Game Boy Zero Screen Options

The next guide (which should be up next week some time) will have us mounting the screen and a few other things in the case.  Besides the (at this point unicorn-like) Pi Zero, the part people are having the hardest time finding is the screen.  There is some great discussion going on in the forums about this, but I wanted to gather some of that information here since loads of people are asking about it.

Why not GPIO?

In the search for an alternative to the Adafruit composite screen, you’re bound to come across at least one GPIO-based screen like the Adafruit PiTFT (if it mentions having a touch screen, it’s likely a GPIO screen).  The GPIO screens will work, sure, but there are a few good reasons to hold out for a composite screen:

  • It just works.  No software to tweak, kernel modules, nothing like that.  Just connect the two composite wires, and you’re good to go!  The GPIO screens have a lengthy setup process.
  • Silky-smooth 60FPS refresh rate.  The GPIO-based ones I have tried fall far short of this so things appear to stutter a bit.
  • Easy switching between composite and HDMI: just turn on the GBZ with an HDMI screen connected, and it works!  After doing the software setup for the GPIO screen, your resolution will be locked at whatever your TFT’s screen resolution is, and there’s a good chance your TV won’t play nice with it.
  • Slightly less important but still nice: the aspect ratio of the composite screens matches the area we cleared out for the screen almost exactly, while the GPIO ones do not:

Screen Comparison

Does it *have* to be the Adafruit one?

No, in fact there are a lot of options out there.  But there are a few things to keep in mind:

5V vs 12V:  Most of these screens are intended for use with a 12V power source (including the Adafruit one).  Most of them can be modified to run off 5V, some more simply than others (the Adafruit one is especially easy).  Some actually tolerate 5V right out of the box even though they are made for 12V.  There are also cheap 5V -> 12V converters you can get for a few bucks on amazon.

Controller board:  Make sure you don’t get just the screen (lots of ebay listings are just the screen, which is useless to us without the controller board).  Also make sure you have at least some idea of the size of the controller board.  The Adafruit board is almost the same size of the screen itself so it fits nicely behind it.  Some are much smaller, and some are too wide and require modifications to make it even fit in the case.

Source:  You can find loose screens/controller boards like the Adafruit screen, but you can also buy a cheap backup camera monitor like this one and get a working 3.5″ composite screen that way.  But watch out!  As some forum users and I have found, even under the same product listing like the Amazon one linked to above, depending on which seller you get it from, you may get drastically different results.

Both these screens were purchased from the Amazon link above.  They look identical from the front:

Backup Cam Comparison Front

From the back you can see they aren’t quite the same:
Backup Cam Comparison Back

 

Inside, you can see they are totally different!  The one on the left is too wide to fit in the Game Boy without cutting the edges a bit.  Worse, though, it doesn’t work with some screen modes (some resolutions seem to just blink for no reason including some boot screens, as well as the Doom main menu), and has horrible image ghosting after staying on a screen for more than a few seconds (I tried it with both 5V and 12V).  The one on the right though, works great!  For reference I got the left one from a seller called EPATHDEALS, and the one on the right came from a seller called Niceshopping.Backup Cam Comparison Internal

Below is a list of known working/not working screens from the forums (mainly this thread).  Feel free to shoot me a note or leave a comment below if you have one I can add!

I’ll be setting up a wiki this weekend where people can easily list alternate parts (beyond just screens) they have verified as working or not working, places to buy parts, miscellaneous tips and so forth in one spot.  That way all this great info isn’t scattered all over in the forums.

UPDATE: The wiki is up!  It is located here: http://sudomod.com/wiki

wermy Written by:

40 Comments

  1. D
    April 29, 2016
    Reply

    You’re so good to us

  2. kean.tran.86
    April 29, 2016
    Reply

    Nice and informative!

  3. Rob
    April 29, 2016
    Reply

    I was wondering which to buy, gonna try to get one from Niceshopping and hope I get the same one

  4. Philipp
    April 29, 2016
    Reply

    I will try the one from Amazon.de
    Many thanks wermy. You are the best.

  5. David k
    April 29, 2016
    Reply

    Thank you so much !!!

  6. Fleder
    April 29, 2016
    Reply

    Nice of you to post the results of our lenghty discussions here for all to see 🙂

  7. chiz
    April 29, 2016
    Reply

    Once again Wermy delivers! Excellent summary 🙂

  8. serpal
    April 29, 2016
    Reply

    Thanks Wermy!! I can’t create a user for writing in the forum. The idea for the wiki it’s very good, because there are a lot of parts that don`t work fine.

