Raspberry Pi 400 Daily Driver

Learning to use a Raspberry Pi 400 laptop as an everyday computer and sharing the results.

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After buying a Raspberry Pi 400 and Vilros Pidock 400 for the PiCarts project, I decided to see if I could use the setup as my main computer and not just a development platform. It's not very powerful relative to most modern desktops, but I'm patient and willing to learn. I've only owned 3 new computers in my life, this being one of them. It's cheap, portable, and very unique as a laptop. Being so cheap, I'm not afraid of something bad happening to it. This project page is to document my adventures in using only a Raspberry Pi 400 for my computing needs. I'll be doing audio and video editing, graphics design work, hardware and software development, some gaming, and the usual daily tasks like web browsing. I started adding logs relating to using the Pi 400 on another project, but this is big enough to be its own project page.

I hope this helps convince others that the Pi 4 and Pi 400 are viable every day computers. I hope to help them grow.

I was able to use the Pi 400 to produce a short test Video for my YouTube channel, Dustin's Hot Garbage. This is a shameless plug for my channel, but also a testament of how far the Raspberry Pi has come. The original video files were 4K, and the Pi was able to edit and render them without much trouble. See logs for details.

Video(opens in new tab)

This project consists of a Raspberry Pi 400 revision 1.0, running Pop!_OS 20.10 from an old 256GB SSD over USB 3.0, docked in a Vilros Pidock 400. The SD card slot is used as extra storage as needed. The system runs from 12 volts DC and has no internal battery. It has a very nice 1080p IPS display with a full sized HDMI input. Audio is split from HDMI and sent out to a headphone jack. It has no internal speakers. The Pi 400 is overclocked to 2.2GHz without active cooling. The mouse is a standard Raspberry Pi mouse that came with the full desktop kit. 

The end goal is to see just how much a Pi 400 can really accomplish as an every day computer for the masses. The keyboard form factor will encourage more people to use a Raspberry Pi, as it did with me. I like the GPIO, but can't stand the mess of wires and the bare board of the Pi 4. The laptop dock takes it to another level of convenient most people would be familiar with. I've not had any interest in using a Pi as a desktop until the 400 came out. 

The hope is that more native software and custom hardware will become available for the Pi 400 as it gains popularity. I plan to develop games that incorporate hardware on the GPIO pins such as environmental sensors and displays. I don't yet have the skills to complete that project, but I've started it and the Pi 400 is helping me keep going with it's convenience. System76 has played a massive role in helping the Pi with the release of Pop!_OS 21.10 for the Raspberry Pi. It was the only full Ubuntu OS I could get to boot and run on the Pi 400. Without it, I wouldn't be running the Pi as a daily driver. Raspberry Pi OS is too cumbersome for me to work with on a daily basis. Pop!_OS has become my favorite OS and I will continue to use it on my Pi and other systems. 

Long live the Pi 400, spiritual successor to the great keyboard PCs of the past. 

  • 1 × Raspberry Pi 400 The main computer
  • 1 × Vilros Pidock 400 Turns Pi 400 into a laptop
  • 1 × 1/4 Inch Rubber Bumpers Used to keep the laptop screen from hitting keyboard when closed
  • 1 × 32GB Samsung Bar flash drive Used as initial boot drive instead of booting from SD cards
  • 1 × 256 GB Samsung Fit Flash Drive Used for media and data storage

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  • Weird Keyboard Issue

    Dustin04/09/2022 at 17:11 0 comments

    I'm not sure what it is about this Pi 400 keyboard, but I end up with many typing errors I have never made on other systems. I've been struggling with this for months now, and haven't been able to track it down. It looks like it may be software lag missing inputs. I suspect this as I will actively type with extra force to ensure I pressed the key down fully. It usually doesn't bother me, but there are times where I am just not in the mood for it. I hate that I can't trust my keyboard and that doubt gets in the way all of the time. I've already made multiple typing mistakes on this log, while watching my typing. Still not sure what is causing this. It may be the nerve damage to my hands from my last job, maybe that I've been away from the keyboard for a while, might be that I just suck. I doubt it's a recent change though, as it has always been an issue. Probably a combination of software, hardware, and user error. The system is still quite usable, especially for the price. Seeing as the Pi 400 is about the only Pi you can actually get  these days, it makes an excellent Pi. I've got a few IBM Model M keyboards waiting on restoration that might eventually get an embedded Pi CM4, assuming I can actually get the modules and time to do it. For now, this will have to do.

