By now, everyone knows about the Official Raspberry Pi 7″ touchscreen. Not everyone, however, knows about the various case options that are available. So, I thought (seeing as I bought a new one the other day) that I would take you through the options that are available, and one that is not yet available.
This was the first case to be released and fits in with the normal Pimoroni ‘Pibow’ aesthetic. It is made up of 3 layers of plastic and a few other plastic pieces. It goes together quite easily, although I managed to snap one of the thinner bits of plastic. Whether this was a design flaw or just my clumsy fingers… I just don’t know. In any case, the touchscreen is sandwiched between the plastic layers and then plastic screws are used to attach the legs to the back and hold everything together. There is no protection for the Pi which sticks out the back, as you can see. The viewing angle is good, though non-adjustable. You can get two viewing angles though, depending which way you tilt it (you just have to rotate the screen by changing config.txt settings). It costs £10 plus shipping. I have one of these cases and, despite the fragility of that bit along the top that you can see in the picture, it’s nicely made enough. Shopping links: Pimoroni; The Pi Hut.
OneNineDesign / RS Components
Next to be released (quite recently in fact) is the case from RS. This is sturdier than the Pimoroni case and slightly more stylish. It even features the Raspberry Pi logo embossed on the back plate. For this case, you put together the Pi and screen assembly and then drop it into the case, then you use the included 4 screws to hold the screen fast against the case. The back is fully enclosed, providing ample protection for the Raspberry Pi and there is a friction-held plate (the one with the logo on) that presses into the back to hide the Pi away. The plate is vital because removing it gives you access to the GPIO pins and allows you to use HATs (just). What it doesn’t do, however, is give you access to the SD card. That involves removing the screws and taking the whole thing apart. This case is much more suitable if you don’t want to remove the SD card regularly. The Pimoroni case is more suitable if you want to change the SD card a lot. It all depends on what you want to use it for. The viewing angle for this screen isn’t all that great: it’s a bit too upright for me, but it does lay flat on the desk if you rest it on it’s back plate. The one key disadvantage of this case is that it doesn’t allow you to power the screen from the USB port on the driver board. This is a pretty bad flaw as it means you need two power supplies or a splitter cable. Silly, really. It costs £15 plus shipping and is available from RS and The Pi Hut.
The SmartiPi Touch by Tom Murray is the newest kid on the block. So new, in fact, that it’s not due to be available until June 2016 at the latest. It started life as a Kickstarter and is now available for pre-order from Tom’s website. It costs £18.30 plus shipping from the States. It is made out of black plastic and comes with the option of LEGO-compatible holes on the front. It has LEGO holes on the back for use with Tom’s LEGO camera case. It has a removable back plate to protect the Pi and allows the use of HATs (as shown in the pic). Viewing angle is fully adjustable thanks to a rather nifty stand with screws that tighten to hold the screen at whatever angle you choose. It appears to be the most versatile of all the cases in that respect. I obviously don’t have one of these cases but I’m pretty confident that the quality will be high, based on having one of the Smarticase SmartiPi cases for the Raspberry Pi. That case is beautifully injection-moulded and is very strong; very good protection for the Pi.
As with many things, “it depends”. It depends very much what you want to use the screen for. If you want something cheap with a good viewing angle and maximum hackability, go for the Pimoroni case. If you want something more stylish with more protection for the Pi, the RS case offers a better (though more expensive) option. The SmartiPi Touch appears to be the best case in terms of versatility, but of course it’s not yet available and there’s a shipping premium to be paid if you’re in the UK. I have both the Pimoroni and RS cases. The jury’s still out on a final opinion, but I am leaning more towards the RS case for the additional protection and strength it offers.