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InfoQ Homepage News Raspberry Pi 400 Is an ARM Linux Desktop PC

Raspberry Pi 400 Is an ARM Linux Desktop PC

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The Raspberry Pi Foundation has recently released the Raspberry Pi 400 computer. It is the latest Raspberry Pi in a compact keyboard and retails for $70. By connecting this to a TV via HDMI, users have a fully functional ARM-based Linux Desktop PC.

Since the inception of the Raspberry Pi, enthusiasts have been trying to use it as a mini desktop computer. Even the cheapest $10 Raspberry Pi Zero comes with all the hardware components necessary for a desktop computer: an ARM CPU, plenty of RAM for Linux desktop systems, a SD card slot for file system storage, USB ports for accessories, HDMI ports for displays, networking port (or integrated WiFi and Bluetooth on the broad), as well as Linux operating systems that work with these hardware elements.

There are at least two Linux distributions for the Raspberry Pi. One is the Debian-based Raspberry Pi OS, and the other Ubuntu Linux for Raspberry Pi. Both of them provide advanced windows managers to deliver a full GUI desktop PC experience. You can download ready-made images for those Linux distributions, and burn them onto SD cards, which can then boot the Raspberry Pi device.

However, it can be challenging to find and purchase the accessories to create a Raspberry Pi PC. Electronics vendors have long sold Raspberry Pi kits that include cases, heat sinks and fans, cables, connectors, power supplies, SD cards preloaded with Raspberry Pi OS, and even keyboards and mice. These kits could cost over $100, and require assembly.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are multiple crowd-funded Kickstarter / Indiegogo projects that aim to create integrated "shells" that turn the Raspberry Pi broad into a laptop or handheld computer. Examples include the RasPad, Cutie Pi, CrowPi2, and Noodle Pi. Now, with the Raspberry Pi 400, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has also joined the party and created a desktop PC with its own twist.

The Raspberry Pi 400 computer has a form factor of a keyboard with a specially designed Raspberry Pi board embedded in it. The board is very similar to the Raspberry Pi 4B with a quad-core 1.8GHz ARM CPU, 4GB of RAM, and wireless networking with WiFi and Bluetooth. The I/O ports, such as USB, micro HDMI, SD card slot, GPIO pins, and Ethernet, are exposed along the edge of the keyboard.

At this time, there are six country variations for the compact keyboard layout. There is also a kit ($100) that comes with a power supply, a USB mouse, micro HDMI cable, and a 16GB SD card preloaded with the Raspberry Pi OS. With the kit, the user can turn any TV into a desktop computer.

In a blog post, the team compared the Raspberry Pi 400 computer with the Commodore 64 computer from 1985, which is one of the most popular home computers at the time. According to the team, the Raspberry Pi 400 costs only 1/6 of the Commodore 64, but is a million times more efficient in computing. Computer hardware has come a long way!

The Raspberry Pi 400 is a fully-functional Linux desktop computer and a Pi device. It is much cheaper than laptops or Chromebooks on the market, and yet could be more suitable for kids and students with a large ecosystem of STEM education materials and programs. It is a great device for browsing the Internet, learning Python and JavaScript, and learning sensors, IoT, and robotics.

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