The Raspberry Pi Zero has an HDMI port, so connecting it to your TV should be pretty easy, right?

Well yes… But what if you don’t want to use HDMI?

Standard Raspberry Pis have an HDMI alternative, but at first glance you wouldn’t think this was the case with the Raspberry Pi Zero. Here’s what you need to know about connecting your Raspberry Pi Zero to a TV using a composite HDMI and RCA interface.

How to Connect Raspberry Pi Zero to TV: HDMI

An easier option to connect your Raspberry Pi Zero to your TV is to use HDMI.

The device has a mini HDMI port and comes with an adapter so you can easily connect an HDMI cable. If not, then you should be able to purchase an affordable Mini HDMI to HDMI Adapter on Amazon with no problem.

In most cases this should be sufficient. The Raspberry Pi Zero has the same display quality as the Raspberry Pi 2 and 3, and of course audio is also output through this connection. In short, HDMI should be your default option.

How to Connect Raspberry Pi Zero to TV: RCA

But not every project will let you use HDMI. Despite the smaller connection, adapters and adapters mostly remain bulky. With Raspberry Pi Zero designs designed for compact sizes, this essentially eliminates HDMI as an option.

Luckily, there is an alternative: the Raspberry Pi Zero is equipped with a «TV Out» where you can connect a custom-made cable (or even solder an existing cable).

Raspberry Pi Zero has TV output

You’ll find this to the right of the raspberry logo; it’s labeled «TV» so it shouldn’t be hard to spot. Note that this is a pair of connections; the square is the signal and the round connector is the ground.

This can be used to output video to a composite RCA connector on a Raspberry Pi Zero.

What You Need to Create a Composite Connection

Unless you’re cannibalizing an existing RCA cable, you’ll need to create your own. For this you will need:

  • 2 x jumpers
  • 2 × 1 pin connector
  • 1x RCA screw terminal
  • soldering iron
  • wire cutters

You should be able to put these pieces back together without too much trouble. However, don’t start until you’ve got them all!

Making a DIY Connection

Start by grabbing wire cutters and trimming the jumpers so they can be connected to the screw terminals on the RCA jack.

Next, strip the insulation with tin wire. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, or if you’re using a soldering iron, check out our introduction to soldering.

Soldering Header Leads to Composite Video on Raspberry Pi Zero

Follow this by soldering the lead connectors to the TV out lead. Note that you can solder your cable (or existing RCA composite cable) directly to the Pi. However, the pin header is neater.

Raspberry Pi Zero with DIY pin header for composite video

All that is left to do is to unscrew the terminal connectors, insert the wires and tighten them. Note that the wire you connect to the + jack is the one that carries the TV signal.

Once this is done, use the remaining connectors on the jumpers to connect them to the pin header. You are now ready to connect your Raspberry Pi Zero to your TV’s AV port, usually the yellow RCA connector.

Now when you boot up your Raspberry Pi Zero you will see the output on your display. Please note that since you are using RCA it is not in high resolution so the output will not be as crisp as you are used to. On the other hand, it might just be what you’re looking for…!

Once you've created a composite cable, connect your Pi Zero to the RCA port.

No automatic signal detection? Try it!

If the signal is not detected automatically (and you have already confirmed that the operating system and microSD card are working using an HDMI connection or another Pi), you will need to make some changes to the config.txt file.

Make sure the activity indicator (ACT) is not blinking, then turn off your Raspberry Pi Zero. Take out the SD card and insert it into the computer. Open your file manager and find the section /boot and then find config.txt .

Note. If you’re using Linux, you can do this from the command line using nano or your favorite text editor.

With config.txt open, you will need to make a couple of edits. First find the line reading # sdtv_mode = 2, and change it by removing the # so that it is now looks So:


Then find the line reading hdmi_force_hotplug=1 and this time add # to the beginning:

 # hdmi_force_hotplug=1 

Save config.txt, then close the document. Safely remove the microSD card and replace it in your Raspberry Pi Zero. Booting up again, you should see the Pi Zero output on the display of your choice!

More Raspberry Pi Zero Projects for Fun

Whether you’re using a Raspberry Pi Zero, Zero W, or Zero WH, the TV jack can be used as an alternative to standard HDMI. This is especially useful in tight spaces where there is no room for a mini HDMI to HDMI adapter.

Want to have some fun with your Raspberry Pi Zero? Check out our guide to the best Raspberry Pi Zero designs of the best designs for more ideas!

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