The latest iteration of the Raspberry Pi-based pi-top computer is a handheld gadget designed to remove technical barriers to using the Pi to build homemade hardware.

The pi-top 4 puts the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ in a case with a mini-OLED screen, portable power pack with a three to six hour battery life, and four programmable buttons.

The pi-top seems designed to take some of the hassle out of learning how to use the Pi to interact with anything from simple electronics like sensors through to full systems like robots.

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To streamline that process, the pi-top 4’s makers are releasing a range of sensors, motors, cameras, a drone, and other accessories designed to work with the pi-top 4 on a plug-and-play basis. The Pi’s existing 40-pin header, used for hooking up hardware, is also made easier to get at via the pi-top 4’s GPIO Node extension cable.

The small monochrome 128×64 OLED screen is designed to be used to take readings of simple data and can be programmed to display information from attached sensors, as well as system information like battery life and CPU usage.

As with the Pi 3 Model B+, the device can be hooked to PCs so code can be deployed, with the pi-top 4 also simplifying the deployment process from a Windows PC, Mac or Chromebook.

Aimed at those aged 12+, suggested uses for the pi-top 4 include attaching it to a camera-wielding drone or balloon for a bird’s eye view, rigging up moisture sensors to record environmental changes, and controlling robots.

The base pi-top 4 bundle sells for £175 excluding VAT ($199), and includes a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, a power pack, 16GB SD card, and a selection of sensors and add-ons for starter projects. It will be available from May 1st. All told, the pi-top 4 weighs 330g and is 95mm high by 132mm long by 100mm wide.

While the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ already provides much of the same functionality, the pi-top 4 seems designed to help new users start tinkering with electronic hardware more rapidly. Whether that convenience, and the pi-top 4’s additional hardware, is worth the extra money over the $35 for the base Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ will be up to each buyer.

The pi-top 4 is something of a departure from the previous pi-top machine, a striking green laptop, again based around the Raspberry Pi, that users build themselves.

The pi-top 4.

Image: pi-top

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