Raspberry PI 4B – Best Buy Mini Computer
The Raspberry Pi has been a real phenomenon since the first version appeared. This miniature computer is capable of performing countless roles. This time we focused on what can be useful to “ordinary” users. A computer, mini console, Kodi platform, and a replacement for the Android Box. And we put it in an equally miniature Cooler Master case. When someone mentions a small desktop computer. The first association most users will probably have is a Mac Mini or Intel NUC. While enthusiasts will probably think of the Raspberry Pi.
Designed as an educational tool, the first version of which appeared in 2012, it became a real phenomenon and gathered a large community that develops software, provides support and makes using the Raspberry a very interesting and even fun experience.
This time we tested the current fourth generation of this single-board computer, ie Raspberry Pi 4 B, which is equipped with Broadcom’s BCM2711B0, 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A72 processor at 1.5 GHz, Broadcom VideoCore VI graphics, and 4GB RAM. The Pi 4 B is currently sold in three versions, with 2, 4, or 8GB of RAM, and the main advantage is that it should cost $ 35, 55, and 75 depending on the amount of memory.
This price, especially for the basic model, makes it a very interesting option for various types of use, such as home automation and programming and electronic experiments, small meteorological stations, and much more. Use is practically limited only by your imagination and skills, since the 40-pin GPIO connector. Which provides the ability to connect to various external devices. As well as various HAT accessories that are placed on the connector itself, such as cameras, TV tuners, screens, various sensors, etc.
Today we decided to present you a couple of usage scenarios that will be useful to most home users. Raspberry as an addition to the TV for Kodi and watching multimedia content, as a mini-console for emulating classic console and arcade games. As an Android box for TV and as a miniature home computer. The best thing is that one Raspberry Pi will practically serve you like all this. That makes investing in it much more profitable.
Design and Charging
First, let’s see what you need. In addition to the Raspberry Pi 4, it is necessary to have a power adapter. It is powered by 5V and at least 3A via a USB Type-C connector. You can use some of the existing phone chargers with that specification. Or buy the original Raspberry adapter. In order not to keep the tile outside. It is a good idea to pack the Raspberry in one of the cases that are designed just for it. On this occasion. We chose the Cooler Master Pi Case 40. Which is very well designed and has multiple roles. Both in protection and in cooling and improving performance.
The case consists of two parts. A plastic base with rubber feet to prevent slipping on the table, and an upper part made of metal, with a part on the inside that is cast so that it rests on the processor, conducts heat to the upper surface of the case where releases and thus cools the device. Although this Pi 4 B itself is a small consumer. There are certain features during which it can get quite warm. So cooling is very useful to avoid lowering the clock and maintaining performance. Also, for those who want to get extra performance. It is possible to overclock, both processors and graphics. From the basic 1.5GHz and 500Mhz to 2.1GHz and 700MHz, and even more. So a case that improves cooling is certainly a good idea.
Like some external hard drives. The Cooler Master Pi Case 40 is rubberized on the rim and part of the upper surface. Which makes it more robust to carry in a backpack. And it also has a power button and openings for all connectors for easy access. . On the front you will find two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports and one full-speed Gigabit LAN port. While on the side there is a USB Type-C to power the device. Two HDMI 2.0 connectors in Microformat, as well as a 3.5mm audio output. which can also interestingly serve as a composite video output. Thanks to the flexible programmability of the platform itself. On the other side, there is a cover that hides a 40-pin GPIO connector. While on the back, also behind the rubber cover, there is a slot for a MicroSD card.
MicroSD cards are a very important component of this computer because you can have several pieces prepared for different purposes at hand. So simply insert another card to change the role of this computer. Almost like on some computers and consoles with cartridges. Booting operating systems is possible from both cards and USB flash drives and USB SSDs, and the faster the disk or card, the faster the operation. We used several different UHS3 cards this time and the speed of operation was quite satisfactory.
It should also be mentioned that the Raspberry is not only for experts and advanced users because the installation of everything is very simple. All you have to do is download the Pi Imager application from the official site. Insert the microSD card into the reader on your computer and select one of the operating systems from the list. Or just the image file you want and let the application save the card. After that, just insert it into the Raspberry and that’s it, it just works.
From the mentioned list, we have tried several different options. First of all. Raspberry OS is a classic Linux distribution. An operating system based on Debian. This is probably the easiest Linux to use if you are a relative beginner. In it, you can do practically everything you normally use on your computer. Examples of browsing the Internet, working in the office, and other applications to some games available for Linux. Don’t expect some spectacular performance for more demanding applications. But for most common tasks, the Raspberry does a decent job.
By the way, with a micro HDMI cable. It is possible to connect up to two monitors at the same time. resolution up to 4K is supported. If you want 4K at 60 frames per second. This is necessary to activate a special mode. That limits the second output to Full HD. The main complaint is that the chipset of this computer does not support hardware decoding of some more advanced formats. So for example Youtube in 4K is not an option. But it is acceptable to stick to lower resolutions. We already mentioned that the Raspberry supports gigabit Ethernet, and you also have WiFi with ac standard, Bluetooth 5.0, as well as connecting all devices via USB.
Another interesting option we tried was LibreELEC. An operating system that was minimally to run the popular Kodi. That’s all it works because at every start you will be immediately greeted by Kodi. Install some of the plugins that turn it into a platform for streaming various legal and not very legal content. Such as various TV programs, movies, series, etc. We will not go into details about the installation of this part. But on Youtube and the net, there are many guides for installing American Kodi distributions. So look, it is worth it.
In addition to this OS is the isolated format. You can also install a full Android TV on the Raspberry, or LineageOS 17.1 Android TV. Which looks and behaves like any TV with pre-installed Android and allows you to use all Android applications. An interesting alternative to various Android Box devices. Although we must emphasize. Not quite the same performance as some more advanced models.
As a mini gaming console
The most fun OS on the Raspberry Pi is the RetroPie, a system made just for emulating game consoles and various retro arcade machines. Emulation of over 50 different consoles is supported. Including Sega Mega Drive, Playstation 1 and 2, Nintendo64. As well as Atari, Amiga, Apple, Spectrum, Commodore, and other retro PCs.
It should be noted that RetroPie itself comes without games. So you will have to manage the game ROMs themselves. Although there are many sites on the Internet that offer the possibility of downloading. Installation is done via a USB flash drive that you insert into Pi 4. Wait ten seconds for it to make the necessary folders. Insert flash into your computer, copy the ROMs to it. Insert it into Pi again and do not touch anything until the flash indication stops flashing because copying is done automatically. Of course. You can connect a gamepad, USB, or Bluetooth and enjoy retro games in the right way.
All this is, of course, only a part of the possibilities of this tiny computer. So it can also be used for a Steam link, as a network router, NAS device, and much more. A new variant of use is practically constantly appearing. An interesting mini computer. So if any of this seemed interesting to you. Look for the Raspberry and Cooler Master Pi Case 40 as the best option on the market. Fun with this little thing is guaranteed.