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Powerful upgrades turn 4th-gen Raspberry Pi into a more capable $35 desktop

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Though it was originally created as a tool for hobbyists, the makers of the Raspberry Pi have transformed the latest edition of the board into a desktop PC that starts at just $35.

The latest incarnation of the Raspberry Pi essentially moves the tinkerer’s board from a hub or controller to build robotics or Internet of Things (IoT) applications into a full-fledged PC alternative, complete with a more powerful ARM processor and more ports to handle connectivity. Priced starting at $35, the Raspberry Pi 4 won’t be competing in terms of performance against the far more expensive and capable PCs on our list of the best desktops, but it’s an affordable solution for education and home use if you’re primarily working off of web apps.

What you get for that attractive price is a quad-core Broadcom 1.5Ghz ARM-based processor, 1GB of LPDDR4 system memory, a USB-C port for power, two USB-A 2 ports, two USB-A 3 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, and two micro HDMI ports. Raspberry Pi replaced the single HDMI port from the prior generation board with two micro HDMI ports on the Raspberry Pi 4, which will allow adopters of this $35 PC to connect up to two 4K displays at 30 FPS or a single 4K panel operating at 60 FPS.

If you need more memory, upgrading to 2GB of RAM adds an extra $10 to the price, while maxing out with 4GB of memory will take the price to $55. If you’re looking at using the Raspberry Pi 4 as a web=browsing terminal, thin client, or as a substitute to a desktop tower for light computing tasks, the upgrade in RAM should help with performance. Users coming from prior generations of the Raspberry Pi’s board have lamented about sluggishness.

“What’s changed with Raspberry Pi 4 is that in addition to being a device for learning about computing, it’s also much more suitable than its predecessors for use as a general-purpose classroom computer,” Raspberry Pi Foundation founder Eben Upton said in an interview with The Next Web.

Wireless connectivity is also supported with the inclusion of Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi. An optional $5 case helps keep the dust out and transforms the Raspberry Pi 4 from just a logic board into a desktop. If you’re looking at using the Raspberry Pi 4 as a desktop PC, be sure to also add your own monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

In addition to the upgraded hardware, Raspberry Pi will also update the Linux-based operating system, making it look and feel more like polished rivals such as Windows 10, Chrome OS, and MacOS. The Raspberry Pi 4 will be able to run Debian 10 Buster, according to Gizmodo, which will make the platform less intimidating for casual PC use.

Chuong Nguyen
Silicon Valley-based technology reporter and Giants baseball fan who splits his time between Northern California and Southern…
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