There’s no shortage of creative Raspberry Pi-powered projects and clever-minded tinkerers pushing the envelope of what the diminutive DIY mini-computer can do. Among them, laptop conversions are among the most satisfying; nothing quite illustrates the power of the Pi than one sitting comfy like an electronic hermit crab in a repurposed Dell or Lenovo laptop.
But, for those of us out there that aren’t blessed with the dexterity, know-how, and patience for experimentation, there’s another great, not to say relatively painless, way to transform a Raspberry Pi into a genuine laptop, screen, keyboard, and all: Raspberry Pi laptop kits. From educationally-geared project stations to well-guided DIY projects by way of sleek, all-in-one kits that, while far behind laptop design-maestros like Apple, bring some visual flair to the RPi experience, these versatile kits with a familiar form factor are a gentle first step into the fun and creative world of the Raspberry Pi.
In today’s guide, we’re showcasing some of the best Raspberry Pi laptops currently available to, hopefully, help steer those tempted to take the leap towards a purchase they won’t soon regret.
Products at a Glance
Our first port of call was to assess each option in the same way we would any run-of-the-mill laptop, notably specifications such as screen, battery life, keyboard, track pad, construction quality, and the like. Secondly, we evaluated what each adds to the Raspberry Pi experience, whether that’s sensors, buttons, LEDs, modules, and any additional hardware like an SSD. Taking all these factors, we weighed up whether they were worth the asking price.
Applying this method, we managed to slim down our selection to four Raspberry Pi laptops that, in our humble opinion, deliver a fantastic all-in-one Pi experience. Below, we explain why we are fond of each while also pointing out where they fall short. Demands do vary from person to person and from project to project, so we’ll also highlight in what context each pick shines. Finally, you’ll find a ‘Things to Consider’ section further down that offers several choice points to consider when leafing through Raspberry Pi laptop listings.
Best Raspberry Pi Laptop in 2021
Familiar clamshell design
10 hour battery life
13.3-inch HD TFT LCD
Keyboard and trackpad
The Pi-Top DIY Laptop For Raspberry Pi takes on a form factor and functionality that most resembles a traditional laptop of all the Pi laptop kits on the market. For those that want a gentle transition from typical computing to the world of Pi, this is among the best picks out there. Those wary of the complexity of DIY computing should be pleased with Pi-Top DIY Laptop For Raspberry Pi’s familiar clam shell form factor and all-in-one construction.
Aesthetically, it’s reminiscent of a 13-inch laptop you’d find peddled by the likes of Lenovo, Dell, or Acer, albeit with a striking lime green and black color scheme that certainly makes a statement. The entire product is 3D-printed, and as such, the build quality isn’t quite on par with what you’d expect from a consumer-level laptop. Nevertheless, by DIY standards, there’s little here to complain about, especially as Pi-Top has gone to considerable lengths to deliver a sleek, contained home for the Raspberry Pi, ideal for those intrigued by engineering, programming, and general tinkering.
In the box, you’ll find the Pi-Top broken down into four core parts: a 13.3-inch TFT LCD with a resolution of 1366 x 768, 60 Hz refresh rate, and an anti-glare finish; a base that houses the Raspberry Pi and battery pack; a circuit board hub that manages power, screen signal conversion and drivers, and more, which also sits in the base; and finally, a top layer that includes keyboard, mouse, and sliding cover to allow easy access to the Pi, hub, and cabling. These parts snap together easily with no need for screws or tools, although you’ll need to attach the Pi via the usual array of screws and standard offs.
The Pi-Top DIY Laptop For Raspberry Pi boasts a battery life of 10 hours on a single charge. Additionally, the Pi-Top DIY Laptop For Raspberry Pi ships with an 8 GB SSD preloaded with the Pi-Top OS, stacked with projects and applications to guide users from novices to competent tinkerers.
Unfortunately, the Pi-Top DIY Laptop For Raspberry Pi is only compatible with the Raspberry Pi 2 and 3. Pi-Top has also discontinued the kit as the company has moved on to bigger and better projects that accommodate the latest generation Raspberry Pi 4. Stock remains, but there may be a bit of a hunt involved to secure one. Fortunately, discontinuation means a significant price drop.
