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Uniroi UR071 7 inch display

Why?

Yesterday Amazon spammed my phone's notification bar with a special offer. It was a little HDMI-input TFT panel with touch functionality. Was about €36, now only €30.
I wasn't tempted because it was yet another in a long list of bare-board displays that expected to be plugged into the Pi's GPIO. I already have one. It's smaller, but I have one.

Just as I was about to dismiss the Amazon app, I noticed there was something more interesting in the bit where "customers also took a butcher's at this barely-related hazarai". It was a stand-alone seven inch display. HDMI input, USB 5V power, and most importantly it was in a case. Originally something like €45, now €30, and Amazon promised to deliver it the following day if I ordered it in the next two hours.
I got up, thinking about it. It would be useful to have something HDMI native because all of my current displays (except the tiny one) are analogue, either driven natively from VGA or via a convertor.
It claimed a resolution of 1024×600. Not particularly large (and too small for managing proper HD) but I recall that the EeePC's display offered the same resolution, and I used that for numerous years.

I was stuck. Cold lemonade in hand, I made an agreement with myself. I'd go back to my room and I'd turn my phone on. If it was an odd minute, I'd leave it. If it was an even minute, I'd swipe the "Buy it now" thingy.

13h32.

 

Delivery

I didn't expect to receive it the next day. Amazon said it was dispatched at 20h41, which was kind of late. I tracked my parcel this morning, and UPS had it in Rennes before I'd even woken up. I guess that was one of the late night flights that goes over the house?

It arrived at half three in the afternoon. The delivery driver had his windows open. I asked him if he had air conditioning. He said yes, but he doesn't use it.
Even in the heat? I asked.
He told me that the heat, the weather, it was natural. Air conditioning was a completely fake environment.

You gotta respect a guy who drives around when it's a little over thirty seven (touching 100F) with his windows open because it's natural!

 

First impressions

My first thought - it's smaller than I was expecting. My phone is 5" and my tablet is 10", so I was expecting something sort of between the two. It was, but closer to phone than tablet.
It might be a perceptual thing, as the bezel around the screen is quite large. The physical dimensions are 20¼×13¼cm, however the display dimensions are 15½×8½cm which looks small in the large white plastic frame.

There's a bit that protrudes out of the back that will contain the driver electronics, and doubles up as a stand.

Oh, I figured that 1024×600 pixels in something of that size should mean the pixels aren't obvious. They should be about six per millimetre; or sixty six per centimetre. That said, being at this price point I was expecting one of those lower-colour panels (64K or ~200K colour) and an LCD that had a restricted range of viewing angles, and if I was lucky, the top of the display might not look the same as the bottom (something the tablet suffers from, badly).

 

Hooking it up

I dug out the Beagle and plugged it into my chunky iomega zip power brick (for a solid 5V capable of running the Beagleboard). It sat there with the power LED lit, and nothing else.
I really didn't feel like rummaging around to see if I could find a serial lead to see if the board even made it as far as looking at the SD card and loading uBoot. That machine...seemed to sulk about petty much everything. I dunno, is it just me or are those Beagle's kind of unreliable?

The backup plan was easy. Dig up my old Pi 1B and hook that up. Only that wouldn't boot either. Huh? I pulled out the SD card and saw it was a 4GB card. Well, that'll be the reason. The card I used was an 8GB µSD in an adaptor (now in the Pi2), and before that a 2GB card. I rummaged around and found the 2GB card, and the Pi started up. The display was a mess, the right width but four screens down the height of the display, which slowly changed size until the panel blanked itself and started over again. Well, it was receiving a signal for a 1280×1024 display, so I'm impressed that it displayed anything at all.

I tweaked the CONFIG.TXT file as follows (using GPU scaling):

hdmi_force_hotplug=1
hdmi_group=2
hdmi_mode=87
hdmi_cvt 1024 600 60 6 0 0 0

The invalid mode '87' means it is specified manually. The CVT specifies a display of 1024×600 clocked at 60Hz, using 15:9 aspect, no margins, progressive scan, normal blanking.

I rebooted the Pi and saw the desktop in a square in the middle of the screen - it was still thinking it was 1280×1024. I changed mode to 1024×600, so there would be a 1:1 relationship between RISC OS pixels and monitor pixels, and this was the result:

Uniroi UR071 display

The display is solid, stable, and actually looks pretty good. It is nowhere near as blue as it looks in the photo, that's because of flash photography (I have the shutters closed to help keep the heat out).
Yes, read that again. It's perfectly visible with a flash photo and the device used to take the photo being about 10cm away.
It's a pretty bright display.

