Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Pi 400 My Thoughts

I mean I'm already set up to invoice Raspberry pi as a freelancer so I don't know why they don't hire me to model all the new products.. :) Yes, I have a Pi400 and in case you have been under a rock it's the latest raspberry pi offering where they have shoehorned an adapted version of the PI4 4GB into a keyboard and made a complete computer package out of the box. 

I've had mine for a few days and had time to have a little play. I'm late to the game so there are lots of reviews and tear downs out there so this is just my little collection of thoughts and findings. 

First of all, I went for the Pi400 package only, not the option with a mouse and SD card as I have those in abundance, similarly so with a micro HDMI adaptors. For setup I've used the full Rasbian image with the optional software. 

Hardware wise it feels very nice in hand. It's pretty solid feeling and is very compact. Definitely suitable to chuck in a bag and carry about and I wonder if we'll see people incorporating it into cyber deck type builds. The keyboard is a nice size and the travel on the keys is pleasant and its pretty nice to type on. I LOVE that there is a power key on F10! It's great to be able to shutdown and then, whenever you want, press the raspberry key and long press F10 to boot! So pleasant after much plugging and unplugging of pi over the years. 

There's been a lot of discussion about the fact that raspberry pi kept the micro HDMI connectors similar to the ones on the Pi4. There are a fair few people who don't approve and wondered why in this build they didn't opt for full size ones. Essentially rpi design crew reckon that micro HDMI is the most future proof and will have the longest support. I am less concerned about the micro HDMI as I've found them pretty robust in use. The one thing I wish they had done is to space them out from each other. If you use the chunky none cable type micro HDMI to full size adaptor it's impossible to use two of these side by side in the micro HDMI sockets. So a little tip is to go for the cable style adaptors. 

In use, it's pretty capable. The slightly updated processor IC has been overclocked to 1.8 GHz but theres a heap of thermal gubbins inside so its totally cool and stable. It zips along quite readily and runs the usual games and programming stuff bundled in the raspbian image. I've also tinkered with inkscape and KiCAD on it and it handles these really well. Similarly web browsing and video streaming all works fine. For general office, light browsing and stuff there is very little it can't do. 

One other thing I was interested in was that the custom board featured a different WiFi antenna with a PCB routed antenna rather than the PI4 antenna. Whilst I've stopped short of measuring gain etc I definitely have noticed that I get a better connection to my WiFi from my lair! 

Final thoughts are, I think it's great. It's brilliant for me in that often I have to try odd things on a RPI for work/writing and I've wanted a more permanent set up for a while. I like that it can be chucked into a bag for trips. I think that if you have someone curious to get into programming or tinkering with project this is an excellent out of the box accessible setup for not much coin. I'm planning to tinker with getting it up and running as a controller for my CNC router and perhaps my Vinyl Cutter as well as a general tinkering machine, 

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