Cyberdecks were once a science fiction approximation of what computing might look like in the future. In the end, consumer devices took a very different path. No matter, though, because the maker community decided cyberdecks were too awesome to ignore and started making their own. After lusting after some of the amazing builds already out there, [Zach Freedman] decided it was time to start his own build, resulting in the Data Blaster.
The Raspberry Pi has always been popular in the nascent cyberdeck scene, providing real Linux computing power in a compact, portable package. Now, we have the Raspberry Pi 400, which is exactly that, built into a shell that is, approximately, half of a cyberdeck. This formed the base of [Zach]’s build, coming in handy with its full-sized keyboard.
To that, he added a widescreen 1280×480 LCD, wearable display, and a USB powerbank, turning it into a true go-anywhere terminal. The 3D-printed handles are a particularly nice touch, making it easy to use the deck from a standing position, something that no laptop really does well. As a bonus, there’s even a tiny software defined radio on the side, complete with a collapsible antenna for that added cool factor.
It’s a fun build, and a useful one too. We suspect the chunky plastics and grabbable design might actually make the Data Blaster preferable to a laptop in rugged field use versus a more traditional laptop. We’ve seen some other great work in this area, too. Video after the break.
Since the recent launch of the all-in-one Raspberry Pi 400, the global hardware community have taken to the new platform and are investigating its potential for hardware enhancements. On the back it has the same 40-pin expansion connector as its single-board siblings, but it’s horizontal rather than vertical, which means that all of the conventional HATs sit in a rather ungainly upright position.
One of the first Pi 400 HATs we’ve seen comes from [Patrick Van Oosterwijck], who has made a very neat 18650-based UPS add-on that is intended to eventually fit in the back of the machine in a similar way to the home computer cartridge peripherals of old. Unfortunately not all has gone according to plan, and in finding out why that is the case we learn something about the design of the 400, and maybe even take a chance to reflect on the Pi Foundation itself.
On the face of it the 400’s interface is the same as that of its single board computer stablemates, but something this project reveals is that its 5 V pins have a current limit of 1 A. This turns out to preclude the type of plug-in Pi UPS that sits on a HAT that we’re used to, in that 1 A through the 5 V pin is no longer enough to run the computer.
This effectively puts a stop to [Patrick]’s project, though he can repurpose it for a Pi 4 and its siblings once he’s dealt with a converter chip overheating problem. He does however make a complaint about the Pi Foundation’s slowness in releasing such data about their products, and given that long-time Pi-watchers will remember a few other blips in the supply of Pi hardware data he has a point. A quick check of the Raspberry Pi GitHub repository reveals nothing related to the Pi 400 at the time of writing, and though it shares much with its Pi 4 sibling it’s obvious that there are enough differences to warrant some extra information.
Hardware hackers may not be part of the core education focus of the Pi range, but a healthy, interested, and active hardware community that feels nurtured by its manufacturer remains key to the supply of interesting Pi-related products feeding into that market. We’d like to urge the Pi Foundation to never forget the hardware side of their ecosystem, and make hardware specification an integral part of every product launch on day one.
There are three different versions of the Raspberry Pi 4 out on the market right now: the “normal” Pi 4 Model B, the Compute Module 4, and the just-released Raspberry Pi 400 computer-in-a-keyboard. They’re all riffing on the same tune, but there are enough differences among them that you might be richer for the choice.
The Pi 4B is easiest to integrate into projects, the CM4 is easiest to break out all the system’s features if you’re designing your own PCB, and the Pi 400 is seemingly aimed at the consumer market, but it has a dark secret: it’s an overclocking monster capable of running full-out at 2.15 GHz indefinitely in its stock configuration.
In retrospect, there were hints dropped everywhere. The system-on-a-chip that runs the show on the Model B is a Broadcom 2711ZPKFSB06B0T, while the SOC on the CM4 and Pi 400 is a 2711ZPKFSB06C0T. If you squint just right, you can make out the revision change from “B” to “C”. And in the CM4 datasheet, there’s a throwaway sentence about it running more efficiently than the Model B. And when I looked inside the Pi 400, there was this giant aluminum heat spreader attached to the SOC, presumably to keep it from overheating within the tight keyboard case. But there was one more clue: the Pi 400 comes clocked by default at 1.8 GHz, instead of 1.5 GHz for the other two, which are sold without a heat-sink.
Can the CM4 keep up with the Pi 400 with a little added aluminum? Will the newer siblings leave the Pi 4 Model B in the dust? Time to play a little overclocking!