February 26, 2020
Automation Home Review Devices

Raspberry Pi 4 Review: Desktop Replacement

The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is the latest version (2019) of the low-cost Raspberry Pi computer. The Pi isn’t like your typical device; in its cheapest form it doesn’t have a case, and is simply a credit-card sized electronic board — of the type you might find inside a PC or laptop, but much smaller.

SOFTWARE

The Raspberry Pi supports several OSes and as such usually comes without one. Most of the time, however, it ships with an SD card that includes NOOBS (New Out Of the Box Software) – an OS that includes a variety of Operating Systems from which you can choose which to or you to choose which to run on your Raspberry Pi setup.

List of the best Linux distributions you can run on the Raspberry Pi perfectly:

  1. Raspbian is a Debian-based engineered especially for the Raspberry Pi and it is the perfect general-purpose OS for Raspberry users. Raspbian is the Raspberry foundation’s official supported OS and is capable of accomplishing any task you throw at it.
  2. OSMC (Open Source Media Center) is a free, simple, open-source, and easy-to-use standalone Kodi OS capable of playing virtually any media format.
  3. OpenELEC (Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center) is a small Linux-based JeOS (Just enough Operating System) developed from scratch to turn PCs into a Kodi media center. OpenELEC is a powerful media center that might suit your needs if OSMC doesn’t.
  4. RISC OS is a unique open-source OS designed specifically for ARM processors by the creators of the original ARM. It is neither related to Linux nor Windows and is being maintained by a dedicated community of volunteers.
  5. Windows IoT Core is a Windows OS built especially for the Raspberry Pi as a development platform for programmers and coders. Its aim is for programmers to use it to build prototypes of IoT devices using the Raspberry Pi and Windows 10.
  6. Lakka is a free, lightweight, and open-source distro with which you can turn even the smallest PC into a full-blown game console without the need for a keyboard or mouse.
  7. RaspBSD is a free and open-source image of FreeBSD 11 that has been preconfigured in 2 images for Raspberry Pi computers.
  8. RetroPie is an open-source Debian-based software library with which you can emulate retro games on your Raspberry PiPC, or ODroid C1/C2 and it currently stands as the most popular option for that task.
  9. Ubuntu Core is the version of Ubuntu designed for Internet of Things applications. Ubuntu is the most popular Linux-based Operating System in the world with over 20+ derivatives and given that it has an active and welcoming forum, it will be easy to get up and running with Ubuntu Snappy Core on your Raspberry Pi.
  10. Linutop OS is a secure Raspbian-based Web Kiosk and digital signage player. It is dedicated to professionals with the need to deploy public Internet stalls and digital signage solutions using Raspberries.

PERFORMANCE

Pi 4B and Pi 3B+ comparable side by side:

SpecsRaspberry Pi 4 BRaspberry Pi 3 B+
CPU 1.5 GHz, Quad-Core Broadcom BCM2711
(Cortex A-72)
1.4GHz, Quad-Core Broadcom BCM2837
(Cortex A-53)
RAM Selectable 1-4GB DDR4 1GB DDR2
GPU 500 MHz VideoCore VI 400 MHz VideoCore IV
HDMI ports Dual Micro HDMI ports Single HDMI port
Max Resolution 4K 60 Hz + 1080p
or
2x 4K 30 Hz
2560 x 1600
USB Ports 2x USB 3.0 / 2x USB 2.0 4x USB 2.0
Wired Networking Gigabit Ethernet 330 Mbps Ethernet
Wireless 802.11 ac (2.4 / 5 GHz), Bluetooth 5.0 802.11ac (2.4 / 5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.1
Charging Port USB Type-C Micro USB
Power Requirement 3A, 5V 2.5A, 5V
Dimensions (Size) 3.5 x 2.3 x 0.76 inches (88 x 58 x 19.5mm) 3.2 x 2.2 x 0.76 inches (82 x 56 x 19.5mm)
Weight 45 grams (0.1 pounds) 50 grams (0.11 pounds)

The advantages while updating to Raspberry Pi 4:

  • Faster processor and memory on the Raspberry Pi 4: A newer and better 1.5GHZ Arm Cortex-A72 processor that’s integrated with the BCM2711 SoC allows for higher processing speeds.
  • Better Ethernet support on the Raspberry Pi 4: Onboard Gigabit Ethernet support allows for way faster speeds when networking and data transferring to external storage drives.
  • Better support for video output with higher refresh rates on the Raspberry Pi 4: Not only does dual-display video output through HDMI 2.0 on the Pi 4 possible, but it’s also able to playback 4K@60FPS. This is a significant upgrade over the Raspberry Pi 3 B+, only capable of 1080p with an HDMI 1.3 output.
  • Multi-tasking performance: Multi-tasking on Pi 4 is possible. You could run more than one or two tabs at once. One for media consumption and the other for Google Docs with only minor dips in performances.
  • Boot-Time: 23 seconds, all Pi 4 took to boot from a cold start to a usable desktop. Huge improvements!
  • Dual Display Compatability and Performance: With the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B supporting two micro HDMI slots, dual display setup is simple. Based on community feedback, the 4GB version allows for smooth running and switching of tabs.