  • Ad Free Internet Testing

    Dustin04/09/2022 at 17:05 0 comments

    I thoroughly despise the modern internet with its countless ads and interruptions. A little while back I installed the Firefox web browser on my Pi 400, and added the uBlockOrigin extension. Life has been so much better on the little Pi. I ended up liking it so much I installed Firefox on my Android phone and watch all my YouTube videos there. The difference is so profound that my friend saw it and wants me to get him ad free browsing and YouTube on his smart TV. Ads waste so much time and data that it should be a crime. I shouldn't have to search for the close buttons and click off ads and various requests every few seconds on a website. When I encounter that, I immediately leave the site. Firefox with uBlockOrigin is an excellent way to thin the herd of online ads, and has the benefit of reducing the Google data mining on my Pi. I watch a fair amount of YouTube videos on various topics, and the ads are horrendous. It's far better now, with no ads cutting in mid word, multiple times in a short video. I'm working on building a life that does not require internet to run, but until then, I am stuck with all the garbage being thrown at me. Thanks Mozilla for making Firefox. I rather enjoy it.

  • Digitally Signing Documents

    Dustin03/15/2022 at 02:03 0 comments

    I got an email the other day that required me to sign and return a document. As I loathe the paper experience, I decided to see if I could handle this with a Raspberry Pi 400. For the most part, this was actually a very simple process. Step the first was to do a Google search for "digitally sign PDF pop os." This brought me to a Reddit post recommending Xournal. I found Xournal++ in the PopShop on Pop!_OS, installed it, and played around a bit. I set up the input stability and ended up getting my form filled out and signed in about 15 minutes. I remember struggling with this very task on Windows years ago, and gave up. I was pleasantly surprised by how well this worked, though it did take some practice to get hand written text that didn't look like it was written in crayon. I'm not sure if most people would suspect that it wasn't printed and hand written either. Overall, a very good experience that saved me a fair bit of time and hassle.

  • Headphone Jack Failure

    Dustin03/14/2022 at 13:41 0 comments

    A while back, while editing a video for YouTube on the Pi 400, the audio began to cut out. This is on the headphone jack built into the Pi 400. It was so bad as to be unusable. At first I thought the software was lagging. After a while, I verified it was a hardware issue by wiggling the jack around. After opening the case up, I discovered that the solder joints on the jack had come loose, as they were very poorly soldered. I was able to bring out the Ryobi cordless soldering iron and had it resoldered in about a minute. The jack is working again, and it does not seem there is any damage to the pads on the PCB. I'm surprised this hadn't failed sooner, judging by how poorly the soldering job had been done. Luckily I have no trouble with such issues, but had this been in the hands of a non hacker type, the outcome would have likely been far more frustrating.

    I discovered the dacberry 400s quite recently, and may pick one up at some point, as the audio output on the PIdock 400 is very flat and quiet, and turns off when the display goes to sleep.

    So far, the system is still doing well, and I continue to use it as a daily driver for all purposes.

  • Not Much To Report(It's A Good Thing)

    Dustin01/17/2022 at 14:58 0 comments

    I ended up using this PC to convert a bunch of audio files for the Zoom F1 project, and actually forgot that I was having issues with the OS locking up. I haven't been able to narrow down the root cause yet, but the intermittent nature makes me think it might be a hardware issue. For the time being, I will assume the system is unstable and prepare accordingly. When I have some extra money, I'll order a few more SSDs and a M.2 SSD and USB 3 adapter to use for the main boot drive. For now, I will keep running on the old SSD and hope for the best.

