When the Raspberry Pi 4 was released, many looked at the dual micro HDMI ports with disdain. Why would an SBC like the Raspberry Pi need two HDMI ports? The answer was that the Pi 4 is finally fast enough to work as a desktop replacement, and the killer feature (for many of us) for a desktop is multiple monitors.
Now I know what many of you are thinking. There’s no way a $35, or even $55, credit-card-sized computer can replace a $1000+ desktop machine, right? Right? Of course not, but at the same time, yes, yes it can. So I tried to use the Pi as a desktop replacement for a week, and it worked. In fact, this article has been written almost entirely on the Pi 4 with 4 GB of memory, as well as a couple of my recent security columns. I could definitely continue working with the Pi as my daily driver for that purpose.
There are a few points of order to cover first. Initial reviews were based on the June 20th release of Raspbian, which in turn was based on the pre-release Debian Buster. Since then, Buster has released. Fixes that were queued up have landed now that the release freeze has ended. A new Raspbian image was released on July 10, and many of the initial release issues have been fixed.
Running a desktop from an SD card doesn’t seem like a great idea, so I’ve opted to use a SATA hybrid hard drive and take advantage of the new USB3 ports. The Pi 4 doesn’t yet support booting from USB, though along with PXE boot, it is planned for a future update. Since we have control over the kernel boot parameters, it’s trivial to boot the kernel from the SD card and the root filesystem on the hard drive. I expected this to significantly improve performance, but surprisingly the system was unusable for seconds at a time. Looking at the kernel logs and comparing with the experience of others, it becomes quickly apparent that some kernels have problems with USB Attached SCSI (UAS) when talking to some USB3 devices. The giveaway was the USB device resets in the message log. A kernel boot option to disable UAS for the offending device was all that was needed to eliminate the resets and performance issues.
Note: partway through writing this article, the hard drive died, so I’m back at the conventional desktop again. I still ended up using the Pi for just over a week. The Pi wasn’t the reason that I quit, though.
For a power supply, I opted to use the Canakit Pi 4 supply, because it was in stock on Amazon. The USB C problems don’t effect this configuration, and so far the power supply hasn’t been a problem. Overheating, on the other hand, has been a problem. To its credit, the Pi’s processor does throttle down when it exceeds 80 °C, and is stable even under load. The fact that a processor with this much performance doesn’t immediately cook itself when used without even a heatsink is remarkable.
Using two monitors does add to the heating, as well as watching a video that uses hardware decoding. My Pi is propped on the top of my desk, not using a case. The official case doesn’t have any airflow to speak of — the heating issue would be much worse. If I continue using the Pi 4, I’ll probably invest in an aluminum armor case. These all-aluminum cases double as heatsinks, and look sharp, too.
You may notice that we’re beyond just $55 for our desktop setup. I estimate around $150 for a reasonable desktop replacement build. That includes the 4 GB Pi 4, the power supply, heatsink, an SD card, the USB3 to SATA adapter, a cheap SSD drive, and a pair of Micro-HDMI cables. In fairness, most other SBCs need a similar list of accessories, and the price could be lower if the SSD weren’t included — or higher if a mouse and keyboard were included.
Aside from the hard drive crash, the Raspberry Pi was a perfectly serviceable desktop for web browsing, writing articles, and even some light image editing. Make no mistake, you wouldn’t enjoy using Blender on the Pi, but then again, that’s true of budget desktops and laptops, too. 4 GB of ram is just enough for a desktop. My 13 Chromium tabs, including a Youtube video, are using just over half of the 4 GB of available memory. It seems it would be possible to get by with 2 GB, but just barely. Browsers are memory hogs.
There were still a few quirks I never worked out. KDE wouldn’t render correctly on the Pi, for one. The 3D acceleration I experienced seemed slower than expected. Openarena, for example, was a slideshow when running at full screen at 1920×1080 resolution. WiFi was flaky early in the experiment, but getting the hard drive problems sorted out seemed to help there as well.
Editing documents, doing research, and listening to music were all a breeze for the Pi. Netflix wouldn’t work — I suspect that was a DRM issue, as I was using Chromium, which lacks any Widevine support. Perhaps the highest praise that I can give is that using a Pi 4 as a daily driver desktop is that it was unremarkable. Not the fastest computer, but a serviceable desktop for many uses.
So you need a desktop, should you just use a Raspberry Pi? If you have one already, sure, give it a try; it might surprise you. If you only have a few dollars to spend, or need a bunch of machines, using Pis might be a great fit. Editing video, 3D modeling, compiling large projects, or some other processor- or video-card-intensive workload? The Pi probably isn’t the right choice.
For a $55 piece of hardware, it’s impressive. Can it replace your desktop? Yes, yes it can. Should it? Probably not.
90 thoughts on “Can You Really Use The Raspberry Pi 4 As A Desktop Machine?”
I’d totally see this as a good way to setup cheap terminals connected to a powerful server running VMs with the resources needed for each user/workload. In a previous workplace we used to have old P4 that were effectively terminals using remote desktop for actual work. Worked fine enough and when needed (like building a large release) you could obtain far more resources from the VM/server than you could from a normal desktop!
