pi-top 4 - Unboxing and First Impressions

November 29, 2019 | 18:00
pi-top 4 - Unboxing and First Impressions
pi-top 4 - Unboxing and First Impressions
The pi-top [4] is a robust educational computer targeting makers, and especially young makers better known as children. It is a follow-up to the pi-top [3] that transforms a Raspberry Pi 3 into a laptop computer. The pi-top 4, on the other hand, is a kind of desktop computer with a 4 GB-RAM Raspberry Pi 4 inside.

The pi-top 4 doesn’t look like a computer

The device looks more like an intercom unit or a radio alarm clock. Maybe its design was inspired by smart home assistants?

It works as a stand-alone computer with a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse, but it can also connect as a slave to another computer. The pi-top-4 takes its power from a USB-C power adapter, but it can also run from its internal battery. With a wireless keyboard and mouse, the only remaining connection is the cable to the monitor.

A small LCD surrounded by four colourfull buttons shows boot and battery charging status. I haven’t looked into it, but I suppose together they allow to control an application without connecting a display or keyboard.

Noisy fan

Since the Raspberry Pi 4 runs rather hot, the pi-top 4 has a built-in ventilator for cooling. This is a good thing, of course, but at the same time it makes it pretty noisy. Switching off the device after a day of coding really is a pleasure.

 
 

The pi-top’s Foundation Kit

The pi-top 4 comes with a metal ‘Bento’ (a Japanese lunch) box, the so-called Foundation Kit, which contains sensors, buttons, potentiometers and LEDs. There is also a base plate that clips to the bottom of the pi-top [4] and a bunch of cables to hook up the peripherals to the base plate.

The base plate is compatible with Mecano and has four practical mounting holes. The sensor and LED modules are magnetic. Small plastic adapters let you use the modules in Lego constructions.

 
pi-top 4 foundation kit contents
The pi-top 4 together with the contents of the Foundation Kit.

Graphical User Interface

The pi-top 4 boots directly into a graphical user interface (GUI) giving quick access to tutorials, programming examples, and tools. The tutorials and examples are online, so an internet connection is required. Detailed programming examples clearly show how to set up the hardware.

Source code is provided in Python but other programming languages are supported as well. According to the pi-top website Arduino and BBC micro:bit code can be used too.

Conclusion

We have become used to the high build quality standard of pi-top products and the ‘four’ is no exception. It feels robust and heavy and will survive falling from a table or crashing into a wall when mounted on a robot or RC car. The pi-top 4 is an excellent tool for kids to get started with computing. A silent fan would make it even better.
 
The pi-top [4] is available in the Elektor Store.
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