Case Reviews

Official Raspberry Pi 5 Case

The Raspberry Pi 5 maintains the familair appearance of previous generations, though with the relocation of several ports/connectors, the Raspberry Pi5 won’t fit in many cases designed for older versions. The new Raspberry Pi 5 has increased power and cooling demands compared to the Pi 4, with a new uprated power supply and official combined heatsink and active cooling solution being offered from Day 1.

As with each new Raspberry Pi release, comes a new official case. The official Raspberry Pi4 case was a disaster as it caused thermal throttling under a light load. The official case fan, released to help mitigate the heat issues, swapped the heat for noise and still did poorly compared to many other cases on the market. It is time to evaluate if lessons have been learned.

Design

The official Raspberry Pi 5 case visually looks similar to the 2-piece Raspberry Pi 4 version, but it’s made up of 4 pieces which clip together continuing the screwless designs of previous generations. One of the pieces is a semi-transparent holding a 30mm PWM fan, enabling the fan speed to be temperature-controlled. The fan only runs when needed, limiting the noise from the fan.

Raspberry Pi HATs can be used with the case by removing the topmost cover and using some GPIO extension headers. The Pi 5 features a new power switch, the case design accommodates this with a semi-transpartent button on the case allowing the switch to be pressed, whilst the internal status LED is clearly visible by the colour of the button.

Cooling

The case is supplied with a small metal heatsink for the SoC (System on Chip). The transparent piece with the fan can be removed to either run the case passively or with the larger heatsink and official Raspberry Pi Active Cooler (which you shouldn’t do, as you’ll see later).

The designers of the Raspberry Pi official case have shown greater consideration to thermal requirements, a trait lacking from previous Pi case versions. The base of the case features ventilation slots in the base and the top cover leaves a ~1.6mm gap around the edge (see picture above) allowing much needed airflow.

Peripheral Accessibility

The 40 pin GPIO header and fan connection are accessible with the supplied case fan in place. An RTC battery could be installed and secured within the case. The other connections on the Raspberry Pi 5 would only be usable if the supplied case fan is removed and an alternative cooling solution, such as the Official Active Cooler is used instead, but I’d not recommend this with this case, see the test results to understand why.

40pin GPIO4pin POEFanCam/Disp 0Cam/Disp 1UARTRTCPCIe
✔️✔️✔️

Thermal Testing

Testing is performed using my fork of stressberry to run all core stress tests and plot the graphs. The Pi is configured with:

  • OS: Raspberry Pi OS (64-bit) release 2023-12-05 with Desktop. All updates applied as of 21 Dec 2023
  • Kernel: Linux rpi5 6.1.0-rpi7-rpi-2712 #1 SMP PREEMPT Debian 1:6.1.63-1+rpt1 (2023-11-24) aarch64 GNU/Linux
  • Bootloader: Wed 6 Dec 18:29:25 UTC 2023 (1701887365)
  • OS configuration:
    • WiFi Enabled
    • SSH Enabled
    • System is configured to boot to the console
    • Samba, Stress, Stressberry
    • Python: 3.11.2
  • Stressberry test configuration:
    • Wait for the temperature to reach a steady state, measured through no changes of SoC temperature for 1 minute.
    • 5 minutes idle at the start and end of the test.
    • Stress on all 4 cores concurrently for 30 minutes

Results

Testing was performed in various configurations, including a bare Raspberry Pi 5 sitting on my desk (legend: RPI5).

Passive Cooling

The Raspberry Pi 5 thermal throttles the clock speed from 2400MHz to 1500MHz at 85°C and reduces it further to 1000MHz when the system reaches 90°C. The RPi5 open on the desk can be seen to regularly throttle to 1500MHz. Removing the fan from the case but keeping the top lid on shows that with or without the heatsink the Pi will throttle down as low as 1000MHz.

Active Cooling

The only configuration with active cooling which still led to thermal throttling, was when installing the official Raspberry Pi 5 Active Cooler installed within the official Raspberry Pi 5 case, with the top lid in place. This resulted in throttling down to 1500MHz as temperatures ran too high, so this configuration isn’t recommended.

When examining the official active cooler more closely it becomes apparent why this doesn’t work well in this configuration. The active cooler uses a blower design, pulling air from above and venting it to the side through the fins of the heatsink. When installed into the case, this area is to the back of the case where there aren’t any vents. The original case design also pulls air down from the top and blows it widely across the top surface of the board, allowing the air to flow down each side of the case and out through the bottom vents.

With active cooling solutions, the main issue can be noise generated from small fans running at high speed. The PWM fan header on the Raspberry Pi 5 enables temperature controlled fan speed. With previous generations of Raspberry Pi, small fans were typically connected to the 5V or 3.3V pins on the GPIO header, this could interfere with other intended uses of the GPIO header and didn’t allow fan speed to be controlled. Some vendors i.e. Argon Forty used PWM from the GPIO header on the Argon ONE to control the fan speed, but they were an exception.

Compared to the fan that was an optional addon to the Raspberry Pi 4 official case the fan on the new Raspberry Pi 5 case is quiet, helped by both the design of the case enabling less restricted airflow and the use of the new PWM fan header to control the fan speed. The supplied heatsink provides a small benefit to the cooling, allowing the fan to run at a lower speed. Running with the top lid on, leads to more restricted airflow, requiring the fan to run faster to maintain the temperature.

Conclusion

I’m pleased to say that lessons have been learned by the designers at Raspberry Pi, with the new official Raspberry Pi 5 case providing sufficient cooling and ventilation slots to support the Raspberry Pi 5 out of the box, a promising change from some previous accessory releases. The PWM header on the Raspberry Pi 5 is utilised to keep the fan speeds to the minimum necessary to cool the system without generating too much noise.

The official active cooler isn’t a good accessory to partner with this case due to the blower style design, it works well when the Pi isn’t enclosed but not when the airflow within a case is more restricted.

I’m keen to explore if Passive cooling a loaded Raspberry Pi 5 is an option, or if the days of passive cooling Raspberry Pi’s are now past. More to follow on this as I’ve several cases ready to be tested.

Product Links

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