Inside the large wedge at the bottom sits a three-cell 3Ah lithium battery (we got two-and-a-half hours of use).
One notable absence from the case are GPIO pins. However, a small gap in the case enables you to feed a ribbon cable to extend the GPIO header.
We found assembly easy. Use four screws to affix Raspberry Pi 4 to the case then use the USB cables, Micro HDMI cables and Type C to connect Raspberry Pi 4 to the Main board. FFC cables are used to connect the smaller daughterboard to Raspberry Pi. These are easy to connect but the instructions do not mention how to gently pull out the connector and push them back in to lock the cable.
Three small heat sinks are attached to the Raspberry Pi and a fan screwed in place to the bottom half of the case. A small Accelerometer SHIM Module is placed on top of the GPIO pins on Raspberry Pi. When running the Raspad OS this enables a rotating display. Four more screws are used to assemble the case. It’s important not to leave the microSD card inserted when assembling or disassembling the case as it will (and indeed did) break.
Custom Raspad OS
RasPad OS is based up the latest Raspberry Pi OS but with a refreshed interface with larger, touch-friendly buttons; additional software support and tablet-friendly features: there’s an on-screen keyboard and support for the aforementioned accelerometer.
RasPad OS makes Raspberry Pi OS touch- friendly, adds support for the rotating screen, and provides an on-screen keyboard
One aspect of Raspad 3 that disappoints straight out of the box is the built-in fan (which you will quickly remove). We’ve never encountered a Raspberry Pi product that makes such a persistent noise. We found no fan throttling in software or hardware.
We found the fan intolerable to the point where we re-opened the case and removed it and dug out our heat testing setup to see what performance was like without. We measured the idle baseline temperature at 65 c and it ran at full stress for several minutes before hitting the 80c mark (where Raspberry Pi OS starts to throttle back performance). We found little difference to using a Raspberry Pi in the official case. As usual, we see no no reason for a fan to be used with Raspberry Pi unless you plan to overclock. Once the fan was stripped out we were able to appraise Raspad 3 with kinder eyes.
As a tablet it functions well. The screen is nice to look at, and touch-screen performance is snappy and quickly responds (if a little haphazardly). While functional, the on-screen keyboard is too small for our fingers and a chore to type on. Still, you can add a Bluetooth or wired keyboard for more detailed work. It’s chunky but you can hold Raspad in your hands and rotate it around like a commercial tablet. While on a surface the wedge provides two distinct viewing angles. You do lose the ability to use the touchscreen when a second monitor is attached, but it performs admirably as a smaller second display.
Raspad 3 is terrific for demystifying the technology that underpins tablets (key technology in many younger learners’ lives). It may be chunky, but you can open it up and see the processor, screen, battery, accelerometer in action. It may not be as slick as a commercial tablet, but the learning process is more rewarding.
As a daily device things are less impressive. It’s painful to watch Raspad 3 side-by-side against pi-top’s FHD TouchScreen and Bluetooth keyboard. The extra money spent on the pi-top is well worth it.
Meanwhile, at the lower end of the scale devices such as SmartiPi Pro offer a similar touch-screen display setup at a much more affordable cost.
It’s easy and fun to set up Raspad 3 but once the tablet components lesson is over it’s not great fun to use. Jarring elements (in particular the fan) don’t help. There are better Raspberry Pi 4 tablet and laptop options on the market.
By Lucy Hattersley