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Raspberry Pi 4-based Pi-top mini-PC debuts at $199

Jul 10, 2019 — by Eric Brown — 9869 views

The Raspberry Pi 4-based Pi-top[4] mini-PC has surpassed its Kickstarter goal, starting at $199. The gizmo has an OLED display, 5-hour battery, fan, and 14 sensor modules plus options including screen/KB and robotics kits.

The Pi-top [4] mini-PC and hacker kit was announced a few weeks back in conjunction with the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B SBC that it’s built around. Now it’s on Kickstarter with early bird packages starting at $199 and shipments due in November.

Pi-top [4] (left) and screen/keyboard option
(click images to enlarge)

Like Pi-top earlier, laptop style Pi-top models, the Pi-top [4] offers an expansion interface board for more easily connecting optional component modules to the Pi’s GPIO. The new model is more like a mini-PC than a laptop, but there’s a $349 early bird package that adds a laptop-like, magnetically hinged screen/keyboard combo with a 11.6-inch, HD touchscreen and a detachable Bluetooth keyboard. The compact Pi-top [4] attaches to the screen’s kickstand, which also includes an HDMI port.

Attaching Pi-top [4] to screen’s kickstand
(click image to enlarge)

At publication time, the campaign had surpassed $134,000, well above the $100K goal. In addition to the basic and laptop kits, there are a variety of volume discount kits and a $349-and-up Advanced Vehicle Kit (AVK) for building motorized robots (see farther below).

Pi-top [4] with Foundation Plate (left) and earlier Pi-top
(click images to enlarge)

All the packages include the 4GB RAM version of the Raspberry Pi 4, as well as a 16GB microSD card loaded with the latest version of Raspbian based Pi-topOS. The updated Pi-topOS Sirius distribution includes a new “social making engine” called “Further” for sharing designs, code and projects. Further, which has been further detailed on the KS page, lets you set up invitation-only workgroups for collaboration.

Basic kit components and attaching a component to Lego platform
(click images to enlarge)

The Raspberry Pi 4 has a new Broadcom BCM2711 SoC with 4x 1.5GHz Cortex-A72 cores that deliver two to four times the performance of the RPi 3B+. The board supplies 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5.0 radios plus a native GbE port, an audio jack, and 2x 4K-ready micro-HDMI ports. (Well, almost 4K-ready, according to this otherwise glowing Tom’s Hardware review of the RPi 4.)

Raspberry Pi 4

On the Pi-top [4], you can acceess the RPi 4’s dual USB 3.0 ports but you only get one of the two USB 2.0 ports. The Pi-top [4] does not appear to expose the Raspberry Pi 4’s USB Type-C port, which replaced the earlier micro-USB, instead using separate power input. That’s probably for the best since the Type-C port has a flaw that makes it incompatible with “e-marked” charging cables. ArsTechnica reorts that has promised a hardware rev that will fix the port in the “next few months.”

The standard Pi-top [4] packages also give you a “Foundation Kit” that comprises a box with 14 magnetically attached component modules including programmable buttons, LEDs, potentiometers, and sound, ultrasonic, and light sensors. You also get 8x LEGO connectors and a pair of GPIO male-to-male headers. You can expand your collection from more than 100 modules available for earlier Pi-top products.

The modules are connected to a “Foundation Plate” that fits snuggly onto the bottom of the mini-PC. Replacing the earlier hacking bay located above the keyboard of the early Pi-top, the Foundation Plate is like a HAT I/O expansion board. It includes 8x digital ports such as PWM and UART, as well as 4x analog ports, and 4x I2C ports.

Pi-top [4] Foundation Kit and Foundation Plate (left) and detail view
(click images to enlarge)

The built-in 128 x 64-pixel OLED screen, which is accompanied by four control buttons, displays information including sensor data and system information. Since you can program the Pi-top [4] from an attached computer or phone “to run projects without a screen attached, the mini screen lets you know your code is deployed and working,” says Pi-top.

Basic (left) and screen/keyboard kit contents

The Pi-top [4] includes a power supply with a 5-hour, 19.24 Watt-hour internal LiPo battery. There’s also an Ethernet cable, a hex key, and an aluminum heatsink and centrifugal fan to cool the hotter RPi 4 board. There appear to be status LEDs for each of the Pi’s 40 GPIO pins on the front of the mini-PC.

Advanced Vehicle Kit

Early bird packages for the Advanced Vehicle Kit include $349 with the Pi-top [4] or $499 when you also add the screen/keyboard option. The AVK is designed primarily for building motorized robots but can also be used for other projects that require movements, such as an automated wildlife feeder or a loading crane.

AVK contents (left) and robot built with AVK
(click images to enlarge)

The AVK kit is built around an Expansion Plate — a more advanced version of the Foundation Plate. It adds I/O for sensors, DC and servo motors, and a 40-pin RPi GPIO header, among other features. The AVK includes a camera, castor ball, as well as DC encoder motors, axe mounts, wheel rims, and much more as shown in the chart below.

AVK (left) and AVK Expansion Plate specs
(click images to enlarge)

Further information

The Pi-top [4] is available on Kickstarter through Aug. 8 starting at $199, discounted from the eventual $279, with shipments due in November. More information may be found on the Pi-top [4] Kickstarter page and the Pi-top website.

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