back to article Meet the CrowPi-L – a clever, slightly rustic, Raspberry Pi laptop chassis

The Raspberry Pi is rightly celebrated as a very clever feat of design. But I've always found Pi-based machines hard to work with because connecting a Pi to the peripherals needed to make it useful creates a tangle of wires. I once acquired an L-shaped USB cable to tidy up a Pi-based 3.5-inch touch screen alarm clock. The …

  1. Binraider Silver badge

    Quite fond of the ArgonOne for much the same reasons. No monitor, keyboard obviously. But works well as an anonymous box with all the cables pointing to the back.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Buy now, Pi later

    > a $220 laptop chassis designed to house a Raspberry Pi 4B.

    Sounds interesting. It is only held back by the total lack of available Pi 4B's

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Buy now, Pi later

      You can buy a pi4B for £70-80 if you are willing to buy it as part of a starter pack or pi-hole package. Perhaps you feel bad about paying double the price and throwing all the extras away, but they *are* available.

  3. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

    Less than convinced.

    I can get a reasonable second hand laptop from the local pawn shop for ~£250, processor included. So unless it actually must be ARM based why buy this? Buying used is far less polluting too.

    Sorry and all, I'd like to see this sort of thing do well.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Less than convinced.

      You can get a good kit for well below £200 on eBay. Seems like since corporations started buying M1 laptops like crazy, they are offloading their "aged" fleet of enterprise grade laptops at severe discounts.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Less than convinced.

      It's for being part of the Raspberry Pi community with a tidy portable package, as explained in the article.

      But thank you for apologising on the last line of your comment.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Less than convinced.

        But why is being part of the Raspberry Pi community important in this case? Don't get me wrong, I really like the Pi and I have a bunch of them, but that doesn't mean I have to use them for everything. The benefit of the Pi is that it provides a supported, relatively open platform for relatively cheap. A lot of cheap laptops with X64 processors will run Linux just fine, meaning you can have a similarly open environment. You don't need the Raspberry Pi for it. The product concept sounds interesting, but there are a few things that make it less interesting to me, such as the three-hour battery life on a fresh battery, which can be avoided with most other laptops.

  4. simpfeld

    Bigger question where did they get the Pi 4

    They seem to never been in stock anywhere these days (and haven't been for months).

  5. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    All these immediately fail at the keyboard. Nothing is better than my Pi blu-tak'd to the back of a proper clacky full-size full-travel proper Dell SK3205.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      That is also my favourite keyboard. I'm typing on one right now.

      1. MattPi

        These were everywhere in my office and while they're nice for generic came-with-a-desktop keyboards, they're not something I'd call clacky. Then again I'm an IBM Model M fan and have found a reasonable mechanical switch that approximates that so my opinion may be biased.

      2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        SK-8115 The same as a SK-3205, without the card reader.

        SK-8135 is a multimedia keyboard, sharing the same footprint as the other two - with a rotary volume control and other mm controls. Includes a USB hub, for plugging in a mouse/receiver.

        Can type away all day on these without problems.

        1. GlenP Silver badge

          That's reminded me, I have an SK-8135 here, great keyboard but it's lost one of the legs so isn't ideal to use. I think it's 3D printer time!

          1. The Indomitable Gall

            Given that L33t H4><><0rz always fold the legs away, that just sounds like a handy weight reduction to me.

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      No room to open it up and run the Pi internally?

    3. fromxyzzy

      I had to search to make sure and that keyboard specifically brings horrifying flashbacks to school and later jobs where I came to fully understood the vile condition most people keep their keyboards in.

  6. wolfetone Silver badge

    Fantastic! Another cool thing let down by the lack of Raspberry Pi availability.

  7. 45RPM Silver badge

    I got quite excited by this. Excited to the point of being prepared to open my wallet. But, at that price, I’d want a keyboard at least as good as the official keyboard (which is only mediocre so it shouldn’t be too much to ask), a trackpad in the right place - and a non rustic connection to the display. Given these limitations, I’ll be saving my money.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      I feel the same. I'll stick with my current Pi, External keyboard/trackpad and monitor setup for the case where this may have been useful.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Pi-Top laptop kit having been sold off for £40, designed for Pi 3B but can be adapted for Pi4 is a way to go withoit splashing out too much cash. Keyboard isn't great but at least the trackpad is in the right place.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great idea, but not quite ready?

    I love Raspberry Pis and am using them for many kinds of tasks all day and night long, however, I find the Raspberry Pi doesn't quite have enough grunt as a desktop machine. It can still feel sluggish when web browsing for example, and the thing hangs terribly whilst in the middle of doing a system update.

    Video performance is rather hit and miss too especially if viewing anything close to HD.

    I do hope it will work faster in the next iteration (Raspberry Pi 5?), because I really do believe in this and would even buy the laptop version once the performance is good enough.

    Otherwise, it runs many things well as a server especially when the desktop isn't needed.

  9. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Great. All I have to do is buy a Pi 4B (if I can find one) and the case and some storage and Bingo! I have half as much computing power as the Thinkpad X220 I bought in the spring and for only two or three times the price.

