Skip navigation
> RoadTest Reviews

DLP® Pico™ Display Projector EVM-BeagleBone Black - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 9
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 9
Demo Software was of good quality: 4
Product was easy to use: 8
Support materials were available: 9
The price to performance ratio was good: 9
TotalScore: 48 / 60
  • RoadTest: DLP® Pico™ Display Projector EVM-BeagleBone Black
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools
  • Was everything in the box required?: No - Actually yes and no. From the pre-RoadTest postings, it would seem everything was there, but the package itself had no content list so I wouldn't know what was suppose to be included.
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered: I believe TI holds the DLP market share, but they do have other DLP EVM
  • What were the biggest problems encountered?: Poor documentation reference. Once you hunted down the documentation, things went smoother

  • Detailed Review:

    First off, I would like to thank Texas Instruments and Element 14 for the opportunity to evaluate the DLP LightCrafter Display 2000 EVM (“the EVM”).  Second, I would like to apologize for the slight delay in getting this review out, for it is that time of year in the colonies where other issues can take a little higher priority.  Let’s just say I’ve been “deep in the heart of Taxes”.

     

    Summary Conclusion –

     

    As mentioned in the body of my review, the DLP2000 evaluation system (DLP2000EVM) is a fun and interesting example of TI’s DLP development over the years.  The picture projected is clear, sharp, bright and very scalable.  The display controller offers a wide range of features to manipulate the images such rotating or flipping.  Although the DLP2000 EVM’s target resolution is 640x360 (nHD), other member of the DLP family can handle a number of resolutions.  The EVM runs cool, which is an indication of the power efficiency.

     

    Pros –

    • The system connection is very simple, although improved documentation availability would be an improvement.
    • The design is very robust and stable with years of development and expertise.
    • TI produces all the required components to implement a design.
    • The design is easily scalable.
    • Low power operation reduces the need for noisy cooling systems, such as fans.
    • The host processor is a common dev board.
    • Very few external components are needed to use the EVM kit.
    • Through the interface, the display controller configuration registers are easy to access.

     

    Cons –

    • The documentation is very poorly handled for the DLP2000EVM.  The user must track down even the most basic documentation.  At the least, an information card should be included telling the customer what documents they should download and where to find them.  Also what additional equipment is required should be included.
    • It wasn’t clear as to what was included in the kit.
    • Simple thing like the height of the board standoffs or USB cable should be checked before releasing the product.

     

    Aside from improving the documentation, I have 2 other suggestions:

    • One area where TI could expand upon with the DLP2000EVM kit would be to add wireless capability to the host processor.  To highlight the DLP2000 portability and IoT features, the microcontroller could have an option to communicate via Bluetooth to the PC, tablet or phone.
    • I know this is a demo board and not an actual development kit, but please include

     

    Useful Document Links-

    TI DLP® LightCrafter™ Display 2000 EVM User’s Guide (TI Doc DLPU049C – July 2017)

    (http://www.ti.com/lit/ug/dlpu049c/dlpu049c.pdf )

    TI Designs: TIDA-01473, Ultra-Mobile, Low Power nHD Display Reference Design Using TI DLP Technology for Low-Cost Processors (TI Doc TIDUD78 – July 2017)

    (http://www.ti.com/lit/ug/tidud78/tidud78.pdf )

    Getting Started with TI DLP® Display Technology, Application Report (TI Doc DLPA059B – August 2017)

    (http://www.ti.com/lit/wp/dlpa059b/dlpa059b.pdf)

    TI DLP® System Design: Brightness Requirements and Tradeoffs (TI Doc DLPA068A – March 2016)

    (http://www.ti.com/lit/an/dlpa068a/dlpa068a.pdf)

    TI DLP® PICO™ Technology for Aftermarket Head-up Displays (TI Doc DLPA073A – September 2016)

    (http://www.ti.com/lit/an/dlpa073a/dlpa073a.pdf)

    DLP2000 (.2nHD) DMD (TI Doc DLPS078 – July 2017)

    (http://www.ti.com.cn/cn/lit/ds/symlink/dlp2000.pdf)

    DLPC2607 DLP® PICO™ Processor 2607 ASIC (TI Doc DLPS030C – December 2013)

    (http://www.ti.com/lit/ds/symlink/dlpc2607.pdf)

    DLPC2607 Software Programmer’s Guide (TI Doc DLPU013 – December 2013)

    (http://www.ti.com/lit/ug/dlpu013/dlpu013.pdf)