Client-Server, history repeats.
This is how I feel about these light-weight computers too. I use a Chromebook (running Debian) with similar specs to the Pi 4, and it has plenty of power for the light-weight tasks: media player, xterm, screen, compiles, even (retro) video games. But for the really really heavy duty computing stuff that actually needs a super-computer to get decent performance (running twitter under a web browser), I punt to a docker instance running Chrome on my “big PC” with Xvfb and vnc. I don’t see any particular reason to have more than one big PC in my house, or why I would want to sit at one.
This was supposed to be the dream of the 90s but it’s finally really convenient in the here and now.
The mainframe…democratized. Now we can have a r/Homelab downstairs and “client” machines upstairs.
You could just use x2go. Far better solution than Xvfb and vnc and lighting fast!
I was a network tec back then. The hardware back then when co-opted was ok even for big jobs.
I can’t wait to see what the pi is like once it’s graphics drivers mature more. I think that’s the biggest thing holding it back. It would also be cool to push it further than the 2GHz overclock, though it seems the pi foundation has little interest in the idea at the moment.
unless your going balls out gamer rig one can get a lot of computer for less than a 1000$ so I feel instant bias right away.
Whats a 35-55$ ras pi’s real desktop comparison, realistically its something like the little HP I bought back in January for 50$ all in which is a 3rd Gen I3 with 8 gigs of ram and a 250GB hard disk. If one wants to use a pi as a desktop replacement more power to them. but lets be realistic about being a real fit for any desktop replacement application, its not at all even for the price.
Yeah I was gonna say something similar…. For $150, there are plenty of mini PCs available on Amazon that are plug and play, especially if you’re just putting Linux on it.
What you loose out with on those sort of devices is the versatility of GPIO access, ease of alteration and power usage, do gain a neat and tidy form factor for no effort though – A Pi would make you work for that.. So take your choices and of course have a real computer for heavy lifting if you actually do anything that needs it.
I run my old CF-H1 and CF-19 toughbooks as part of my daily drivers, under powered as they are (CF-H1 especially) they are great for the web browsing and notes/music playing of daily life. But compared to a Pi 4 (which will blow the CF-H1 away with ease) they eat power.. Was just about to gut a really really old slightly busted cf-19 to put compute modules in for mostly that reason when the 4 was announced (a small cluster computer to play with – and as all cf-19’s run the same battery pack a portable tinkering machine that can use my normal laptops spare batteries would be great)
if we are talking about desktop replacement … then GPIO is not really that needed.
Considering most of the projects I see with PI, they could be done with any computer and a simple arduino in the USB port to read those few GPIOs.
++1 absolutely right on
Agreed, but I know I’d love to have more gpio/serial options than having to use a usb to whatever I need adapter every single time (which is another reason I often use my toughbooks – they have native serial ports). Soon makes the laptopbag/desk into a mess of usb hubs and adapters neatly negating the gains in tidyness of reusing the old computer instead. Won’t make a bit of differnce to a great many people (and if you select the right older PC’s at least you get more than 1 damn usb port) but having those extra options for connectivity directly is nice. Here is to hopeing the Pi4 Compute module does break out the PCI-e lane for even more versatility.
Obviously the Biggest gain to a Pi for desktop use is the power efficiency. Performance to price something new isn’t going to beat old but not completely retro hardware. And the connectivity options are for most very optional (though remember the cost of all the Arduino and adaptors (that always seem to break) you might add)
I suppose there is also the gain that Arm is considered a more secure processor.. Though I would not expect it to be security flaw free..
@Foldi-One power efficiency wise depends what you compare it to. Modern laptops will be idling right there where the Pi is. My work laptop (i5) is under 4W with low brightness screen at idle. After that you should look at performance per W and the Pi is not that efficient there either.
What I generally happens is that there are plenty of applications where the low processing power and low cost and rather good efficiency of the pi are enough.
The Pi really shines with very early-stage prototyping: bringing up peripherals, roughing out code, etc. as there are so many CPU cycles to throw at the problem. I actually write up programs in Python (basically pseudocode) and just hang the i2c, UART, etc. peripherals off the Pi GPIO pins. There’s enough horsepower in the Pi that I can do things like parse ASCII strings, etc. without having to worry about optimization like if I was using an nRF or STM32. Lets me focus on developing the rough program flow in a couple hours, then I spend a couple weeks or months “porting” it to the appropriate microcontroller using C and whatever native/optimized libraries the manufacturer provides.
@electrobob I’d have to take your word for that as none of the machines I have access to even with new processors come close to idling that low they are maybe able to sneak under 10W idle. (no newest gen mobile processors here and can’t find any good stats on the web for them).. And under any load will be jumping up to more than a Pi can ever possible draw. But even if the latest mobile CPU’s are matching or beating a Pi it won’t be by a huge order of magnitude. So then cost comes into it as well and of course just what you plan to do on it.
