Modern microcontrollers often have specs comparable with or exceeding early gaming consoles. However, where they tend to fall short is in the video department, due to their lack of dedicated graphics hardware. With some nifty coding, though, great things can be achieved — as demonstrated by [TEC_IST]’s project that gets the RP2040 outputting 1080p video over HDMI.
The project builds on earlier work that saw the RP2040 outputting digital video over DVI. [TEC_IST] realized that earlier methods already used up 30% of the chip’s processing power just to reach 320×240 output. To get to 1080p resolution would require a different tack. The idea involved using the 32-bit architecture of the RP2040 to output a greater data rate to suit the higher resolution. The RP2040 can do a 32-bit move instruction in a single clock cycle, which, with 30 GPIO pins, would be capable of a data rate of 3.99 Gbits/second at the normal 133 MHz clock speed. That’s more than enough for 1080p at 60 Hz with a 24-bit color depth.
Due to the limitations of the chip, though, some extra hardware would be required. [TEC_IST] has drawn up a design that uses external RAM as a framebuffer, while using shift registers and other supporting logic to handle dumping out signals over HDMI. This would just leave the RP2040 to handle drawing new content, without having to redraw existing content every frame.
[TEC_IST] has shared the design for a potential 1080p HDMI output board for the RP2040 on GitHub and is inviting comment from the broader community. They’re yet to be built and tested, so it’s all theoretical at this stage. Obviously, a lot of heavy lifting is being done off-board the microcontroller here, but it’s still fun to think of such a humble chip doing such heavy-duty video output. Continue reading “Could 1080p Video Output From The RP2040 Be Possible?”