Making My Raspberry Pi More Portable: Touchscreen, Keyboard, & MousesteemCreated with Sketch.

in stemgeeks •  last month  (edited)

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Raspberry Pi experimentation continues! I splurged on the SmartiPi Touch 2 case to go with the official touchscreen display and camera module in an effort to build a portable PC with my Raspberry Pi 4. I could just buy a laptop or tablet, of course, but this is way more fun!

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This particular case has some pros and cons. Once I found the online instructions, installation wasn't too bad. I got it to work on the first attempt, so I consider that a win. I am still dabbling in the configuration settings to use more of the touchscreen features, but I wanted it mainly as a monitor anyway. It includes three plates for the camera side. One is solid, one has a simple camera lens hole, and the third one I installed has studs for LEGO bricks. I have no idea why they included the others, to be honest.

I like the way this case is designed to allow the use of a HAT (Hardware Attached on Top) instead of linking to the monitor as a HAT like the default design indicates. It has covers for a solid back or a fan mount if no HAT is used on the Pi inside. There were cables to split a single power cable to the screen and Pi, one with two micro USB ends for the Pi 2 or 3, and one with a USB-C plug on one tail for the Pi 4. All told, it's reasonably versatile.

So far, my only complaint is the way the micro USB card is buried inside. One would need to boot via USB to play with alternative OS setups as I intend, or else almost completely disassemble the system.

Or just buy another Pi. Let's be honest, that's a viable option. And I still have the 3D-printed monitor mount that is now unoccupied.

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The keyboard and mouse were purchased specifically for the Raspberry Pi. I wanted a slim, compact wireless option that used one USB receiver for wireless connection. I considered some options from Logitech, because their mice have been my usual budget-friendly but decent-quality choice. However, I went with this keyboard and mouse combo instead. I had no idea how well Linux would like the oddball peripherals, but it linked almost instantly. Security and durability are unknown, but it works fine so far.

It feels like a laptop keyboard on a thin metal plate, but since that is what it is, I am not surprised. Ergonomics are nothing special. In fact, the keyboard has no ergonomic consideration whatsoever. But it is working well enough to type this right now. The mouse is also quite basic. It's a lot flatter overall than the Logitech I had been using to test the system before, though, so portability is promising.

I also like the way both use USB to charge internal batteries, but this makes me leery of long-term reliability. Two of my Logitech mice have died due to wear and tear. Gaming and drafting are both hard on the mouse button switches. The rest are still going strong, and despite heavy use, only needed new batteries a couple times per year. We'll see how these go on the long haul.

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The speakers are an old set I got on clearance at some office supply store a long time ago. They work. Nothing fancy.

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I have tested this as a tabletop gaming tool. I have my digital module open and take notes in the notepad. More screen real estate would be handy, but this takes up very little tabletop real estate, especially since I don't need the speakers there. It fits behind my game master screen nicely, too.

Honestly, this gizmo will definitely end up costing me more than a tablet or entry-level laptop in the end, but then again, those products don't offer themselves as open-source hobby tools. They're just consumer electronics designed to be disposable. And these days, how am I supposed to trust Microsoft, Google, and Apple, anyway? This is something I can use indefinitely, reconfigure to suit my whims, and experiment to my heart's content. Updates and code changes are on my terms. And that is all good news to me.

Just one question for my readers, though: Can you recommend a good battery pack to make this thing truly mobile?

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32000mAh for $60. Absolute beast, but you can get a smaller one if you don't need as much duration.

Bought from Amazon

I also have smaller ones, this is my emergency recharge for power outages and travel.

How well does it handle the USB-C 5V demand of a Pi 4?

I haven't tried, but it is a beast. I use it to charge 99% of the time.

Doing some napkin math, an idle Pi 4 runs at around 575ma, so you would get around 55 hours at idle. Under a reasonable sustained load, you are around 650ma so you can expect around 49 hours. This is based on the above usb charger which is 32,000mAh.

Pretty reasonable on one charge. This, of course, is assuming you just bought the battery, over time it will become less effective losing 5-10% max charge a year (guestimate out of my ass, but I think it's reasonable from experience).

Add a screen and power use increases. I'm just not sure about the 2.4A max per port when the Pi4 wants "5V DC via USB-C connector (minimum 3A*)" per specs. Is that mostly to cover added draw from fans, HATS, etc?

  ·  last month Reveal Comment

Well, then, I suppose I need to spend some money and give it a go.

  ·  last month Reveal Comment

I was thinking of that, too, as part of my emergency prep in advance of next winter.

You got quite a set up there.

Maybe @themarkymark or @inertia could offer some more insights on your battery query.

I'm somewhat tempted to build something like that but off a NUC, because I need a lot of power XD

However because I'm also lazy I will probably just buy a Macbook x_x

Though after reading this I'm probably going to at least poke around and see what I've got by way of options.

Can the thing run off just your standard powerbank thing that you would get for your phone/tablet? If so I like the Cygnett batteries. I've only got a little one and have managed to run around playing Ingress and Pokemon Go on my phone simultaneously for most of the day when I was playing them for most of the day (now I just open them when I'm near known portalstops as I haven't had time to actually play XD).

The NUC might be a better option to replace a full-size desktop tower PC. A standard Intel chipset will be a lot more compatible with existing hardware and software, especially if you need Windows for anything. I love Linux, but I acknowledge it's not for everyone just yet.

Those Intel prices, though... Uffda. A basic 2GB Pi model is just $35, with a full kit under $100. Even with a board, power cord, touchscreen, case, battery... sub-$200 is doable!