Pi-topPULSE review

By Russell Barnes. Posted

We love the pi-top range of computers. They provide true PC or laptop conversion kits for the Raspberry Pi, customisable with plug-in modules and aimed at educational users. Usually these add-ons are designed to enhance the experience of using the pi-top, but that’s all changing with their latest and most ambitious add-on, the pi-topPULSE.

It may be ambitious, but it is also very cool. From the top, it’s an unassuming white plastic square. It includes a 7×7 LED display under the plastic, plus a microphone and speaker. The PCB is visible on the underside, but it is lovely and well designed.

On its own, it can be plugged into a pi-top using the special magnetic rails inside the slide-out compartment, but it can also be used as a HAT on the Raspberry Pi. You’ll need to plug in a header to the underside of the PULSE before popping it on the Pi, but it works with Raspbian after installing a single piece of software.

It’s a very tight fit on the Pi. The case barely misses the Ethernet port, and the connectors for the pi-top hang over the board, increasing the footprint of the Pi. As an educational tool it is excellent, with a very robust Python library for creating light displays and games.

The microphone and speaker give you access to other functions. The PULSE acts as a fully integrated speaker for Sonic Pi, and is even optimised for use with Amazon Alexa on the Raspberry Pi. There’s a great demo on the product page that shows how it can be used with Alexa.

It is a little tricky to get your head around the programming, but there are plenty of examples that helped us figure out how to use everything.

All in all, it’s one of the most fun HATs we’ve seen in a while, allowing users to explore many amazing project ideas.

Last word


An amazing idea with great execution – we just wish it was slightly easier to program. With a bit of practice you can create some astounding things with the PULSE.

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