pi-top, the creators of the World’s first commercial Raspberry Pi laptop and the desktop version, the pi-topCEED, have just announced that they have re-designed their most famous product – itself called the pi-top. This laptop, which is powered by a Raspberry Pi, was a great success when launched on IndieGoGo back in 2014. Judging by the fact that they’ve now redesigned it, one imagines that their success has continued.
The new model
A ground-up redesign has been undertaken over the last 12 months and has resulted in a higher-spec laptop with interesting new design features, as well as a packaged project kit that is sure to catch the eye of both home users and educational establishments alike.
So, what are the actual differences?
- It’s much simpler to assemble – instead of 23 build steps (!) it now has only 6. This is definitely an improvement and really does show how hard they’ve been working on it.
- The trackpad has moved from the side (always slightly odd) to a more familiar central position. It has also been made half-again-as-large. A big improvement, in my opinion.
- Instead of the perspex ‘slice’ that you used to pull out sideways to reveal the Pi, the keyboard now slides downwards to do the same job. I’ll be interested to see how well this holds up under punishment from the open-close action. Will the connection from the keyboard to the unit be a weak point?
- The keyboard is now US-layout-only. This is sure to infuriate some, but according to my sources there may be a UK version depending on the success of the product.
- The screen is bigger – it is now a full 14″, compared to 13.3″ of the old model, and is full HD. Resolution has increased from 1366×768 to 1920×1280. Now, that’s impressive – I never complained about the resolution of the old model, but this one is going to be much crisper.
- The maximum lid angle has been increased from 125 degrees to 180 degrees, which means different viewing angles are possible. Again, not anything I complained about on the original, but a nice improvement.
- Included with the package is a specially designed passive cooling system (called the Cooling Bridge, a big heatsink, essentially), which will sit over the Pi and the driver board, cooling both. This is music to the ears of anyone who has ever had problems with the temperature warning symbol appearing on the Pi when using pi-topOS. It was essential that they did this due to pi-topOS being quite intense, resource-wise. I would have preferred that they improve the software so that this wasn’t necessary, personally, but I can see the argument and at least they’ve done something.
- The accessible ports have been moved to the back of the case thanks to a re-jigging of the position of the Raspberry Pi. The Pi is screwed in, rather than magnetically held (such as on the CEED). I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand it means the Pi is held securely and everything is more like where it should be, but on the other hand it means you can’t remove the Pi as easily.
- One of the Pi’s four USB ports is now used up to connect the keyboard/trackpad.
- Instead of the fiddly screw-on rails of the old model, they have put in a CEED-style magnetic strip rail for adding peripherals. This is so much better – the CEED had it right, so it’s only sensible to bring that over.
- Aesthetically, instead of the vibrant green being an all-over affair, there is now a grey bezel around the edge of the screen to contrast with the green of the keyboard area.
- The battery life has been shortened from 11 to 8 hours (a bit of a shame, but still… 8 hours is a lot better than most laptops manage). The battery is probably lighter as well because the product is significantly lighter overall – instead of 2.5kg, it is now a svelte 1.5kg!
- Included in the package is an SD card removal tool – their answer to the awkward position of the Pi’s SD card, I suspect. A good solution, considering the alternative of not being able to get the SD out without unscrewing the Pi. The tool doubles as a screwdriver – handy when assembling.
- The SPI bus is no longer used on-board the driver board, which means it won’t conflict with any HATs or add-on boards – a bit of a bugbear amongst enthusiasts.
- And, perhaps best of all, they are including an Inventor’s Kit. The main part of this is 3 “Inventor’s Journeys” – Smart Robot, Music Master and Space Race. You can see a picture of the Smart Robot below together with the parts kit that is included. A full list of the contents wasn’t given to me, but it looks like lots of LEDs, resistors, sensors, a breadboard and jumper wires. In these Journeys, there are more than 20 individual projects to complete. They’ve really upped their game in this regard! I’ve also taken a look at the documentation that comes with the package and I must say I’m impressed. See the bat example below:
It’s beautifully designed, and fits in with the overall ‘feel’ of pi-topOS. The package is made complete by the inclusion of an SD card with the latest pi-topOS (Polaris) pre-loaded. I’ve used Polaris a fair amount, and the OS gets better with each release.
Basically, pi-top have done it again. They’ve taken their flagship product, listened to feedback, explored new options and new technology and developed a fantastic new updated laptop model. I can’t wait to get my hands on one!
Where to buy it
The new pi-top is currently available in the UK from ModMyPi for £259.99 (inc VAT, without the Pi) or £289.99 (inc VAT, with the Pi) or from RS Components for £220.99 (plus VAT, I think that’s without the Pi, but not sure). It is also available from pi-top themselves for $319.99 (including the Raspberry Pi) or $284.99 (without the Pi).