Pop!_OS on the Raspberry Pi [Review]

Pop!_OS Raspberry Pi Review

Pop!_OS has made it to the Raspberry Pi.  This Linux distribution has become quite popular over the last few years – so how does it perform on the tiny single board computer? Read on to find out.

Pop!_OS is a relatively new distribution which aims to provide an out-of-the-box Linux experience appropriate for STEM, creativity, gaming, and general use.  It largely succeeds at all of these (and I’ve used it for various projects), so I am interested to see how it performs on a Raspberry Pi.

Installation

Installation is very straight forward – download the Raspberry Pi image from the Pop!_OS Website and then write the image to a SD card using the Raspberry Pi Imager.

The process is the same as writing any other OS to an SD card for use on a Raspberry Pi, so it’s pretty straightfoward.

I did run into a few hiccups after installation, which I’ll cover further along.

The Desktop & Software store

Once installed, Pop!_OS looks pretty much like it’s full-fat counterpart for Intel processors.  The desktop is nice, clean, and easy to navigate.  I really like the Pop!_OS desktop experience.

The Pop!_OS Desktop

The Pop!_OS Desktop

The Pop!_OS App Launcher

The Pop!_OS App Launcher

The Pop!_Shop

Browsing installed software and updates in the shop

Browsing installed software and updates in the shop

Installing VLC Media Player

Installing VLC Media Player

Apps

There is a wide array of productivity and creativity apps – from Arduino IDE for working with home made gadgets, to Visual  Studio for writing code, VLC for playing pretty much any kind of media file, office software, games, the list goes on.  If you are planning on using your Raspberry Pi as a desktop computer, Pop!_OS is a good choice.

Visual Studio Code is there in all it's glory

Visual Studio Code is there in all it’s glory

VLC, too

VLC, too

Teething issues

The current release of Pop!_OS on the Pi is in the tech preview phase – meaning it’s still not quite ready for production usage.  I encountered a few minor issues during setup, but nothing that prevented me from using the OS or included software.

Filesystem Expansion

First up, the file system was not automatically expanded to the full capacity of the SD card I installed Pop!_OS to.  This caused immediate problems as there wasn’t enough space to install software or updates.

This was easily rectified however, the Disks tool can do this with a few clicks.

Open the Disks tool, select the main partition, then the gears menu, and click 'Resize'

Open the Disks tool, select the main partition, then the gears menu, and click ‘Resize’

Drag the slider to use the full capacity of the SD card, and click 'Resize'

Drag the slider to use the full capacity of the SD card and click ‘Resize’

…and that’s it! The OS will take a couple of minutes to re-size the partition so that there is ample space available.

Updates

I also encountered some minor issues updating – seeing the following error when updating the system in the built in software center.

pop pi 3 Updating from the command line with :

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

Worked without issue, however, so at least the core OS is kept up-to-date.

Again, this is a preview release, so a few bumps are expected along the way, I expect the full release will have the usual Pop!_OS polish.

Overscan

There’s no option to adjust for overscan when using a TV as a monitor, causing the edges of the screen to be cut off on some TVs when using Pop!_OS – which is a bit annoying.

Performance

I’m testing Pop!_OS on a Raspberry Pi 4 with 2GB RAM.

On the standard Raspberry Pi OS (which is comparitively light, and lacks a nice desktop interface, app store, and is overall less nice to use), 1080p video playback with VLC is smooth.  Not so for Pop!_OS, however – it is barely watchable.

This is a trade off you’ll need to figure out for yourself – you may prefer the bells and whistles of Pop!_OS over the performance of a lighter OS – it will depend on what you’re using it for.

Overall Thoughts?

I look forward to the full release of Pop!_OS for the Raspberry Pi.  The current preview has a few problems that need to be ironed out, but the overall experience is much ‘nicer’ than using the default Raspberry Pi OS, and I prefer the user interface over Ubuntu’s default desktop experience, which I find to be clunky for daily use.

Bringing the Pop!_Shop software center to the Pi is also a big plus – putting a great suite of productivity and creativity software within easy reach.

Beyond that there’s not much more to be said – it’s Pop!_OS on the Raspberry Pi – if you like the OS on other systems, you’ll like it here, too.

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Brad Morton

I'm Brad, and I'm nearing 20 years of experience with Linux. I've worked in just about every IT role there is before taking the leap into software development. Currently, I'm building desktop and web-based solutions with NodeJS and PHP hosted on Linux infrastructure. Visit my blog or find me on Twitter to see what I'm up to.

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