Nexdock - Initial Impressions

On Friday 9th September I finally got my hands on the Nexdock, a recent crowd funded project that I backed.

Nexdock is a laptop with no hard drive, CPU, memory. Just a keyboard, screen, trackpad and a 10000mAh battery. The goal of the project is to create a platform where the user brings their own device, be it a phone, tablet...RASPBERRY PI ;) and connects it to the Nexdock which will provide the keyboard, mouse, power and screen for us to work with.

So what does the Nexdock come with

  • 14 inch 1366 X 768 display
  • Bluetooth Keyboard and trackpad
  • 10000mAh battery
  • 2x USB ports (1 to power your device, the other links to an internal hub)
  • Mini HDMI
  • Webcam
  • Micro SD card reader
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • Microphone
  • Speakers

Wondering why the last five entries in the list are bold? Well dear reader these four devices are available if you plug in a USB A Male from the left hand USB port to the USB port of a Raspberry Pi, so you need a USB A Male connection on each end of the cable.

Mike Redrobe has created a handy block diagram of the connections.

Webcam

The webcam is nowhere near the resolution of the official Raspberry Pi camera, but it is there and ready to use. To test the camera I installed fswebcam via the terminal.

sudo apt install fswebcam  

Then to take a picture I typed

fswebcam image.jpg  

And behold this glorious image on a Sunday morning.

alt

Admittedly not a great picture, for more than one reason! But it worked and it can be used with Python's PyGame library, Albert Hickey aka @winkleink has even written a test script for generic USB webcams

Micro SD Card Reader

Not too exciting, but I tested the micro SD card reader with a spare card, and it worked! So now I can add extra storage...and even clone cards with my Raspberry Pi!

3.5mm Headphone Jack

Insert cheap joke about iPhone 7 here

I plugged in my headphones, forgot to change the audio output, loaded Sonic Pi and played some tunes...and I heard it all..clearly...no hissing from the PWM audio output!

Microphone

I remember using a Zoom H2 microphone with the original Raspberry Pi, it worked but was buggy. Fast forward four years, more power and better software means that we can now use microphones with the Pi. So I tested the Nexdock internal microphone using Audacity to record some basic audio.

Recorded at 48khz in mono, the microphone would not record in stereo.

Speakers

There are two speakers on the underside of the Nexdock. They are of fair quality, certainly not Bose quality but they are good enough for the job.

Keyboard and Trackpad

The Raspberry Pi was never the target market for this project, so the choice of Bluetooth as the method to connect the keyboard and trackpad to the Pi is never perfect. Requiring a few steps of configuration to get working, including writing a cron job to auto connect them on boot is not pleasant for those new to the Pi. Also when playing Minecraft you are not able to move the camera view and walk at the same time as they cancel each other out. But for general use they are ok.

TOP TIP

Want to make your trackpad more responsive? Open the Keyboard and Mouse settings and change the pointer speed so that it runs a little quicker than normal.

Power Adapter

A cheap generic 5v 2.5A power supply comes with the Nexdock, and it even comes with a "DEATH-DAPTOR" (c) BigCliveDotCom.

In other words a universal adapter that has no place in your home.

Get yourself a better adapter before you use the Nexdock!

5v 2.5A 3.5mm tip, 1.35mm internal, internal positive

I've just ordered a power supply from CPC, many thanks to Ivan @Piminister for investigating.
alt I'll test it and report back!

Update September 19 2016 Power supply has arrived and is charging the dock with no issues. I suggest that this is the power supply to pick up to replace the DEATH-DAPTER :)

What's left to test Les?

Well I need to charge the unit up and run it continuously to test how long the battery will last with a Raspberry Pi 3.

Update September 19 2016

I ran the unit continuously for 6 hours at Leigh Makerspace Raspberry Jam, no issues encountered, but a proper test is still required.

Oh and I had a strange issue with the screen earlier today. It went off, then started to go weird. But after a reboot all was ok. Fingers crossed.