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Erika Rawes / Lifewire
Great for beginners
Compact design (PC inside of keyboard)
Kit includes OS pre-installed
Ethernet and dual-band Wi-Fi
Helpful community of Pi users
Still pretty bare bones
Keyboard limits potential
No CSI port
The Raspberry Pi 400 is a speedy little PC inside a keyboard that can do almost anything you want it to, but the new keyboard design is limiting in some areas.
We purchased the Raspberry Pi 400 Kit so our reviewer could put it to the test. Keep reading for the full product review.
The best mini PCs take up less desk space, yet they still offer enough power and performance to serve your needs. Raspberry Pi computers aren’t typically known for their processing power, but they serve as an affordable way to create a personal computer, home automation system, streaming media player, or gaming system with just a little bit of research and understanding of how the Pi system functions.
The most recent iteration of the Raspberry Pi, the Raspberry Pi 400, has better processing and the Pi computer built right into a keyboard. This allows for an even more compact personal computer, and the Pi 400 kit even includes a microSD card with the OS preloaded. To see how this new Pi compares to previous generation models and other mini PCs, I tested it for a week. Here’s my full review of the Raspberry Pi 400.
Previous versions of the Raspberry Pi didn’t exactly come across as accessible to the typical PC user who spends most of their time surfing the web. The older Raspberry Pi models look like a mini motherboard with ports and other components attached. The Raspberry Pi 400 is completely different, as the board is housed inside a keyboard for easier setup and use. It’s reminiscent of those all-in-one PC keyboards from the 80s.
The Pi 400 just includes the keyboard PC, but if you go with the Pi 400 kit, it includes a USB mouse, a power supply, a mini HDMI to HDMI cable, a guide on how to use the Pi, and most importantly, a microSD card with the Raspberry Pi OS (formerly Rasbian) pre-installed. The kit also provides a full-sized SD card adapter for transferring and loading software from your main computer. The PC-in-a-keyboard design makes the Pi 400 Kit less like a computer you have to build, and more like a PC you can start using right out of the box. It also means the Pi can compete with other, more expensive mini PCs.
The Pi keyboard is small, but it’s still usable. It’s about the size of a typical Bluetooth keyboard that you’d buy for a tablet, as it measures about 11 inches wide and just under 5 inches in depth. The red and white design doesn’t really match most monitors, but it still looks sleek. And, the included mouse goes well with the keyboard, with the same color scheme.
On the back of the Pi 400, you’ll find a slot for the microSD card, as well as all of the ports. It has two micro HDMI slots, three USB slots (two 3.0 and one 2.0), a horizontal 40-pin GPIO header, and the port for the power supply. The power button is on the keyboard itself—press F10 to power on the Pi, and press Fn + F10 to power it off.
The Raspberry Pi 400 is still...well, a Raspberry Pi. It isn’t a traditional PC in the sense that it doesn’t have full capabilities like a typical laptop, desktop computer, or even mini computer. The Pi is just a computer—it doesn’t even have an operating system unless you add one (fortunately, this Pi includes the OS with the kit). Even when you add the OS, the Pi has a relatively barebones interface. The whole purpose of a Raspberry Pi is to be whatever you want it to be—a personal computer, a smart home controller, a gaming system, or whatever else you can think of.
The keyboard made setup easier, as did the additional accessories in the kit. I just had to put the microSD card in the keyboard's slot, connect the mouse and power supply, connect the keyboard to a monitor, and power on the Pi. After some updates, I was up and running.
The whole purpose of a Raspberry Pi is to be whatever you want it to be—a personal computer, a smart home controller, a gaming system, or whatever else you can think of.
One great thing about Raspberry Pi is that there’s a community of users to help you out with project ideas, to share terminal commands, and to help with troubleshooting. Pi computers are great for makers, but once I really started experimenting with the Pi 400, I realized the keyboard is beneficial in some areas, but it’s limiting in others.
You can create a streaming system or RetroPie Gaming System pretty easily with the Pi 400, and you don’t even need to attach a keyboard when you need to add content or perform updates. However, the keyboard form factor prevents you from putting the Pi inside of a mini Nintendo-style case like you can with the Pi 3.
It would be difficult to make anything outdoors with a keyboard, and it would be tough to use the Pi as a security camera when it’s inside of a keyboard. You can remove the Pi from the keyboard if you really want to, but that would kind of defeat the purpose of going with the 400 model. Instead of removing the board, you could just opt for a Pi 4, although it has a lower CPU clock (1.5 Ghz).
The Pi 400 has two mini HDMI slots, so you could connect two displays if you wanted to. It can display in 4K as well, which is impressive for a mini PC under $100.
The Raspberry Pi 400 doesn’t have a DSI port for connecting a capacitive touchscreen display, but you can connect just about any compatible HDMI monitor as long as you use a micro HDMI to HDMI cable.