It also depends on how you choose to rate them. As large amounts of the time a desktop can be damn nearly idle its often more important how low it goes at idle not the flops/watt.
And for 35$ you DON’T have a running PI, you only have a board, without power supply, sd card nor case…
Add a good power supply (since the PI4 needs a really beefy one !), a good SD card, or even an SSD, and you’ve thrown a $100 note !
For this $100, I prefer buying an Atom PC, which come with a case and a power supply, even a bay for an SSD, and have LOOOT more power for some decent desktop usage !
You forgot the cost of a real PC required when the SD corrupts and you have to burn a new image
Can you not burn a new image with your phone?
An Atom is similar CPU power to the modern Raspberry Pi. You’re looking at an i3 or above for a significant boost.
This is why I buy a Pi and not a atom pc but I do agree with your post, this is only using a Pi Zero W. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_T3Hg-4PQY&t=14s
People can be pretty dang picky and stubborn about computer performance. I got in on a deal for a laptop with great specs but a slower cpu/gpu that are still both FAR faster than a pi and cheaper (believe it or not) than a pi with the same trimmings. Yet while many people including me found it just fine, many said “oh god, too slow to use a browser on!”…LOL, this is faster than most computers of just 8-10 years ago! The bottom line was they expected to pull a windows machine out of the box and have it rival their i5 desktop or it was crap.
But this is still more fun for the self learning creatures like me
Given the overall $150 suggestion for a desktop replacement setup you might as well pay more likie £200 for a secondhand reasonable performance prior generation laptop to put linux onto. That way you can handle x86 programs and thiongs like 3D modelling , big compilation jobs and video editing. Pi’s are excellent, but as a platform for making embedded devices and projects, not as a desktop PC themselves. A desktop really does need an x86 processor so that linux can use things like wine and run various pre-compiled binaries.
“The fact that a processor with this much performance doesn’t immediately cook itself when used without even a heatsink is remarkable.”
All modern CPUs have this. You can remove the heatsink from your i7 CPU as well, it will run slowly but still is surprisingly useable.
Furthermore, cell phones don’t have any heatsink and need to enter thermal throttling within a second, so this is a mandatory feature for a mobile type CPU.
Really? Last time i let a desktop overheat it didn’t slow down but simply turn off
There’s some leeway, but it’s essentially a matter of system load. An idle system might be able to throttle low enough to survive without a heatsink, but a loaded system would output a lot more heat. Back in 2013 or so my PC started having an issue while under load, it turned out that my heatsink had come loose (the system had been moved around a lot). For a little while I just put a finger on the heatsink when I was expecting load, until I could take the time to fix it more properly. There was no permanent damage though.
The CPU throttling is done by some Microsoft’s ThreadX binary blob, also known as the first thing you boot on a PI. so much for freedom to change its behaviour:
“ThreadX monitors for undervoltage, which is a widespread issue as we will see next, and will underclock the CPU to prevent instructions failing and the CPU to hang, which results in people’s devices running at 600MHz instead of 1400MHz in the best case. This throttling starts happening at 4.65V and can also be triggered by temperature. Linux and its frequency governor still thinks that is happily running at full speed.”
There are precisely *zero* modern CPU’s on the market that don’t require something proprietary running underneath the OS layer to manage startup and hardware access. But hey, remove the BIOS/UEFI firmware from your PC, I’m sure it’ll be fine… :D
Actually for boards supported by coreboot you can do that.
This sounds like the PCU for an Intel platform (which is what I’m familiar with from past work experience). That stuff runs below even the UEFI layer. For an Intel CPU, this would get loaded by the Uncore init code which is part of a package Intel supplies to IBV generally referred to as reference code (The AMD equivalent is their AGESA code). Intel makes companies sign NDAs to see any of that which is deliverable as source (and is one of the bigger stumbling blocks to an all open source firmware solution for PCs).
At least with Intel, they intend the OS to interact with this through ACPI which is an open standard at this point. Another way to possibly interact with this stuff are MSRs that Intel has documentation on and allow to be used outside of Intel.
There actually appears to be a fair amount of documentation out there but looking through some of it, I’d have no idea where to begin if I didn’t already have experience in the field.
It shows the sad state the industry is in these days.
Being able to get rid of ThreadX and drive the hardware directly probably would help performance of Pi based applications as after it’s booted it’s just a waste of memory and clock cycles.
“I estimate around $150 for a reasonable desktop replacement build” — if you are reaching this level, better use a Celeron Intel NUC or build a mini ITX. I went from a Pi3 to a BOXNUC6CAYH for my home automation and I am not going back. it’s all in a nice box not a mess of things, way more disk BW, everything moves much faster and had the advantages of a full unix distro. VGA and HDMI output, super audio quality. I can also get 8GB of RAM if I want to.
I don’t know how fast a Pi4 is compared to a Pi3, but when adding so many expensive accessories around I think you should look elsewhere.
