So it seems that over and over again I try to upgrade my pi desktop unit every time a new pi comes out so eventually the pi4 will be on my list of desktop replacements.  But for now lets start with my adventures with the Raspberry Pi as a desktop replacement.


Just to start things off I must include why I venture into the raspberry pi as a desktop.   The main thing is power and cost of energy.  here is a quick over view of my power consumption charts of the tests that I have run on them including my main PC currently Raspberry Pi Model B is not included but will update with that next time I can. With my trusty kuman power meter here are my results.


As of June 2019Current PC with dual monitorsPi 3B+ w/Sata DrivePi3 StockPi 2 with 3 external drives
Cost 1hr$0.0292$0.0022$0.0018$0.0029

Cost Per Year

at 8760hrs 24h


Cost Per Year

at 4380hrs 12hr

Cost Per Month at 12hr$10.51$0.79$0.65$1.04
Cost Per Day at 12hrs$0.35$0.03$0.02$0.03

Raspberry pi units all using Ethernet and external fan with a Bluetooth speaker and a ViewSonic monitor with audio on it as well.

All units tested with video playback full screen on YouTube as well as office applications and games prboom on pi and league of legends on pc.

Raspberry Pi Model B from the New Year's Grab Bag RoadTest - Review



First of we have the Raspberry Pi Model B (now discontinued)

The Raspberry Pi Model B changed a ton of things for the community it was a great starting point for makers/hobbyists & tinkers to get started in the wonderful world of single board computers. Programming and designing their masterpieces.  But what I want to talk about is using it as a desktop environment. First released 7 years ago equipped with a massive 700mhz cpu and 512mb of ram which was shared with the CPU causing some of the limitations in my opinion.   But I remember buying one of my first computers with similar specs back in 1999 for well over 3 thousand dollars Canadian.  Also with less bells and whistles then the Pi model B.   So with a release price of about $45 Canadian dollars this was awesome!

If for some reason you are as old as me you appreciated these specs and probably at the time of its release still had a IBM computer hiding in the corner running some version of windows 98 or Me as a shop computer possibly windows xp.   I knew I had a machine in my shop that was there just for documents storing all my PDF files for plans and projects it was an offline machine but over time better alternatives such as using laptops and tablets seemed more power efficient and was quicker to upgrade storage capacity.  Finding large capacity IDE drives seemed to be fading fast and being replaced with sata drives and then ssd drives.  I could probably bore you with tons of old computer stories but that's enough for now.

So now looking at the raspberry pi from the first to the third I am able to swap all my drives data and everything else over to the next with ease some with just swapping the SD card out of it and popping it into the next this was huge.  It was easily accessible and you could do so much with it.


The Raspberry Pi 2 B

Was  where I really started to take interest in the RPi things started to become more and more fun and my adventures with pi started to take off I once again tried every distro available to check them all out if it was from noobs or berryboot there was a ton of options available regardless of what I was wanting to do.   I started running web servers and then my mining equipment off of it  the web server ran constantly for many years in a enclosure with just a small fan on it and a sata drive connected to it which I was running berryboot off of since it was the quickest way to set up your install on a external drive and I only needed a small 2gb micro sd card to get it running.   I did enjoy running a desktop environment off of the Rpi 2 but it still wasn't where I would call it a game changer I was happy with the results I was able to do a ton of things on it but it was lacking in a few departments but was a more then capable device.


The Raspberry Pi 3

The first thing I did when I got my pi 3 was tried out everything I could on it once again and played around with more desktop use then anything since my previous pi's were still doing their job as web server and so on there was no need to interrupt them from doing their jobs.  With no projects in mind it was time to start to dive further into the desktop environments  I always would go back to the main Debian raspbian distros tho they were always the most stable and reliable to me.  Sure there is lots that have now become more stable and usable but to me it was the consistency of it all I know Raspbian would do what I wanted and if it didn't then it just means I broke it good.

Tons of programs started to work better on the Pi 3 so this was exciting I was able to move more and more over onto the raspberry pi as a desktop.  But as we all know there's still a ton of things it still can't accomplish.  Now there is a ton of alternative software for use with the pi that have made switching a lot nicer.  Since this is where I started using my Pi as partial replacement at the time lets look at some of the software I was using to replace my windows alternatives.