  • OS Frustration

    Dustin12/09/2021 at 02:46 0 comments

    Tonight I decided to do something fairly simple: plug my Pi 400 into a secondary monitor in the form of an old LCD TV I have mounted on the wall. I even mounted my sound bar above it and mounted a swivel mount platform for the laptop to sit on. I fired up the Pi and the dual monitor setup works fine. Too bad the wifi is useless. Oh well, I can deal with that for now. I confirmed it's a signal problem. Nothing I can do about it now. I went to go set up audio and make sure the "Dummy Output" device problem wasn't back. It sure was. Awesome. So no audio at all. All I wanted was to listen to some music while I do some chores. Not an option. Fine, screw it, I'll just do a fresh install of Pop!_OS on the SSD and be done with it, as I know it's likely an update that kills audio device support. Fresh install, can select which audio device just fine. Open file viewer to load music off an external drive, locks the entire system up. Awesome. Restart, try to open file viewer again, locks the entire system up again. Sweet. Gave up, cloning my known working flash drive over to the SSD for probably the 10th time. I'm getting so sick of this and just want a reliable evey day PC to work with. I have a software project I want to start on, but I can't even get the Pi to stay running long enough. My old laptop won't boot anymore and has a broken screen, so I doubt I'll be able to get it working anytime soon,so I can't even go back to that. The most frustrating part is that the hardware seems to be fine and all my problems come from software. I can't stand Raspberry Pi OS as a daily driver, Pop won't run properly and just randomly destroys itself, and nothing else seems to boot on my Pi 400. I'm getting incredibly tired of this and about to go buy another PC and be done with this all. I love Pop on the Pi, but it's painfully slow from a flash drive or SD card, and is unreliable on the SSD. I know I should just throw more money at this problem and get a new SSD and such, but that's not an option right now. Even when I've built new PCs for people, wasted so much time troubleshooting software issues that it makes me sick. Nothing is simple and reliable anymore. Everything is geared towards consumers, which is an incredibly insulting term that no one seems to notice, and is just dumbed down or has every feature you could ever imagine. Raspberry Pi OS seems dumbed down to me, but for a good reason. It's reliable, but it gets in my way constantly. Pop is the most comfortable OS I have every used, but the experience on the Pi 400 is very disappointing. 

    Today's rant brought to you by me. 

  • Audi/Video Playback and System Stability

    Dustin12/03/2021 at 00:18 0 comments

    While I wait for the latest Jeff Geerling video to load on YouTube, I figured this would be a good time to post an update regarding the current state of the Pi.

    I haven't had a single lockup since upgrading all the software, despite trying to get it to do so. It runs at a an average temperature of about 60C with an overclock of 2.2GHz, and the SSD sits around 44C. It would run a little cooler if I didn't have it sitting on my lap in bed, blocking all the bottom vents, but this is a realistic use case, and I like being comfortable. So far, so good. It seems updating has resolved the major issues. I still have working audio. Speaking of audio, I ran into a strange issue where the audio completely cut out every time the screen went to sleep. I was trying to sleep with headphones in, so I simply disabled the screen timeout at the time. I later woke up and realized that the audio is split from the HDMI signal by the LCD driver board in the Pidock. No HDMI signal, no audio. It's rather annoying, but I am grateful to have audio at all, considering the Pi 400 has no headphone jack. This leads me to another thought. I had considered making a HAT for the Pi 400 that includes audio output, a nice display and media controls so one could simply have a tiny tv handy while working on a Pi 400. This would make perfect sense for me, as I always have something playing. I hate bluetooth, so that's not a valid option. I'd like to let the display go to sleep and have music or tv continue to play and have access to it while the lid is closed. I might just get the PirateAudio bonnet thing from Pimoroni and be done with it.

    I decided to find a dedicated music player instead of fiddling with VLC Media Player, and decided on Lollypop in the Pop_Shop. I try to stick with things from the Pop_Shop as i can be fairly certain they will actually work. Lollypop works just fine, though I am having trouble finding a few features, and don't like the lack of "currently playing" section. I enjoy it for the most part. I like to practice singing and having it pull up the lyrics is helpful for songs I can't understand or that are in foreign languages.

