Raspberry Pi’s single-board computers are surprisingly versatile devices that can be used for all sort of things ranging from desktop PCs to game consoles to smart speakers. Hackers have also been building Raspberry Pi-powered laptops for years, and back in 2014 a UK-based team launched one of the more interesting versions, since the Pi-Top allowed you to modify the case designs yourself using a 3D printer.

Now the company is updating its hardware with a new modular Pi-Top model that features a bigger, better display, a sliding keyboard that makes it easy to access the system’s insides, and an “inventor’s kit” to get you started with developing hardware projects.

The 2017 PiTop is now available for $285 if you already have your own Raspberry Pi 3. You can also spend $320 to buy a bundle that includes the Raspberry Pi computer.

Once a Raspberry Pi 3 is placed inside, you’ve basically got a laptop with a full HD display, HDMI, Ethernet, and four USB ports, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, an audio jack and a microSD card slot.

The system is powered by the Raspberry Pi’s quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor and since the keyboard slides forward to reveal the Raspberry Pi, you can attach accessories to the 40-pin GPIO connector or the camera interface, among other things.

The Pi-Top should get around 6 to 8 hours of battery life, and the system is designed to work with Pi-TopOS, which is based is a GNU/Linux-based operating system built from Raspbian (which is based on Debian if you want to keep going down the rabbit hole).

Pi-Top ships the kit with an 8GB SD card with the operating system preloaded.

The changes between the original Pi-Top and the new model include:

  • 14 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel display (up from 13.3 inch, 1366 x 768)
  • All ports are easily accessible from the back of the device
  • Heat sink
  • Lid that opens to a 180 degree angle

The case has also been redesigned so that the touchpad is below the keyboard instead of next to it. This allows for a full-sized keyboard. And the keyboard now slides forward to reveal the Pi-Top’s insides. Previously there was a separate, removable panel above the keyboard, which helps explain the unusual keyboard system.

Pi-Top’s new inventor’s kit is a booklet with instructions for creating more than 20 different projects, as well as cut-out robots, spaceships and other designs for those projects.

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14 replies on “Pi-Top updates its modular, Raspberry Pi-powered laptop”

  1. A typo in the article (missing out a “the”):
    “Now company is updating its hardware”

  2. For $285 you essentially get a 14″ TFT screen, a USB keyboard + touchpad combo, a battery, some connectors and an injection-molded plastic case. That’s a bit steep, you can gut any old notebook and get the same results. The main target of RasPi is hardware hackers, so I doubt this would be much of a challenge to anyone (has been done countless times before too).
    Let’s see: an old non-functional notebook, say a Thinkpad T60p or something – $30
    A driver board for the TFT – $20
    A teensy to drive the keyboard and the touchpad – $15
    Cables, connectors, shrink-tube, etc – $20
    3D printed parts to make it look nice – $15
    That’s $100 for a nice weekend-project, if you start from scratch. I guess most of us can find a broken notebook and some parts these days in the attic.

    1. For years I’ve been reading your comments and you *almost* always have something negative to say on this site. Do you have any idea what goes into research and development for a product? A small company designed this thing from scratch and had it manufactured.

      1. In this case I just don’t understand the appeal. You want a RasPi to tinker with, but then you want a ready-made screen-keyboard combo to save you from thinkering? So why didn’t you just get a regular (linux) notebook (if you didn’t want tinkering) or made one yourself from a scrap notebook?
        What benefit does this give you? It’s main purpose is to make a notebook out of RasPi. The endresult is a portable notebook. You can get notebooks from hundreds of manufacturers anywhere in the world at many price-points. So the endresult is not an unique product, just the means how it’s put together. Okay, so maybe the benefit is that you can upgrade it as you change the RasPi to newer models. Which would be good idea for top-end notebooks, but if you are using a RasPi, you are clearly not after performance as it’s a pretty low-end hardware, that is updated infrequently. So is it hackable? Well, by going by the product page the appeal is that you can put your sensors inside theempty space of the housing to create…something. The motto is to “be creatice”. In other words tryy to find a purpose for this solution we offer.
        So yes, maybe I am negative, but whenever I see this solgan “be creative” I think the sentence follows “because we don’t know what to use this for”. It’s usually to try to take a slice from the emerging maker community. The buzzword “hackable” is getting overused for trivial things, like some empty space in a casing to build your own thing. Yeah, I can build the whole thing whatever way I like, reusng old parts and stuff, that’s the whole point of hardware hacking. This is the IoT bubble again with makers, remember that? Here is a thing (a toaster or a milkcarton, or a toothbrush) with WiFi in it (synonimous to ESP8266), now do something with it! It’s hardware-spam.

        1. You’re absolutely right about this. It makes no sense whatsoever.
          I spent quite some time using a Raspberry Pi 3 as a simple desktop at home, and it was pretty much a terrible experience. I did it mostly because I wanted to – probably the only reason you would buy this thing as well. The Pi just isn’t up to the task of being a usable everyday computer, and at $35 never pretended to be.
          No way would I spend this kind of money to turn it into a terrible laptop.
          You would be much better off with almost any other laptop made in the last 5 years.

          1. We use these in the lab to collect data and prototype digital control loops. Having the screen and video cable in the case frees-up bench space. RPi 3 may not be a great desktop, but it the best lab computer ever.

      2. I’m with zdanee on this one. Its a product that has little appeal. It’s cool in concept, and its fun to read about these nerd projects, but I think when it actually comes to putting money down for it, I would rather swallow my $285 than buy something like this. If I want to fuck around with a Rasp Pi, I will do that without turning into a laptop. If I want a laptop, I will buy a $200 laptop. If I want to turn a Rasp Pi into a laptop, I will buy a cheap $20 Thinkpad X61.

        The only appeal this thing has is that they are including an LCD screen that somebody has already sorted out the RaspPi compatibility for. Its a small challenge, but nothing too difficult for anyone who knows how to use Google.

        Having said that, I’m glad that Brad writes about these things. because they get my Nerd/creativity juices flowing. Nothing sparks my creativity more than reading about something like this, and then shaking my fist at my computer screen shouting “I could build something so much better!”

        After the first time Brad wrote about the Pi Top, I immediately went into Tinkercad.com and designed my own Pi Laptop that has a mechanical keyboard, and a Pi Zero. Here it is:

        https://www.tinkercad.com/things/7auzfB3bUdl-copy-of-copy-of-copy-of-incredible-maimu/edit

        And here is an earlier one that uses a full sized Pi:

        https://www.tinkercad.com/things/05q6sctLseq-dsa-pretrackpoint/edit

    2. I guess it can be expected. There’s always some tightwad on here complaining about price. It’s not always you.

    3. The main target of the RasPi is children being educated on technology. Some hardware hackers use the RasPi for hardware hacking– who knows how many? My personal guess is alot less than half. I personally own them for testing out ideas quickly and for running things. I have one that plays retro games, one that runs xbmc, one that runs my 3d printer. Never really done any hardware hacking with them. This appeals to me because it lets me quickly get a raspi setup and configured, then I could plug it into whatever I really want it to run on.

  3. I hope they come in gray like the old one did, that green is obnoxious.

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