I like working with my RPIs now and then, but I don’t use them ‘as my every day desktop’. My RPIs run headless, even the new RPI4s. From what I see from working with the new RPI4s, they should be capable of entry level desktop style usage though (haven’t tried). As above, I run one of mine with file system on an 2T external drive (mine is a HDD) and it flies compared to working off the SD card. I suspect it will be a lot more reliable too. True USB 3.0 is a winner here as well as the gigabit ethernet. My other RPI4 (have two) is running as a mini file server. More than enough power for that application. If you are after performance, one should use active cooling. I bought a case with a mini fan and it really helps moderate the temperature spiking.
My AMD Ryzen based Linux desktop(s) do more than just internet browsing and email, so the RPI4 not a good fit for ‘me’ for this application. Does depend on your use though.
You can also try olive oil cooling if you don’t want any noise.
Actually there is ‘no’ detectable noise. Running the mini 5V fan at 3.3V. Amazing what just a little air flow does…
Ha, kind of funny that you used a hard drive to avoid SD card corruption and speed issues but the hard drive died that quickly. I think the SD card is pretty usable as long as you follow proper backup procedures.
Desktop replacement, try a mini-ITX. Cheap, x86 compatible, SATA interface, some are fanless. I’ve got two, one is my server, always on and I can connect to it from anywhere. The second is in the kitchen and connected to a 2.1 speaker system for playing music and podcasts while making and eating meals. Both use a “car” power supply so they run off a 12v
power adapter. All my systems run Linux Mint.
I’ve demonstrated an RPi and an Intel Compute Stick as cheap thin-client alternatives to my company on several occasions. The biggest issues I’ve seen are (1) a tendency for them to “walk away” when no one is looking, and (2) they become excellent “hand-warmers” when you hook 2 or more monitors to them.
On the flip-side, they are easy enough to configure with Citrix and VMWare clients, so they work well with our large VDI infrastructures. But, all-in-all, I think I’ll keep my traditional HP think client for now…
The term ‘desktop machine’ is very, very subjective. I’ve been fine with the Raspberry Pi as a desktop machine for quite some time. I used a first-gen Pi + Tiny Core Linux as my daily machine for quite some time. Before that, I was using a rooted thin client. And before that, I was using dumpster finds.
Not that I couldn’t afford something new, but I never really needed anything more. My first computer was a SparcStation I got from work, then I got a scrapped 386 machine and ran 386BSD on it, eventually switching to Linux when it became stable.
For the most part, my daily routine is fairly light, my email comes by way of IMAP, the websites I browse are fairly lightweight (Or can be made lightweight with Privoxy), then I its time for work (grind some ADA, compile it, then push to the device, test; rinse, wash, repeat). Then when its time to clock off, it’s time for some more basic web browsing and maybe some OpenSource development work. I don’t really play any games more complicated than basic games on my machine than the SGT pack and similar; I have a Gameboy (Nintendo 3DS) for anything more complicated. My entire OS and applications fit onto a 2 GB SD card, I have a massive stack of them, so I just back up the card whenever my base OS changes. My home directory is hosted on a rooted WD World Edition home NAS, which gets backed up to an external disk plugged into it. When I want to do multi-monitor, I’ve just been using something simple like a BBB and run it as a basic X server.
Although I have been tinkering with the idea of replacing my entire set up with some small “Smart” TVs, seeing as how many of them already run Linux and tend to be equipped with some fairly high-end chips.
But, of course, a lot of people will also require much more involved systems and require transparency and zooming effects on their windows, stream 4K video, and spend their time on heavy websites like Facebook. For that, my setup would be unusable. There may people that need even more than that for their ‘daily driver’ machine.
If that’s green 2.5inch Seagate I think it’s rated at 5V 1A, that might be a problem for powering it directly from the Pi, not sure how well RPi handles such current on USB3 ports. I’d test it with some drive that requires less power or power it externally to see if it crashes in that case.
I could see these being perfect for walk-ups in libraries. Patron accidently downloads malware? Re-flash the SD from your master and go. Patron spills coffee on the Rpi? You’re only out $55. And neither operation takes much technical know-how to accomplish.
That’s what green screens and mainframes were suppose to be. Now it’s VDI and virtualization.
I have never seen the point of trying to use an SBC designed as a controler to be used as a desktop PC. It is not practical, as you deminstrate in your article. I bought 2 laptops (Lenovo) over a year for $189 and $199. They are far better desktops than described here for nearly the same cost. Fun to try with left over parts but impractical in general.
I used Pi3B+ with ssd before and it was big difference but for Pi4 I tried A1 sandisk sd card and it is good enough so that I don’t see the difference. Pi4 has improved sd interface => can handle faster cards much better.
Not.even.close — with Pi4 vs Pi3 there’s a 5-10X performance boost in writes, and a 2X performance difference in reads… and that’s comparing a better-than-average Samsung EVO SD card vs some “rando” USB-SATA adapter:
^^ not an outlier benchmark; several articles have similar results.
The question you are asking is, could anyone work using a 11-12 year old PC with 4GB of RAM, I think that the answer for most people is yes (engineers excluded), but …
They could probably pick up a second hand 11-12 year old PC for nearly nothing and still manage to upgrade the RAM for less.
