Planning the box

Unfortunately, it has been a while since I posted on this page. The reason behind that is I decided to focus on finishing up the box, instead of documenting the progress.

The good news is that the box has been finished and even if I expected different use-cases the present was welcomed and being used quite a lot since then. This also means that I will have more time to write on this blog, so I will try to do a bi-weekly schedule for this HowTo guide.

Start with the screen

Wait for a second! Why start with the screen?

As you read you will see that it’s not just about the screen itself: it’s more deciding what will be the use-case for the box. On the other hand, the screen is the biggest component in your whole setup. The other parts either have fixed sizes (RFID reader, RPI, etc.) so there is not much flexibility there. The only decision point that you will have is the size of the case and the kind of speakers you would like to use.

Now if you are using a 12-inch screen it is more likely that you will want to use a bigger speaker too. If you are opting for a smaller screen (like 5-inch) then you will likely use a 3mm driver for the sound to keep the build’s size at a minimum.

The screen also determines how you would like to implement the power delivery for your box. RPI requires 5V, screens usually require 12V+. There are screens that have USB ports to serve 5V to the RPI, that you can utilize to not to have to create the 12V to 5V voltage conversion for yourself

Selecting the screen

For me, the biggest issue on component selection was that I wanted this project to be as compact as possible, so I ended up having a different design than the originally posted one:

Note: always select an IPS display, as the viewing angles of TN screens will require proper positioning of the screen itself for the best viewing experience. This might be something you don’t want to build a solution for.

Selecting the screen size

First, you should think about the use-case for the box itself. Ask yourself a few questions around who you want to give it for? Things I considered (unfortunately not in the beginning):

How well the person you are giving this present to sees?
This will (somewhat) determine the screen size, if they need strong glasses you definitely don’t want to stick to 5-inch displays.
Being a die-hard PC tweaker when looking at the screen resolutions I wanted to do at least 1080p if not better. But this makes almost no sense: if their eyes are bad, you can just go for a smaller resolution screen, as they will not see the difference and you can save a few bucks here and there (e.g. 1280×800 screens are just fine)

Where will it fit into their apartments?
You should not pick a 48-inch display just because they would need it to see things correctly unless they have a whole mansion to put the device in. This way the 10-12 inch models are good compromises, however, they tend to be on the expensive side.

How portable do you want the machine to be?
Will it have a permanent place in the apartment or will it be carried around? If it is carried around you can consider adding a handle.

The screens used for these builds

Black box

The Black Box will be put on the drawer where an ancient TV stands that’s mostly used to play music from music channels when guests arrive. Given that the grandma I am going to give it to has issues seeing I wanted to opt for a 12-inch display and a decent enough audio solution that can fill the room. The machine will not be carried around so it’s fine if it does not have handles.

For this build, I had settled with 10.1 inch 2K Resolution 2560×1600(16:10) Independent LCD Display Monitor Module TFT Screen.

Pros:

  • Looks absolutely beautiful
  • Insane resolution
  • Great resolution
  • On the cheaper side (see next section)

Cons:

  • You will have to build a frame for it
  • The controller board does not provide 5V for RPI

Traveller box

The Traveller Box will be for the grandma, who has a way smaller apartment with limited space, so it will not be placed permanently. Given that she has issues seeing I also wanted to have a 10-inch display. Based on previous experiences I decided that even 1280×800 will be fine.

For this build, I had settled with the SunFounder 10.1 Inch HDMI IPS LCD Monitor Display.

Pros:

  • It has an acrylic frame so I did not need to create the frame from wood for myself.
  • It has a USB port that can deliver power for the Raspberry Pi.
  • Big enough if somebody sits in front of it.
  • IPS panel

Cons:

  • When using the tvservice command to turn on/off the screen the RPI cannot detect the screen correctly after it got turned off (as a workaround the code can show random images on the screen).
  • Pricy

In the next post, I will go over the other components needed for the build. Until that, I wish you a Merry Christmas!