    YouTube playback is better than ever using Firefox. Chromium wouldn't install last time I tried, and I am trying to get away from Google where I can, so Firefox it is. Updated Pop!_OS has given me the best out off box YouTube experience on the Pi so far. Everything else is pretty well unwatchable to me. I'm on very slow and spotty wifi, so I am sticking with 720p for now. I have been able to play 1080p as well.

    Overall, the system is working well, and the new SSD has made a massive improvement. It went from "Usable" to "pleasant".

    Ok, my video should be loaded by now, so I will end this entry here.

  • SSD Crash Fixes and Thermals

    Dustin12/02/2021 at 17:47 0 comments

    After the short lived success of the SSD last night, I’ve returned to figure out why the entire system would hang up in excess of 10 seconds, quite often. I suspected heat was the issue, with the SSD getting too hot outside of its metal case. I noted, however, that the chips on the board were not making contact with the metal case of the SSD(which I removed), leading me to believe that it was not being used as a heat sink. My next thought, after remembering what I read on the label of my Intel SSD is that it’s drawing too much power and causing power drop outs. The 120GB Intel SSD claims a power consumption of 0.7 amps. That is a fair bit of power from a Pi USB port. The 256GB SSD might draw even more. The Pi is currently being powered from the Pidock 400, which is plugged into a cheap old 12 volt power supply I had laying around. The power supply got very hot last night, and may be causing problems. Saving progress on the log, shutting down, testing again with the SSD. Currently booting off of the Samsung Bar 32GB drive.

    I’ve gotten the system running off the SSD once again, using the Vilros power supply the Pidock came with. It seems to be a high quality supply, with a UL rating, and output of 12 volts at 3 amps. It seems to be working so far, but the lock ups were seemingly random, so we shall see. In order to know exactly when a lockup occurs, I am leaving the system monitor running off to the side so I can watch the CPU graph. So far it has been a few minutes of typing with the monitor running and Firefox sitting idle on the other side of the screen. If the issue is one of power supply, the problem should go away. If it’s an issue of heat, it should come back when the system heats up. I’ve turned off all overclocking since this problem occurred, and I can feel the difference in every day use.

    After much tinkering, it would seem that I have sorted it out. I can no longer replicate the problem, which was important in testing this. I still do not trust it yet. I booted from my original drive and used the Gnome Disks application to check and repair the file system on the SSD, which it did find errors on. I would normally use the command line utility, but I am trying to use the tools that would be available to the average user, and non Linux users or general power users. This is important to me as I am trying to help the Pi 400 gain popularity with normal PC users. The dirty bit was set, indicating the drive was unmounted improperly. This tends to happen when you pull power from the system multiple times after a crash. Even after the repair, the problem persisted. I noticed a pattern, which is always critical in problem solving. I noticed that the system seemed to be working in the background, but all video output was frozen. As this drive was cloned from a known working drive, there shouldn’t have been any changes in software, but there was a hardware change that could have caused corruption when the data was cloned and the partition resized to fill the larger drive. After finally getting the temperature display software installed and working, I watched the temps of the CPU and SSD. Neither were getting hot enough to cause problems, as far as I could tell. It seemed to lock up when inputting from the keyboard into system utilities such as the terminal and the Pop Shop. Between this, the file system errors, and the previous problems with display lock up and video playback issues, I guessed it was possibly just a software problem at this point. Normally I would keep a system up to date, especially with the exciting new features that come out regularly for the Pi. I have been holding back updates on Pop!_OS since the beginning due to an unknown update breaking audio on the Pi 400 through HDMI. Deciding this new problem was far worse, and having a back up drive to work with, I decided to update the entire system. It froze up during the update, and I had to remove power once more. After using <sudo apt –configuure -a> to resume the...

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  • SSD Boot Update: Unusable

    Dustin12/02/2021 at 04:53 0 comments

    For whatever reason, the entire system is now so unstable as to be unusable. It will quite regularly freeze for over 10 seconds. The kind of freezing where the mouse cursor doesn't even move. It happens so often that it's not worth using. With my other laptop dying today, I'm in no mood to deal with this tonight. I'm getting very frustrated with the fact that I don't own a single reliable computer that doesn't need to be tinkered with constantly. I love the Pi, but this is getting ridiculous. 

