Raspberry Pi 4 project: Build a $100 PC

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Raspberry Pi 4 project: Build a $100 PC

For a short while, PC building was gloriously affordable. The cost of graphics cards and RAM finally dropped after 2018’s dark times, AMD kept cramming more cores into its CPU lineup without increasing prices, and SSDs could be had for a song.

Nowadays building a basic x86 PC is pretty expensive. Overwhelming demand, tighter supply, and tariffs mean that, compared to last year, you’ll spend $10 more here and $15 more there across the board—even as much as $40 more on a power supply. It adds up to a steep increase for those who only browse the web, watch streaming videos, edit documents, and/or code.

Fortunately, you can sidestep that financial outlay with an alternative: the humble but mighty Raspberry Pi 4. This fourth-generation version of the popular single-card computer starts at just $35 and packs enough punch to easily handle everyday tasks. Moreover, its simplicity means building is ultra fast. We put together a Linux-based desktop system for just over $100 and in about an hour, including software installs.

Parts list

Current street prices listed in parenthesis.

Raspberry Pi 4 (Model B)

raspberry pi 4 board Amazon

The Raspberry Pi 4 board sports a quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A72 processor; 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB LPDDR4 RAM; dual-band Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 5.0; and gigabit ethernet, 2x micro-HDMI, 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 ports, along with a 3.5mm analog jack.

The Raspberry Pi 4 has nearly all the elements you need for a PC built right in. The processor, graphics, RAM, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB ports, ethernet, and HDMI are part of the board; you only need to provide power, storage, and (ideally) a case.

Three variants of the Raspberry Pi 4 exist—2GB RAM, 4GB RAM, and 8GB RAM. The other specs remain the same, like the quad-core 1.5GHz ARM CPU and number of ports. We chose the $55 4GB version for this project, as it’s a good balance between price and performance. The $35 2GB option works as well, but it will reduce the number of windows or browser tabs you can have open and the build’s ability to meet greater performance demands down the road.

MicroSD card (32GB)

raspberry pi 4 microsd Amazon

Our recommendation of a 16GB microSD card assumes you work on both cloud-based and local documents. If you’ll skew toward the latter and save many large files to the system, consider a 32GB or larger card as needed.

Purchase a standard blank microSD card if you have access to an existing Windows, Mac, or Linux computer and don’t mind installing Raspberry Pi OS (previously known as Raspbian) yourself. Otherwise, buy one that has NOOBS (“New Out of the Box Software,” a Raspberry Pi-specific OS installer) preinstalled on the microSD card

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