First off all Microsoft office was the first one to go and I even replaced it on my main pc with Libre Office after using it for a few years now I have found it to be a lot lighter and more reliable then the microsoft office with the ability to add plugins to save to google drive and so many other program I even wrote a book on my RPi with Libre Office writer well 30k word book its part one of three.   So with the ability to reliable back up and edit my documents if anything goes wrong on my RPi OS this was big I didn't have to constantly transfer files to a external drive or somewhere on my home server.  Countless spreadsheets for my projects and ideas were also being done on the Pi, now time management and to do lists started to grow.  I realized I didn't need to rely on Microsoft Office anymore for my work or my personal use.

Yes it was available in previous pi versions too but this is where I started to really rely on it and integrate it into my workflow for my day to day.   Remember power consumption has always been my main concern when it comes to my switching from Desktop to Pi.


Sure there is other alternatives I have a Gigabyte Brix unit faster cpu and more ram and only 35watts but its sluggish with the os on it running ubuntu and windows 7 on it was my only solution for the unit no windows 10.  This was great for obsolete and windows only programs that I still liked to use.


Email programs well on both there is ton you can use and use on both pi and desktop computing  Thunderbird is a great example of this but I personally like and use Claws Mail as I have configured it to a way that is great to use and its not sluggish even with thousands of emails in it.  Which is great and reminds me more of the old windows live mail versus the mail and outlook.  But if you use Outlook or Windows mail Claws Mail would certainly get you going and be easy to configure in no time.


When it comes to art and drawing programs there is a ton of options out there and the best part of it all its free on the Pi  vs paid programs on Windows.  Current programs I use for drawing and photo use are  G.I.M.P.,  Inkscape and Tux Paint.    all great programs and run just fine on the pi gimp and Inkscape you can run on your windows pc as well so its great when you go to switch over on your main computer as well you have those free alternatives and are pretty powerful and do so much more then the paid programs at times as well.


Like any new program it might take a bit to get your feet wet and working well with it but I am sure there is a bunch of youtube video's on setting up and tutorials on using and editing with them.


Another big thing is programming so many IDE 's  its great my current desktop includes Arduino IDE (downloaded ver not apt-get ver),  MU, Geany, Eclipse, BlueJ Java IDE,  Now I do have other installed I just have not played with those ones yet but eventually will get to testing out more and more of the IDE's available.


So I talked about photos but what about video?

I recently started doing small video's with Kdenlive which has been awesome but picky at times but has the layout and functions I like right there no messing about.


Besides that there is a few other programs that are on my desktop currently  Sonic Pi, Blender and Scratch 2, KiCad and Audacity.  All great programs.


For ebooks I use Calibre currently sporting all the magpi issues in it for reading when I am having my morning coffee.  Slowly getting caught up on them.   Not to mention countless ebooks from Humble bundle installed.


There are tons and tons of programs for the Pi that are free and works surprisingly well having a SSD hooked up certainly helps the loading times of some of them.


You can run most web based applications through the browser I have no problems using things like Discord on it which uses next to no resources once loaded.  You would have more resources used if you opened your browser to then it sitting idle on the discord web app.


The only thing I really have not found a good replacement for is CAD software finding one that has the features I want and doesn't lag out the Pi when I go to launch it.  So this is still on my bucket list to find a suitable replacement after that I think its going to be more Pi then PC being used going forward.


So what about the Pi 3b+ ?


This is what I am currently using as a desktop unit  I moved my Pi 3 over to my 3d printer to run  host on which does an amazing job. Hopefully I will get a Pi4 soon to be able to replace the 3b+ since it seems to be more of power house and should show a ton of potential upgrade power to my daily tasks.

The Pi3B+ has been awesome. What can I say it out preforms devices 4x if not more its costs and is able to do 99% of everything I need


OK ok so what about watching video and playing video games.


Well for starters with running berryboot you can run multiple os systems seamlessly turning your pi into a media center or game console.  oh and steam link works great too but I have not added that to my list since my pi is less then five feet away from my main pc I don't see the need to emulate on the pi at that distance.


There are tons of games that are a lot of fun on the RPi finding some good ones takes some time but they are out there.  feel free to use apt-get to on this list to try some out

When it comes to videos and movies most of youtube will work but seems the switch to html5 has caused some issues with the chromium browser I have not looked into a solution to this on chromium but chances are there is something out there.

From what I have heard epiphany-browser does play html5 with no issues.


Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments below.  I hope you enjoyed my little adventure to using the Pi as a desktop and please let me know your story if you too have decided to make the switch.


Will update soon once I do get a pi4 and will add some more images and a few more resources and charts.


Have a good day eh!