1.5GHz Raspberry Pi 4 Model B (BCM2711 at 28 nm, June 2019)
~is roughly equivalent in terms of Millions of Whetstone (floating-point arithmetic) Instructions Per Second (MWIPS)~
1.83GHz Core 2 Duo T5550 (65nm, January, 2008)
1.9 GHz Opteron (65nm, August, 2007)
1.2GHz Raspberry Pi 3 Model B (BCM2837 at 40nm, February 2016)
2GHz Pentium 4 (180 nm, August 27, 2001)
1GHz Athlon Thunderbird (180nm, June 5, 2000)
900MHz Raspberry Pi 2 Model B (BCM2836 at 40nm, February 2015)
700MHz Pentium III (180nm, October 25, 1999)
700MHz Athlon (180nm, October 4, 1999)
700MHz Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ (BCM2835 @ 45nm or 65 nm for ARM11 using the ARMv6 ISA, July 2014)
300MHz Pentium II (350nm, May 7, 1997)
500MHz AMD K6-III+ (180nm, April 18, 2000)
ref: (and a search for “Raspberry Pi 4B 32 Bit Benchmarks”)
P.S. Yes I know that the Broadcom VideoCore IV graphics is better than that used historically. And that direct comparison with old hardware on one metric alone is fundamentally flawed, but it is still useful for an gross approximation of what performance to expect.
Remember though you have 4 cores working for you with the RPI4. And you have a lot faster memory with DDR4. That really helps spread the work around. So not exactly apples to apples comparision with just ‘MHZ’…..
The comparison is not based on MHz but on benchmark results for the number of floating point arithmetic operations that each full CPU’s can perform per second. Yes the newer RAM is faster, but it is still much slower than the CPU cores can process data. And data still needs to go through the CPU (mostly) to be moved from A to B, so even though MWIPS is only for floating point it does still gives a side channel indication of how fast data can move. But it is a gross approximation.
Where the RPI4 would win (because of being produced with a 28nm process) would be in terms of performance per watt.
So a Core 2 Duo T5550 (alone, with nothing else, no motherboard, no RAM, nothing else) would use about ~35 W and the RPi4 (everything on the SBC) would be ~3.4 watts (idle) to ~7.6 watts (stress –cpu 4). And the AMD Opteron 2347 (alone, with nothing else, no motherboard, no RAM, nothing else) would be ~75W Average CPU power and ~95W Thermal design power, so in terms of MWIPS/Watt the RPi4 wins.
Somebody has stacks of T430 barebone laptops with cracked screens (the ad does not mention this). I offered $35 total with shipping and they accepted
I scored 8Gigs DDR3L 1600mhz for $15, add an Ivy bridge or Sandy processor, done deal. You can get an i7 dual core even for $20
Takes NGFF (mPCIE form factor SATA, NOT M.2, but hey, its cheap.)
It seems to be that it was modelled to be something of a basic desktop replacement (not a thin client) and yet RTC isnt seen as a feature that most users would require. Sure the virtual one is fine for the most part, but I’ve had to add an external one on two projects and I’d imagine that on a real desktop, you’d find a lot of authentication errors without one.
I’ve been using one over clocked to 2 GHz for about a month now. Two monitors connected. It is very usable and I will be using it to do my Masters on. I have a USB drive for the swap and home folder. It is very usable.
This got brought up in a few threads, so might as well start a new one. What’s the advantage here over buying used laptops or even a newer mini-ITX? Commodification and standardization.
Remember, for most people (even most IT departments), computers are hard. If you’ve got something that covers 90% of use cases, is cheap, and absolutely, 100% drop-in replaceable, it would be a pretty easy sell.
I’ve always been trailing edge untl three years ago when I splurged on a 3.4GHz i7 with 8gigs of RAM. Was new in 2011. It’s overkill for me, but I might want to do some things where the better specs might be useful. But for my current use, it just loafs along.
I admit I am tempted by a Pi 4, for small size and current consumptiin. But I have the i7 as fallback.
A year or two I.did get some laptops. A netbook for $20, good enough for most of my needs, and I have s rounged RAM to boost it a bit. But I.also got two 2GHz laptops for five dollars. I realuzed I coukd use them for some dedicated purpose, but smaller than a used desktop of the same specs. I keep seeing goid prices for dual core desktops, so yes, the Pi woukd have to be really good to beat thkse desktops.
Before 2016, I was using a single core 3GHz Pentium with 2gigs of RAM, good enough for me.
Does your brother own a nuclear power plant or something?
you want commodification, standardization and available 100% drop-in replacements? you buy a palled of $50 X220 ThinkPads
Maybe nobody cares but it seems no one mentions that the Raspi 4 only draws about 15W max while a 10 year old Dell laptop might draw somewhere 45 – 90W depending on what it runs.
I have a Linux server running on a 4-year-old Asus mother board with an I3 CPU with no external graphic cards, no external network card, no display, etc. with 8G of RAM and it draws 30W when it’s idling. This server is running with solar during the day but with wall power at night. I’m considering to swap that out with a Raspi 4 so that it doesn’t use as much power at night.