No assembly required
Immediate access to a wealth of modules and sensors
Includes Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 4GB
76 lessons and 20 creative projects
11.6-inch IPS and 1080p resolution
Sturdy build quality
Wireless keyboard and mouse
Poor quality keyboard
Designed to offer children, students, and DIY fans a launch pad to bring their projects to life, the Elecrow CrowPi2 impresses for just how much it offers within its unassuming pre-assembled metal shell.
It offers immediate, out-of-the-box access to no less than 22 kinds of sensors and modules, including an RGB matrix, breadboard, buttons, buzzer, LED, relay, step motor, light sensor, and more, all contained in a convenient and robust all-in-one solution that, uncommonly for Pi kits, ships with a brand new Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 4 GB. As far as plug-and-play kits, the Elecrow CrowPi2 is unrivaled and confidently takes the crown as our top pick for those eager to learn and experiment from the get-go.
The Elecrow CrowPi2 also stands out for delivering an impressive software platform with 76 lessons, 20 creative projects, and 18 games designed to teach everything from coding languages like Python to AI programming by way of electronics through an engaging dialogue teaching mode as well as face and speech recognition.
On the specification side of things, the Elecrow CrowPi2 features the Raspberry Pi 4 mentioned above, an 11.6-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, 2-MP camera, microphone, and stereo output. The kit includes a wireless keyboard with a trackpad and mouse. The magnetized keyboard is detachable from the case to access the sensors and modules below. The typing experience isn’t anything to write home about, and there’s some noticeable flex when any force beyond a feathery tap is applied.
Another barrier to outright recommending the Elecrow CrowPi2 to anyone interested in a Raspberry Pi laptop is the prohibitive price tag – north of $450 – or roughly the price of an entry-level Windows laptop or mid-range tablet. The durability backed into the sturdy build quality (excluding the keyboard), and the broad range of sensors and modules means that the Elecrow CrowPi2 conceals countless hours of fun that could keep budding engineers and programmers busy for months on end. As such, as a long-term learning tool, the asking price is a little more palatable.
7-inch IPS touch screen
1024 x 600 resolution
Foldable leather case with built-in keyboard
Audio, HDMI, and USB ports
No mounting/housing for the Raspberry Pi
The Jun-Electron Touch Screen with USB Keyboard Leather Holder isn’t only the smallest laptop kit we’re covering here but also the most affordable, priced at a reasonable $80. The drop in price does come with some compromises; the Jun-Electron Touch Screen with USB Keyboard Leather Holder lacks the sturdy build quality of our other picks and doesn’t quite have the same convenience features or any modules and sensors.
At the center of the Jun-Electron Touch Screen is a foldable leather case that houses on one side a 7-inch IPS touch screen capable of pushing a resolution of 1024 x 600, and on the other, an in-built keyboard. The format means easy transportation, and the leather case is of decent quality. The PCB mounted on the back of the screen also offers several expansion possibilities, including HDMI, audio, and USB ports. The touch screen allows for five-point capacitive touch commands and gestures for that tablet-style interactivity.
It’s a lightweight solution, free of any added embellishments and niceties, aimed squarely at mimicking the simple functionality of a laptop rather than a tinkering and experimenting station like the Elecrow CrowPi family of Raspberry Pi laptop kits. The bare-bones arrangement means no integrated battery, and the Jun-Electron Touch Screen with USB Keyboard Leather Holder sources power exclusively from the Raspberry Pi via USB.
Unlike the other laptop kits in our guide, the Jun-Electron Touch Screen with USB Keyboard Leather Holder has no mounting or housing system for the Raspberry Pi. It may be possible to rig together a DIY solution, but the kit lacks an all-in-one form factor and the convenience that goes along with it. This does have a silver lining, though, which is broad compatibility with all models of the Raspberry Pi from the first generation Pi 1 to the latest Pi 4.
Contained solid ABS briefcase form factor
19 sensors and modules
21 lessons and projects
Ships with Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 2 GB
Wireless keyboard and mouse
Power supply required
As the name implies, the Elecrow CrowPi is the original version of the Elecrow CrowPi2 we covered above. It has many of the same excellent features geared towards learning and experimentation, but all packaged in a more robust and contained solid ABS briefcase form factor and costs considerably less due to its age, around $200. As such, it’s capable of handling the knocks and bumps so often delivered by eager and inquisitive youthful Pi enthusiasts.
