Getting Started — Raspberry Pi

Creating your Personal Desktop with Raspberry Pi 400

A starter guide on setting up your own lightweight personal desktop using the $70 Raspberry Pi 400

Raspberry Pi 400 Personal Computer

Introduction

Have you ever thought of having a personal computer that is portable, lightweight and relatively cheap? In 2020, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has released a new product which might get you excited for this reason. The released Raspberry Pi 400, is a computer in a keyboard (this might seems weird for some of you). Basically, it looks just like a plain keyboard but it can be a computer because it has most of the computing components built within the keyboard. This comprehensive guide will be ideal for those who are new and interested to get started with Raspberry Pi as I will be sharing my personal configuration to get everything running quickly and cheaply.

Best part of Raspberry Pi 400, you don’t necessarily need to be a techie to use it

In this article, I will be explaining the terms and steps as simple as possible so that anyone can follow along and have their own Raspberry Pi 400 personal desktop running. I will also include links for those who are interested in digging deeper into the topic. For those who have a Raspberry Pi 3/4, don’t worry! You can follow along this guide and apply the same steps to get your Raspberry Pi 3/4 running.

Contents

  1. Why Raspberry Pi 400?
  2. Items You Need (with costs)
  3. Step 1: Prepare the Operating System (OS)
  4. Step 2: Hardware Setup
  5. Step 3: Computer Configuration

Why Raspberry Pi 400?

Usually, when speaking about the Raspberry Pi, most people would imagine the single board computer that programmers or tech people uses to program certain stuffs. This is the typical Raspberry Pi 2/3/4 being offered in the recent years.

Simple words, Raspberry Pi 400 is a keyboard that has the capability of a computer.

To get it clear, the Raspberry Pi 400 isn’t much different compared to the popular Raspberry Pi 2/3/4 in terms of its technical aspects. The differences lies in its design where it isn’t just a piece of board but is a single computer board integrated within a keyboard. This makes it convenient for anyone even those who are not very technical to use this device as their personal computer. All you need are a screen, a mouse, a micro SD card and some cables (micro-HDMI and power supply) which you might already have! Another good advantage of the Raspberry Pi 400 is you can reduce the messy cables you have on your table as there are only 2 essential cables needed to get Raspberry Pi 400 running and usable.

Items You Need

Before starting, these are the items you need (not all required) along with the costs if you are buying a new one. Also, you can always find a cheaper option.

Alternatively, you can also buy the Raspberry Pi 400 kit which includes all the accessories at the price of $100. It also includes a guide book which you can refer to create cool programming projects on the Pi. The micro SD card size should suffice at 16GB for the Ubuntu OS or most of the other OS but i highly recommend to opt for a larger storage so that you do not have to worry about storage capacity.

Once you have all the minimum items, you are ready to configure your own personal computer.

Step 1: Prepare the Operating System (OS)

The first step is to have an operating system (OS) for your Raspberry Pi 400. As how your iPhone uses IOS, phone uses Android and laptop uses Windows, Raspberry Pi requires an OS to be installed as well. There are many OS that are freely available for the Raspberry Pi 400, but we will be using the Ubuntu OS for this demonstration.

The simplest method to get the Ubuntu OS installed on your micro SD card is to install the Raspberry Pi Imager software released by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It is supported for Windows, MacOS and Linux, and has a simple UI (so you do not have to worry about burning images onto theSD card).

Once it has been installed, you have to select the Ubuntu Desktop 20.10 (RPi 4/400) and choose the SD card connected to your computer. Once these two has been selected, all you need to do is click on the write button and wait until the process is completed, and there you go, first step done!

Ubuntu Desktop OS from Select OS options

Alternatively, you can also use other OS from the list (each OS has its own purpose). The most popular OS for Raspberry Pi is the official “Raspberry Pi OS” which you are most likely to see from other articles and tutorials. Hence, that is the reason why I chose the Ubuntu OS, as there are a number of tutorials out there that promotes the Raspberry Pi OS. Another reason is because I have used these two OS and found Ubuntu OS to have a better UI (personal preference of course).

Step 2: Hardware Setup

This is relatively a simple step but I am including this section just to assist those who are not familiar with computers. This step is basically plugging in all the required hardware together and build your computer.

Raspberry Pi 400 Ports Schematic Diagram
  • USB C port to power source using the power adapter
  • Micro-HDMI port (Raspberry Pi 400) to HDMI (screen monitor)
  • Insert the micro SD card into the SD card slot
  • Mouse (optional)

Once you have everything plugged in, you can turn on the power supply and the Raspberry Pi 400 will boot up. You can see the lights on the keyboard lighting up and the screen will display a loader.

Those who are using the Raspberry Pi 3/4, all the ports in Raspberry Pi 400 is still available but you have to plug in a keyboard to one of the USB ports to be able to type during the next step.

Step 3: Computer Configuration

You are almost there! Once you have turn on your power cable, a load screen with the Ubuntu text will appear. This proves that you have successfully install the OS onto the SD card properly. As how you would set up your Windows or MacOS for the first time, the process here will be quite similar. Do not worry if you made a mistake, you can always change these settings later.

  1. Loading Screen (1–2 minutes): This will take a couple of minutes to load as it is booting up the OS
  2. Language Settings: After the loading is completed, you will be required to configure the computer settings. The language setting is the first step, a window will pop up and you can pick which language you want your computer to use. Click the next button once you have pick your desired language
  3. Keyboard Settings: This depends on your Raspberry Pi 400 keyboard layout. You can check the keyboard layout of your Raspberry Pi 400 by referring to the shop or reseller. In most cases, it would be either US or UK option
  4. Wifi Settings: You will have the option to connect your computer to the Wifi or you can skip this later. This step is similar to how you would normally connect other devices to your Wifi network.
  5. Time Zone Settings: This will be automatically filled in if you have connect your device to the Wifi network in the previous step. On the other hand, simply click the location of your device from the map.
  6. User Setup: This section will allow you to create the user for this computer by filling information such as name, username and password. You can always choose ‘login automatically’ if you do not want to enter your credentials every single time.

Once these steps are completed, the OS will configure all these settings and this will take around 10 minutes. All done, your personal computer Raspberry Pi 400 is ready to be used! You can set up your email, stream videos via the browser, play games, download applications, edit images and anything else!

Default Desktop after Configuration

Conclusion

In this article, we have introduced the Raspberry Pi 400 that can be used as your personal computer. Although you are not a techie or a programmer, you can always use this personal computer to do your daily task as how you would on your normal laptop or computer. On top of that, students or anyone who are interested to get into the technical side or programming, Linux is one of the most useful platform to get your hands dirty. You also have GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi 400 which you connect to other electronic components such as LED, buzzer or sensors! Hope this article helps you to get started with Raspberry Pi 400 with an ease of mind

Machine Learning and IoT Enthusiast. Currently a bachelor in Computer Science majoring in Data Science and Internet of Things (IoT)

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