Old Laptop or Raspberry Pi


If you are reading this you are probably wondering if you should just use that old laptop collecting dust or shell out some cash for a Raspberry Pi to run OctoPrint or Klipper.

If you want the quick and dirty answer, the laptop is by far the best choice. But why? Well… now you got to read more.

Before I begin let me ask you a quick question: Do you just want to be able to connect to your 3D printer via WiFi? Because if so, there are multiple ways to do that without using a Pi or Laptop. There are Klipper screens, mainboards with WiFi built in, WiFi modules that plug into the mainboard of your printer, and the super simple  ESP32 CYD touchscreens with Wifi that you can find on AliExpress for about $15. 

Changing out motherboards may be too much for some people, and the cheapest WiFi enabled models are around $100. If your existing mainboard in your 3D printer works fine, then you are just wasting your money. Klipper screens are a tad expensive, and Klipper has more of a learning curve (However, if you want your printer to run up to 10x faster with even better print quality then one day you will need to take the time to learn Klipper). WiFi modules only work with certain mainboards, so your stock mainboard probably won’t work with one. You’ll need to do some research before you buy to make sure the option you choose will work. But let’s get back on track…

First of all I have several Raspberry Pi’s. I have a Pi Zero W 2, I have 6 Pi 3 A Plus units, and I have a 4GB RPi4. I’ve used them in multiple configurations to run my 4 printers. I ran all 4 printers using just the single Raspberry Pi 4, and I also gave each printer their own RPi3 A+. 

Pi Pro’s:

  • Lots of custom free case designs you can print online.
  • Can run Klipper, OctoPrint, or both.
  • Small and compact.

Pi Con’s:

  • Sometimes hard to get, scalpers buy them up and resell them for up to 6 or 7x the price.
  • You need to buy a power supply that can pump out 3 amps at 5 volts. The official RPi power supply is like $15. Your typical cell phone charger either won’t supply the rated amps, or the USB cable will not be able the handle the rated amps. The Pi will then throttle to low speed to use less power. 
  • You need to buy or print a case for your Pi. It is just a bare circuit board.
  • You need to buy a (good quality) micro SD card.
  • You should probably buy a pack of heat sinks and a fan for the Pi because it gets hot. When it gets too hot it will throttle itself to low speed/less power. 
  • It has no shielding. This is HUGE. Unlike a laptop, there is no metal case preventing EMF interference. This can cause the Pi to disconnect from your 3D printer, leaving it in a frozen state (nozzle and bed heated) with your print ruined. 
  • Only the Pi 5 has a power button. If you want to turn it off, you have to log into the Pi and enter a shutdown command in the Linux shell, or in OctoPrint. Just unplugging it will eventually corrupt the microSD card and cause you to have to reinstall everything… and maybe even buy a new microSD card. 

Laptop Pro’s:

  • It’s shielded and probably has more USB ports.
  • In headless mode, you can close the lid and it probably will use the same amount of power as a single Raspberry Pi. 
  • It has a built in battery if the power fails. Even if the battery is old and only lasts 10 minutes normally, without the screen running (which uses most of the power) that old battery will probably keep the laptop running for a few hours. 
  • It may seem like a slow old dinosaur, but running Linux headless (without a screen), it will likely be several times faster than a RPi. My old Intel i5 laptop runs lightning fast and handles 4 printers at 250000 baud each. 
  • It already has a power cord and case. 
  • You can use an ethernet cable and plug it into your router and not need WiFi to get your printers on your network.

Laptop Con’s:

  • It’s bigger than a Raspberry Pi. However, mine is mounted on a low profile slide out tray I 3D printed under the shelf holding my 3D printers. So it is practically invisible.


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