HARDWARE

HEATING AND COOLING

Raspberry Pi 4 Thermal Throttling

The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B uses the same heat-spreading technology but due to the much more powerful CPU cores is capable of higher peak power consumption than a Model 3B+. Under a continuously heavy processor workload, the Model 4B is more likely to throttle than a Model 3B+.

With the Raspberry Pi 4 capable of reaching insane temperatures (80°C and even beyond 85°C), the CPU tends to throttle down to avoid damage.

Raspberry Pi 4 Cooling Solutions

Most importantly, it can reduce the temperature of the Raspberry Pi from 80℃ to 40℃!

Use a Raspberry Pi Cooling Fan
Equip it with a Raspberry Pi Case

POWER ON AND OFF

Another Raspberry Pi issue that has been a sore point for a lot of people is the lack of an on/off switch. You should never “yank” the power cord out of your Pi as this can lead to severe data corruption (and in some cases, physically damage your SD card). You can safely shut down your Pi via a software command or, even better, use a power button or switch.

OTHER HARDWARE CONSIDERATIONS

Raspberry Pi keyboard and mouse

Raspberry Pi micro SD Card

Raspberry Pi Micro HDMI

Raspberry Pi Guide

It’s the kind of information you need to understand how to develop your own projects WITH RASPBERRY.

SUMMARY

The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B can indeed be used as a desktop, but a low-cost, budget one. It can handle your simple daily computing tasks such as media consumption, browsing the web and accessing google services.

If someone asks me the cheapest PC available on the market with decent performances, I’ll probably suggest the Raspberry Pi 4 as a good solution. But don’t forget the limits, it’s Linux, it’s Raspbian and you should not expect too much of it

Other than the desktop kit, we also offer more Raspberry Pi 4 kits for you!

  • CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Basic Kit (4GB RAM)
    • Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Model B with 1.5GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU (4GB RAM)
    • CanaKit 3.5A USB-C Power Supply with Noise Filter (UL Listed) specially designed for the Raspberry Pi 4 (5-foot cable)
    • CanaKit USB-C PiSwitch (On/Off Power Switch)
    • Set of 3 Aluminum Heat Sinks for the Raspberry Pi 4
  • CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Basic Starter Kit with Fan (4GB RAM)
    • Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Model B with 1.5GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU (4GB RAM)
    • CanaKit Premium Clear Raspberry Pi 4 Case, CanaKit Fan, Set of Heat Sinks
    • Micro HDMI to HDMI Cable – 6 foot (Supports up to 4K 60p)
    • CanaKit 3.5A USB-C Raspberry Pi 4 Power Supply with Noise Filter – Specially designed for the Raspberry Pi 4 (UL Listed)
    • CanaKit USB-C PiSwitch (On/Off Power Switch for Raspberry Pi 4)
  • CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Starter Kit – 4GB RAM
    • Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Model B with 1.5GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU (4GB RAM)
    • 32GB Samsung EVO+ Micro SD Card (Class 10) Pre-loaded with NOOBS, USB MicroSD Card Reader
    • CanaKit Premium High-Gloss Raspberry Pi 4 Case with Integrated Fan Mount, CanaKit Low Noise Bearing System Fan
    • CanaKit 3.5A USB-C Raspberry Pi 4 Power Supply with Noise Filter, Set of Heat Sinks, Micro HDMI to HDMI Cable – 6 foot (Supports up to 4K 60p)
    • CanaKit USB-C PiSwitch (On/Off Power Switch for Raspberry Pi 4)
  • CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Starter MAX Kit – 64GB Edition
    • Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Model B with 1.5GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU (4GB RAM)
    • 64GB Samsung EVO+ Micro SD Card (Class 10) Pre-loaded with NOOBS, USB MicroSD Card Reader
    • CanaKit Premium High-Gloss Raspberry Pi 4 Case with Integrated Fan Mount, CanaKit Low Noise Bearing System Fan
    • CanaKit 3.5A USB-C Raspberry Pi 4 Power Supply with Noise Filter, Set of Heat Sinks, Set of 2 Micro HDMI to HDMI Cables – 6 foot (Supports up to 4K 60p)
    • CanaKit USB-C PiSwitch (On/Off Power Switch for Raspberry Pi 4)

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