    TI E2E Community; DLP Video & Data Forum

    (https://e2e.ti.com/support/dlp__mems_micro-electro-mechanical_systems/video_and_data_display/f/947)

    Digital Light Processing Wikipedia

    (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Light_Processing)

    BeagleBone Black System Reference Manual (BBONEBLK_SRM Rev C.1 – May 22, 2014)

    (https://cdn.sparkfun.com/datasheets/Dev/Beagle/BBB_SRM_C.pdf)

    TI E2E Community; DLP Video & Data Forum

    (https://e2e.ti.com/support/dlp__mems_micro-electro-mechanical_systems/video_and_data_display/f/947)

    Linux Man Pages

    (https://linux.die.net/man/)

     

     

    Part I – The Unpacking:  8^) with a little 8^(

     

    Welcome to the first part of many of my evaluation of the Texas Instrument DLP2000 evaluation kit:  I have read many different views on the value and/or Importance of the unpacking segment, but I feel it is important because it is often our first glimpse into what to expect in the product and support.

     

    I’m excited to road test the DLP2000 evaluation kit, not just for the flexibility and scalability, but for the advancements in DLP (Digital Light Processing) technology, first invented by TI in the late 1980’s.  The technology initially used in front projectors found its way into home use with the first large screen rear projection TV sets.  But that’s enough history for now.  The eval kit is currently available through a couple of distributors, although the one I received was marked “For evaluation only, Not FCC approved for resale”, so one would expect the product would be easily setup and evaluated.

     

        

    The box arrived undamaged, always a good sign, and well packed.

     

    The only documentation included was a generic legal disclaimer form letter (Evaluation Board/Kit/Module [EVM] Additional Terms) and a DLP business-size card.

       

    Along with the limited documentation mentioned above, the EVM kit I received included:

     

    1 – DLPDLCR2000EVM Board,

    1 – BeagleBone Black (BBB) Linux-based Host Processor Board,

    1 – +5V/3.0A Power Supply module w/ AC cord, and

    1 – USB Type-A to USB Mini-B Adapter Cable

     

    The microcontroller comes already mounted to the DLP board and sealed in an anti-static bag.  Since no documentation was included that outlined the content of the kit was included, I visited TI’s, as well as other distributers, web sites (including Element14’s) to find out if the kit was representative of what other customers would receive.  Each site mentions only the DLPDLCR2000EVM board as included in the EVM although the User’s Guide (TI DLPU049C) does refer to the BBB for operation and the short video at the web sites show the BBB attached to the DLPDLCR2000EVM board. This is confusing.

    The separate boards are shown below:

     

     

    Now for a few of the drawback I have observed –

     

    1) Beating a dead horse, as mentioned earlier the documentation included with the kit is basically nonexistent. To get started with the kit, one must hunt down the relative datasheets, user’s guide, app note(s), etc.  I’m not saying the actual documentation needs to be supplied with the kit, either in paper or electronic copy (i.e. jump drive, CD, etc.), although a jump drive would be nice.  For the $100 list price, at least a piece of paper or card with the URLs for the documents would be helpful.  Information shown on the card should include:

     

    • The contents of the kit should be clearly communicated to the user, as well as what additional resources are needed (i.e. BeagleBone Black, if not supplied)
    • Links to all datasheets, user’s guides, schematics and app notes relating to the kit.
    • Links to BBB and Linus documentation, since the board is an essential part of the evaluation setup and operation.  On my Win7 PC, the BBB does open a Windows Explorer link to some of its documentation after the drivers have loaded.

     

    2) Either the spacers on the bottom of the BBB are too short or the molding on the USB Mini-B connector is too large.  The system uses the USB cable to connect to the user’s PC.  When the supplied USB Mini-B cable is plugged into the BBB board, the DLP assembly won’t set flat on a table.  I had to shave off some of the rubber cable molding to get the unit to set flat.

     

    Part II – Connecting and Powering Up the Kit:

     

    Start by downloading TI document DLPU049c, “TI DLP® LightCrafter™ Display 2000 EVM User’s Guide”.  Since the RoadTest kit already had the DLP and host processor boards interconnected, step 1 of Section 2, Quick-Start Guide, is only necessary as an overview of the components found on the DLP module itself.  Section 2.1, “Use With Host Processor”, is an overview of the BBB host processor used in the EVM kit.  This is a very important section, do not skip over it.

