It’s probably safe to say that the CrowPi2 is unlike any other laptop you’ve used before. It bills itself as one of the only Raspberry Pi 4-powered laptops, but it’s so much more than that. We’ll review what you get with an Elecrow CrowPi2 laptop so you can decide if it’s worth buying.
First of all, we have to say it’s wild. It’s a Frankenstein’s mix of different components, but somehow they all work together. The CrowPi2 laptop is meant to be a STEM learning platform for the kids in your life.
The laptop runs on Linux and the system can be used to learn Python, Scratch, AI and Minecraft by following the step-by-step instructions provided in the kit. Plus, underneath the keyboard is an all-in-one board with a bunch of sensors to help kids (or, let’s face it, adults) learn about hardware electronics when programming.
What’s in the box?
We tested the CrowPi2 Deluxe kit which comes with a wide range of components. Here’s an abbreviated list of what you get:
- CrowPi2 laptop with 1920 x 1080 display, wireless keyboard, 2 MP webcam, microphone, stereo output, headphone jack, HDMI, USB port
- Raspberry Pi 4B 8 GB of RAM (you can request a version with 4 GB of RAM)
- Power source
- 2 game controllers
- HDMI connector
- micro HDMI connector
- SD Card for Pi with Elecrow Proprietary Learning System
- SD card for PI with RetroPie for games
- 2.4G wireless mouse
- Infrared remote control
- infrared receiver
- White RFID card with tag
- Wired humidity sensor
- All-in-one board with an impressive number of sensors to learn hardware and software
- Python Programming Instruction Book
- Scratch Programming Instruction Book
- user’s Guide
Opening the box was overwhelming. The plethora of little plastic bags of components was a sure sign that the Elecrow CrowPi2 laptop would provide hours of education and entertainment.
The laptop case looks cheap, but it’s certainly no worse than a Raspberry Pi case you 3D print yourself. When we first opened the CrowPi2, the trackpad had been disconnected from the ribbon that powered it. It took a little patience and a pair of tweezers, but we reconnected it and it’s been working fine ever since.
CrowPi2 for general computing
If you’ve ever used a Raspberry Pi with Linux, this aspect of the CrowPi2 will be familiar to you. You can easily use the CrowPi2 laptop as a general purpose laptop to run office applications. In fact, it comes with LibreOffice installed on the supplied “System” Micro SD card, so you can start working.
From the main CrowPi2 home screen, select Project, and it will take you to the Raspbian desktop.
CrowPi2 for gaming
We have to admit that after the initial setup and Wi-Fi was working, the first thing we did with the CrowPi2 laptop was to install the RetroPie SD card that came in the kit. It took a bit of tweaking, but soon we were playing Super Castlevania IV.
RetroPie lets you turn your Raspberry Pi into a full-fledged retro gaming machine. It is modular and allows you to install various emulators for many consoles and legacy computer systems.
Setting up RetroPie is a bit tricky if you’ve never used it before, but luckily there are plenty of step-by-step videos to help you out. You can also install many games directly from the interface, for free.
You can categorize your games in RetroPie for easy browsing. By default, games are separated by the type of machine they were designed for, but you can organize them however you see fit by creating collections. You can even add themes to your collections, and there are tons of pre-made collections to choose from. If you can’t find a theme you like, you can create your own.
CrowPi2 for encoding
To really start working with the sensors and electronic gadgets that come with the CrowPi2 laptop, learning Python is essential. It can be overwhelming for a newcomer to the STEM world, but luckily CrowPi2 comes with a ton of lessons and resources.
For a complete Python beginner, the lessons were easy and helpful. Our Python expert also reviewed the learning materials and was impressed with the amount of language covered. just say you do no You must be a programming expert to follow and understand the lessons and tutorials provided with CrowPi2.
After taking a few lessons, we learned to do more complicated things, like identifying prime numbers.
If you or someone in your household is interested in learning Python from scratch, the CrowPi2 laptop is a great teacher.
CrowPi2 to create
We have already mentioned the all-in-one board hidden under the CrowPi2 keyboard. The CrowPi2 comes with the Arduino IDE, an open source electronic prototyping platform that allows users to create interactive electronic objects. The list of modules is long:
- Segmented LED
- A switch to switch between the sensors and the Raspberry Pi
- GPIO pin socket
- GPIO indicator LEDs
- Temperature and humidity sensor
- Printed circuit board
- hall sensor
- Motion sensor
- PIR sensitivity adjuster
- sound sensor
- infrared receiver
- I/O/ACD/UART expansion port
- IIC port
- 9G servos
- Step-by-step engine
- LCD screen
- 4×4 button matrix
- vibrating motor
- touch sensor
- 8×8 RGB Matrix
- RFID sensor
- humidity sensor
- light sensor
- ultrasonic sensor
- display controller
- LCD brightness adjuster
- sound sensor setting
We were impressed with how well the board was assembled. Connecting all these electronic components yourself would take a lot of time to learn how to code and interact with the various electronic modules that are included. Once you’re comfortable with the pre-built sensors and devices, you can move on to more advanced projects that require you to add any of those external components that come with the kit.
To begin, install the Micro SD “System”, start the laptop and select Learning on the home screen. From there, choose Python or Scratch to program your own projects using the built-in sensors. These projects with step-by-step instructions will help kids (or big kids like you) learn collaboratively and use logic and reason.
While the lessons are great and you and your kids will definitely learn what CrowPi2 says you’ll learn, we noticed that the English translations were a bit…off. For example, the introduction to Scratch lessons says, “Let’s start our first lesson to learn what Scratch is.” Less than stellar translations might not be a big deal for most, but might present an additional challenge for some users. If you get stuck, there are plenty of videos available online to help you out.
Should I buy the CrowPi2?
The CrowPi2 is a truly impressive and feature-rich learning system, ideal for children and adults who want to learn more about STEM subjects such as coding and electronics. Depending on the kit you choose, the CrowPi2 will cost you $369.99 for the basic kit without the Raspberry Pi board or $475.99 for the advanced kit with a Raspberry Pi 4B with 4 GB of RAM or $535.99 for the deluxe kit with a Raspberry Pi. 4B with 8 GB of RAM.
Depending on your comfort level with Raspberry Pis, buying the starter kit and adding the Pi separately is the cheapest option. However, if you have the cash to spare, the deluxe kit gets everything going right away. Either way, the CrowPi2 laptop is sure to boost your creativity and provide a huge benefit to the young people in your life who want to pursue a STEM-oriented vocation. Where was this device when we were kids?