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Raspberry Pi finds its inner PC

Nov 27, 2020 — by Eric Brown — 2344 views

[Updated: Nov. 30] — We take a look at discounted Waveshare kits that extend the Raspberry Pi 400 with an up to 13.3-inch touchscreen and check out some RPi 4 kit discounts, RPi laptops, a Vulkan driver for the Pi, and a new Raspberry Pi 4 Case Fan.

The Raspberry Pi may be the most popular embedded board of all time, but deep in its heart the Pi has always wanted to be a PC. It was intended initially as a low-cost educational computer that plugs into a monitor via HDMI with some GPIO on the side for learning embedded computing. With the Raspberry Pi 4 and similarly quad-core, Cortex-A72 powered, keyboard form-factor Raspberry Pi 400, for the first time the Pi is taking aim at the low-end consumer PC market alongside Chromebooks. Here we pass on a sampling of news about the PC side of the Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi 4 Case Fan with bundled heatsink
(click image to enlarge)

[Update: In the latest sign the Pi has moved into PC territory, Raspberry Pi Trading addressed overheating problems when running the Raspberry Pi 4 at full load by releasing a $5 Raspberry Pi 4 Case Fan. This “stocking-filler,” as CEO Eben Upton calls it in the Raspberry Pi Blog announcement, is designed to work with the official case for the Raspberry Pi 4. The internal fan connects via GPIO power pins and works with a bundled, 18 x 18 x 10mm heatsink to keep things cool with 1.4CFM of air flow blowing over the processor, RAM, and PMIC.]

Pi 400

The Raspberry Pi 400 keyboard computer is already kept cool with the help of a large heatspreader. The device’s PC-ness is augmented with an almost fully configured Raspberry Pi 400 Personal Computer Kit — almost because it does not include a display. It is easy enough to add one via the included micro-HDMI to HDMI cable, and if you prefer a touchscreen, you can go with the Official Raspberry Pi 7-inch touchscreen, among other choices.

For those looking for a preconfigured touchscreen package, Waveshare has launched two Raspberry Pi 400 kits that supply the device along with HDMI-connected, 7-inch, 1024 x 600 ($180) or 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 ($270) capacitive touchscreens. As reported on CNXSoft, the kits include cables, a mouse, a preloaded microSD card, a beginner’s guide, and a back-stand.

Waveshare’s 13.3-inch Raspberry Pi 400 Kit assembled (left) and in parts
(click images to enlarge)

The 13.3-inch model adds some built-in speakers and requires its own, included 12V adapter. The displays also sell on their own for $72 and $160 without the Raspberry Pi 400.

In other Raspberry Pi 400 news, Hackaday reports on problems a developer encountered when trying to build a LiFePO4wered UPS HAT for the RPi 400 due to a previously undisclosed 1A limit on the system’s 5V output. The project plans to repurpose the UPS board for the Raspberry Pi 4 SBC. Hackaday gives Raspberry Pi Trading a proper scolding over the lack of documentation on the new limitation.

For those preferring to build their PC directly from the RPi 4 SBC, Tom’s Hardware reports on a Black Friday deal on LABISTS’ Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Starter Kit. Amazon Prime members can pick up the previously $120 kit for $84.97 on Amazon. The kit bundles the 4GB version of the Raspberry Pi 4 with a 32GB microSD card loaded with Raspberry Pi OS plus a black case, heatsinks, fan, 2x micro-HDMI to HDMI cables, an SD card reader, and a power supply. LABISTS also offers an 8GB version for $149.97 with a 128GB microSD card.

DevTerm Kit

Earlier this week, we looked at Clockwork’s Raspberry Pi CM3+ based DevTerm Kit retro gaming All-in-One. The hackable, open source DevTerm has a keyboard form factor like the RPi 400 and adds a built-in display, thermal printer, and battery holder.

Raspberry Pi laptops


There are now a variety of Raspberry Pi based laptops and clamtops to choose from, including the STEAM education oriented, RPi 4-based CrowPi2 and the pseudo-cyberdeck style, RPi 3B+ based LapPi. If you would prefer to build your own Raspberry Pi cyberdeck with a more military feel, check out this new, RPi 3-based R.A.T.I.S. (Remote Assault and Tactical Intelligence System) cyberdeck created by Paul Hoets.

CrowPi2 (left) and 7-inch LapPi
(click images to enlarge)

The only Raspberry Pi 4 based laptop we know of is the Pi-top [4]. This latest incarnation switched from the original laptop form factor to a mini-PC, but you can plug it into the back of an optional laptop accessory.

NexDock supports the Raspberry Pi 4 on its latest NexDock laptop shell accessory, which supplies the splitters and cables required to connect a Pi. We covered the original back in 2016. Hackers have also figured out how to use the Motorola Lapdock Atrix dock, which was designed to connect Motorola Atrix phones, to instead extend the Pi.

Last year, MagPi, which just celebrated its 100th issue anniversary by recounting the top 100 moments in Pi history, published a roundup of Pi based laptops. Last week, MakeUseOf posted a similar report. For a more DIY approach to piecing together a Pi based laptop, check out this Cyberpunks report.

A Vulkan salute to the Raspberry Pi 4

Finally, this week there was some firmware news to herald the Pi’s entry into PC-dom. Ignalia’s Iago Toral went to the Raspberry Pi Blog to announce that Ignalia’s V3DV Vulkan Mesa driver for Raspberry Pi 4 has been demonstrated by Khronos to show Vulkan 1.0 conformance.

Sascha Willems’ Vulkan radial blur demo using V3DV driver on Raspberry Pi 4
Source: Raspberry Pi Blog
(click image to enlarge)

Last month, Ignalia announced that V3DV had been merged upstream with Mesa. The driver should also work on the RPi 400 and Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 (CM4), although Toral notes that the conformance milestone “isn’t the end of the journey.” Ignalia plans to expand the Vulkan feature set, improve performance, and fix bugs.

In 2021, we may well see an official Raspberry Pi laptop and/or mini-PC. Until then, we are likely to see more third-party spins that cast the Pi into the PC limelight.

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