Elecrow, the CrowPi2 manufacturer, recently approached us to test out their CrowPi2 educational laptop. I was really excited to check it out, as I am always interested in new and innovative educational technology products. In this article, I will give you my overall impressions of the CrowPi2 after using it for a while. I’ll also talk about some of the pros and cons of the product. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
You might remember Elecrow from our article about the Crowbits a little while ago, but this laptop is different. The CrowPi2 is a fully-functional Raspberry Pi laptop. It comes with its own built-in screen, keyboard, and trackpad. The CrowPi2 also has a number of ports that allow you to connect external devices, like a mouse or an HDMI cable. All of this makes the CrowPi2 a great option for use as a portable computer and not only as a toolkit for learning experiments.
While the marketing suggests that the CrowPi2 is primarily aimed at being used by children as part of STEM education, I am not hesitating to share that I also had a lot of fun with the kit. I am not very knowledgeable about using Linux distributions as an operating system, and I am also not a coder, so there was a lot to learn, even for an adult. Beyond the software aspect, the CrowPi2 also allows for hardware tinkering and combining electronics with the code you can re-use, adapt, or program on your own.
CrowPi2 hardware specs and notes
The CrowPi2 is a bit clunky in its design, but considering we are talking about a kit focusing on learning, this makes sense. I actually find it quite lovable, and it gives one a bit of a retro computing vibe, much as picking up a classic Game Boy nowadays.
I was amazed that both the keyboard and the mouse are actually very nice to use. I might steal the mouse at some point and use it on another setup just because it’s rather nice.
So that’s that, but here are some more facts and figures for you:
- 11.6″ IPS screen with a 1920×1080 pixel resolution
- Weighs 1.3 kg
- It comes with a detachable wireless keyboard and mouse
- A webcam with 2mp resolution, a microphone, and a stereo speaker is built-in
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Works with Raspberry Pi3B+, 3B, 4 (might be included depending on the version you purchase)
- Various sensors, boards, connectors, pins, cables, and other peripherals included
- It doesn’t come with a battery but can utilize power banks
- Operating systems that are supported: Raspbian, Ubuntu, CentOS, Windows lOT, KALI, Pidora, ArchLinux, FreeBSD, Kodi, OpenWrt, RISC OS, RetroPie, LAKKA, Recalbox, LibreELEC, OSMC
The CrowPi2 from Elecrow is currently offered in three different versions being the basic kit, the advanced kit, and the deluxe kit. I’d recommend the deluxe kit because it includes a lot of handy bits, but if you already own many of the included parts, you might not need the deluxe version.
The CrowPi2 starts at around $339.98 if you’re checking on Amazon, but it might be good to go for a better bundle than only the basic kit if you’re entirely new to the world of making. It’s a lovely tinkering and making sandbox not only for kids. I like using it, and I think I’m not the only adult out there who’d enjoy keeping busy with the CrowPi2. It’s not cheap, but what did you expect when buying a laptop? The price is fair in my books.
What kind of learning does the CrowPi2 offer?
As far as software learning and coding goes, there are lessons included for learning Python, Scratch, working with the Minecraft API, as well as AI projects. The content is wrapped in a child-friendly appeal, so it’s not too dull either.
Okay, yeah, there might be plenty of ways how anyone, children and adults alike, could somehow find learning resources and join lessons to learning how to code, but what makes the CrowPi2 interesting to me was the fact that it features a lot of hardware to play with, I mean to work with.
I can simply detach the wireless keyboard from its stationary position on the laptop, and I can look right into the tech guts of the laptop. Surely most laptops would look different if you opened them up like that, but the CrowPi2 offers many great features like this. Now you’ll see what you can do with everything on the board and how you can hook up other gear and gadgets that are also part of the CrowPi2 set but aren’t installed by default.
For instance, combining programming exercises and hardware tinkering could lead to projects in the robotics or AI space. You can use sensors and motors so you can program triggers, data input and establish conditions that teach the machine what it should do. You can try facial recognition out and see if the CrowPi2 can actually recognize you or not.
And after all the work? Retro gaming time!
You can also play games with the CrowPi2 after all the learning is done. The advanced and deluxe kits even come with two controllers that look very much like the classic Super NES (Super Famicom) controllers, so you get a rather pure retro gaming vibe from these.
So is this just a toy or what?
Again, the focus of this product is being a learning toolkit that comes with software and hardware to learn about, but you can connect it to the Internet, and you can just use it as a regular laptop as well. It might not come with specs that could run heavy operations, but it’s far beyond being a mere toy.
You can work with it, you can learn with it, you’ll not miss much, except for some performance perhaps, but you can still watch videos on YouTube, for example. So even if you and your kids are done with all of the learning and know everything they could learn from the CrowPi2, they can still use it as a regular laptop, just not running a regular Windows OS, but that’s not a requirement for children either, is it?
The CrowPi2 is not a toy. It’s an open, comprehensive tech education platform. It’s not a sleek, polished gadget with a single purpose. It’s a bulky, rugged, techie device that’s not for playing, and yet it could be if you want it to be. The design is great, but the focus isn’t on the looks. The focus is on simplicity, ease of use, and function. Maybe modern smartphones and laptops should check the CrowPi2 to get some inspiration.
As I was working with the CrowPi2, I kept on discovering new aspects that surprised me in only positive ways. I discovered that it also supports wifi and not only an ethernet connection to access the Internet, for instance. I found out that there is a storage compartment with an outlet for a cable so that you can use a generic power bank, like the ones you charge your smartphone with, simply as a battery to operate the CrowPi2 on the go as well. How cool is that? For more information, you can also visit the CrowPi official website.
And there is much more to discover beyond that too, but I don’t want to spoil your journey too much by giving it all away. I’m sure that once you unbox this lovely device, you, as well, will discover loads of things that you’ll enjoy trying out. I have not yet seen a more complete learning platform that combines software and hardware education so well, and I’m happy to recommend this to children and grownups alike.
YouTube – Playlist: What can the CrowPo2 do?
Photo credit: The feature image has been taken by Christopher Isak for TechAcute. Other images in the body of the article are owned by Elecrow.
Editorial notice: We received a sample unit from Elecrow for the review and they covered shipping costs as well as import tax, but there was no fee paid for the review itself.