    I turned off the overclocking and am just going to let it cool overnight after converting the problematic video file that it just wouldn't play before. It plays now that it's in a more standard format. Too bad the entire OS locks up. 

    I suspect it's heat related. Possibly the SSD overheating. Will deal with it later. Really frustrated and tired. Had to listen to a barking dog all day while I was trying to take a nap after working out for the first time in about a year. Just a rough day. 

  • Booting From USB SSD

    Dustin12/02/2021 at 03:27 0 comments

    Today my Sabrent USB 3.0 to SATA adapter came in and I finally got to boot my Pi 400 from an SSD for the first time. First time I've ever booted a Pi from anything other than a flash drive or SD card. I got sick of the flash drive being so slow that it nearly made the OS unusable. I chose the adapter based on a brand I recognize and the fact that it's the smallest I could find. I was able to cram it, a case-free SSD board, and most of it's extra cable neatly inside the Pidock 400 case. The Pi sits up just a little bit higher than it used to, but I should be able to correct that. It doesn't interfere with typing, so I don't mind.

    The speed difference was immediately apparent when I started using the OS to do some bench marking of the various drives I have. I will post the results in the next log. The old 256GB Samsung SSD I'm currently running from beat out my old boot flash drive by quite a lot. It's about 4.8 times faster on the read, which makes an incredible difference. I will eventually get a larger capacity and faster drive, but I suspect I will eventually reach the limits of the Pi at some point.

    Initial impressions tell me that this was well worth the $12 or so I spent on the adapter. I love Pop!_OS on the Pi 400, but it was incredibly slow. Even running from my fastest USB 3.0 flash drive. I have to give credit to Raspberry Pi OS for running far faster from an even slower micro SD card. Pop is just a far slower OS on this machine. However, booting from an SSD has made it plenty fast enough for daily use. The SSD and adapter are inside the dock, and out of the way. It almost looks like it's meant to be there. The blower fan I bought won't fit into the dock, but the SSD and adapter do, which is more important to me anyway. I used to dread having to open new programs on here, but no longer.I highly recommend this upgrade for anyone looking to use a Pi 40 or Pi 400 as a daily driver. USB flash drives just can't compete, overheat faster, and end up being far more expensive. Even the oldest, slowest SSD is likely to be faster than the fastest flash drive.

    I have benchmark results from all of the drives I have boot from since starting this project and will try to post a detailed report of my findings tomorrow. This Pi 400 laptop I'm building has quickly become my favorite PC of all time, and I doubt I'll ever get rid of it. I'd love to buy a second one, but can't justify that, and things are out of stock for the most part. I will continue my quest to make the best Pi 400 daily driver I can with renewed haste and vigor.

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DBkizlo wrote 12/21/2021 at 22:50 point

a really nice idea. Ill be following it. My daily driver, a lenovo x220 only has 2 cores 2 threads @2.5Ghz. So in terms od CPU theres not that mutch of a diffrence. Im curious to see how the Pi 400 will do. Have you tried to run Linux Mint on it. Im running mint off a 128GB USB 3.0 Flash drive and it works fine for me.

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Dustin wrote 01/17/2022 at 14:44 point

I had an x230 for quite a while and loved it. Had a nice i7 quad core, but terrible graphics. The Pi 400, at 2.0GHz to 2.2GHz is actually a good daily driver for me. I've even done 4K video editing on it as well. I recommend it for anyone needing a cheap and simple PC. Most of the limitations I've run into are software, such as poor GPU support and the usual ARM/Linux software ecosystem. I run Linux exclusively, so it hasn't been a problem. Windows is out for the Pi now, and getting better, but I haven't tried it yet. I need to buy more SSDs and SD cards for OS testing, and will post updates here. I haven't seen a Linux Mint distro that will run on the Pi yet, as it was the first one I researched. I boot from a USB 3.0 SATA SSD adapter, and it boots and runs far faster than even he fastest USB flash drives I've found, due to thermal throttling and they type of memory used. Check the logs on this project page for details. Cheers!

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