I have been using the RPi4 with 4Gb as my daily computer since July and it completely fullllfills my needs of programming, webbrowsing and making documentation for software and electronics and I enjoy using multiple windows open om a 28 inch UHD monitor giving an effective workflow. The Raspian OS provides me with a suite of usefull programming tools. For this use I can only recommend it ….
great to hear that. can you share more info on what kind of programming you do? and how heavy web browsing can be?
I am planning to buy rpi 4 and use it for web development on two monitors. what I need is vs code, chromium with up to 10 tabs (although I can reduce that), apache/nginx, mysql/postgres, php, nodejs and golang
The only part of that equation I’m not sure about is vs code, as I’ve never run it, and don’t know much about its memory usage, etc. I suspect the Pi will work for what you have in mind.
” The USB C problems don’t effect this configuration, and so far the power supply hasn’t been a problem.”
I concur with replies regarding the power consumption of the board. I use an ARM SBC as a home server, mainly because it is reasonably power efficient (electricity is relatively expensive in my region) and quiet. Since it is always on, I also use it as a everyday web browsing browsing machine (yes, it does have a monitor). It’s a bit slow, but Pi 4 will fix that problem.
That said, I guess it is not necessarily environmentally friendlier than re-purposing an x86 box because making a new hardware also involves environmental costs. I don’t have good ideas about that.
You will continue having with the USB3 interface converted to SATA. Unfortunately USB never worked really stable to really be the primary interface for main storage.
But you could try GPIO to SATA instead and you will experience superior performance and stability.
What are you talking about, the gpio on an rpi can’t be used for fast read and write to storage.
I’m actually using a Pi zero W as my desktop replacement.
I can do about half of my PC work on this.
And about 90% on a pi3B+
So you do approximately 140% of your work on those two.
I’m a hard worker. No loss in redundancy ;)
> Browsers are memory hogs.
Uhh. *Websites* are memory hogs.
Until you have a pi zero. Then you’ll agree that browsers are memory hogs.
Re Browser tab memory use. Something like https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/the-great-suspender/klbibkeccnjlkjkiokjodocebajanakg helps a lot. Most of the time (using Windowchef as my WM) I see about 1.2-2.0G of RAM usage (quad core Intel)
NEC still making monotors with a decicated RPi slot?
I’m in the process of not using a Pi4B, but a Pi 0W as a desktop replacement, and for a lot of chores, the 0W works!
raspi for desktop?…..it has no sata, no ram slot……that’s totally SUPER LOCO STUPIDDDD.
when even my i7 8550U supported by its 16gb DDR4 and a nvme pretending to deliver 2380MB/s of seq read is not as fast than my 8years laptop, more power efficient but not faster, I can’t even think about using a Pi with its terrible IOs for something else than a one task job.
As a dumb terminal to a mainframe 2.0 (vSphere+vdi) ok, why not.
Just a point of view from someone who has spent about 45 years using, repairing and programming desktop computers – but still doesn;t consider himself an ‘expert’.
I have always liked getting as much use as I can out of low powered systems. In fact my ‘heavy lifting’ system at the moment is a Gigglebite BRIX BACE 3150 with a Celeron and 8GB RAM. That system runs at1.6GHz with a turbo speed of 2.08GHz.
My Raspberry Pi 4B runs at 600MHz and is overclocked to 2GHz and rendering a video in High Res in Openshot runs the system at 71deg C to 74deg C for about 12 minutes to output a 300MB file. (With a Vilross case with 4 heat sinks and the fan tunning at low speed (3.3V).
Now, rendering videos is not something I do daily, but it was good to see that I can. Editing images in GIMP is sometihng I do daily, as are LibreOffice tasks and watching videos.
Comparing the BRIX abd the Pi 4B, there’s not a lot of speed difference, although very high resolution videos look much more like the 4K they were shot in, on the Pi 4B than on the BRIX. That surprised me.
Ok, this is not meant to be a review. What it boils down to is that The Pi 4B could be used as a daily Desktop Replacement EXCEPT FOR ONE THING !!
The Pi 4B does not seem to have printer support. Most printer drivers do not seem to have ARMHF drivers. There is supposed to be one for my BROTHER MFC Inkjet, but I cannot find it anywhere on the Brother support site. Ther shoudl be one for my Epson Inkjet, but I can’t find that either. None of my printers are connected through USB, so I have to print wirelessly anyway.
There IS a rather clumsy work around. Brother, Epson, HP and Samsung have Android apps to allow printing form an Android phone or tablet. I can (and do) upload files from a Pi to a phone and print by WiFi Direct connection to the printer.
But right now, the Pi is in the situation the whole Linux world was in a few years ago. Until Printer manufacturers realise they have a whole untapped market out there and start porting drivers, the Pi 4B is still not ready to be a Desktop Replacement..
I had a Brother printer and it was usable with Linux and them switched to an HP printer and I must say that HP is great in supporting Linux printing.