    I want to ask you, if it would be possible to make a portable console smaller than a game boy, because I have other console, and I would like do it with it.

  9. superjoepez
    April 29, 2016
    Reply

    As someone lurking through those forum posts trying to get a screen, this is amazing. Thank you so much Wermy.

  10. Tim
    April 29, 2016
    Reply

    Did the one from niceshopping need modification to work on 5v?
    If so can someone post pictures of before and after please?
    Thanks

  11. KyleMacBean
    April 29, 2016
    Reply

    Thanks for the post! Very helpful.

  12. You need to be a part of a contest for one of the finest sites on the internet.

    I will highly recommend this site!

  13. Josh
    April 29, 2016
    Reply

    What’s the typical amp draw for these screens? I bought a different one that I got to work, and it draws 0.5A. Just wondering if these are any lower.

    • SavageMonkey
      April 29, 2016
      Reply

      That link is no good bud

  14. SavageMonkey
    April 29, 2016
    Reply

    As someone who is looking a screen now. Am I right in thinking that we are looking out for two screwholes on the back and buttons on the right as you look at the back of the unit?

    • _N0x
      May 9, 2016
      Reply

      Hi adam.
      It seams that amazon has removed the link to your guide,
      Could you post the link here?
      Would be very helpful 🙂
      Thanks in advance

  15. Mike Spadafora
    April 30, 2016
    Reply

    I should be getting my screen in a few days. It came with the controller board and a female dc power & female composite RCA breakout cable. Controller board was seemingly smaller than the screen. For $30 i figured it would be worth it to check it out. The bezel is the same size as the Adafruit display, so I will post some pictures of it and the links to it after I test it out!

  16. ToadSprockett
    April 30, 2016
    Reply

    It took me three tries to get the one on the right, I’ll need to go lookup how to convert it to 5V, but the small board gives me extra mounting room.

    Thanks Wermy…

    You Rule 🙂

  17. dirtybeagles
    April 30, 2016
    Reply

    Will you run for president? This is gold dude, thanks again for going through this because I know it is not your main job.

    • D
      May 2, 2016
      Reply

      Wermy 2020!

  18. Tim
    May 3, 2016
    Reply

    This model supplied by Touchshop via Amazon appears to be the working model when opened.

  19. Vic
    May 10, 2016
    Reply

    So I went and got the screen without the contrast and brightness controls :/ What are the chances you could take a picture of the front and back of the PCB with the 3 buttons? I bet I can wire something up , but I need to see if that’s even an option.

    • David
      May 26, 2016
      Reply

      Hi have you tried it on? Connected to the Raspberry pi? Mine in flickering. How did you wire it?

  20. Morgan Ensminger
    May 17, 2016
    Reply

    Got this screen for my project
    http://www.dx.com/p/et-350-3-5-tft-lcd-digital-monitor-for-vehicles-reverse-camera-ntsc-pal-12v-dc-39044
    The controller board is similar in size to yours on the right, but it has solder points to run straight off the Pi’s 3.3v GPIO pin and ground straight on the Pi. I’m using a Pi 3 B+ so i soldered everything to the bottom of the board so it will hopefully lay flatter. The LCD controller is clearly labeled and very easy to solder to. It also has the same 3 button setting controls like the right one, so you don’t have to have on in the GB itself. I recommend it.

  21. June 14, 2016
    Reply

    Thank you for giving the information. It’ll help me lot.

  22. Az
    June 18, 2016
    Reply

    Hi I’ve got the screen on the left (blue pcb) just checking that we need to remove the regulator (the left one) and find the 5v pin which I believe it’s pin 3 and wire it to the 12v input and same with the ground pin whitch is pin 4.
    Cheers

  23. Noj
    June 28, 2016
    Reply

    Question guys , could I get a step down converter that would make the 12v screen like the 3.5 eBay back up camera ones in the above comments and make it run on 5v ?

  24. Oh my goodness! an amazing post man. Thank you Nevertheless I
    ‘m experiencing problem with ur rss . Do’t know why Unable to subscribe to it.
    Is there anyone getting indistinguishable rss issue?

    Anyone who understands kindly respond. Thnkx

  25. Ruben
    November 21, 2016
    Reply

    I have that 3.5″ Epath tft and I have Board Version 7, the damn thing keeps blinking on and off every 5 seconds and I made the adjustment just like the wiki said! I have 2 other boards with the same setup too and they work fine, I am not sure how to resolve the blinking issue with this one! Any help is appreciated!

  26. HorseHorace
    December 4, 2016
    Reply

    Link to the forum discussion in the post is broken.

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