that has an HDMI - OR - RCA input is almost nonexistent. Thus the author's comments are not really very appropriate at all.

    2) The last comment, where the very realistic NOOB posts about chicken or the egg, I notice has not been answered by all the Pi would-be know it alls. It is a good question. Don't you guys have any good answers? - Good question, mamazeb

    • Christian Cawley
      January 26, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      hey Marco. Could you clarify "Today however, at least in the USA, a computer with anything at all that has an HDMI – OR – RCA input is almost nonexistent. Thus the author’s comments are not really very appropriate at all."

      How are the comments not appropriate?

    • Mike
      May 3, 2015 at 4:00 am

      'a computer with anything at all that has an HDMI – OR – RCA input is almost nonexistent.'

      Isn't that a video capture device that many of us have used (still use) for VCR tape capture.

  6. Mamazeb
    December 17, 2014 at 2:00 am

    Thanks for the article but it leaves me a bit confused. I'm a total newbie who has bought my son a Pi for Christmas. It will be connected to the only screen we possess, and that has only a VGA input. Questions:
    1) In the section above describing using a HDMI to VGA adapter, the pictures shows a female VGA port. But our monitor needs a VGA male connector. Is it just a case of also getting a VGA male-VGA male cable and connecting that from the HDMI-VGA converter to the screen?
    2) And will I need a converter which includes an audio output to carry the sound from the pi's HDMI to the monitor's standard female sound input?
    3) Or is there a better way to connect the Pi to our monitor? I've seen a few HDMI female-VGA male adapters on ebay but they seem scarce. Suggestions would be really appreciated... and finally,
    4) Assuming I can find the right hardware, will I be able to prior-edit the config.txt file on the NOOBS SD card that I've bought with the Pi? Presumably I need to do that on our computer first as until it's done we won't be able to see any output from the Pi in order to edit the config.txt, kind of chicken-egg problem - need to get the screen working so we can see to edit the file to get the screen working. TIA folks!

    • Mike
      May 3, 2015 at 3:56 am

      1/ Most VGA cables I have come across are male at both ends as the monitor is usually a female connector as is the video card on a PC. You need to purchase a male to male VGA cable.

      2/ There are Audio 'extraction' boxes that will separate out the audio from a HDMI cable and output it to a 3.5 mm socket but they are HDMI in and out. I used it for a Tablet to a TV as I wanted the sound to go to a stereo amplifier. Perhaps the 3 pin jack socket with composite video and sound will still output sound if HDMI is used, but I haven't tested this yet. On my tablet, if I use HDMI output the sound is shut off from the earphone socket and that was why I bought one of these boxes.

      3/ http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Free-shipping-wholesale-2PCS-lot-Active-HDMI-to-VGA-female-AV-converter-with-audio-power-supply/842414062.html?s=p has a HDMI to VGA but you need to check "2" above about the sound.

      4/ I'm a newbie on the PI so I can't answer that yet.

    • Ross Potts
      May 19, 2015 at 6:30 pm

      A gender changer will work too and you want need to purchase another cable

  7. wdwd
    October 11, 2013 at 5:46 am

    Crack? Now there's a throwback.

  8. HL
    September 27, 2013 at 7:31 am

    Talking about all this old hardware makes me remember the composit video to rf modulator so you could connect it using the antenna connector. Anyone tried that?

  9. brian
    September 7, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    you could theoretically (i dont have a Pi yet) use a USB to VGA adapter. i know they work in windows, and i assume linux, but that is also an option. you may be able to run multiple monitors that way.

  10. TroubledPi
    September 6, 2013 at 7:09 am

    Hi! i need help here..
    i have a raspberry pi connected with the following layout.
    didn't want to buy any other cable yet, so i was testing out with what i'm able to grab around me. however it does not work.. :(
    Raspberry Port -> [ HDMI (male) -> DVI (male) ] -> [ DVI (female) -> DVI (female) ] -> [ DVI (male) -> VGA (female) ] -> VGA Cable to Monitor.

    i don't really think it will work in the first place, just trying my luck wondering if theres anything in the config file where could go about it.
    need help please! Thanks!

    • Christian C
      September 7, 2013 at 6:01 pm

      Hallo! I should stick to RCA and HDMI as it was meant to be if you're looking for some success. AFAIK, there are no settings to change things to allow the above cable config.

    • Mike
      May 3, 2015 at 3:36 am

      As said elsewhere, make sure it works to a native HDMI monitor or TV first. Monitor preferably as some early HDMI TVs (And those with VGA) had problems if the scan rate or resolution was too high. I have used a HDMI to VGA converter box from China on a HP 11inch Pavilion lap top connected to a 21 inch VGA monitor and that worked fine. I suspect you might need something similar for the PI if you want to use a VGA monitor that doesn't have a HDMI connector.

  11. Rameez
    September 2, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Hi there ! I just wanted to know if i've ruined my Raspberry Pi, Model B 512 Mb, as I used it on a TV supporting RCA connector. I used it while I also removed the SD Card cuz, nothing happened when I turned the TV on the COMPOSITE MODE. And also, I have copied the image of RiscOS on the 2 GB SD drive using the external card reader and LiLi USB Creator.

    Now I want to say that, Nothing happens, only the red light on the pi standby and nothing else happens ! No video or screen or anything is detected by the TV screen. Tell me what to do, please ? I AM NEW TO RASPBERRY PI, SO PLEASE HELP...PLEASE !