 

Of course, the important thing is the viewing angle. There's nothing more frustating than basically not being able to enjoy something a display is showing because the display is rubbish. The reason I don't watch Netflix on the tablet is not because the processor is slow...

Here's a sharp angle picture of the display. You can see the colours are a lot warmer without flash. And you can see, no problems with viewing even at this angle.

Uniroi UR071 display - sharp angle showing display is still readable

 

Television?

The display is also quite happy to interface with my satellite receiver. It will accept and display a signal at 576p, 720p, and 1080p. Interestingly, it only supported the progressive scan options. 576i, 720i, and 1080i (interlaced) all resulted in a blue no signal screen.

It's been a while since I've watched TV. There's no BBC One. I'm guessing everything has been shuffled, as Sky do from time to time. I did get Judge Judy, so here's a photo of that. No flash, so you can better see the colours. And the lighter patches on her cloak aren't flattened colours due to the panel supporting a restricted set of colours. It looked the same on the LCD using the video convertor, so it's either studio lights or a bad low bitrate broadcast. Well... it is CBS Reality - it's probably a broadcast closer to horror channel than NHK World!

The iconic Judge judy on the Uniroi UR071 display (from CBS Reality, UK satellite TV)

 

Summary

The display is clear, bright, and appears to be full (16 million) colour. It looks small in it's big frame which is a bad point, but that's more than made up for by it being a decent TFT that doesn't require you to look at it from exactly the right angle.

 

Criticism

While one cannot expect many features at this sort of price point, it does seem an unfortunate omission that there is no audio output. This may be because the driver IC outputs audio in I2S and SPDIF, so would need something else to generate normal analogue audio.
Another thing is that there are no buttons for performing any sort of setup of the display. You can't change colour temperature, brightness, etc.
If you think I'm asking a lot, it's worth pointing out that the smaller LCD panel I have offers both audio output and a button to step through some predefined brightness levels (or long-hold to turn the backlight on and off).

The final point concerns the design. While I understand that it's going to be better to have this bit that sticks out of the back of the display rather than some sort of flimsy plastic stand, I do have reservations about the HDMI socket being at the back. This means that it will stick out even further. I'm not sure what would be a bigger problem, that a small LCD panel now needs a good 10cm of depth on a desk, or the possibility that it will get caught or nudged, potentially damaging the HDMI connector.
If you look at HDMI connectors (your Pi, the back of your TV...) they tend to be very fine with a lot of connections close together, that are packed into a chunky tight fitting plug, that is a close fit, in a socket that's just soldered to the board. They seem inherently fragile to me, and having it stick out of the back seems to be asking for trouble.

Uniroi UR071 HDMI socket location

 

A look inside

I have a tiny screwdriver in my hand. Shall we?

Oh hell, this wouldn't be Rick's b.log if we didn't end up looking at some nerd porn. Here you go, the viscera:

Uniroi UR071 viscera

Several things of interest at a glance. The first is that there is provision on the board for a model with an integrated USB touch panel. It's quite a large USB socket on the back. Given it's supposed to be a slave device, I wonder what sort of socket would be fitted? Surely it doesn't need to be anything larger than micro or mini USB?

Next, note the typo, "USB Touh". And note right beside it, it claims 800×480 pixel. Now if you look at the picture of the desktop above, there's no obvious evidence of down-scaling, the display is sharp (much sharper than the image resizing for my blog would indicate).
It appears to be exactly what it says on the all the documentation - 1024×600, so I'm guessing that there may have originally been a 7 inch 800×480 board, and it just got recycled with a better display panel. It's even possible that the 10 inch version has the same board inside it.

The device is powered by two ICs. The little one is an MK25040B which is a 512 byte SPI EEPROM which will provide configuration to the main chip, probably telling it what sort of display is attached.
The big chip is an HDMI to TTL/LVDS convertor, a Lontium LT8619B which can accept up to 4K@30Hz input, and output at up to 1080P@60Hz for FullHD panels, with numerous bit formats and colour mappings; clocked from a 25MHz crystal.

 

 

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Sparky, 8th August 2020, 01:26
Thanks for confirmining it doesn't do interlaced. My sister purchased a BBC to DVI unit from J Kortink for me a while back but my moitor doesn't support interlaced so I can't use it. P / I is not something that seems to be advertised in the specs. Guess next monitor I get will have to be a TV!

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Last read at 15:11 on 2020/09/29.

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