The Elecrow CrowPi delivers everything required to get started in its briefcase form factor, including a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 2 GB, which is already integrated into the kit. As such, there’s no setup or lengthy assembly process, and the CrowPi works immediately out-of-the-box with a rich array of 19 sensors and modules from a functional weather station and breadboard to LEDs, buzzer, relay, button array, and stepper motor to toy with. It also features a 7-inch touch screen, microphone, and camera.
Alongside, the kit comes bundled with a great selection of accessories, including a wireless mouse and keyboard, game controllers, IR controller, touch pen, IR receiver, and earphones. The user manual is excellent, as are the 21 well-structured and paced lessons. These inject a good dose of fun into the learning process and walk users through what components do, learning code, and bringing CrowPi projects to life from retro gaming to Python coding by way of fire alarm systems.
Unfortunately, the Elecrow CrowPi lacks a battery and requires a constant link to the mains via an included power supply. It’s unquestionably portable thanks to the briefcase design but lacks the wireless versatility of the Pit-Top, for example.
Things To Consider
Similarly to shopping for a traditional laptop, it’s worth considering the type, capacity, and average life of the battery. Some may use typical cylindrical dry batteries (think AA, CR2, etc.), while others may employ Lithium-Ion variants commonly used in laptops. Additionally, you may come across kits marketed as ‘laptops’ but, in fact, source power from the Pi itself, in which case you’ll either need a power supply or power bank to make it truly portable.
Fortunately, the Raspberry Pi, even-sided by a screen and modules, is substantially less power-hungry than a standard laptop, and as such, battery life tends to be higher. We’d suggest somewhere between six to eight hours of use on a single charge as a sweet spot.
Peripherals – screens, keyboards, trackpads, webcams, and microphones integrated into the laptop’s casing. As a minimum, you’ll need at least a screen, keyboard, and trackpad to get basic functionality. Check the size of screen and resolution, as well as the build quality and feel of the keyboard, and whether the trackpad delivers a responsive mousing experience.
Other peripherals are desirable but only truly necessary if they are vital to your specific project or aims. They also tend to hike up the asking price, so keep this in mind if a stacked option’s price tag exceeds your allocated budget.
Additionally, you may come across Raspberry Pi laptops with extra hardware such as the Pi-Top DIY Laptop’s included 8 GB SSD; a nice boost to the SD Card in the RPI for projects that demand considerable amounts of storage space.
Sensors and Modules
Unlike traditional laptops, designed for general use tasks such as web browsing, productivity, media consumption, and possibly gaming for the most souped-up gaming options, Raspberry Pi laptops are very much about equipping users with tools to experiment and learn. These come in the form of all manner of sensors and modules, ranging from stepper motors, buttons, IR receivers, breadboards, RGB matrices, and LEDs to complete modules like weather stations.
If you’re buying a Raspberry Pi laptop for educational purposes or a child, we highly recommend kits that ship with lessons, projects, and games to develop programming and creativity skills. These offer a gently guided introduction to what the laptop can do.
Intuitive assembly, a standard clam shell design, generously sized battery, and an HD screen combine to make the Pi-Top DIY Laptop For Raspberry Pi one of the best Raspberry Pi laptop options on the market. Discontinued production means it may be a bit difficult to secure one, but if you can, we’re convinced you’ll be happy with all it has to offer.
As an all-in-one kit, the Elecrow CrowPi2 features everything you need to learn and experiment with the Raspberry Pi all in a sturdy shell. The trove of lessons and projects, as well as an intuitive software platform, make it a strong option for anyone eager to learn in a fun and creative fashion. It’s certainly on the pricier side of things, but there are hours of fun on offer here, and the kit even ships with a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 4 GB.
Those looking for a general use option that won’t break the bank should take a gander at the Jun-Electron Touch Screen with USB Keyboard Leather Holder. Simple and compact, it has a great screen and an in-built keyboard, too.
Finally, for children and younger Pi enthusiasts, we recommend the Elecrow CrowPi. The briefcase design keeps everything contained, and the spread of sensors and modules allows for a vast range of experiments and projects, all guided by well-paced and structured lessons.
With that, we’ll bring our guide to the best Raspberry Pi laptops to an end. Don’t hesitate to pop any questions or concerns in the comments section below.