I know this is a really old comment but I was in the same boat as you. Couldn’t find brother drivers for armhf for my country. I kept googling till I stumbled on their uk site and they had drivers for raspbian as a deb file! So try checking if your printer model is being sold in UK and check their uk site for drivers. With the drivers, I can print perfectly with automatic duplex.
I’ll check that out. I didn’t thinnk that UK might have different drivers. I’ve given my 4B with 4GB to somone in the family, because I plan to gram an 8GB RAM model.
It would be interesting to see my Brother printer(s) work on a Pi :-)
Honestly, that it the only thing missing.
I am using a Raspberry 4 as desktop ever day. Next to the Raspberry Pi there’s an old Mac Pro, switched off.
I am an electronics engineer. Write the software so it fits in the hardware.
I wonder why the Raspberry Pi is always compared to 1000$+ computers. Is that a stock phrase from the manufacturer’s marketing department?
After going through the pain of trying to get the max out of RPi2 RPi3 and now RPi4 and other development boards that all had a lot of power on paper, I can wholeheartedly say that I would NEVER EVER exchange the Intel Atom Quad Core Board, 2GB memory I am now using as a media center PC, with one of these boards.
I got the Atom board last year new for 80 Euros. That’s a price difference of 40 Euros to the RPis and I think it’s a more fair comparison, although I could also compare it with my Core i7 9700K with 8 cores, 32 GB memory, Geforce RTX2080 and a price tag of 2000 Euros, which I have as my desktop PC.
Being as properly ‘gauged’ as I am, I can say that the Atom Board
1) is literally lightyears ahead of all the raspberries that fell off the hedge over the years
2) I would not hesitate a single microsecond to give up my 2000€ desktop for the Atom, if I did not need it for scientific computation now and then, and if I were just doing office, web and VOD; it is just as fast for everyday jobs
3) runs Windows 10 perfectly well and fast, which, as some more Linux affine people persevere to think, needs a datacenter to run properly
4) doesn’t take 10 seconds for simply opening a web browser, and plays everything from Amazon Video to Netflix to Youtube without the slightest hassle
5) consumes 10 Watts at average load, fanless
6) allows me to run all but the newest 3D games at 1080p at lower detail settings
7) does not at all have slow network/browsing speed/file access/terrible UI responsiveness like the RPis
Okay, it is micro ITX format, hence RPi wins in the physical size category. And it’s 3 Watts instead of 10, well, I can afford it even 24/7. And it costs 40 Euros more, that’s equivalent to what 20 minutes of my worktime cost my employer.
To be fair, I managed to get decent performance out of RPis with LibreElec, as opposed to Raspbian, where it sucks. But then again, there have always been these unexplainable UI lags, things that do not work intermittently and so on. Compared to RPi+LibreElec the Atom/Windows 10 combination is about 4 times faster and a universe of reliability further, hands down.
Well, there’s still those people who want to blink an LED or something and they think they need a full fledged operating system for that. That’s were I take an Atmel out of my box and I bet I will get the solution ten times faster than the school boy with his python. And with a thousand times less power consumption. But, to each his own.
To summarize, the Raspberry Pi does not have a real use case. In fact it never had. Let alone as a desktop computer. It feels much like a computer from year 2000, maybe also because Linux is no longer the operating system that “runs fast on even the smallest computers”.
I have learned my lesson hard. Maybe my rant can save somebody the waste of valuable time and money.
I think you are not considering something that the raspberry pi systems offer, even if may be not valuable to you : community support.
This board is fucking everywhere, and any kind of tinkering has been already done by someone else and it’s ready to be read online, this article we are commenting is just an example.
Also it’s probably great for startups too, since the hardware is guaranteed to be in production for years since the release.
But yeah, I can understand your point of view and now I want to try a board like the one you are talking about.
Anyways, I can tell you my use cases :
– rpi 3b, connected to my 3d printer. They made a distro called octopi, it’s a ready-to-use setup of octoprint, which you can use to control your printer from remote – and you can attach a pi cam to the rpi board to watch your print being made, which is kinda cool
– rpi 2b, using it in my little company offices as samba server and pi-hole
– rpi 3b, using it with Raspberry Pi Video Looper by Adafruit which… yeah, continuosly loops video on a tv inside my shop
– rpi zero, going to use it to make myself a system to open my warehouse door with a little keyboard from outside – but also for hosting a db with temporary codes which i can enable from remote if someone needs to get inside when i’m not there
several month have passed and the rPi 4 has become more mature. It boots directly from an SSD, it runs 64bit OS from ubuntu out of the box and drives dual monitors. Performance for ordinary tasks (email, edit markdown text with vscode, web). It is quiet, responsive and small (raspi box + sd). I had a SSD and the monitors, thus needed only the raspi, the power supply, the case and the cables – much less than 100 Euro.
I do not see any Atom PC in a box – and none I can find allows dual monitors.
I think it is a very good solution to recycle an SSD to produce a decent desktop.
