First steps with the Raspberry Pi 400, first impressions
November 2, 2020. My birthday!
Early, checking twitter. Eben Upton says good morning. The Pihut responds and some tweets about children follow.
I recognize the pattern: if Eben is up this early online, it must be an announcement. And yes, there it is: the new Pi 400!
A Pi 4 in a keyboard, a homage to the home computers of the 80ties, a relief for those who worry about a naked PCB with untidy cabling in a school class, and all that value and performance for a low price!
So I gave myself a present, and ordered the Pi 400 immediately at The Pi Hut. After a week (quite fast this time for UK mail!) it arrives, a small rectangular package. Inside the Pi 400 and a power supply. I ordered the Pi 400 itself, not the package. I have enough cables, mouse etc.. And I do not want to use a SD card.
After installation and configuration, covered below, the fun starts. What a nice little machine! Reminds me of the home computers in the 80ties of previous century, which I tested and wrote so much about then. But in an modern format, with a modern and capable operating system, hardware fast enough for the most tasks, easy to integrate in my home network and systems.
Cool, compact, well protected, a mature operating system, Linux Debian nicely adapted to the Pi 400 and satisfies the needs of a regular user like me, with a Windows 10, Synology NAS and Pi’s network. You can see a lot of thought and work has gone into the design of the Pi 400 and it pays off!
Will it be my main PC? No, not really. That will be the Intel with Windows 10 power for photo and video editing, large software development, ergonomic and excellent Microsoft keyboard and mouse with three large displays, large fast disks, lots of memory and CPU power.
Will it be my second PC? Yes, there is enough I/O and enough performance for web browsing, mail, media center, software and hardware development for the Pi with e.g. Lazarus, for the other Pi’s here. With some cheap simple USB and SSD devices it keeps affordable and good enough.
All in all, it has found a place on my desk and in my network, it will be of real value to me!
What I cover here is:
– Installation to SSD
– Audio: USB Audio and fight with Bluetooth
– Camera, USB webcam
– File Manager, access my Windows and Synology network shares
– GPIO connector
I opted for the Pi 400, US keyboard, and not the package. I have enough cables and mouses, and plan to skip the SD card completely.
Nicely packaged, online documentation only. Here is the (hard to find!) Beginner’s Guide, 4th edition pdf download. Well written, recommended for new users. After many years working with Pi’s (since 2012) and keeping up to date with the blog and the forum, I found configuring and setting up the PI 400 quite easy.
As you can see in the photo I added to the Pi 400:
– USB hub into the USB 2 port, four USB ports for the next USB devices
– mouse (any USB mouse will do, I use the Raspberry Pi Mouse)
– USB audio adapter (a cheap one)
– USB webcam (an older simple one)
– HDMI mini to HDMI female adapter cable to a DVI adapter to (no HDMI on this Displayport/DVI/VGA) IIyama monitor!.
– CAT5 Ethernet cable to the GHz network
– USB C power adapter, the official one
– USB-3 Eluteng adapter to SATA 120GB SSD disk (this Eluteng, has ASM IC, works fine)
Installation to SSD, no SD required!
I am not that fond of the SD card as system disk for a computer. Though in the real world it does work fine for most of us, it not designed for heavy computer use, wears out and is not that fast. For embedded usage it is ok, for a desktop a real larger computer hard disk is better. So for the Pi 400 I choose a SSD with an Eluteng USB 3 adapter. USB booting is now working well on the Pi 4 out of the box.
So I took the SSD to my WIndows PC, started the Raspberry PI Imager, choose the “Raspberry Pi OS (32-bit) with desktop” as OS and the SSD as “SD card” (yes, that is supported!).
Writing the image was very fast compared to imaging an SD card!
The SSD was then attached to a USB-3 port of the Pi 400, and power switched on. It took some time, be patient, not too much status messages shown, file system expanded, reboot and then the Raspberry PI OS screen appeared and the usual questions asked. Which HDMI port? It seems not to matter!
