Raspberry Pi 4

The Raspberry Pi 4 is an awesome little device. It can even run IntelliJ IDEA Ultimate edition and Docker. Just KDE seems to give it a little headache.

Christian Hujer, CEO / CTO at Nelkinda Software Craft Pvt Ltd
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by NNelkinda Software Craft Private Limited
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by Christian Hujer
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Figure -1: The Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit box

With a little bit of surprise, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has released the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B [RPi4MB] earlier this year. Finally, the Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit [RPi4DK] has become available in India, so I ordered one for testing it.

1 Ordering

After the release of the Raspberry Pi 4 in June 2019, it still took a while until the Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit was available in India. I finally ordered mine at Factory Forward on 22nd of August. That was 2 months after the release of the Raspberry Pi 4. It arrived on the 26th of August, which was reasonably fast. Supply is still short. Most of the time when I visit any of the reseller websites, it is out of stock. I expect a steady supply to become available later this year.

2 Unboxing

The Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit comes in a nice package containing the actual packages of the Desktop Kit components. It consists of:

Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit Unboxing

3 First Impression

All the parts are nice and beautiful. The colors distinguish it clearly from other products. The white and red color scheme marks the product clearly as Raspberry Pi product.

I noticed a difference in the shade of white between the keyboard, the case, and the mouse. People who have a significant level of OCD will feel disturbed. For everybody else, this won't matter.

4 4K? Yes? No? Yes. But no. Or yes?

The Raspberry Pi 4 is advertised as supporting 2×4K (3840×2160). So I connected the Raspberry Pi 4 to them. But the Raspberry Pi 4 would only show Full HD (1920×1080).

This could be solved by running sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade to upgrade the Raspbian packages to their latest version. After reboot, 4K was available. But with 4K, it would not run reliably for hours. I first doubted heat. But another reason might be the RAM assigned to the GPU. I had a much better experience when I increased the setting for the RAM assigned to the GPU to 256 GiB.

5 Heat

This leads us to the next problem. When the Raspberry Pi 4 is operated with 2 4K screens, it gets incredibly hot. The closed case makes problems even worse. But even with an open case, the Raspberry Pi 4 cannot run 2 4K screens reliably for multiple hours. It will simply crash due to overheating.

If you want to run the Raspberry Pi 4 with 2 4K screens, you must get a case and cooling solution different from the Desktop Kit. No cooling or passive cooling will not cut it. If you want to put it in heavy-duty, and 2 4K screens is heavy-duty for its GPU, it needs active cooling.

So, I will find out about cooling solutions and once I have a good active cooling solution, I will configure it back to 4K.


KDE doesn't work yet. It can be installed, but it won't run properly. To install KDE, use sudo apt update && sudo apt install kde-full. You can then have SDDM as display manager, and from there, select Plasma during the login to boot into KDE Plasma.

But when booting into KDE Plasma, you will not see anything usable. There seems to be some incompatibility between some desktop effects which seem to be enabled by default, and the graphics drivers. I could see boxes with different shades of grey, but no readable text or anything.

Raspbian KDE bugs

7 Java and IntelliJ IDEA

Raspbian comes with Java 11 installed. It is possible to install IntelliJ IDEA Ultimate Edition 2019.2.1. During indexing, the CPU will throttle if there is no fan.

IntelliJ IDEA runs just fine. It's not as swift as on a beefy Ultrabook like a Razer Blade Stealth. But it's still good enough for most non-professional and some professional environments. I expect the performance of the JVM on ARM to get better over time as ARM CPUs become more and more important for Java.

What you have to keep in mind is disk space. You just need to install Docker, KDE, and IntelliJ IDEA with a few plugins to run out of disk space on the 16 GB SD card.

Figure 7-1: IntelliJ IDEA on Raspberry Pi 4

8 Docker

Docker can be installed running sudo apt install I usually use docker-compose as well, so I run sudo apt install docker-compose instead.

Currently, the version of Docker that comes with Raspbian does not work. As soon as you try to launch a container, you will see the following error message:

docker: Error response from daemon: unable to find "net_prio" in controller set: unknown.
ERRO[0001] error waiting for container: context canceled
Listing 8-1: Error message for docker run php:apache

So, the correct way to install Docker is curl -sL | sed 's/9)/10)/' | sh

That command will successfully install Docker.

9 SD Card Size

The default SD card that comes shipped has a capacity of 16 GB. With this capacity, you will quickly reach the limits when you're a power user like I am. Keep in mind that the SD card is what would be the SSD for a normal machine. 16 GB really isn't a lot of space. If you want to use the Raspberry Pi 4 as a development work station, you will have to use a different SD card.

The expected maximum speed on the microSD slot is 50 MBps. On the USB 3.0 port, it's 660 MBps. Therefore, you might consider running the Raspberry Pi 4 off an SSD attached to one of its USB 3.0 ports. Technically, the Raspberry Pi 4 will still need the microSD card to boot. But you can make the SSD its root partition.

Figure 9-1: IntelliJ IDEA running out of disk space

10 Model Comparison

The following table compares the last three Raspberry Pi models.

Raspberry Pi
3 Model B3 Model B+4 Model B
Release DateYear201620182019
CoreCortex A53Cortex A72
Instruction SetARMv8-A
Clock (MHz)120014001500
RAM (GiB)1124
CoreVideoCore IVVideoCore VI
Clock250 MHz500 MHz
Resolution (max)1920×10803840×2160
BluetoothVersion4.1 BLE4.2 LS BLE5.0
PowerConnector 1Micro USBUSB-C
Connector 2GPIO
Voltage5 V
Ampere1.34 A1.13 A1.25 A
Display15 Pin MIPI DSI
USBUSB 2.042
USB 3.02
Shared withEthernetNothing
NetworkWired10/100/1000 MBit/s
real300 MBit/s1000 MBit/s
Wireless802.11b/g/n/ac dual band 2.4/5 GHz
Table 10-1: Raspberry Pi model comparison table

11 Conclusion

The Raspberry Pi 4 is a fantastic device, and so is the Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit. All the components are of good quality. The performance makes the Raspberry Pi 4 a contender for the desktop, not for all applications and all users, but for some. For some, it can even act as a development workstation. Even beefy software like IntelliJ IDEA runs well enough. And mission-critical software like Docker also works.