Working retro with a Raspberry Pi
Since moving to a co-working space, I’ve started using a Raspberry Pi 400 as my primary desktop PC at home to avoid transporting my laptop back-and-forth each day. I’m mainly using it for writing blog posts, playing the odd game, and tinkering with some of my own projects.
After a few weeks of this, I’ve got some thoughts on the pros and cons of using it.
- Raspberry Pi 400 board, overclocked to 2.2GHz
- Logitech G203 optical mouse
- AOC 1080p monitor, connected via micro HDMI cable
- 128GB storage via micro SD
- Twister OS
- SpaceVim as my IDE
- Lynx and Chromium for web browsing
I went with Twister OS over Raspberry Pi OS for the simple reason that it has a few retro themes that I like. After a bit of tinkering, I settled on the Windows 95 theme.
Chromium is fine for browsing most of the time, but it’s a resource hog, so sometimes I’ll decide to
For working, there is a build of VS Code available, but I found it to be pretty slow and a resource hog, much like
Chromium, so I use the SpaceVim distribution of NeoVim, which has just enough features to allow me to work relatively easily.
- It’s pretty snappy, especially after overclocking
- I get a nice pang of nostalgia when I boot it up into the Windows 95 theme
- Browsing with Lynx is great for filtering out a lot of the fluff
- The computer itself runs off a 15W USB-C power supply, which is nothing to sniff at with current energy prices
- Chromium is pretty slow. I find a lot of pages hanging when scrolling, even with hardware acceleration enabled
- SpaceVim adds a whole new layer of complexity to Vim, which I’ve not yet fully got to grips with
- It’s a 1.8GHz ARM CPU, so it’s pretty limited - especially coming from the M1 in my Macbook
- The Pi 400 keyboard isn’t great - it’s quite cramped and the keys need a surprising amount of force to push
- A lot of time needed to configure all of the different options
Overall, though, it’s not a bad working setup. Once it’s setup, it seems to be quite stable. And as a bonus it’s an exceptionally cheap system: the Pi 400 is £70, and comes embedded in a keyboard, meaning you only need to buy a mouse and a monitor. I’d recommend it as either a backup desktop, a first computer, or a budget system for someone looking to get into computing.