CrowPi-L: 30 Seconds Review
This is a déja-vu for Elecrow with a laptop based on the beloved Raspberry Pi (opens in new tab) platform. The special thing about this edition is that it is more streamlined compared to the CrowPi2 (opens in new tab) notebook, with an emphasis on a simple laptop rather than a complicated development kit with a laptop. Elecrow is successful in this and the CrowPi-L is a computer that even small children can use.
Being a kit, the assembly process is a breeze and only takes a few minutes to complete. The cooling system is below par, while the LCD resolution is on the low side. Still, the CrowPi-L can perform adequately as an IoT debugging PC or an ARM development system, deviating from its initial mandate to be a learning tool.
CrowPi-L: prices and availability
The CrowPi-L laptop is available in two flavors. The Basic kit includes only the computer and hardware accessories, while the Advanced kit includes the Basic kit and includes a breakout board for the Pi’s GPIOs and a starter kit box containing 22 electronic modules. Both versions can be purchased with or without a Raspberry Pi board. When purchased with the Pi, there are only two Pi models available, either 4GB or 8GB RAM. The CrowPi-L Basic kit without Pi costs $203.15 (opens in new tab) while the advanced kit with the 8 GB Pi costs $360.15.
The CrowPi-L comes in a white box containing a 24W universal AC adapter, a wireless mouse and hardware accessories for the device. The laptop measures 19cm x 29.1cm x 4.6cm and weighs 1.2kg assembled. Also included is a 32GB SD card with the operating system and a user manual.
Elecrow did a great job optimizing the assembly process, which can be done without a screwdriver. Screws with head grooves are finger-tightened. The laptop also uses small but strong magnets to secure the Pi board and plastic back. Four PCBs connect the Pi to the laptop’s motherboard.
The 11.6” IPS LCD supports a resolution of 1366×768 pixels and is only suitable for large images and large texts. The audio system consists of a stereo speaker, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microphone that sits next to the 2M pixel camera.
While the power button can start the laptop, the system can only be turned off gracefully from the Linux menu. Long pressing the power button turns it off without any Linux shutdown procedure. The built-in mouse pad is placed above the keyboard, resulting in occasional key presses during use.
CrowPi-L: Features and Use
The CrowPi-L boots the custom Raspbian Linux image in less than 30 seconds. It contains drivers for peripherals used by the laptop, such as the webcam and microphone, as well as the battery meter and the intensity of the keyboard backlight. The OS is very snappy with the 8GB RAM version of the Pi. Multiple applications can be run in parallel without any loss of CPU performance.
The CrowPi-L is primarily an introduction platform for children who want to delve into programming and electronics. The SD card is loaded with applications such as the Arduino platform or Letscode, unleashing the Pi’s full potential within a few lines of code. It also comes with a web browser and media player, allowing the platform to be used as an entertainment hub.
The Raspberry Pi GPIO connects to an expansion card via a flat ribbon cable. The cable is properly labeled to avoid incorrect connection. The expansion board through its twenty 4-pin male headers allows for various experiments to be performed by simply plugging in the appropriate module and running the appropriate code on the Pi.
The laptop is equipped with a small 18.5Wh battery that can be used normally for three hours. Charging the battery also takes three hours. The Pi’s quad-core CPU is cooled using an always-on fan, generating a small but noticeable hum. Geekbench gives meager scores of 144 and 299 for single-core and multi-core respectively. This shows that the fan is doing a bad job, cutting the CPU unnecessarily.
CrowPi-L: The Competition
Few Raspberry Pi based platforms have the same idea of making a portable and affordable laptop. Usually the quality of the product falls short, or key components are missing to make a standalone computer.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has devised a computer in a keyboard. Using the same CPU and hardware as the current Pi, the Raspberry Pi 400 includes the GPIO header as an external connector. This is in line with what the CrowPi-L offers, but isn’t really portable without a battery and LCD.
CrowPi-L: Final Verdict
The CrowPi-L is a great educational laptop based on the Raspberry Pi. It uses most Pi interfaces and even puts the internal GPIO header on an external connector. The included GPIO expansion board further extends the usability of the laptop. Small electronic modules can be easily controlled using software applications from Elecrow.
With a larger battery capacity and higher LCD resolution, the CrowPi-L would have been a good product. More worryingly, the Pi’s CPU is only cooled by an always-on fan that isn’t up to the job. This results in a disappointing performance that may be enough for an educational platform. That said, the CrowPi-L remains a great first computer and will make an excellent gift.
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