    • Christian C
      September 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      Hi Rameez

      You're unlikely to see anything unless you have a working image on the SD card, as everything boots from the image - there is no BIOS screen that you can easily access, for example.

      Make sure your Rasbian (or whatever OS) image is correctly written and use the best quality SD card available. To be honest, as good as RiscOS might be you should probably use Raspbian if you're new to the Pi just to get to grips with the device rather than the OS.

      See our getting started guide for some Raspbian details: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/started-raspberry-pi/

    • Mike
      May 3, 2015 at 3:30 am

      Just fired mine up for the first time as I wanted to play with this card just for fun and had no issues with a HDMI monitor. I used the SDFormatter for a 8 gb memory card in a Windows 8 laptop as suggested and formatted the card, then I copied the extracted files from the NOOBs download, fitted the card into the new 4 USB port Raspberry Pi and it took around 10 minutes to extract all the files, rebooted and worked first time. Connected to the internet and everything seemed to work.

      I haven't managed to get the RCA video output working to a 7 inch portable LCD TV (NTSC) yet but I suspect it might be the config file needs changing.

  12. Scott M
    April 26, 2013 at 11:03 am

    I am wanting to have a goat several projects using Raspberry Pi and the more technical information information that I receive from an article like this I'm sure will not only make me more comfortable in using it but will lead to some of own ideas.Bring on more Pi.

  13. Glenn
    April 26, 2013 at 4:00 am

    Are you on crack? (You apparently know nothing about computer h/w "back in the '80s and '90s".) Unless you were one of the few people using WebTV or something like, *EVERY* home computer used a "dedicated" (CRT) monitor for a display. Now, there were some game consoles that attached to the typical TV (for Pong et al), but computers... same then as now.

    • Christian Cawley
      April 26, 2013 at 7:30 am

      "Are you on crack? "

      Nice start, polite, tactful, etc.

      "(You apparently know nothing about computer h/w “back in the ’80s and ’90s”.)"

      I'm 37. I got my first Vic 20 in 1981, and a Commodore 64 in 1984. I could go on, but you're boring enough without me making matters worse.

      "*EVERY* home computer used a “dedicated” (CRT) monitor for a display. "

      I'm also British. Go research. That didn't happen here, not for computers nor consoles.

      Or, just perhaps, you're the one on crack.

      But seriously, don't jump onto a post with such aggression and rudeness.

      • gary reardon
        June 7, 2013 at 12:52 am

        Hi I am new to the PI! i just got yesturday as a matter of fact. Now My question is can I setup duel monitors with the PI since it has output for rca/hdmi. I have a flat screen that has rca inputs and a flat screen vga that I would like to split the PI between the two.

        And by the way that guys comment was rude. I am a year older than you christian and I remeber my friends having the atart computer and commandor hooked up to reguler t.v.s

        • Christian Cawley
          June 12, 2013 at 8:09 am

          Hi Gary

          As far as I have been able to tell, the Pi will use HDMI or RCA, but not both at the same time.

        • LB
          August 10, 2013 at 6:24 am

          http://plugable.com/ sells usb graphic adapters that might work. Be sure to contact the company first and ask if they will work with the RPI before you order.

      • Mike
        August 5, 2013 at 11:43 am

        I had a ZX80 and later a Commodore 64 both of which required a TV to function. Maybe that guy was talking about office machines. Nevertheless, a rude post.

      • JD
        August 27, 2013 at 7:27 pm

        good answer lol

        It is sad to see those kind of comments everywhere. Internet moved people's standards way too low. I'm not british but I worked with Sinclair computers all through the 80s and beginning of the 90s.

        Thanks for the post. I was trying to figure out how to build an arcade machine with the Raspberry using a simple CRT monitor. Now I know :-)

    • Frederick Blosser
      May 22, 2013 at 6:03 am

      Glenn, that was a very rude comment. *EVERY* home computer did
      NOT all use a "dedicated" (CRT) monitor. The Commodore Vic and
      64 did not as Christian mentions, and the Atari computers did not, and
      many more early computers did not use a "dedicated" CRT. Just
      because you don't know the historical facts doesn't give you the right
      to be rude. Let's have a little civility here.

    • CuriouslyYellow
      August 10, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      All of my early home computers used a tv output, in 35, and agree with Christian!! My first monitor was bought a long time after my first computer....fairly sure my oid spectrum looked good on the TV

    • Metaphore
      September 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      >Are you on crack? (You apparently know nothing about computer h/w
      >“back in the ’80s and ’90s”.)

      Kind as that may be, you forget Apple I and II, TRS 80, Coco, Commodore 64, Sinclair... I could go on... And, before you ask, no, I'm not on crack.

    • Mike
      May 3, 2015 at 3:24 am

      Not true, I had a Sinclair ZX81 (B&W) which used a TV RF modulator and even my 1982 Apple II which had a green composite video monitor as standard but also had a colour card with PAL TV modulator for use with a UK colour TV as VGA screens were prohibitively expensive back then.

  14. Chris Marcoe
    April 26, 2013 at 2:19 am

    When my Pi is not headless, I have it connected with HDMI to my HDTV that I use for a monitor for my desktop. 37". But, mostly, I use it headless. and once IO have all the sensors set up to it for weather, it will be out in the shed, in a container, logging the data and sending it to CSOM.