Connect a Retina display to a regular computer


You don’t have to search very long before you find someone raving about the Retina display used in Apple iPads. We’re not going to disagree. These 9.7″ panels pack in a whopping 2048×1536 resolution and the color is fantastic. But we were surprised to hear you can get one of these for a meager $55. That’s how [Andrzej] sourced the part when he set out to connect a Retina display to a regular PC.

It turns out this isn’t all that hard. The display uses the eDisplayPort protocol. This is an extension of DisplayPort which is an alternative to LVDS that is gaining a foothold in the industry. An external DisplayPort adapter can already be found on higher-end laptops, which means this should be a snap to use as an external display if the signals can be routed correctly.

To do this, [Andrzej] figured out how to order the PCB connector for the panel’s ribbon cable. He then etched and populated his own board which serves as an adapter for a DisplayPort cable. It even powers the panel, but an external 20V supply is necessary for the backlight.

[Thanks Adam]


  1. Pun says:

    The fact that the display can be had for that price is amazing. It makes me wonder about the cost of desktop LCDs. :P

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, remember with a desktop LCD you’re also paying for the case (labor for design and assembly on top of materials), packing materials, shipping, AC power supply, ADC for the VGA input, and usually a couple cables. Some of those are more expensive than others, but they all add up.

      With these displays you’re just getting the raw panel, and I’m sure Apple paid for a lot of the development costs and purchases an insane number of these displays.

    • Dax says:

      In semiconductors, you pay by the surface area. The larger the panel, the more demanding it is for the litography optics, so the higher the price because the machines cost more.

      • dubloe7 says:

        Yeah, but I’d think that the decreased pixel pitch,(and therefore increased complexity) would more than make up for the smaller panel size.

        • Not really, the primary limiting factor (last time I checked) wasn’t about packing them in there as much as ‘how many tries does it take to get a good panel’.

          Dead & stuck pixels are still a huge problem, and if you have even a 1% failure rate per sq inch, that’s means you essentially have to throw away about 4 panels for every 30 inch screen that you can sell.

          Whereas you only need to toss every third panel for a 10 inch screen.

          • dubloe7 says:

            Is the failure rate for LCD panels really per square inch and not per pixel?

          • I was about to get irritated about pedantry when I realized that you might not been just quibbling over whether the rate is measured over a square inch or by pixel, which seeing as there are a fixed number of pixels per square inch, results in the same measurement.

            You might have been trying to imply that you could make a 30in screen by just making 400 individual ‘square inch’ modules and just tossing and remaking the ones that didn’t pass QA. Which, would be cool but isn’t how it actually works.

            As far as I know, they are still pretty much stuck with making anything the in the consumer range of products as a single piece, which means a 30 inch screen has roughly 400 sq inches and a 10 inches screen has only about 45 sq in.

            The process to make an LCD is a lot like making any other IC, in that you cook up a bit batch as a single sheet wafer and then cut it down to make individual parts. Which means the failure rate per area is the same for a big screen as it is for a small screen. Which also means that it should be obvious that the larger your screen gets, the harder it is to even get a single working panel off a batch.

            For a 10 inch screen, for every 100 panels you make, you’ve made less than three whole 30 inch panels. A 1% failure rate per square inch means you toss around half the 10 inch screens, but you still haven’t ‘made’ your successful 30 inch panel.

    • BiG PHiL says:

      I’m trying to do something similar with the 1280 WXGA display from my Galaxy note 1 (SGH i717). Happily we know that retina uses a display port video format.
      Unhappily, I don’t know anything about the signal type or connector type of the Note 1’s display or digitizer.
      Any infornmation would be much obliged.
      In the end, I’d like to use my display module as a touchscreen for an electronics project using either my pc, a raspberry pi, or an arduino unit as brains.

  2. Kris Lee says:

    YES, YES!!!!

    And extra +1 for the Transport Tycoon.

  3. NsN says:

    I would love to outfit my eee PC with one of these!

    Of course the graphics card only supports a max 1920×1200 resolution and there is no displayPort port, but I would still love to do it.

  4. Mythgarr says:

    I’m thinking why not use this for a LumenLab-style projector?
    Fantastic idea, cheap and practical. KUDOS!

  5. Rogue says:

    Hm. Makes me rather curious is the Macbook Pro displays are the same.

  6. Hans Peter says:

    shut up and take my money!

  7. Luke says:

    Would this be any good for a oculus rift screen upgrade?

  8. I’ve been using an Atrix Lapdock with a few adapters as a second laptop screen, but this would be really cool. If someone sells a PCB to easily connect it to DisplayPort then I’d totally buy one and a bare panel.

  9. NewCommentor1283 says:

    ill spare the chit chat and say:


  10. Geebles says:

    This is going to be one of those things I’m going to bookmark and actually do. This would be so useful as an external screen if you make a small wooden case for it and a DP plug, it could be powered by 2x USB ports (maybe 1x high power) and like others here, a ready made PCB would be fantastic but i think that thin connector is the main bit that would be hard to find/solder.. with any luck theres a matching on in my parts draw somewhere :P Good tip

    • datagon says:

      The specifications for the panel note a total draw of 5.5W (logic + backlight), which is more than the sum available from two USB ports. That number is at 18.5mA backlight string current and 1.07W logic driving a static white background, and the peak at worst-case may be up to 25mA backlight string current and 1.2W logic driving rapid white-black transitions which is even less attainable on USB. I am planning to use a 12V 1A power brick.

