Houston, I have a solution

… and now I need a problem …

Or in other words: my Pi5 arrived.

So I started to play with it and here are some results. What can you use the Pi5 for?

  • You can use it to run benchmarks, as we have seen in the last few weeks. But this is more or less boring, except for magazines and influencers
  • Electronic tinkering: not really, too expensive and a waste of resources. You are better off with a Pi-Zero-W or Zero-2W
  • Desktop. Here it starts to become interesting. From a performance perspective, it is really usable. Not much slower than my five year old desktop-machine. But I hate all these cables sticking out in various directions. If you need big disks, e.g. for media, it is even worse. So one thing to blame the RPF for is that they on one side somehow try to provide desktop-performance, but on the other side stick to a pcb-layout which was at most acceptable for electronic tinkering. Instead of just swapping USB and LAN, they should have done something more fundamental.
  • Server. Yes, definitely. The Pi5 catches up to something that other platforms already provide since years.

What I am more exited about is power-consumption and the builtin RTC. Below are two plots. The first is some “normal” desktop use (a youtube-video in HD on the left, a website with many flashy ads on the right and idle time in between). You can see a max current draw of about 1700mA, so you don’t really need these beefy 5A. After shutdown (far right) the system draws about 460mA which is quite high compared to older Pi-versions.

Once you edit the EEPROM configuration (simple and well documented), power in shutdown state drops to about 3.5mA, which is very good. And you can wake up the system using an alarm, since the kernel supports wakealarms for the internal RTC. I really don’t understand why this power-saving config is not the default. The plot below shows a shutdown with a programmed wake-up after three minutes.

Since the pcb has a connector for an external power-button, the next thing to investigate if this is suitable for remote-wakup. Maybe some small bluetooth/wlan-MCU could be used for this task. But I expect some addons to appear on the market (pirates, I am looking at you).

So this are some first impressions. There is still some work to do. E.g. I currently fail to switch to XFCE, which does not run with Wayland. There are also some real problems with the installation, e.g. missing dependencies. Doing an apt-get autoremove to cleanup the system suddenly removed important packages like Wayland, only because I had removed some small tools I don’t need. But I assume these very early bugs will be fixed in the next few months.

How much performance do I need for the task at hand always factors into it for me. I quite often used 3A’s for headless setups over a 3B. It’s a nice cheaper alternative to a 3B when your not going to use the USB or Ethernet ports. You give up a little performance in the bargain but it was worth it for me. I was using them for Motion Eye Camera setups. A Zero just didn’t cut it for me, the video was lagging badly and choppy. Keep in mind, this was before there was a Zero 2W.

And more often than not, it’s a trickle down scenario for me. My new 4B replaces a 3B, which replaces a 3A, etc. I don’t have a Pi 5 yet, probably get one for Christmas. I’m keen to try one out as a replacement for my aging Windows Desktop PC.