getting raspberry pi 4 to work better

I finally got my display to settle down. Yesterday I received a new Nanosecond Extreme Slim 2.6′ MICRO HDMI Cable (micro HDMI to HDMI), plugged the micro end into the Raspberry Pi 4 and the other into my LG 34UM61-P 34″ ultrawide monitor, and it came up without any issues. I picked this cable because it’s used to connect a Sony a7 camera’s video out to an external HDMI video recorder. Before this I’d picked up a cheap-ass adapter (it cost all of $16) at a local Walmart that had a T-connection (micro and mini HDMI male) to HDMI female and had tried to use that, but every time it was in the circuit to the LG monitor, the monitor kept displaying an “Out of Range” message and never displaying anything else. But this new cable fixes that issue and allows the Raspberry Pi 4 video subsystem to negotiate the proper screen resolution with the LG monitor, which in the screenshot above is 2560 x 1080 and now covers the entire monitor edge-to-edge. The only thing I can’t see is the initial boot screen, the four raspberries.

The cheap, bad, adapter even interfered with the operation of the board itself. I tried to ssh into the RPi 4 and the performance while logged in was horrible, with lots of hangs between typing in commands at the prompt. I can’t say enough about how really bad that adapter is. I’m keeping it as a visual aid about what not to purchase and use with the RPi 4.

I’ve been able to work a bit further with the RPi 4, and it indeed has the smooth feel of a regular computer. That is, applications start reasonably quickly and execute reasonably smoothly. I say this comparing it to my mid-2014 Mac Mini Server and my mid-2015 15″ Macbook Pro. I’ve got other PCs lying about (the Samsung R580 with Ubuntu and another Samsung 17.3″ with Windows 10 Pro), but those are the two I use extensively and can compare to. All in all the RPi 4 is a decent utility computer. The RPi is performant enough that writing this entire post on the RPi 4 in Chromium has been a pleasure, rather than something of a chore on the earlier Raspberry Pi releases.

Having said all those nice things, the temperature issue with my RPi 4 still remains. I’ve got mine in the official two piece red-and-white case, with heat sinks on every chip, and it still generates a lot of excess heat. Right this instance in time, ‘vcgencmd measure_temp’ show 70 C, which is excessive, especially with the so-called “proper” heat sinks applied, and with the USB firmware update applied as well. A quick check with vl805 shows firmware version 000137a8.

I will probably spend a bit more money for one of the newer RPi 4 specific cases coming out, to pipe away the heat in a more efficient manner. They don’t cost that much so I can afford to experiment a little. I may also pick up a second RPi 4 card, this one with 2GB of RAM, as those are beginning to show up now. The top-end with 4GB are still missing in action, with a promise delivery date sometime in August.

Right now, if I had to make a choice as to which Raspberry Pi to use in an embedded situation, I’d probably pick the earlier RPi 3B+ or a Raspberry Pi Zero, not this one. That earlier generation is fast enough for embedded work, but runs considerably cooler than this one. I tend to put my systems in locations that aren’t air conditioned and can’t be reached easily, and so they need to be a bit more rugged. I have a feeling that we might get a re-spin of the RPi 4 sooner than expected. I wish they’d worked a bit more on the silicon rather than deciding to go with this CPU revision, with an emphasis on reducing the heat generated.

Overall I’m far more pleased with how the RPI 4 is behaving. The lesson learned today is to never get anything from Walmart.

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