Whether you’re in the market for a Pi 4 or you already have one sitting alone in a drawer, you’re probably in need of some cool project ideas. Don’t fret—you have a ton of options.
Why Are These Projects Suited for the Pi 4?
Most of the projects that we’re listing are relatively simple. They don’t require a lot of experience with programming, and they’re popular enough that you won’t have any trouble finding guides on Google or YouTube. But really, why are these projects suited for the Pi 4? Why not use the cheaper Pi 3 Model A+, instead?
It all comes down to specs. The Pi 4 has an upgraded Broadcom BCM2711 SoC with four 1.5 GHz Cortex A72 CPU cores (i.e., a good CPU), a gigabit ethernet port, two micro HDMI ports for dual 4K displays, and three choices of RAM (1, 2, or 4 GB). These specs (and especially the RAM) make the Pi 4 much faster than any previous Pi computer. Just make sure you get the right charger for it.
While you can use older versions of the Raspberry Pi for any of the projects we’ve listed, they don’t offer the speed, flexibility, or reliability of the Pi 4. These features make a big difference when you’re working with a Pi-based computer, server, Plex media center, game console, or smarthome device.
Build a New Computer
Old models of the Raspberry Pi are relatively powerful, but not powerful enough to build a reliable computer. Thanks to the Pi 4’s upgraded RAM and CPU (not to mention its dual-display capabilities), building a Pi-based desktop, laptop, or tablet is easier than ever.
Here are some Pi 4 computer projects that might appeal to you:
- Desktop: The Raspberry Pi 4’s impressive RAM and CPU specs make it a great candidate for desktop use (whether you need a Linux or Windows PC). Grab an official Pi 4 Desktop Kit and go to town! And don’t forget the Pi 4 supports dual external displays.
- Laptop: The Pi’s tiny form factor translates well to small PCs and, especially, laptops. We suggest you work with the Pi-Top laptop kits (they’re simple and cheap). The Pi Foundation also has its own list of laptop kits. Just make sure the kit you choose works with the Pi 4 before you buy it.
- Tablet: There aren’t any Pi 4 tablet kits yet, but you can attach your Pi to the back of an official or unofficial touch screen monitor with some Velcro (now might be a good time to buy a Pi 4 case, too). This might sound ridiculous, but it’s a neat way to take your Pi on the go.
Of course, a Pi PC is no match for an average desktop computer. If you’ve already got your fix on desktops, laptops, and tablets, it might be time to focus on a different Pi project.
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 Starter Kit
This official Raspberry Pi 4 kit comes with multiple RAM options. It's got everything you need to get started.
Enhance Your Home Network
At a basic level, the Raspberry Pi 4 is a cheap, tiny computer. While this limits its ability to function as a modern desktop PC, it makes the Pi a great candidate for just about any home network project. Rather than relying on bulky old computers to run BitTorrent and development servers, you can defer all that work to your credit-card sized Pi 4.
Here are a few home network Pi projects to get you started:
- Server: Your Raspberry Pi 4 can be a great gateway to web and software development. Just follow the official guide from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and you’re good to go!
- NAS Box: NAS devices are expensive, but they’re great for local storage and streaming solutions. So, build your own NAS box with a Raspberry Pi! All you need is a NAS case and some instructions.
- Pi-Hole: Ad blocking extensions are great, but they only work in your browser. If you’re sick of ads on your phone, in software, or on your TV’s YouTube app, it’s time to block ads at the network level. A Pi-Hole gets the job done, and it’s pretty easy to set up.
- BitTorrent Box: If you’re a good BitTorrenter who likes to seed 24/7, you need an always-on machine dedicated to torrenting. Your Raspberry Pi 4 can do just that, and it’s much smaller than a new PC or laptop.
Hmm, computers and home servers. This doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. If you’re looking for a project to entertain the whole family (or just yourself), then it’s time to move on to some gaming and streaming Pi projects.
Enjoy Pi-Based Gaming and Streaming
It seems like everyone has a Pi connected to their TV these days, and for a good reason. The Raspberry Pi is arguably better (and cheaper) than most streaming sticks and game consoles, and software like RetroPie and Kodi are easy to set up.
The Pi 4’s upgraded RAM and CPU make it an ideal candidate for hiccup-free home entertainment projects. So, without further ado, here are some great gaming and streaming Pi projects:
- RetroPie: The RetroPie OS is easy to install, and it can turn your Pi 4 into an emulation station, a Kodi media player, or a miniature arcade machine. Note: At the time of writing, an easy installer isn’t yet available for the Pi4, but it’s coming.
- Plex Media Server: A Pi is a cheap alternative to a PC or NVIDIA Shield Plex server. Just configure your Pi 4 with Plex, and you’re good to go.
- Kodi Media Center: This is another cheap alternative for local streaming. Just configure your Pi 4 with Kodi and hit the ground running.
- Raspicast: As odd as it sounds, you can use a Raspberry Pi instead of a Chromecast. Just set up your Pi, connect it to a TV, and launch the Raspicast app on your Android phone.
Most of these projects are easy to expand. Want to build an arcade machine? Do it with the RetroPie software! Want to turn your bedroom TV into a streaming machine? Attach a Pi to it!
Expand Your Smarthome
Smarthome devices are expensive, and they don’t always work as well as you’d expect. Plus, they’re impossible to service and can be out of date after just a few years. The solution? Build your own smarthome devices!
These projects are relatively hard (and require a bit of research), but they’re worth the effort. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Add Alexa to Your Pi: If you’re interested in building your own Alexa smart assistant, you’re in luck! Amazon has an official guide for Alexa on Raspberry Pi.
- Smart Display: Why buy a smart display when you can build one? Simply choose a smarthome software (or use Alexa) and grab a small touch screen display.
- Smart Mirror: After building a smart display, you might be inclined to create something more complicated and original. Why not build your own Pi-based smart mirror?
- Home Security: In need of some Pi-based home security? Maybe it’s time to build a Pi security camera or configure a PrivateEyePi home alarm system.
- Automated Home Gardening: Don’t you wish plants would just water themselves? Well, if you set up a smart gardening system, they can! You can follow a guide and build an automated gardening system or buy a premade one from SwitchDoc.
Again, the Pi 4’s updated specs make it ideal for smarthome builds (as opposed to older Pi models, that run at slower speeds). Just keep in mind most of these smarthome projects require some extra purchases, like Arduino boards, digital cameras, or touch screen displays.
The Pi projects we’ve listed vary in difficulty, but most are a great starting point for your journey into Pi-dom. You can also easily expand them in unique ways.
If these projects aren’t enough to get your Pi juices flowing (gross), it might be time to dig through the official Raspberry Pi Blog or Forums. These platforms are regularly updated with neat projects and Pi software sure to pique your interest.