DeskPi Pro (Fail)
A thing of beauty isn’t she? I was quite excited with the launch of the DeskPi Pro purchased from The PiHut in January this year. Offering bootable SSD/HD, extra USB ports, Controllable Fan and something looking quite sensible for a desktop point of view, not to mention to the Heat Pipes for cooling. No more faffing around with converters and dongles for HDMI Output thanks to the full sized HDMI Ports, built in InfraRed sensor which would be useful for the media side of Pi, what’s not to like? The whole case is designed as a giant heat sink too.
The unit’s been sat on my shelf due to ongoing illness, when yesterday I felt the urge to assemble the unit.
Assembly was quite straight forward, given the great instructions provided with the case. I opted for an 8Gb Raspberry Pi 4 since I’m experimenting with true desktop replacements for a fraction of the cost of a PC.
Note: When using an 8Gb model, Raspbian is not a suitable PiOS to install, being 32 bit, only the first 4gb of memory can be addressed.
We needed something more suitable, after firing up V1.6 of the Pi Imager available here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/software/ I opted for Ubuntu, a Linux distro I generally use in Virtual Machines. I wanted to ensure everything was working first, before changing it over to a Kali distro.
Everything installed and pre-configured as I usually do, the first thing to notice is… the flickering screen and having issues when displaying certain colours. My Monitor wasn’t enjoying the experience it seemed, as the picture image became worse the longer the Pi was fired up.
In addition to ongoing screen issues, the whole machine felt kludgy and sluggish with noticeable lag on the keyboard and mouse input.
I went through my usual checklist of config changes that might have an effect, though these days, Linux installations tend to be more robust than they were twenty years ago. Sometimes though, the easiest solution is the most obvious, meaning take a step back and think like a child…
After faffing for a few hours, I took the Pi out of the case and tested directly and all was good. Yeah Yeah, should have done this before slotting it in the case!
The installation scripts provided by DeskPi didn’t work either for the additional hardware controls and certainly not designed for 64Bit Architecture. I was able to implement a work around them by adjusting the scripts to work correctly and recompile the programs for 64 bit. I sent a Git Pull request with the proposed changes. The clue is to use $SUDO_USER and not $USER.
Having contacted the manufacturer, they advised an issue has been identified for the first set of boards released, the solution? Replacement daughter board and other components were required. I contacted PiHut to ask how to go about getting the replacement parts… Unfortunately The PiHut have withdrawn this unit for sale and have offered a full refund.
I had a good feeling about this case, given proper button control shutdown scripts, support for M.2 SSD and variable fan control based on cpu temperature It could have made quite the difference.
The manufacturer have since put a notice on their website apologising for the inconvenience. It’s not often I’ve found issues with Raspberry Pi stuff as manufacturers tend to be quite diligent around the QA of various components, I’m hoping this is just pure bad luck.
From this initial experience, The DeskPi Pro is not quite there yet, I loved the sturdy case and the idea of additional ports and fullsized ones too. It has great potential to be something of value to the Pi community.
If I source a working unit I’ll update you all. Until then, my next Pi Project will be a Bramble Pi (Four Pi-Zero’s connected to one Master Pi 4) and Docker.
I have one of these and they sent me the replacement parts directly.
Pretty much everything but the Pi4, including a different ribbon cable for the GPIO which, as they designed the unit, must slot (dubiously?) horizontally between the USB ports on the rear. But it cannot entirely do this without twisting a little to work around the stand off used above one of the Pi4 corner holes. I substituted the tall stand off for a short one.
The issue with the USB to SATA / M.2 board was apparently a dodgy I/O chip. The replacement chip halves the max throughout from 6Mbps to 3.
Would heavily caution against buying a DeskPi for IR usage as they have wedged the receiver inside the unit at the back under the GPIO. Cannot imagine that line of sight makes a very functional IR receiver.