First Look at System76’s Pop!_Pi OS for Raspberry Pi 4

System76's OS for Raspberry

System76 released today the Pop!_OS 21.10 operating system for PCs, but the Linux hardware vendor also launched a special edition made for Raspberry Pi 4 computers, called Pop!_Pi. Here’s a first look at System76’s new OS for Raspberry Pi.

That’s right, Pop!_OS Linux has been ported to Raspberry Pi devices, and 9to5Linux.com is the first website to take the new Pop!_Pi 21.10 operating system for a spin on a Raspberry Pi 4 board with 8GB RAM. System76 informed me that Raspberry Pi 400 models are also supported.

According to System76, Pop!_Pi was built for the Raspberry Pi 4 to help them gain experience building for ARM platforms, but the system performed so well that they decided to release it to the public.

However, this is a tech preview of Pop!_Pi 21.10, which means that it didn’t receive as much QA as Pop!_OS, though it turns out it’s an excellent addition to the growing list of GNU/Linux distributions for the Raspberry Pi.

Installation and first impression

You don’t have to be a tech wizard to install Pop!_Pi. Just download the image and write it on a microSD card using one of the popular flashing utilities, such as Raspberry Pi Imager or GNOME’s Disks.

Pop!_Pi is quick to boot up and takes you to a neat first-run configuration wizard that lets users set up a few basic things like choosing a keyboard layout, connecting to a Wi-Fi network, setting a time zone, connecting a third-party account, as well as creating a default user.

Once you finish with these settings, the main desktop will appear, but you’ll be prompted by another first-time configuration wizard, which this time lets you tweak your desktop environment. Here, you choose a default desktop layout, configure the top bar, and choose between Light and Dark appearance.

Everything just works

Despite the fact that this is a tech preview, everything just works. You will get the same Pop!_OS experience like on your Linux laptop or desktop computer. Sound works out of the box, and Bluetooth works very well too, and I was able to connect my TaoTronics headphones without any hassle.

YouTube video playback works too, but 1080p (Full HD) videos don’t play well and you’re automatically switched to 720p after a few seconds of playback. Even if I set more RAM for the video using the raspi-config utility, which isn’t installed by default, the 1080p playback still isn’t smooth.

As you can see from the top image, Pop!_Pi eats about 1.25GB of RAM during the initial boot without any application opened. That’s not good news for those with 2GB or 4GB RAM on their Raspberry Pis, but I guess System76 still has some performance tweaks under their sleeves since this is a tech preview.

Other than that, the desktop is clean and you can get started doing whatever it is you want to do with a Raspberry Pi from the moment you finish with the first-run setup. All the new features of Pop!_OS 21.10 are there, including the new Application Library and GNOME 40.5 goodies.

Final thoughts

System76’s new OS for Raspberry Pi 4 computers really is an excellent option for those who want to run the beautiful Pop!_OS Linux distribution on the tiny computer.

Depending on how many RAM your Raspberry Pi board has, you may need to tweak a few settings here and there for top-notch performance, but all in all everything works out of the box. One thing to mention is that Pop!_Pi uses the older Linux kernel 5.13 rather than Linux kernel 5.15 LTS used in Pop!_OS 21.10 for desktop.

If you want to give Pop!_OS 21.10 a try on your Raspberry Pi, you can download Pop!_Pi right now from the official website. System76 tells me that they plan to continue releasing Pop!_Pi alongside future Pop!_OS releases.

Last updated 12 months ago