     

    The BBB comes with Debian Jessie installed.  I used Putty (www.putty.org) for my SSH connection and FileZilla client (www.filezilla-project.org) for a GUI-based FTP file transfer.  Additional documentation is referenced in this and the remaining sections.  Power to the BBB is made through the USB port.  Power to the DLP module is supplied by an external 5V/3A power supply module.  Communication between the EVM and the PC is made through the USB port using a virtual Ethernet connection.  My host PC is running under Windows 7 x64.

     

    To communicate with the BBB, the DLP does not need to be powered on, but to assure proper system startup, the DLP should be powered on first.  Next plug the BBB USB cable into the PC.  The system power is controlled by the BBB and after the OS has come up the DLP should turn on and display its splash screen.  True confession time; it has been a very long time since I worked with the BeagleBone, so I had a little bit of a re-learning curve to deal with.  This is where some of the references in the “Useful Document Links” section come in handy.

     

    With the preliminaries out of the way, let us plug this puppy in. Again the BBB and DLP boards are already assembled, so we:

     

    1. Plug in the 5V power supply into the DLP power connection.  Plug the 5V PS into your AC wall socket.  NOTE: You should not see any lights/LED on either board.
    2. Using the supplied USB cable, connect the BBB to the host PC.  The power LEDs on both boards should immediately turn on.  During my initial installation, my laptop popped up a “Driver Software Installation” window, as the BBB’s Linux OS is booting.  The installation successfully installed 3 of the 4 drivers, but that seems to be sufficient to run the demo. 

     

       

    NOTE:  Even before the drivers are finished installing, the DLP should display the power up splash screen.  This is a reminder that the EVM is fully standalone and only will require the host PC to interactively change the system settings.  Section 2.2 of the user’s guide discusses how to use the EVM without connecting to a host computer.

     

    During your initial power up, after the drivers have installed the Device Manager display include the following drivers:

       

    You should also see an AutoPlay popup for the BeagleBone jump drive. The jump drive resides in flash memory on the BBB and holds additional user information for using the BBB.  You can click the open folder option to explore these files.

    Following the instructions in the User’s Guide, clicking on the “START.htm” should bring up the BBB’s internal browser page.  Scroll down about half way to find the links to your system driver installer.  For my Win7 64-bit PC, the install file is BONE_D64.exe.  The drivers are also from the BBB directory under Drivers. 

    Run the driver installer.  If you get a Windows Security pop-up, and feel brave, press “Install this driver software anyway”.

         

     

    There are 4 actual drivers, so the security message may pop up 3 more times.  The install can take a few minutes, so use this time wisely, like making shadow puppets using the DLP projector lamp 8^).

     

    After the drivers have finished installing you can close the pop-up

    And the device manager screen should update and you should be ready to use the DLP EVM.

     

    NOTE:  I tried many things, but could never get the CDC serial driver to install.  However this didn’t stop the demo from working.

     

    Part 3 – Testing the Board:

    Now for some fun stuff, but wait how about some basics first.

     

    Some DLP Basics

    As mentioned earlier, the DLP (Digital Light Processing) technology has been around since the late 80’s when it was first invented by TI.  The heart of a DLP system is the digital micro-mirror device (DMD).  The DMD is a digitally controlled micro-opto-electromechanical system spatial light modulator.  When coupled with a display controller, power management controller and an external optic system you have the makings of a very powerful miniature projector.

     

    The DLP2000 (.2” nHD DMD) optical engine is the defining component of our DLP LightCrafter Display 2000 EVM.  The kit also includes the DLPC2607 display controller, the power manager is the DLPA1000, the host processor is the BBB. 

     

    The optic system uses the DMD to direct the different modulated light sources.

     

    Communicating with the EVM

    You control the EVM by way of the host processor using the BBB Debian OS.  The operator’s PC communicates to the host processor through the virtual Ethernet USB port.  After the BBB OS boots, as indicated by the appearance of the BeagleBone virtual jump drive on the your PC, you can initiate a SSH connection using a network client such as PUTTY.  The IP address for the BBB is operator PC OS specific and can be found on the BBB browser page.

    For my Windows-based PC, the IP address is 192.168.7.2, which is entered into the putty gui.

     

    After the connection is opened, you will see a login prompt.  The default login username is debian and the password is temppwd.

     

    I created a “video” directory to place my test videos in and a bash test script (DLPTest.sh) to run my tests. Using google, I found some test .mp4 files to run on the BBB using mplayer.  The EVM can only run videos with a maximum resolution of 640x360 (nHD format).  Although the display controller claims to run up to 101 fps, I found that any video over 30 fps caused buffer overflows during playback.  Some the video clips I downloaded had greater than the maximum 640x360 resolution.  In those cases I used a free online video converter app (https://convert-video-online.com/)

    Once the files had been converted, I used FileZilla to transfer the .mp4 files to the BBB video directory.