The automatic updating/upgrading took quite some time, but after another reboot, the Pi 400 was up and running. Subsequent boots are very fast compared to SD booting!
The SD card reader? Not required for the OS, free to use, with automatic mounting.
Audio, USB Audio and fight with Bluetooth
A desktop PC without audio is not done. The Pi 400 has standard audio via HDMI. Now HDMI monitors may have a loudspeaker, but not high quality.
HDMI to DVI does not support audio. Other PI’s have analog audio out, the PI 400 does not have this, and it is not a real loss, it is of mediocre quality).
So what options for audio do I have?
– a cheap and good quality USB Audio adapter. That works well, good stereo analog audio to the soundbar on my desk.
– Bluetooth audio. Connecting and pairing to my soundbar Bluetooth succeeded, VLC plays audio fine.
But Chromium refuses to play. Known bug it seems with the current version of Chromium, I read more complaints on the forum. Note that I did not install any additional Bluetooth component, PulseAudio seems to break any chance of audio. Builti-n Bluetooth support is enough (but not pleasant to work with, as on all OS’es it seems). Chromium will hopefully be repaired soon.
Update: Fixed in New Raspberry Pi OS release — December 2020
Bluetooth sound now works for all web sites I tried, youtube, radio stations.
Do the update as https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/new-ra … mber-2020/ describes.
Camera, USB webcam
A desktop PC without a webcam is not done, So I searched in my drawers and found an older USB Webcam. Not the best quality, but it shows a normal USB webcam works fine on the Pi 400.
This requires an additional software install, in a terminal type:
sudo apt install fswebcam.
A simple test with a webcam testpage showed it functions fine. as shown in the photo.
The Pi 400 runs un 1.8GHz and stays cool with that large metal cooling plate.
Overclocking is not really necessary, but some extra is always welcome. And the Pi stays just as cool!
Stay with recommended values not violating warranty:, perform the following in a terminal
sudo nano /boot/config.txt
Change the line with arm_freq to:
Add the line
File Manager, access my Windows and Synology network shares
My network is made up of many systems. My main workstation is a power Windows 10 notebook with more screens. Further I ahev many Raspberry Pi’s, ESP8266, ESP32 nodes around. Arduino and propriety media servers, Chromecast. Several security camera’s served by Synology . My main storage is made up of two Synology NAS servers
So I took a look at what the Raspberry Pi OS Filemanager offers, And I was pleasantly surprised with the current state and posiibilities!
First I unleashed the ‘hidden’ things:
Display simplified user interface and menus
– Filesystem root
– Volume and Mounts
Now when I click on Networks in the left folderview, I see part of my network, the two Synology NAS systems.
Clicking on the Synology NAS (File Sharing) gives a list of shares on this NAS server (SMB network)
Now the file manager asks for username and password (and workgroup name). It offers to remember those, but most of the time it forgets anyway.
If you make a mistake in name or password, the fields are just cleared, no error appears.
Now you see the folders in the share and can work with the files. Depending on share and user also writing, determined by the NAS admin.
When you choose the Windows Network, nothing is shown but an empty panel and in the top field the text ‘smb:///’. Change smb:/// to smb://<computername>, where <computername> is the name of a Windows PC.
In my case it is smb://asusho
The shares of the Windows PC are now shown, select one and the usual username password form is shown. Fill in a LOCAL user on the Windows PC, which has access to the share you want. The usual Windows username, an email address, does not work. Create if needed a local Windows user and grant access to the share.
If all checks out, you have now access to the share, in this case the data disk of my Windows PC asusho.
The well known 40 pin GPIO connector is available, on the backside. Now that is not too handy for the many HATs available.
I expect to see some aftermarket solutions for that with cables and cases!
A short 40 pin flatcable female-female, e,g, as supplied with a T-Cobbler makes it easy to connect to a breadboard as seen in the photo.
Note that these 40pin connecters have notches on the top, which fit nicely in the Pi 400 and the T-Cobbler connector. So no mistakes in orientation may be made, as with the other Pi’s.