    I sound as if "being part of the Raspberry Pi community", like "being part of the crypto community", is just a way of saying "being gullible".

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Imagine spending months alone in your flat, then battling insomnia by compulsively refreshing the pilocator website until passing out. The one day, there it is - the mighty RPi 4 Model B - 8GB RAM - In stock!. The pinnacle, the creme-de-la-creme of raspberry pies. Whizzing through checkout like a cat through the room hearing a sound of opening a pack of Dreamies. Order accepted. Next day delivery, hell yeah. Then you can't just have a bare RPi, oh no. It's like being a king without clothes. Time for getting a crown, the CrowPi L. Just a formality. Everything is now in motion.

      You lay back on the sofa, saying to yourself "finally, I am being a part of the Raspberry Pi community, the struggle is over.". Then an hour passes... another hour... another day... week... and the voice inside of you scream "could someone please hug me!".

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      I sound as if "being part of the Raspberry Pi community", like "being part of the crypto community", is just a way of saying "being gullible"

      This is the problem with people, some cant accept that their personal preferences and requirements are not universal. When considering that some folk might enjoy a particular pastime, you might not be interested but it's important to remember that it's not all about you.

      So you can be a person that enjoys a particular hobby, or you can be a sad basement dwelling undateable that consoles themselves by picking fault with the hobbies of others.

      1. JDPower666 Silver badge

        Wow, you're taking the negative comments really personally.

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Depends. Is your hobby "doing things with a Raspberry Pi", which is fine or is it "being part of the Raspberry Pi community" which sounds, frankly, a bit needy?

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          "Being part of the community" can mean "Doing things for other people", which is being nice.

  10. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Interesting article, thank you!

    As said by other commentards, it doesn't seem to be a valuable alternative to a second-hand laptop.

    Pity the left-handed.

    We are the invisible minority (~_~;)

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      As said by other commentards, it doesn't seem to be a valuable alternative to a second-hand laptop.

      As other commentards have missed, it's not trying to be an alternative to a second hand laptop.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Why left-handed call their left-hand a second hand while clearly it is their primary hand and then moan they are the silent minority?

        Isn't that self-inflicted?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          You all downvote a joke? Ok, corny dad-joke it may be, but it was just a joke!

          1. MJB7

            Downvoting a joke

            I went back and reread it. Why is it supposed to be amusing?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Downvoting a joke

              He was making a joke that "second hand laptop" was referring to a laptop for their second hand...

          2. The Indomitable Gall

            Hate to break it to you, but your b got flipped there.

          3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            I find it slightly amusing that all left handed people had to click the arrow on the _right_ to voice their discontent with my poorly written joke.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              As the 'anon' who has been defending you, please note I AM actually left-handed!

    2. oiseau Silver badge

      ... doesn't seem to be a valuable alternative to a second-hand laptop.

      Or a ca. 2011 Asus 1000HE.


      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        I've got one of these in regular use, running Lubuntu. Perhaps I'm part of the Eee community? I believe that means I get to wear a bikini.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Obligatory Paris Comment

          What you do in your own time is no concern of ours (Icon).

          1. Youngone Silver badge

            Re: Obligatory Paris Comment

            Well hang on now. I'm concerned that Ian is making claims about wearing a bikini but not supplying pictures as proof.

            I think an investigation is in order.

            1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

              Re: Obligatory Paris Comment

              A quick search has unearthed this pic of a heavily made up Ian on his hols


              icon --> Invisible Paris

              1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

                Re: Obligatory Paris Comment

                What do you mean, "heavily made up"?

                1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

                  Re: Obligatory Paris Comment

                  Alright then, lightly made up

        2. The Indomitable Gall

          If I want to revive mine (for camping trips) how can I get a replacement battery?

          1. oiseau Silver badge

            ... how can I get a replacement battery?

            Easy peasy.

            Oogle it and you'll find suppliers of replacement packs from US$50 onwards in the usual places and specialty battery sites.

            Then, if you are handy, you could try to replace the old battery pack yourself.

            Again, oogle it and you'll find many DIY guides that go from just how to open up the battery case and nothing else (very useful, actually) to the full procedure of putting together a new pack with off the shelf 3.7v/2500 Mah 18650 batteries.


  11. Gene Cash Silver badge


    On one hand, buying a $220 case for a $40 R-Pi seems very Kardashian. I got a new laptop at Best Buy for $180. ('cuz I needed Windows 10 for the bike, and I don't care that it actually makes the Pi look fast - and I'm not exaggerating)

    On the other hand, it does look nice.

    However, most of my Pis go on the wall or inside something. If I need a keyboard/monitor, I lug 'em out and hook 'em up. Normally I ssh over Wi-Fi.

    And I got 4 Pi 4Bs from Mouser. Took a month and a half. Be patient.

    1. 45RPM Silver badge

      Re: Conflicted

      Perhaps. But consider how much the cost of the battery, screen, keyboard, trackpad and case is on a ‘normal’ laptop vs the cost of the logic board. I’ll bet that the logic board represents less than 30% of the total cost (although, since I’m not a manufacturer of laptops, I could be bang wrong)

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Conflicted

      A laptop chassis is nice to have for a Pi, it would better than a Chromebook in the schools and home. Probably the ultimate thin client for business as well.

