I am trying to find cheap options for displays about 3 x 6 inches to display time, weather, simple clip-art type images, and other marquee messages. What are my best options to work with arduino if my goal is cost-cutting?

  • 2" x 4" or greater in size
  • 40 dpi minimum
  • readable from 15 feet in normal indoor conditions
  • everything else is unimportant to me at this point: RGB, pitch, power draw, etc.
  • Are we talking a LED or LCD display here?
    – Nick Gammon
    Aug 13, 2015 at 22:27
  • @NickGammon All options are on the table. I just want to keep costs down and have something readable across the room that will work with Arduino. LED displays will always be cheaper, no? Aug 14, 2015 at 20:11

3 Answers 3


One possible option would be these 8x8 pixel displays.

8x8 pixel LED

I got that from eBay for $8.50 (for the 4 modules).

They come pre-assembled, this is the back:

8x8 pixel LED back

Notice the data direction. You can connect them together like this:

8x8 pixel LED - 3 modules

That one (3 lots of 4 modules) is 25.4 cm long (10 inches) and 3.2 cm high (about 1.25 inches).

That's 96 pixels (8 x 4 x 3) in 10 inches, which is a lot less than 40 DPI, but really, if you want to read them from 15 feet away, that is probably OK.

Note: These were single-colour only.

If you want 40 DPI x 6 inches that means you must want 240 pixels horizontally and 120 pixels vertically. That would be 240 / 8 modules horizontally (30 modules) and 120 / 8 vertically (15 modules). That's a total of 450 modules. Since they come in lots of four that would be 116 in total (rounded up). 116 x $8.50 = $US 986.

I don't know if that is what you have in mind by "cost cutting" but that is one option.

You would need to assemble them yourself, connect them together, supply power, and have a suitable driver. I have some code that drives those boards, although I certainly have not tested it with 450 of them at once.

As you can see those boards come with mounting holes on the back, and are designed to be physically adjacent to each other. Mounting 450 of them could be quite tedious. The LED modules on the front pull off to give access to the mounting holes, but it would be a long job.

You can get larger modules, as mentioned in another reply, I expect they would be more expensive, but you would of course get more pixels.

Example: 64x32 RGB LED Matrix - 4mm pitch. That one is 64x32 pixels for around $US 80.

You would probably need 4 of those horizontally (256 pixels) and 4 vertically (128 pixels). Thus, a total of 16 which would cost you around $US 1280. However for that at least you get RGB. Note that the Adafruit page mentions you cannot drive that many pixels with a Uno.

  • Wow, these are cheap indeed! I found some for $1 per panel. Thx for thinking outside of the box. Aug 14, 2015 at 20:23
  • Also, great link to code. Aug 14, 2015 at 20:23

How about just a computer monitor? That would be reasonably large, have high resolution, and could display whatever you want it to. That would only be a few hundred dollars (if that). You could drive it from a cheap PC, or from an Arduino using something like the MicroVGA board. That has 800x600 pixels resolution.

That would be cheaper, and less fiddly, than putting together a lot of LED display modules.

Also see http://playground.arduino.cc/Main/MicroVGA

  • I would be surprised if a small LCD monitor + MicroVGA board would be cheaper than a dot-matrix or LED display (your other answer). But your point about it being less fiddly is a good one. Aug 14, 2015 at 20:14

www.aliexpress.com would be your first go for cheap stuff.

You can always chat with the guys and bargain a bit on the price. Do remember that the free shipping option means that it will take nearly a month to arrive

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.