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pi-topCEED unboxing experience

I actually provided this as feedback to pi-top support by email on Aug 11. Normally got prompt replies from them (thank guys) but no reply, so reminded them asked for acknowledgement on Aug 16, still no reply by Aug 31 so sent another email reminder. Still no reply so we're getting some insight into the state of pi-tops email support at present alas, and I'll post it publicly here:

My out-of-box experience:

  • I liked the box and packaging. Had a nice slick feel to it, a rather intriguing and unusual form factor and was pleasant to receive and open.

  • Initial impression of the piTop CEED was less positive, the green plastic has a surprisingly cheep feel to it somehow, not like any laptop heretofore encountered. Not a crisis, it is an inexpensive machine, just noticeable.

  • The assembly instructions I found displeasing on number of fronts alas:
  1. They provide a step step list of things to do, without any reason or explanation. That in fact is not a huge issue, and not surprising from any ordinary consumer piece of electronics, but this was a machine that I thought was specifically designed as a learning tool, and being Pi based with its GPIO, specifically as an electronics learning tool. Now I may have misread the intent of the product, but that was certainly one reason I bought, as a leg up into electronics and teaching my kids electronics.

    Some of the steps are obvious to me and need no explanation. I know what the HDMI cable is for for example ;-),

    But I don't know what the pi-topCEED hub is, does, or how it interacts with the pi using the 6 wires you asked me to connect. I learned indirectly that the red/black pair is powering the pi (which it can take from the microUSB hub too), but the other four? What are they?

    It turns out removing them has no noticeable negative impact on thhins, the pi-top still starts and runs fine. So what are they for?

    On a learning/teaching machine I'd appreciate a clear description of what's going on here. What the pit-top CEED hub is and does, what its wires to the Pi are for, and what its other connectors are for! A very brief summary on the installation guide perhaps with URLs to a technical man

  2. They are incomplete. Forgive me, but they do not make any mention of plugging in a keyboard or mouse. Call me stupid if you will but in this day and age of touch screens, if the instructions don't mention that I march forward and assumed it'll work. Of course since then I've come to learn it would be foolish to expect to interact with the pi-topCEED without a keyboard and mouse, and this should really be part of the instruction sheet, and spelled out clearly.

  3. The three wire GPIO connector has a small arrow on it to aid in orienting it on the pins properly with a small warning to et it right lest ye damage the pi or hub. I'll fail you on this alas. It was not clear to me on first reading, and however poorly you may think of me, do take note that I have been building PCs from the ground up for decades and have some experience. All the same, I misread it to be asking me to put the paper sleeve over the ins the right way round, figuring if it was the wrong way round and we had the pin numbering wrong, we'd get things connected wrongly - which is true, my error was assuming this was what the warning was about and then in a moment of blindness continuing to connect. I totally failed to see the arrow on the plug nor appreciate its significance, given all three wires are uniformly black to boot, and I ended up putting it on back to front. In fact I still can't see that arrow without a good light shining on the work space and a magnifying glass (and no, my eyes aren't particularly poor, it's just a very shallow impression on a gloss black plug and you really need to be looking for it with intent to find it).

    Of course as you know from support the CEED would not start and we spent some time discussing why and working on diagnostics. All the time this was the wrong way round. On discovering it, I was left with zero understanding of what the impact of this might be. I don't understand what they are for, I don't understand what the consequence of getting this the wrong way round are. And that is all to my mind unsatisfactory.

    My firm counsel in this space is to use different coloured wires on that three-pin plug, so as to give it a clear orientation and not least because that's pretty much the norm, and expected in my book as identically coloured wires are always a pain to work with in electronics and electrics not least in situations like this where they have different functions.

    I would also counsel that the instructions  state clearly the individual steps of orienting the paper pin hood properly and of orienting the two pin and three pin plugs the right way round and describe in summary what the worse case might be if you got it wrong.

  4. The font size and shade of the GPIO pin labels and impossible to read and difficult even with a magnifying glass. I scanned it, and used that scan later as I could zoom in!

  5. Assembly posed two concerning issues:
  • Firstly we need to press the four magnetic feet into the Pi. This is a small snap lock fit, but the tolerance is so tight, and the pressure to insert is so high that it is impossible to insert them by hand without fear of breaking the Pi board! Totally frustrating experience, and the only solution I found, was to take a small tool I have (as it happens a simple electronics screwdriver extender works, but anything with a whole the snap lock nipple fits into and not much wider than that will work) to press down on the Pi board around the snap-lock nipple firmly to snap it into place (with the magnet on the table). I was left with some mild concern I may have damaged the Pi in my initial manual efforts.

  • The GPIO pin plugs are so high that the cables foul against the perspex lid when you slide it in. In fact I had to bend these over quite firmly to get the lid to slide on. Again, not slick at all, or suggestive of good prototyping and testing. It lid is difficult to remove and replace and remains that way because of these fouling cables. Either the plugs need to be a few mm shorter or the bay a few mm deeper I guess.

  • The HDMI cable is too stiff. I have many cables and know the range of stiffnesses well enough. You need a more flexible one in this space. It is a real bother connecting the pi, and putting it into place primarily because of the constraining rigidity of this HDMI cable. A more flexible softer cable, perhaps a smidgeon longer? Flat cables are often softer, but there is a range of flexible cables out there.
That is all. A fairly complete summary of my out-of-the-box experience with the pi-topCEED. May it be useful to readers, notably pi-top product management. No onto some community support if I can get it, in another post.

1 person has this problem

Very well written and interesting report.

I thought I might give you some of the answers to questions you have raised:

The hub controller acts as both a power supply for the rpi and an interface between the hdmi output of the rpi and the screen.

The connections labeled spi mosi, spi miso, spi clk and spi cs1 make a connection of the so called spi bus of the rpi with the hub controller. This allows the software of the rpi to talk to the hub controller. On the pi-topCEED this connection is really only necessary to adjust the screen brightness. As long as you are happy with the brightness of the screen, the pi-topCEED works perfectly well without this connection. If you are using pi-topOS and have made this connection, you can control the screen brightness with the brightness keys.

Once you have been getting used to the pi-top and linux you might want to also use plain Raspbian Jessie on your rpi. If that is the case, there is an explanation of how you can control the hardware of the pi-top with this standard OS on

There are a lot of resources on what you can do with your rpi and its gpio connector at

I agree with the original author.  The out-of-the-box experience is mind-numbingly silly.  All it would take is a little more text to tell you WHY to attach the GPIO, and I agree that the HDMI cable is very stiff.  I got it to work right away, but damaged the screen when I pulled off the screen protector.  It buckled and put a dimple in the screen.  For about $115 (US) I suppose I can't expect better, but it was mildly disappointing.

Am working now to create the application I intended, but found this note and was very supported of his experience.

One more question: My pi-topCEED has a full 40-pin connector.  Makes it completely useless if I choose to use a RP v1.    That was frustrating.  If you make a version with separate connectors (for power, the special screen control, etc) it would be nice to market it as an option.

which tool are people using to fit the mag clips ? the raspberry pi3 holes are too small it seems for the clips or is it me not wanting to put too much pressure on motherboard


Also the main instructions don't mention attaching the heatsink ?


From memory I used a hollow tubed tool that had an ID larger than the hole in the Pi board, a small socket tool. I put clip on its back on the table the pi board over it and pressed the board down.
I was shocked by the pressure needed and scared of breaking by board. To wit found the snuggest tool I had on hand.


solved mag clip install with very very gentle plier squeeze, all 4 mag clips now installed into motherboard and pi3 now in pi-top on mag rail fine

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