      There was one called the the Pi-Top but when the Pi 4 with different-sized ports in different places came out it became redundant and the company weren't interested in creating a new version. You could use a hacksaw to make it accept a Pi 4 but it was hardly the best solution.

      Then there was the NexDock 2 but they appear to have moved on to selling more shiny expensive things to go after Apple users with too much money.

      Hopefully this one will have a lifetime longer than a mayfly, but I'm not counting on it.

      It's an obvious form factor, everyone's got a personal computer in their pocket now, if you have a keyboard and a monitor which accepts USB-3 or HDMI and a little recess inside to keep the phone or Pi out of harm's way then sales should be guaranteed... only they don't appear to have been successful so far.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Conflicted

        "A laptop chassis is nice to have for a Pi, it would better than a Chromebook in the schools and home. Probably the ultimate thin client for business as well."

        Not really, because a few of the specs make this not great for a thin client and possibly even compare badly to a Chromebook (and I hate even thinking that's possible). The largest is the three-hour battery. Students taking a laptop to classes won't always have a recharge socket at their desk. Three hours when new won't get them through a school day and will leave them tethered to a wall when doing homework. It's more likely to be plugged in at a company, but if it's always plugged in there, they don't need a battery, and if it's not, three hours may still be insufficient.

        Also, students writing essays or business users writing emails are going to want a keyboard that's at least somewhat comfortable to use, and the review doesn't speak well of it. I don't know how bad this one is compared to other weak laptop keyboards, but if it's worse when compared to that, it could impair productivity.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Conflicted

          Well, I was talking about the idea itself, not this particular incarnation of it which, yes, looks weak in some areas.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Conflicted

            In that case, I agree a bit more but I'm still not sure whether it's feasible. You can improve the keyboard, trackpad, case, and all that, but the Raspberry Pi just doesn't work very well with batteries. I've had many battery-powered Pis and, while you can do it, they lack power management features that let them save power and what makes the SoCs on the boards so cheap also makes them power hungry. This model doesn't have terrible battery life just because the battery's undersized (it's kind of small, but not laughably so), but because it's powering a Pi 4 along with the peripherals. I'm afraid that may always nag at the attempts to create a portable machine based around the Pi.

            1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

              Re: Conflicted

              One member of my household has a portable Pi with touchscreen, used mainly for navigation with OpenCPN. It works nicely, but, as you say, it drinks up amps. Even the beefiest Li-ion packs are on the edge because they generally do 3A and it wants 3.5A or more and doesn't seem to reduce that by much when it's idle.

            2. The Indomitable Gall

              Re: Conflicted

              Power management you say?

              Well surely the solution is a radical new type of computer -- a grid network of 16 RP2040 chips backing a low power SoC "host". Full chips spin up and down to manage USB devices or specific apps.

  12. nautica Bronze badge

    Damned with faint praise.

    I am continually amazed at the lengths to which people will go to justify the use of the Raspberry Pi---a computer which whose origins were in the teaching of computers to eight-year-olds, and which still excels at meeting that admirable, if no longer emphasized--nor even stated--goal.

    This particular article is filled with "...damning with faint praise..."---

    “Promised battery life is three hours...

    “...The keyboard is sub-par, with shallow travel and a nasty feel. You won't write, or code, at speed on this machine.

    The touchpad is a terrible mistake. It is tiny and placed to the top right of the keyboard. Twenty years of muscle memory tells me that touchpads are centered below the keyboard, so this positioning needlessly frustrates. ..”

    ‘...the choice of using a proprietary USB receiver instead of a Bluetooth rodent exposed the machine’s tight tolerances. I needed to make quite an effort to connect the mouse's USB-A wireless receiver. The provided 40-pin GPIO cable also needed a solid shove.

    Not quite knowing if you've connected a device, or damaged its host, is a part of the CrowPi-L experience.

    "...But once it is up and running it does a job [⁈]...

    “...the CrowPi-L is therefore capable of making you passably mobile and productive – if you can put up with the keyboard, dim and small screen, and three hours of battery life is enough for your needs....

    “...if you want to deploy the Pi in a classroom or a lab to impart Python knowledge, this machine would be ideal”

    ...But not nearly as ideal as as the strategy which is as simple and easy to do as the following:

    The interests of anyone and everyone would be best served by the purchase of something as pedestrian, but infinitely more useful, as this completely refurbished Lenovo laptop:

    Lenovo ThinkPad T440 14in NoteBook PC - Intel Core i5-4300u 1.90 GHz 8GB 250GB SSD Windows 10 Professional (Renewed) ; 90-day warranty; New W10 Professional OS; 8 hr battery life., minimum.

    $176.63 from Amazon. ASIN B072KPHQPB

    “I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."


    "I cannot help but notice that there is no problem between us that cannot be solved by your departure." ---Mark Twain

    "“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."---Winston Churchill, on Labour politician Stafford Cripps

  13. Luggagethecat

    The touchpad at the top of the chassis is a non starter for me

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