My two cents:
needing two desktops to manage NAS and other services requiring an always running machine for my second houses and not wanting to invest a lot of money for computers I wouldn’t use regularly, I bought a 4 GB and an 8 GB RAM Pi 4, set them up with Ubuntu Mate (the best compromise between ARM compatibility and general purpose functions in my opinion), and overclocked the CPU to 2 GH and the GPU 0.75 GH on both of them. They are now very well capable of being used as a desktop replacement, without being significantly slower than low end machine, but costing only a fraction.
I have been using a Raspberry PI as my main computer for a number of months now. Whilst I have a perfectly good laptop I just find it easier to perform ordinary every day tasks using the PI.
It boots quickly and most things perform very well. For instance if I want to write a letter, there is no delay. If I want to browse the web then it works perfectly. It saves time getting the laptop out of the bag and waiting for it to boot
Just to aggravate, I have a RPI 2B+ with a powerhouse 900 MHz CPU and 1GB RAM. I can do desktop stuff all day.
Can I do ALL desktop stuff all day? Of course not. There are limits, but then again I never have more than 4 tabs open at a time on any browser on any PC or laptop that I also have. Simply have no need to have something there – just in case. I open what need, and close what I don’t. My PC has a 9th gen i5 with 16GB and my laptop has an 11th gen i7 and 12GB, both are more capable than I usually need at any given moment.
So back to my RPI. It’s running the current Raspberry Pi OS. I don’t do programming, I could, but I no longer have that interest. I can use my RPI to listen to my 26 hours of recorded music, I can browse anywhere I want to go, I can watch my collection of videos. And I realize there are limitations on simultaneous use – and I’m good with that. This RPI was a project when my old IBM (not Lenovo) laptop died a few years ago. The laptop screen was/is still good, so I bought a controller for the screen model, and had an old 2.1 speaker setup; so I have everything I needed to roll my own. And it all worked, and still does. Obviously the RPI power block doesn’t power all that, each component has it’s own PS. I’m now building a nicer enclosure to finally make it pretty.
I need a desktop only for normal domestic use, started using Linux in 1999 and switched over completely to Linux in 2009. In the process I became against monopolies like Windows, Intel, etc. For a replacement of my very old DT, I went to a computer dealer and asked him to get me a DT with Linux, without Windows and without Intel. I asked for one with AMD Ryzen and Debian-10 . He said it is not possible. That is when I thought of Raspberry-Pi, asked the dealer to keep his Windows and Intel for himself, went ahead and got a RasPi4B(8GB) online. I am now happily using it, it satisfies all my needs, is a tiny fraction of the old DT in size, four to six times faster than it, consumes a comparatively small amount of power, came at one-third the cost of a regular DT(including a new 21″ monitor) and freed up a lot of space on my desk. I am only looking forward now to the 64-bit RasPi OS.
Adding a few things: 1) I attached an older external hard disk for storage and nearly all my work, in order not to jampack the system microSD card. 2) As I am 75 years old and do not need student project software, I removed these to keep the 16GB only system card substantially free. 3) I loaded some Debian-10 applications which I need. 4) To keep the thing cool in our Indian tropical climate I removed the top cover and just kept in its place a piece of packing carton to which is fixed a 50mm, 12V fan running off a 5V mobile phone charger and blowing upwards, which maintains the temperature under 50°C at room temperature of under 30°C. If the summer is harsher I can replace the 5V charger with a 9V or 12V one.
The only issue still remaining is prevention of power backfeed if a self-powered usb hub is used. Apart from mentioning the problem RPi people have not taken much interest in this. Even the response to cutting 5V USB line of hub upstream connection to the RPi is hazy. Except one item of hub in Pi Hut(which is not available in India and probably in many other countries), no other hub clearly specifies itself to be non-backfeeding. Also I have come across details of only one cable with a 5V line On/Off switch(see https://protosupplies.com/product/usb-2-0-micro-b-data-cable-with-power-switch/) which again is not available here). RPi can at least confirm if the above cable is suitable. Until this is taken care of using powered hubs and operating many devices through these hubs will remain a question.
Promotion of RPi as desktop for home needs will require vigorous campaigns as people like our computer dealer here will be interested only in Windows and Intel.
I commented on this idea when I first got a Pi 4B. Some months ago I updated to the 8GB version, and at that time the biggest problem I had was from the power back-feed when using a powered hub.
With the update to the 8GB model I started doing more work with the Pi 4 and discovered that adding a decent sized SSD or HDD to the USB 3 ports while using a Wireless Keyboaed donger plugged into a USB 2 port sucked so much power thast the Low Voltage warning was on continually.
Last week I decided to try an experiment. I bought a COMSOL brand 5V 5A power adapter with a USB C plug and tried that instead of the Genuine Raspberry Pi 3.5A adapter.
The Pi 4B loves it !!
No more clicking noises when the Pi tries to boot. No more low power warning, no matter whet size drives I plug in. I haven’t tried it on the powered hub yet, but the reality at the moment is that with the 5A adapter, I don;t need a powered hub to spin a couple of 2TB amd 4TB external drives.
I’m a happy little budgie . . :-)
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