How to connect & use a VGA Monitor with Raspberry PI

Raspberry Pi to VGA Mnitor
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For a while I have been looking into a compact Video Monitor to use with a Raspberry or Banana PI. Whilst in a opportunity shop looking for a couple of 12V, 2A+ plus powersupply, I discovered what appeared to be a brand new Dell E196FPf 19″ LCD Computer Monitor for a mere $10. I couldn’t resist. Although it is a 19″ Monitor, the display isn’t widescreen and measures 410mm x 340mm. This results in a reasonably compact footprint.

dell-e196fpf-19-lcd-computer-monitor-display

As the monitor’s video input is VGA and the Raspberry Pi’s output is HDMI, we need to use a HDMI-to-VGA converter. This a low cost solution to connecting a VGA monitor with PI. The HDMI-to-VGA converter needs no external power supply, power is derived from the HDMI Socket. There are also no settings with the device. The HDMI-to-VGA converter supports VGA output up-to 1080I (60Hz). As VGA doesn’t support audio, the HDMI-to-VGA converter has no audio output also.

Raspberry-Pi-to-VGA-Mnitor

A suitable HDMI-to-VGA converter can be purchased for under $10. I purchased mine locally via eBay for AU$6.45 including postage.

HDMI-to-VGA-Converter

To get the Rapspberry Pi ready fro the HDMI-to-VGA converter, start by removing the SD card loaded with Raspbian Operating System from your Raspberry Pi and plug it into your Laptop. From your O/S’s Desktop, Open the SD card’s folder and locate CONFIG.TXT file.

If you use MS Windows and open this text file with conventional Notepad , you can see that the display is not arranged and very difficult to understand. To fix this issue, download the OpenSource NOTEPAD++ here  & install it. Now open the Config.txt file with Notepad++ to see the contents arranged neatly.

Scroll down to locate following entries. You will need to uncomment these entries by removing the #  mark in front of the command:

  • hdmi_force_hotplug=1
  • hdmi_group=2
  • hdmi_mode=16
  • hdmi_drive=2

The first one to uncomment is hdmi_force_hotplug=1, which forces Raspberry PI to use the HDMI port. If it’s set to 0, then your PI will attempt to detect the type of Display automatically.

The second one to uncomment is hdmi_group=1, and change this value to 2.

There are two Groups for HDMI:

  • Group 1 is defined by CEA – Consumer Electronics Association of America.When PI is connected to High Definition Television over HDMI this Group is used.
  • Group 2 is DMT (Display Monitor Timing) defined by Video Electronics Students Association (VESA) & is used when PI is connected to computer monitors.

As we’re connecting PI to a monitor, set this Group to 2.

Next one to uncomment  is the hdmi_mode=2, and change this value to 16.

Each Group (CEA & DMT) defines its own modes. As we’ve set the Group to 2, this value of 16 represents a resolution of 1024 x 768 at 60Hz. A value of 28  represents 1280 x 800 at 60Hz, and a value of 35 represents 1280 x 1024 at 60Hz. This value has to be set according to your monitor’s resolution and type. Refer here for values of different modes.

Finally uncomment the entry hdmi_drive=2, and leave the value to 2.This is to alter voltage output by HDMI port.For DVI output voltages set this to 1.

Finally save the changes, and remove the SD card from the Laptop. Plug the SD card into PI and power it on to see PI boot up on the VGA monitor.

Following settings may also be of interest :

  • config_hdmi_boost=1

This setting can be varied from 1 to 7 according to the length of HDMI cable you’re using.For long cables set this value to 7.

  • hdmi_safe=1

This setting  forces PI to use a preset collection of HDMI setting which equals to hdmi_force_hotplug=1 , config_hdmi_boost=4 , hdmi_group=1 , hdmi_mode=1 , disable_overscan=0.

After this, and with a total investment of less than $20, I now have a 19″ LCD Monitor that displays my Raspberry Pi’s output at a resolution of 1280 x 1024 pixels.

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