The Pi 400 is the fastest Pi yet, with a 1.8GHz quad-core processor (compared to 1.5GHz on the previous model Pi 4). It doesn’t feel sluggish when booting up, nor does it lag when moving between different applications.
Because this is a Pi, running benchmarks was a bit of a pain because the OS is small and open-source, so it isn’t ready to run benchmarking tools on a whim. I was able to install Phoronix Test Suite and run a few benchmark tests, including C-Ray 1.1 and a few others. On C-Ray, it earned a moderate score of 561.26. When idle, the Pi ran at a temperature of around 34 degrees Celsius. It has good thermal architecture, with a heatsink inside the keyboard to keep the system cool.
The PC-in-a-keyboard design makes the Pi 400 Kit less like a computer you have to build, and more like a PC you can start using right out of the box.
The Raspberry Pi 400 Kit with the included Raspberry Pi OS card has a few games preloaded, like Soccer, Boing, Bunner, and Minecraft Pi. Minecraft Pi lets you build Minecraft style, while also learning about programming languages.
You can turn your Raspberry Pi 400 into a RetroPie gaming system, where you can play classic games from Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Sega, Atari, and more. I created a RetroPie using a Raspberry Pi 3 a few years back, and I’d have to connect a keyboard for any updates or changes. The new keyboard form factor makes things a bit easier with the Pi 400.
The Kit with the included Raspberry Pi OS has LibreOffice applications preloaded. You get LibreOffice Base, Calc, Draw, Impress, Math, and Writer. This is helpful for homework, work, keeping track of your command lines, basic word processing, or for creating spreadsheets.
The accessories tab includes a PDF viewer and a calculator, as well as a text editor and an SD card copier. You also have a basic web browser—plenty of tools to get you started.
You won’t find built-in speakers, but the Pi 400 will play audio on your monitor’s speakers when you use the HDMI to mini HDMI cable included in the kit. It also has Bluetooth for connecting a pair of wireless headphones. I had no problem connecting a few different types of Bluetooth headphones to the Pi. There’s no audio output jack, but you can connect compatible USB speakers if you launch the appropriate USB commands in the terminal.
The Pi 400 has dual-band Wi-Fi, so you can connect it to a 2.4GHz or 5GHz network. It also has Bluetooth, as well as a Gigabit Ethernet port for wired connectivity.
Here at my home in the Research Triangle in North Carolina, my Wi-Fi speeds max out at 400Mbps. I was able to get respectable speeds on this mini PC, with around 100Mbps upload and 30Mbps download. I did not attempt a hardwired connection.
The Pi 400 doesn’t have the CSI (camera serial interface) port for connecting the camera accessory, and this limits the types of projects you can create to a certain extent.
You can connect a USB webcam as an alternative, but this won’t provide the same tiny form factor as you’d get with previous Pi models. Also, keep in mind when using a USB webcam, you have to go into the terminal and enter a command to install the webcam package. You can then use commands to take a picture with your webcam, and you can adjust your commands to specify things like sizing, borders, and other conditions. It’s not as seamless as a typical Windows or Chromebox mini PC, where you can just plug, play, and start video chatting. You have to enter a command for just about everything you do.
Pi computers are great for makers, but once I really started experimenting with the Pi 400, I realized the keyboard is beneficial in some areas, but it’s limiting in others.
In addition to a basic office suite, photo processing software, and games, the Pi 400 Kit comes with several coding applications like Scratch, Scratch 2, Scratch 3, Blue Jay Java IDE, Green Foot Java IDE, Geany, Mathematica, Sense HAT Emulator, and more.
Although the Raspberry Pi OS is basic, the included applications make this an ideal computer for a beginner who wants to learn basic computer programming skills. The interface includes a direct connection to the Pi site, where you can find numerous project ideas from 3D print templates to robotics projects.
Unless you’re well-versed in using a Pi, I would not suggest going with the Pi 400 alone. It’s best to go with the kit. The Pi 400 kit costs around $100, and that’s a great price considering everything you get. It makes an excellent gift for a young techie or anyone who wants to learn more about computers or automation.
The Arduino Student Kit comes with the Arduino Uno, which is a microcontroller board based on ATmega328P. It comes with a bunch of accessories for all sorts of electronics, automation, and coding projects. The Arduino Kit is more like the older Pi models in that it’s tiny, and designed for building different types of projects.
The Pi 400 Kit is designed for projects too, but its PC-in-a-keyboard design and included software makes it a better option as a personal computer. The Arduino Uno is even more bare-bones than the Pi 400 with the Raspberry Pi OS installed, as the Pi 400 kit includes quite a few office and programming applications.
Practical, versatile, and affordable.
Unlike previous Raspberry Pis that are for more advanced users, the Pi 400 kit is designed for everyone. Whether you want to learn programming, create a gaming system, create a streaming system, or get into 3D modeling, the Pi 400 is a good starting point.
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