    Referring the EVM User’s Guide (DLPU049C) and the DLPC2607 Software Programmer’s Guide (DLPU013), to initialize the DLP module you must first select the video source (0x00 = parallel I/F) then the appropriate resolution option (0x1b = nHD landscape) using the following commands, respectively:

    Finally, to play a video you must first export the proper DISPLAY variable then run the video player (i.e. mplayer):

     

    1. Type “export DISPLAY=:0” (w/o the quotes)
    2. Run mplayer ./videos/<filename>, where filename is your video filename.

     

    My DLPTest.sh bash script is shown below.  I used the “read temp” command to pause the program.

    NOTE:  If you don’t have mplayer on the BBB, you can install it using the following command:

     

        Sudo apt-get install mplayer

     

    The Results

    Here are some of the images I display:

     

    1. The initial splash screen

     

    The splash screen has great color and resolution detail.

     

    2. The Indian Head TV test screen

    This video was reduced from a higher resolution which may have cause a decrease in line definition.  The color banding was not visible during the test and only appeared in my photos.

     

    3.  Vertical Bars

     

    The shadowing in the upper left hand corner could be minimized with adjusting the screen, but was still noticeable.

     

    4. BBB Desktop Screen

     

    Some the apparent blurriness was due to the intensity of the light source.  I tried to find the adjust command, but was unsuccessful.

        

    It is hard to see in some of the pictures, but I had drawn lines on the screen to check for the linear distortion, but noted very little.  All these photos were taken using a small screen located 9.25” from the DLP module and were very sharp when I was able to focus the module.  As a note, the focusing adjustment bar was very hard to operate and keep in focus. The specified range is from 10 to 60 inches.  I ran similar tests at the maximum 60” distance and was very impressed with the readable and viewing details.  At 60 inches, the picture diagonal was ~50 inches, although one data sheet claims 60.

     

    Using command from the programming guide, I was able to flip and rotate video images on the screen.

     

    The DLP2000 EVM represents the smallest DMD in this family line.  Another document shows some comparisons for other DMD class devices.

    As mention earlier, as I ran more videos, if I tried one with too high of frame rates, I would get a message telling me the system was too slow to run the file.  After a few seconds I would start to get “buffer overrun” messages.

     

    Out of curiosity, after an hour of operation, I measured the temperature of the module and found the highest temperature was ~38 C on the top heatsink.  I did not measure the current draw, but the low temperature is a good indicator of the EVM low power feature.

     

    One other issue I had to deal with was not a DLP problem, but a BBB Debian problem.  When I originally installed mplayer, I hadn’t recorded my steps, so I uninstalled the app using “apt-get remove”.  When I went to re-install the app, the BBB OS had lost its nameserver configuration data and wouldn’t recognize the debian.org site.  The workaround was to connect the actual BBB Ethernet port (i.e. eth0) to my home router and install from there.

     

    What I didn’t try

    I didn’t try reflecting the projected image through additional optics to test for distortion.  I didn’t try setting up audio for the video clips, but it should be possible through a BBB audio cape.  I didn’t try the standalone non-host processor configuration (See Section 2.2, “Use Without Host Processor” in the User’s Guide), since I misplaced all my micro-SD cards.

     

    What if?? (Or What I’d like to see in the future)

    • One area where TI could expand upon with the DLP EVM kit is with the use of wireless connection. The kit seems to be aiming for the small scale IoT market which relies on either BLE or WiFi communication. There doesn’t seem to be any special code on the BBB, so could it be shipped with a BBBlack wireless or a BBBlue board instead?
    • Since the BBB is just another PC, could a demo program be written to exercise the DLP board better?  Maybe develop a GUI that allows the operator to inactively set and clear the product features.  There is a Windows PC-based GUI software pack for the display controller (DLPU015), but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.
    • If I say it enough maybe the manufacturers of these EVM board will supply the source code 8^).

     

    Please let me know if I missed something in the documentation.  Also please pardon my typos.

     

    Gordon Margulieux

    Meridian, ID USA


Comments

Also Enrolling
Enrollment Closes: Nov 26 
Enroll
Enrollment Closes: Nov 26 
Enroll
Enrollment Closes: Dec 3 
Enroll
Enrollment Closes: Nov 19 
Enroll
Enrollment Closes: Nov 27 
Enroll