This adorable 1 inch HDMI monitor does not need a power supply

Enlarge / A 0.96 inch PC monitor.

When you think of a display that connects to its source via HDMI, you probably think of your living room TV, your desktop monitor, or perhaps even a smaller display like a portable monitor. You’re probably not thinking of an OLED PC monitor that measures 0.96 inches diagonally.

While recognizing the limited uses of a small HDMI PC monitor, manufacturer mitxela had the urge to run a 128×68 dot-matrix OLED display as a PC monitor that plugs directly into their system. The manufacturer described the creation as “the smallest and worst HDMI display ever”.

A small OLED screen is not special in itself. Manufacturers use them for all sorts of projects, like DIY smartwatches, message boards, or weather displays, for example. What makes mitxela’s project unique is that it turns the OLED panel into a standard PC monitor that can be plugged directly into the PC’s HDMI port, without an Arduino or microcontroller.

Mitxela showed the monitor connected to a Linux system and running i3, an open-source tiling window manager. The maker used the display to open a second terminal in i3, resize windows and split one.

i3 display.

To create the mini-monitor, mitxela opened an HDMI cable to access the four necessary wires and connected them to the monitor by soldering them to a header connector, the manufacturer said.

Mitxela opened the cable to access the necessary wires.
Enlarge / Mitxela opened the cable to access the necessary wires.

The trick was to take advantage of the HDMI cable’s I2C EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory). Mitxela said this allows the monitor to operate on DDC (Display Data Channel) protocols which dictate how a PC reads basic information from the monitor, such as resolution.

Perhaps the most convenient part of this project is that the monitor doesn’t need to be plugged into an outlet.

“The 5V line on an HDMI port can apparently supply up to 50mA, so we don’t even need a power supply,” Mitxela said.

The manufacturer noted that the monitor’s frame rate was “not great”. There is also a lot of risk for damaged parts, especially when connecting to a laptop, so the project will be banned for many. But if you want to learn more about the project, the script files are available via GitHub.

You can check out the DIY monitor in action below:

The smallest and worst HDMI display ever.

Alan A. Seibert