  11. Galane says:

    Does he have the touch working too or is that a layer separate from the LCD panel?

  12. KillerBug says:

    Nice hack and all…but such a tiny screen really needs touch.

  13. geekmaster says:

    I ordered two displays for $67 each from AssetGenie (plus $11 shipping for the pair), shipped today. I found the connectors for $5.70 each at newark (element14):

    And I added a $7.35 Raspberry Pi case to my order while I was at it.

    Although I already have my Rift (since before GDC 2013), I plan to build a Rift clone with these, and perhaps two if it works out. I think all those extra pixels will be worth the added size and weight.

    All I can say is “Thanks [Andrzej] !!!”.

  14. tomas316 says:

    Now if you could source the Nexus 10 panel, that would be great…

  15. mixadj says:

    So you could make a really small, high resolution multi-monitor setup for the price of one cheaper monitor. And since its DIY you can reduce the amount of bezel between screens. If only my graphics card could just drive one of them…..

  16. hope some manufacturer picks this up and deliver a cable + backlight psu.

  17. richms says:

    Tempting to get 4 of these and a quad head card…

  18. geekmaster says:

    Here is the display for $56 dollars (and free shipping) on eBay:

    I ordered one, but it could take a long time to get here on a slow boat from China. I will have my two panels from a US store within days.

    A lot of motherboads have built-in HD4000 video with DisplayPort (including this one I am typing on), so these panels will come in handy (until they end up in Rift-clones). :-)

  19. highres lover says:

    Why do they have to make those great displays in uncommon 9.7” for tablet toys? Make one in 12.1” and a shitload of people will convert their x-series thinkpads to 2048×1536. Imagine a X61 with low voltage CPU, 8GB RAM and a 2048×1536 display, there probably isn’t anything better!

  20. Frank says:

    I don’t have any computers or devices that output DP or eDP. Is there a simple conversion from VGA/DVI/HDMI?

  21. Alan says:

    20V for backlight? I thought all the latest screens used LED backlights, but 20V screams “flourescents” to me.

  22. CalcProgrammer1 says:

    No clue what I would ever use this for, but I really want to do it. That sort of resolution on that size screen is unheard of on PC’s and would be amazing to get working. If they had 20-25″ retina displays I’d buy them in a heartbeat (3 of them) and make a near-seamless Eyefinity monitor out of them, it would probably be cheaper than my current 3x 1080p setup as well.

    • Wookiee says:

      You could grab 6 of em for $400 odd bucks with connectors and hook em up as is in a 2×3 eyefinity setup… bout 30 inch display but at a staggering res, 6144×3027? makes my eyes hurt and my mouth water just thinking about it.

  23. datagon says:

    Well, I’ve found my next project. Will be burning a real board though, and a proper power supply and backlight driver.

    I wonder what is the best way to handle backlight control…

  24. Reblogged this on Perfectly Opaque.

  25. Austyn says:

    Concerning the thoughts of some to make a projector out of this, whats the HDCP compliance feasibility of this panel?

  26. Preamp says:

    Why doesn’t this just fit on the display connector of a RasPi?

  27. qwerty says:

    I would have no other use for a screen so small than a portable document reader, or maybe finally a digital oscilloscope with a decent screen, but that’s interesting nonetheless. This calls for a cheap conversion interface from the same chinese factories producing those uber-cheap single board computer or peripherals pcbs you often spot on the bay.

  28. Pedro says:

    what about the bigger retina displays? Anyone knows about them (datasheets, prices, etc)

  29. Nunya Bidness says:
    • Not James says:

      I saw this on eBay too at one point. It appears lvds has some compatibility with display port. Can anyone confirm this?

    • datagon says:

      You can’t drive this panel with straight LVDS. However, silicon does exist to convert LVDS to (e)DP. Presumably here they are using a standard TMDS/VGA to LVDS converter (the green PCB; the white+blue cable is unmistakeably LVDS output), plus a new LVDS to eDP converter (the mysterious white box in the background) to do the conversion in two stages. A third PCB houses the interface FFC connector.

      Not exactly a clean solution, in my opinion. Note how they never show the full “what’s in the box”…

      • Not James says:

        So it looks as though we are stuck with eDP as the input since I don’t believe hdmi/Dvi are directly compatible. Pretty much would require an external converter to translate as well.

  30. Dwight says:

    so does this mean it could work with my macbook pro’s mini dsiplayport?

  31. Dwight says:

    Now how would i go about printing/etching the pcb?

  32. ivybridge7 says:

    So here we go full Assembly of MBP Retina display 2800×1800 , can some one make tutorial how to connect this to the Windows desktop PC or even any another Windows 7 laptop? What connectors what boards and what extra cables need to do this etc?

  33. I am seriously interested in using this kind of concept with two retina 15 inch displays connected to a PC. To think this would be possible, and if so what I need more than one graphics card to run both displays? I am very serious about this And you could make a decent amount of coin helping me solve this problem. Minimum order would be 100 boards likely to hundred because I would need to for each project.

  34. lom1242 says:

    hello, whether prompt please there is an opportunity to connect retina 15″ through displayPort? If yes, that that needs to be got.

  35. Ken Bouchard says:

    My interest would be simply coverting old junk tablet with good display to a portable rechargable vga monitor. Want to use for testing out in the field

  36. kamalnv says:

    awesome .. Thanks a ton !!

  37. ThanhTran says:

    Anyone knows of a HDMI or VGA to DisplayPort adapter so that this solution would work with regular PC that doesn’t have DisplayPort?

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