Here’s Exactly How to Hack a Bigger Screen onto PocketC.H.I.P.

Tony showing off his hacked PocketC.H.I.P.

Tony showing off his hacked PocketC.H.I.P. with larger screen

Resourceful Pocketeers on the forums have banded together to figure out how to swap out the stock LCD screen on PocketC.H.I.P. for an even bigger, 5″ LCD capable of rendering at 800×480 pixels.

MarekLew was the first to connect the bigger screen to PocketC.H.I.P. and share the news in the forum. Kilrah completed the hack soon after and shared some great photos of the screen swap process. And cmspooner’s post explained how to calibrate the touchscreen using a config file.

This post synthesizes the information from the three threads into one easy-to-deploy configuration file. Plus, having everything in a config file means that even if you reboot PocketC.H.I.P., the settings with remain in effect.

Parts

Tools

  • Paperclip (or jumper wire)
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Putty knife
  • Scissors
  • Wireless USB keyboard & mouse combo

There’s no sense in rushing through this project. LCD panels are fragile and can be easily broken. Take your time. Have fun. Hack at your own risk. And ask any questions you have in the forums or comments below.


1. Disassemble PocketC.H.I.P.

Exploded view of PocketC.H.I.P.

Exploded view of PocketC.H.I.P.

Turn off PocketC.H.I.P. and remove the plastic around the perimeter of the screen. Flip PocketC.H.I.P. over, remove C.H.I.P., as well as the back of the PocketC.H.I.P. case.

Note: Currently this hack only works with the C.H.I.P. software image.


2. Disconnect the Battery

Unplug the battery BEFORE you solder!

Unplug the battery before you hack the screen!

Use needle-nose pliers and disconnect the battery. Make sure to only pull on the plastic JST-connector, not on the wires.

With the wires disconnected, carefully pull the battery away from the adhesive tape connecting it to PocketC.H.I.P.. Don’t try to pull off the battery in one big tug. Be patient and slowly work each side of the battery free from the tape.


3. Disconnect the LCD FPC Cable

Removing the LCD FPC Cable

Removing the LCD FPC Cable

With the battery out of the way, you can now access the LCD flexible printed circuit (FPC) connector. Gently pull the dark plastic portion of the connector toward the cable.

When the connector is loosened, simply pull the cable out of the connector. Avoid sticking the FPC cable to the exposed sticky foam, it can be a pain to separate.


4. Remove the LCD

Removing the LCD

Remember, don’t cut the LCD FPC cable!

It is fairly easy to crack the LCD and cut the FPC cable during removal. Be patient and take your time. Use a putty knife to slowly work your way around the perimeter of the LCD, cutting and gentle prying the adhesive foam between PocketC.H.I.P. and the LCD.

Once the adhesive foam no longer has its hold on the LCD, remove the screen and FPC cable from PocketC.H.I.P. and set aside.


5. Connect the New LCD’s FPC Cable

Connecting the New FPC Cable

Connecting the New FPC Cable

Place the new LCD viewing-side down on a non-marking surface. Carefully bend the LCD FPC cable and slide it through the slot in the middle of PocketC.H.I.P..

Make sure that the FPC connector is in the open position and slide the FPC cable into it. (This is shown in the image above.) When you feel resistance from the connector, push the two parts of the connector together to secure the connection.


6. Adhere Kapton & Foam Tape to PocketC.H.I.P.

Apply Double-sided Tape

Use at least four pieces of foam tape!

Use Kapton tape to cover any exposed solder pads that might contact the new, larger LCD. The tape is visible in the image above in maize. Shorting shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s a good habit to proactively use the tape.

Cut at least four strips of foam tape and adhere them to PocketC.H.I.P.. Use the pink rectangular outline on the silkscreen as a placement guide. The key is to apply enough tape that it supports the display when you press it. If you don’t, the LCD will bend and you’ll see a distorted display.


7. Affix the LCD to PocketC.H.I.P.

Affix the LCD to PocketC.H.I.P.

For best results, use a steady hand!

Take your time with this step. Use the tab slots above PocketC.H.I.P.’s keyboard to help you align the screen. Make sure you don’t cover up the exposed solder pads for the GPIO at the top of PocketC.H.I.P.. The screen will overhang the PocketC.H.I.P. on either side of the PCB.

Once you place the screen down on the foam tape, there’s very little wiggle room to change the orientation. Use a steady hand.


8. Reconnect the Battery & Case

Reconnect the battery

Place the battery back on the foam tape you removed it from in Step 3. Use the pink battery outline on PocketC.H.I.P. to help you orient the battery placement.

Once the battery is secure, reconnect the battery’s JST-connector to PocketC.H.I.P. and attach the back of the case.

Note: Due to the larger screen size, the old bezel will not fit.


9. Flash C.H.I.P. & Configure the Software

PocketC.H.I.P. with a 5" LCD running vim-gtk and htop

PocketC.H.I.P. with a 5″ LCD running vim-gtk and htop

Flash C.H.I.P. using the online flasher. It’s counterintuitive, but don’t use a PocketC.H.I.P. image for this project. Currently only the C.H.I.P. 4.4 GUI and the C.H.I.P. 4.4 GUI No Limit images support this hack.

Once the flashing is done, put C.H.I.P. back into PocketC.H.I.P.. Attach a USB keyboard and mouse dongle to PocketC.H.I.P. and power it on. The display will illuminate and you’ll see a distorted, double image. This is because PocketC.H.I.P. is using the 480×272 resolution config file. Though the screen looks funky, the wireless mouse and keyboard will work as you’d expect.

Connect PocketC.H.I.P. to your home network and then open the Terminal application.

Note: If you’re new to the C.H.I.P. image, consult the docs for help with WiFi setup.

Download the config file and save it as xorg.conf.
wget -O xorg.conf http://bit.ly/2cpG2xV

Copy the file to /etc/X11/xorg.conf.
sudo cp ./xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Restart lightdm to reload X11 and utilize the new configuration file.
sudo systemctl restart lightdm

That’s it. Now your PocketC.H.I.P. will work with the larger screen size and all the settings will last even if you reboot the device.


chipLogo64x64

However you decide to use the larger resolution on your PocketC.H.I.P., be sure to share it with the community. Post in the forum, share screenshots on Twitter, or mention your favorite application in the comments below. Happy hacking!

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12 Comments

Thank you!

I have been fuddling around in configs with no success in order to make the hack permanent.
Just got the email from you and .. wow!
This is a very detailed writeup … thanks for pointing out carefulness with the flex cable.
I had to solder four wires instead of the touch flex because I cut it 🙂

Thanks for boiling those threads down to their essentials. I’d started following the screen hack but got lost after awhile. This makes it an approachable project for me.

Maybe you should mention that you shouldn’t upgrade the os after this hack. Both “sudo apt-get upgrade” and the XFCE updates offered through the desktop environment will kill something that makes the screen go black after the next reboot and no way to get it back on, other than reflash the chip and restart the software mod.

Another important issue is that the keyboard doesn’t fully work. And so far, despite all the instructions in the forum, I haven’t got it to work either. I found instructions and a keymap for “loadkeys”, but that doesn’t seem to work in the “X” environment.

Maybe it’s time that NTC releases a new PocketChip OS image that is more suited for other resolutions.

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