computers

Test Raspberry Pi 4: is it ready to become a real computer?

Written by Pro Windroid

We were able to test the new Raspberry Pi 4 computer for a long time. A computer always sold at a low price and highly customizable.

Since their launch in 2012, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has been offering first prize computers to give first access to computers, especially in schools. The success of the small card has since largely exceeded this framework, and its low price has in particular attracted hackers from all walks of life.

The Raspberry Pi 4 is the latest product of the foundation, and offers a lot of novelties. The opportunity for us to test this computer. This test was performed with the version equipped with 2 GB of RAM, purchased by us .

Mini PC to assemble

If you’re new to the product, here’s what you need to know about the Raspberry Pi. It’s actually a small card, just a little larger than a bank card, with an ARM processor and a VideoCore graphics chip. from Broadcom.

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The user must then install a micro SD card, to store the operating system, add a box more often, and buy vvgga power supply.

c_raspberry-pi-3-modelec_raspberry-pi-3-modele
In the case of the Raspberry Pi 4, the power supply is via USB Type-C, but be careful it does not exactly follow the standard and you have to be careful to choose a compatible charger.

Once that’s done, all you have to do is connect a screen, a keyboard and a mouse, and here we are, facing a real desktop computer.

The news

As we have said, the Raspberry Pi 4 incorporates a number of new features compared to the third generation.

The SoC used is now a Broadcom BCM2711BO, which replaces the BCM2837BO, and promises an increase in performance. The latter will also come from the surplus of RAM which goes from 1 GB of DDR2 to 1 to 4 GB of DDR4 according to the versions of the Raspberry Pi 4.

We also mention the arrival of 2 USB 3.0 ports with 2 USB 2.0 ports (against 4 USB 2.0 ports previously) and a Gigabit Ethernet port. We finally have the right to Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 5.0 natively integrated.

An office, a browser and software

Raspberry offers with its solution NOOBS the choice between two operating systems. It is possible to install Raspbian, a Linux distribution with an office environment similar to what Ubuntu or Windows can offer, or LIbreELEC, a distribution designed for media center use.

With this new generation, Raspberry focuses on a classic desktop PC, and even offers a “Desktop Kit” for 130 euros incorporating all that is needed for this use.

The Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit: only one screen is missing.

Raspbian is a system that goes to the basics: a desktop, a file explorer and some preinstalled software (Libre Office, Chromium, VLC and programming software). We are far from the farandole of features offered, but not always desired, a Windows 10 or a MacOS.

c_raspberry-pi-4-modele-b-Prowindroid

The small Raspberry Pi is used as a PC 

The software, and the Raspberry Pi, being too popular, it is very easy to find guides or tutorials online to do what you want. We regret just being too often confronted with the good old terminal with lines of orders. A simple screenshot? Start the scrot command . A task manager? You have to run htop . We would like to have more solutions with graphical interfaces.

 

The Raspbian interface, the recommended operating system for the Raspberry Pi

In this configuration, the Raspberry Pi is clearly not worth a PC with AMD processor or Intel, it is normal, the integrated chip is much less efficient. However, I was able to easily type a part of this test directly in Chrome. Yes the software is slow when one is used to better, the tab or the loading of a software takes more time, but for a computer sold around 50 euros, it’s really not bad. One could easily imagine having here the first PC of a child: practice for his homework or his research, without asking to break the piggy bank.

Performances

The Raspberry Pi 4 puts forward especially its gain in performance enabled by a nice upgrade of the central processor. It is time to put that promise to the test. We compared the results with those of a Raspberry Pi 3.

We first tested the processor with LZMA compression and decompression testing with 7-Zip, and then converting a WAV audio file to FLAC. In the first test, we get a result of 3239 MIPS against only 920 MIPS for the Raspberry Pi 3B +. The FLAC conversion test also gives impressive results: only 109 seconds to convert the test file, compared to 347 seconds for the Raspberry Pi 3B +.

Un Media Center 4K?

From the very first generation, thanks to its low price and Broadcom chip, the Raspberry Pi is a great multimedia device. For a price, it allows to run the famous XBMC software become Kodi, and can decode without problems mp4 videos encoded in H.264.

Raspberry Pi 4 kodi

Raspberry Pi 4 big buck bunny

If it is only this use that interests you, you should not use Raspbian, the system with the interface of a desktop PC, but LibreELEC, another Linux distribution. The latter is almost entirely dedicated to Kodi, and the playback of multimedia files. Several months after the release of the Raspberry Pi 4, and at the time this test is written, LibreELEC does not offer a stable version of its software for the device. By the very admission of the project, version 9.2 Beta 1 is closer to an alpha version on the Raspberry Pi 4.

While the Raspberry Pi was up to limited to H.264 in 1080p, the Raspberry Pi 4 now includes a chip capable of decoding the HEVC in 4K up to 60 frames per second. Whether with LibreELEC, or under Raspbian using VLC, we have never managed to read the Big Buck Bunny test video in 4K with H.264 , it will be limited to 1080p with this format. Despite the promise, we were also unable to read the 4K video Jellyfish test video encoded in HEVC. The file is opened by Kodi, but the playback of the video is not smooth.

What about emulation?

The Raspberry Pi is also a very popular machine to try retrogaming, that is to say, play in emulation to old video games. Here we have used the dedicated Lakka distribution , which uses the famous Retroarch to manage emulators.

With its new processor, new games open to the Raspberry Pi 4. In our tests, we have indeed been able to obtain a constant fluidity at 60 frames per second with many games on Mesen (NES emulator), Game Boy ( Sameboy emulator) and even PlayStation (PSCX).

For the moment, it is not possible to emulate better machines. It will be necessary to wait for the projects to adapt fully to the Raspberry Pi 4.

A heat problem

It is time to talk about the main problem of the Raspberry Pi 4. It was just as much noticed by us directly on our model, as by the whole press. The Raspberry Pi 4 heats up, and it heats even more than the Raspberry Pi 3 that was already suffering from this problem.

Unfortunately, the card is not supplied with a cooling system: the chip is almost naked on the card. This means that on an extended session of games or intense work, the machine may lose performance in an attempt to dissipate heat.

To correct this problem, buy a heatsink to place on the chip. We can already find a few euros on Amazon , and some even offer to attach a fan.

Availability and prices

The Raspberry Pi 4 is officially available in France from 38 euros for the version 1 GB of RAM, and up to 60 euros for the version with 4 GB of RAM. The model tested here was equipped with 2 GB of RAM and was bought on Amazon for about 54 euros . To use the Raspberry Pi 4, we also recommend the compatible charger used for this test , and a micro SD card .

Find the Raspberry Pi 4 on Amazon

FINAL SCORE OF THE 8/10 TEST
The Raspberry Pi 4 marks a nice evolution for the famous mini PC. For a price still as content, we now have a map incorporating much more modern technologies: 4K display, USB 3.0 connectors, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. This beautiful evolution has unfortunately a cost: a software that still lacks finishing, including software rather optimized for previous generations of Raspberry Pi.

If you are interested for the first time in the device, there is no doubt that is towards this model that it is necessary to turn. The Raspberry Pi 4 is once again ideal for the hack, to be easily converted into PC standby, box media center or small console retrogaming.

GOOD POINTS
  • Increased performance
  • Ports USB 3.0
  • Wi-Fi 5 and embedded Bluetooth 5.0
  • Compatible 4K UHD
NEGATIVE POINTS
  • Request dedicated cooling
  • Slow in 4K HEVC videos
  • Software not as compatible with Pi 3B +

About the author

Pro Windroid

A young Tunisian born in 1986 loves the world of technology and technology news and keep up with all the new giants.

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