The perfect starter computer for young learners

When you hear the words Raspberry Pi you likely think of the small computer boards that makers, educationalists, and hobbyists use to control small circuits, or to write code in Python or JavaScript. You would be right, that is until now. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has released a new Pi. This time, it’s not a single-board computer (SBC) but rather something that looks like a consumer product. You could even say it is a desktop computer!

The Raspberry Pi 400 is a computer built into a keyboard, much like the home computers of the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a modern equivalent of devices like the Commodore 64, the ZX Spectrum, the BBC Model B, the Atari ST, and the Amiga. This makes it much more user-friendly than the bare board design of its siblings. To it get up and running you just need to connect the Pi 400 to a TV/Monitor via HDMI. After that, you need to connect a mouse, insert an SD card with the OS, and connect the power.

Read more: Raspberry Pi — everything you need to know

Who is the Raspberry Pi 400 for?

Since the Raspberry Pi made its name as a single-board computer, the Pi 400 raises the question, why? Why did the Raspberry Pi Foundation suddenly change direction? The answer can be found in the name of Pi’s controlling organization. It is a “Foundation,” a charity. Its aim is to enable more people “to harness the power of computing and digital technologies for work, to solve problems that matter to them, and to express themselves creatively.”

To do this, it engages “millions of young people in learning computing and digital making skills through a thriving network of clubs and events, and through partnerships with youth organizations.” To put it simply, the Foundation wants to help educate the next generation of creatives, engineers, and computer scientists. To that end, it sees the Raspberry Pi 400 as a kind of one-stop solution to help people learn.

It is also no coincidence that many of the members, including the foundation member Eben Upton, grew up in the age of the ZX Spectrum or Atari ST. For them (and me) these home computers were pivotal in putting us on the path that led to careers in technology.

Simon Martin from the Foundation wrote an Ode to Commodore. In it, he points out the differences between the Commodore 64, which he received for Christmas in 1985, and the Pi 400. The Pi 400 has an 1827 times higher clock speed, 65536 times more memory, and uses half the power. The higher performance while using less energy means that the Raspberry Pi 400 is almost a million times more efficient at processing data.

Related: The top Raspberry Pi projects for everyone

Raspberry Pi 400 specs and models

Raspberry Pi 400

Credit: Gary Sims / Android Authority

The Pi 400 comes in two forms: just the keyboard main unit, or a complete kit. To use the former you need your own micro-HDMI cable, power supply, mouse, and SD card. The latter contains all of those, plus a copy of the Official Raspberry Pi Beginner’s Guide.

Device Raspberry Pi 400
CPU Broadcom BCM2711 quad-core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8) 64-bit SoC @ 1.8GHz
Memory 4GB
Storage microSD card slot
Connectivity 2 x USB 3.0 and 1 x USB 2.0 ports, 2x micro HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, Dual-band (2.4GHz and 5.0GHz) IEEE 802.11b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
OS Linux
Connectors 40-pin GPIO
Price Starting from $70/£70

Should you buy a Raspberry Pi 400?

The new Raspberry Pi is designed primarily for learning. It is simpler to set-up than the other Pi boards due to its design. It’s still a Pi but this time integrated into a compact keyboard. For those wishing to learn to program in JavaScript, Python, C, C++, Rust, Java, or Go lang, the Pi 400 is an easy way in. The same applies to those wanting to learn about hardware, circuits, stepper motors, and sensors.

The Pi 400 is a perfect gift for anyone who wants to learn more about tech.

If you are looking for a full desktop replacement then the Pi 400 could help. However, beware that there are limitations in terms of performance, RAM, and storage. The Pi 400 is excellent for light web browsing (just a few tabs open), email, social media, coding, watching the occasional YouTube video, writing documentation, or simple gaming (like the special version of Minecraft for the Pi).

However, if you are an advanced user who needs dozens of tabs open in the web browser, and several apps running at once, then the Pi 400 will struggle. The main storage is the microSD card used to boot the device. This is slow compared to modern SSDs or NVMe solutions. Nevertheless, you could use an external USB 3.0 SSD. Additionally, there are ways to get Raspberry Pi’s to boot from external drives, bypassing the SD card for everything except the initial boot stages.

Raspberry Pi 400 ports

Credit: Gary Sims / Android Authority

If you can’t decide between a Pi 400 and a Pi 4, the main differences are that the Pi 400 doesn’t have a 3.5mm audio jack, nor the camera interface (for the official Pi cameras). It also has one fewer USB port. Additionally, it is only available with 4GB of RAM, whereas there is an 8GB version of the Pi 4. On the plus side, the Pi 400 has a higher clock speed (1.8GHz compared to 1.5GHz) and there is the possibility of overclocking.

Raspberry Pi 400 review: The verdict

One thing is for sure the Pi 400 is a perfect gift for anyone, of any age, who is interested in or wants to learn more about tech. While it would be a great gift for personages of any age, it will undoubtedly be of great benefit to younger people. Opening the doors and potentially fanning the flames of talents in computer science, data science, machine learning, web development, game design, and much more. Remember, the designers of the Pi 400 were those who got a home computer for Christmas. Who knows, the designers of the Pi 8000 could be one of those who got a Pi 400 as a gift.

Raspberry Pi 400

The Raspberry Pi 400 is a computer built into a keyboard, much like the home computers of the 1980s and 1990s. The Pi 400 comes in two forms, just the keyboard main unit, or a complete kit. The Pi 400 is a perfect gift for anyone, of any age, who wants to learn more about tech.

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