Pi-Top Review, Part 1 (Building it)

Hooray! I got my Pi-Top, and I couldn’t find many reviews that were recent, so I thought it was a good opportunity to write my own.

Now, there is one thing I hate about reviews and that is they try to be all things to all people. I’m writing this for a specific audience: writers. Another thing I hate are reviews that have been written after five minutes of play time, so I’ll be spreading this review over three parts and a few days.

I’ve previously mentioned that I’m a fan of the raspberry pi, and the Pi-Top has one as its guts. But what about the rest of the machine? How does it measure up?

Read on!

So, the first step is to build the damn thing. It’s a fun process and- arguably- the main attraction. I’m not expecting this machine to be usable, and I bought it thinking it would be an over-priced chunk of frustration. My wife thought the same, but she is very obliging so I went ahead and bought it, anyway 🙂

But… Man, this thing is surprisngly well built. The plastic is solid (I had to get the bright green version, because it didn’t feel right getting black for a toy) and it feels good in the hands. The screen was a lot bigger than I was expecting. I’m a bit too old to experience joy at stuff but I would be lying if I didn’t say that it was a joyful experience. It’s like Lego, but for adults.

So the build process was great except for the keyboard. This is the one spot where the build is let down. It uses some rivets to pop into the plastic, but one of my rivets was either a little out of place, or a touch too small (I couldn’t tell which) and it just wouldn’t pop where it needed to. So I tried a second time, but now that each rivet has already been popped into the plastic, it wouldn’t pop quite so thoroughly. I expect in the future I will need to get some tape or glue to secure it. The screen fits in with a couple of screws; it would have been great if they had followed a similar design with the keyboard. Another strange design decision: the power cable and HDMI cables between the pi and the pi-top hub overlap. It seemed like a strange thing to do, as surely the hub was designed in-house and if they had switched the plugs, the cables would fit flat and snug next to each other. The keyboard connector is also a strange type of plug, and it misses a clip that would have made the connection more satisfying. I also managed to get one of the rubber protective nubs around the screen caught in the hinge, so the nub buckled as I opened and closed the screen each time- but an elf must have crept into my house overnight because in the morning it had fixed itself (perhaps my cats have a higher case of OCD than I thought and fixed it for me.)

Really, these are trivial problems and I only mention them because everything else works brilliantly. It is an incredibly well-designed machine and it feels solid and usable. In fact, it feels more solid than the laptop it is replacing, which is amazing considering I put it together in the hour I had before my wife came home on a Friday night.

I don’t think a star rating is relevant here, because if you are reading this you have probably already made up your mind and are wondering whether it is a good idea or not. So, rest easy: in terms of quality, you will be pleasantly surprised. It feels like Christmas, only without the family arguments. 

Just go for it!

(Next up… Using the damn thing.)

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