London-based pi-top have just launched the pi-top on Kickstarter. Pitched as a ‘go anywhere’ computer, the  has the newly-released Raspberry Pi 4 (4GB version) built in. The key feature is the plastic case that surrounds the Pi and gives some buttons and a small OLED screen and onto it you can attach the ‘Foundation plate’ which allows you to expand the capabilities of the device.
The pi-top pledges come in different flavours: the bare pi-top “brick” (sorry, but it is a bit of a brick, a very high-functioning one, though!) itself, with an accompanying 11.6″ full HD screen (with touch capability) plus keyboard and with a robotics kit (the “AVK”). I won’t go into all the prices, but they’re about where they should be, thinking of their other products.
They appear to be making an effort to, once again, create their own “ecosystem”. This takes the form of the Foundation plate and their “component modules”. These vary from ultrasonic sensors to LEDs, potentiometers to light sensors. They seem to be all magnetic, so no soldering and easy-to-connect is the thing, here. They do, helpfully, provide a couple of male-to-male 40-pin headers so you can plug that into the GPIO pins, which are broken out to a female header on top of the case, and, presumably, use standard HATs with the Pi.
The screen, in particular, is very interesting as it provides a pi-topCEED-like desktop experience. The pity is that there is no screen-only option on the Kickstarter. I believe adding this would prove to be extremely popular, especially for those who already have a Pi 4 and are seeking to get a portable screen. They’ve done a very wise thing – you can just plug the pi-top into the screen on the kickstand via the bespoke connector or you can plug in via an HDMI cable, allowing you to bring the Pi to the front of the screen for physical computing.
The robotics kit (AVK) looks very impressive – the pi-top plugs into it using it’s bespoke connector and then you can build the robot in several different configurations.
Interestingly, they are pitching the pi-top as being “portable” and, as such, it has an internal battery. This seems a bit strange as the Pi 4 is the most power-hungry of all the Raspberry Pis. Still, the Pi 4 being the newest, I can see why they went for it above a different model.
Overall, I think the pi-top is an exciting product for the Pi community. I think it will find its place and, with the accessories that come with it, it’s clearly looking to build a flexible ecosystem. They have a modest $100k goal on Kickstarter, which I expect them to smash. Here’s hoping they allow people to buy the screen/keyboard on its own!
Take a look at the Kickstarter here.
Here’s a video review from Josh: