My Raspberry Pi 400 Overview

Raspberry Pi 400 was recently launched and I couldn’t overcome my enthusiasm and decided to jump right in and got myself one! It has a more powerful processor (BCM2711CO) clocking in at 1.8GHz and purpose built keyboard enclosing the Raspberry Pi board and some nifty built-in heatsink. So after getting, I gave it a spin!

Raspberry Pi 400 computer keyboard
The Raspberry Pi 400 keyboard computer

I think it was an almost simultaneous marketing launch because I could order it quickly. I have two choices for buying my electronic hobby – Cytron and Autobotic. The former had ready stock while the letter required a waiting time for pre-order. Though I have some discount money with Autobotic, I decided to get it from Cytron because it has ready stock and I received it in two days after making my order.

The Raspberry Pi 400 retails at $70 (RM329) without the kit, and at $100 (RM465) for the kit version. The kit version came with a power adapter, micro HDMI cable, a Raspberry wired mouse, a 16GB microSD card & its adapter and Beginner Guide book. I opted without the kit as I already have all the required items from my other Raspberry Pi 4. No need to spend unnecessary hard earned money!

Having a go at it!

Inserting my microSD card that I made for my other RPi4, I could boot up into Raspbian OS without issue, and that was to be expected. That’s great! So whatever I created for my RPi4, I could also use it for my RPi400! Next was to try out all my OS and installations created from NOOBS, PINN, BerryBoot and Raspup. Call me otaku, but I like to try out the various options and variations and see if it worked and whether it was that useful.

Booting each OS, problems began to crop up. I could boot the official Raspberry Pi OS but the LibreELEC, Lakka and various OS would boot up! Some OS just showed a blank screen, while Lakka still showed the bootloader going round in an endless loop. The messages from the Lakka boot screen showed that software needed to be updated. I’m not sure if that meant the bootloader firmware or the OS itself. When I checked the bootloader version, it was running the latest, same as my RPi4. Just to be sure, I updated it. Nope, the OS that didn’t boot, still didn’t boot.

A quick search online, found a forum about LibreELEC that it was not yet compatible with the RPi400. Looks like there may be some differences between the RPi4 and RPi400. Could be the board design or the different processor causing incompatibility. Oh, well. Whenever you are an early adopter, some things just haven’t caught up with the latest design. Like when I first bought my RPi4, many OS didn’t support it either. Took about six months to a year for the various OS to resolve compatibility with it. Looks like I may have to wait awhile for the RPi400 too.

Of the many installers, NOOBS, PINN, Berryboot, no problem. All could be used. I’ve even tried USB boot and it worked like a charm! Raspup (Puppy Linux) ran well too.

Using The RPi 400

Next was to use it for some work. With the new more powerful processor, the Raspberry was a tad faster and smoother. Using Chrome & Firefox to browse was a breeze. And Thunderfox for email, still has its usual kinks. I suppose the need to connect to download email headers and message body was causing the lag. Otherwise it was quite alright.
Using Google Docs to type this RPi400 review was rather smooth too. The keyboard has a good response. Though it felt a bit like a cross between my Dell laptop and my Rapoo 8000s wireless keyboard. And this RPi400 is smaller than my wireless Rapoo 8000s keyboard!

I also liked that it has a soft button for turning it off/on by pressing the Fn+F10 key together. Pressing it for 2 seconds will turn it on (although plugging the power in will just start it as well) or it will bring up the shutdown dialog if you are already in the desktop environment. If holding it down for 10 seconds it will force a power off. However during my hung bootloader sitatution, the Fn+F10 wouldn’t do a force shut off and it is back to turning off the main switch. Oh, well. At least there is some kind of on/off button, the only one for the entire Raspberry Pi family at this moment.

Like the RPi4, the dual HDMI display comes in very handy especially as a PC workhorse replacement. Having two screens helped to ease work and hopefully increase productivity, or not, depending what you were doing I suppose!

Missing from this keyboard PC was the audio output. Though you could get your audio out from the HDMI connected to a TV. On the other hand, using computer monitors, you would end up with the silent treatment. You could of course use bluetooth to connect to a bluetooth speaker.

As for the connecting ports, it only has 3 USB ports – two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0. However it still has the gigabit LAN port, the GPIO pins and a Kensington Lock slot to prevent theft. The GPIO is a must have if you are tinkering with some electronic projects. However it is flushed in so there might be some difficulty to access the pins, but being flushed in protects the pins. I could probably use a GPIO cable to extend it out for convenience. Anyway, I’m still a beginner at learning some electronics, and I could instead use my other RPi4 or zero for tinkering with projects.

Also missing were the connectors for the Pi Camera or add on display. But I suppose this keyboard Pi was meant more for working than for tinkering! And made for a good Christmas gift!

Despite its compact size, the RPi400 is very efficient in keeping cool. Apparently it has a uniquely built-in heatsink plate for the processor under the keyboard. It seems the temperature could be maintained very well between 35°C to 55°C. That’s pretty good despite not using any fan for cooling. You won’t feel any heat coming out of the keyboard while typing and working at your blog!

Conclusion

I won’t call it exactly the same as the Raspberry Pi 4. It has its differences and uniqueness. Some OS won’t run due to some differences perhaps with the CPU core. Some slots were not included. But the uniqueness of a computer housed inside a keyboard could almost make it like a portable computer! All you need is a monitor, a power supply, a mouse and WiFi internet connectivity and you are good to go!

Here’s some Technical Specification of the Raspberry Pi 400 for you to savour:

  • Broadcom BCM2711 quad-core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8) 64-bit SoC @ 1.8GHz
  • 4GB LPDDR4-3200
  • Dual-band (2.4GHz and 5.0GHz) IEEE 802.11b/g/n/ac wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth 5.0, BLE
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 2 × USB 3.0 and 1 × USB 2.0 ports
  • Horizontal 40-pin GPIO header
  • 2 × micro HDMI ports (supports up to 4Kp60)
  • H.265 (4Kp60 decode); H.264 (1080p60 decode, 1080p30 encode); OpenGL ES 3.0 graphics
  • MicroSD card slot for operating system and data storage
  • 78- or 79-key compact keyboard (depending on regional variant)
  • 5V DC via USB connector
  • Operating temperature: 0°C to +50°C ambient
  • Maximum dimensions 286 mm × 122 mm × 23 mm

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