The Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced the Raspberry Pi 400, a compact keyboard with a built-in ARM computer. Just plug it into a TV or monitor using one of the two micro HDMI ports, insert a microSD card, plug in a power cord and mouse, and have a desktop for everyday tasks, encoding, or multimedia playback. Of available today as a standalone machine for $ 70 or in a package that includes a mouse, power adapter, microSD card, HDMI cable and a beginner’s guide for $ 100.
Hope is the form factor of the Pi 400, plus these optional packages make it more affordable and user friendly. This is important when selling an affordable computer and is especially important when selling an accessible device to help children learn to encode. It looks more like a piece of consumer electronics than the basis for a DIY project.
“It can sit under your Christmas tree, and if you open your presents at 9 or 10, you can sit in front of your TV with a computer,” Raspberry Pi co-founder Eben Upton tells me. an interview before the announcement.
The Raspberry Pi 400 form factor is immediately reminiscent of early home computers such as the BBC Micro or ZX Spectrum, and this is no accident. Although Raspberry Pi PCs have become a popular tool for hobbyists to do everything manufacture of cheap AirPlay receivers to smart home automation, at their core are designed as accessible computers to help children learn to code.
“The dream with the Raspberry Pi has always been to lure people into buying a computer and then tricking them into becoming computer programmers,” says Upton. “This happened to me, I was tempted to buy a BBC Micro and then suddenly I became a software engineer.”
Apart from the keyboard and form factor, the Raspberry Pi 400 is a very similar computer with last year Raspberry Pi 4. It has a slightly faster quad-core 1.8GHz ARM Cortex-A72 processor, from 1.5GHz to Pi 4, 4 GB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. There is a pair of micro HDMI ports that can output up to 4K / 60Hz, two USB 3.0 ports and a single USB 2.0 port. Power is provided via a USB-C port, there is a microSD card slot for storage and there is a GPIO header for attaching a variety of more specialized devices.
While the interior is similar to previous Raspberry Pi devices, the exterior of the Pi 400 is something else. Depending on the region in which you buy, the computer is integrated into either a 78-key or 79-key keyboard, which has a similar design to most compact laptop keyboards. On the go, there are six different keyboard layouts – UK, US, German, French, Italian and Spanish – and Upton tells me there are additional variants for the markets of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal and Japan coming soon. .
Fortunately, this is not the first Raspberry Pi keyboard – this one released a standard computerless built-in last year. I say happy because many of these home computers in the early 80’s had absolutely awful keyboards and the production of a practice keyboard should help the Raspberry Pi avoid serious accidents. Upton tells me that the company’s approach was inspired by the way computer maker Acorn Computers used standalone keyboard as a basis for Acorn Atom computer. In fact, Upton says observers would have seen hints at the development of the Pi 400 hidden inside its standalone keyboard, which has a slightly redundant space inside it, where the Pi 400’s computer wings now sit. .
It’s not just kids who are learning to code who the company wants to sell Pi 400s to. “Who should help? “It’s supposed to help anyone who needs a computer.” Interestingly, this also includes businesses, with Upton telling me that the company sees the Raspberry Pi 400 being used as corporate desktops or for call center agents. Interestingly, this is one of the reasons why the Raspberry Pi 4 and Pi 400 have two HDMI outputs, because two screens are the default for many business users.
That said, Upton admits that the pink and white color of the Pi 400 will not suit every business taste. “We will have to make it in gray and black and it will break our hearts,” he jokes. “We make our products in pink and white and we think they are the right color and then we kick and scream in gray and black. “
It may sound unrealistic a few years ago to dream of an office full of ARM-based computers when processors were largely considered too low power for anything other than phones and tablets, but at a time when Apple is starting to change Macs in the architecture, that the future does not seem so absurd.
Upton calls Apple’s upcoming switch a “validation” of ARM’s status as a true computer architecture and says it is proof that computers are no longer synonymous with x86 processors. In the long run, he says the change should motivate more developers to make or optimize their software to make ARM work better, and that what happens in macOS is likely to benefit the open source ecosystem and ultimately the Raspberry Pi.
Unless you want to make some serious changes, the Raspberry Pi 400 will always be a Linux computer. This is great if you want to learn how to encode, but it is still an unfortunate obstacle for many Windows and Mac owners looking for a simple machine for everyday computer work. For others, the types of Web browsing, email response, and productivity tasks that the Pi 400 is powerful enough to run may already be serviced by a smartphone.
But with a starting price of $ 70, the Raspberry Pi 400 is much less expensive than even the most budget-friendly headphones and comes with a keyboard that is large enough to spell correctly. For many people, and especially for students, this could be exactly what they need at a time when many people are still working from home and need a computer.
The Raspberry Pi 400 is available today. The $ 100 kit is now available in the UK, US and France, with availability in Italy, Germany and Spain after next week. Meanwhile, the $ 70 standalone version is now available in the UK, US, France and Germany and coming to Italy and Spain next week. Releases in India, Australia and New Zealand will follow until the end of the year.