Evaluation Type: Independent Products
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Generic Raspberry Pi enclosure
What were the biggest problems encountered?: Opening the case once closed Opening the case top panel Closing the case
<puts on best youtube reviewer fake voice>
Hi and welcome to another Element14 RoadTest Review.
Joining us today is a Raspberry Pi case which has a DIN mounting and room for breadboards.
</got bored of that voice>
Edit: Link to product PDF: https://www.phoenixcontact.com/online/portal/gb/pxc/product_detail_page/!ut/p/b1/3ZfLkqJIGIWfpR7AIrkJLMFETa7KHTaEgIWAXAQ… thanks to peteroakes for locating it
By now we should all be familiar with the Raspberry Pi, a super inexpensive computer. If not, there are many reviews and RoadTests around Element14 that will give you a full introduction.
This review is of a case for the Raspberry Pi that is unique as far as I am aware in that it allows the Pi to be mounted on a DIN rail.
For those of you unaware of what a DIN rail is don't feel bad, they are quite specialised unless you work in the electrician or network server environments. A DIN rail is a piece of metal that is used to mount several small devices in a small area and allowing them to be moved and removed easily if necessary.
A typical example of DIN rail usage at home is in your fuse box. If your fuses have switches and they are all lined up in a neat row there is a DIN rail holding them all in place at the back. If a new electrical circuit is required it is as simple as adding a new fuse to the DIN rail and then wiring the circuit (which is not at all simple and should never be done by anyone unless they are qualified electricians).
In a network environment DIN rails are used to mount many devices in a small area. A typical example is shown below:
As you can see something that would be quite bulky can take up massively less room with minimum effort using DIN rails.
If we go back to our datacentre scenario, imagine how much space would be taken up were we to make 50 servers from Raspberry Pi boards. The cabling alone would be a nightmare.
Now imagine being able to mount the boards on a DIN rail. What was originally a planning and maintenance nightmare suddenly becomes much easier to manage and maintain. Server 27 has gone down? Remove the server from the DIN rail, Pop the top cover off, disconnect the leads, remove the Raspberry Pi for later testing, replace with new Raspberry Pi and SD card, connect the board back to the DIN rail, reconnect the wires, replace the top cover. All done in a few minutes maximum but potentially doable in under 60 seconds with practice.
Getting back to my particular usage of this mounting case I chose to make a TV mounted Kodi media centre which works wonderfully on a Raspberry Pi model 2 or 3. Earlier models may be sluggish when using the menus but will play videos perfectly fine.
For this I required the following parts:
Raspberry Pi 2
RPI BC DIN rail housing by Phoenix Contact
DIN rail (I bought one measuring 25 centimetres)
Micro SD card (4GB or higher) with Raspberry Pi Raspbian image installed
SD card writer suitable for a micro SD card, USB 2 or better for improved write speed.
2 amps or better power supply with micro USB connector. I used a mobile phone charger rated 2.4 amps and a USB 2 rated micro USB lead
90 Degree HDMI Angle Adapter Connector M/F (left). Get this correct or you will end up purchasing the wrong orientation as I did the first time around.
RJ45 network cable or WiFi dongle (RJ45 will be faster but WiFi offers more flexibility). I went for RJ45 as televisions tend to stay put.
USB keyboard and mouse
Kodi media player, a full installation guide is available at http://kodi.wiki/view/HOW-TO:Install_Kodi_on_Raspberry_Pi
Enough preamble, time to put it together step by step and review the case.
First of all ensure you have adequate desk space for all the parts and a clear build area of approximately 50 cm by 50 cm and lay out the individual parts.
The first step is to connect the two thin black bars to the underside of the Raspberry Pi, one at a time. Be aware this plastic is fragile and care must be taken.
Looking at the black bar we can see one side has 2 sets of spikes which are to be inserted into the holes on the Raspberry Pi board.
Align the spikes with the holes on the Raspberry Pi and push until they lock into place. Repeat for the second mounting rail.
Put the Raspberry Pi aside for the moment.
The next step is to insert the orange tabs into the DIN rail case. These act as anchors and locking mechanisms when mounted to the DIN rail.
Push the orange clips into place. You may need to push down slightly on the plastic in the centre using a small screwdriver tip. Ensure that the final result for both clips are as shown in the top half of the picture.
Now we need to mount the Raspberry Pi in position. Start by lying the base of the case (with the orange tabs) so that the orange tabs are on the surface and the enclosed area of the case is to the left.
As you can see the SD card socket faces the top and the HDMI socket faces the right.
Ensure there is no SD card in the Raspberry Pi at this point.
Take the Raspberry Pi and put it in position in the case so the black bars are in the wells in the case plastic and the RJ45 socket and USB ports are in the large hole. Inserting it at a slight angle makes it much easier.
At the SD card end do the same. The SD card slot will align with a small cutout in the case.
Once aligned correctly, insert the SD card into the cutout. Push the SD card in until it clicks into place. I suggest using something thin such as a small flat bladed screwdriver to push it in as it goes flush with the case.
The black bars, RJ45/USB ports and the SD card now serve as anchor points to prevent the Raspberry Pi from moving.
While the case is still open insert the HDMI right angled connector, HDMI lead and micro USB lead into their desired positions. If you bought the wrong connector the end will hit the Micro USB lead. Back to the shops you go.
Now you can see why we need the right angled connector - without it there would be massive strain placed on the HDMI cable as it would be forced through a very tight 90 degree bend which would cause damage to the wires inside, as well as potentially to the HDMI port on the Raspberry Pi.
The next stage is to put the bottom cover in place. This is quite straightforward as long as you remember one crucial part.
The bottom cover has some embossed writing ">PC-FR<" (Polycarbonate Flame Retardant). This writing goes above the Raspberry Pi and not at the other end. Slide it down and it should just click into place.
If it does not click into place and there is a very small gap around the curve simply squeeze the top cover slightly as there is a lip and push down.
It should seal flush if done correctly. Repeat for the other end.
Finally, insert the RJ45 and USB cables.
As I mentioned earlier I have chosen to attach my DIN rail to the rear of my TV using the VESA mount points. If you do this ensure (unlike me) that you measure the horizontal gap between the VESA mount points and ensure you purchase a DIN rail long enough to fit. DIN rails can be cut to length quite easily using a hacksaw if you buy much too large a piece but you can't make a short piece grow larger.
As I omitted this stage I ended up mounting my DIN rail vertically rather than horizontally. Such is life. Ignore the white dots, I forgot to cover the back of the TV while I was painting using a roller.
Our last and final stage is to clip the DIN case onto the DIN rail. This is very straightforward to do - simply line it up and push gently. The orange tabs will audibly click into place once the DIN case is in position. Let go and it will stay where you clipped it.
Here is the whole thing in action watching one of the best channels on YouTube via the DIN rail mounted Raspberry Pi 2 Kodi box:
Now I have done that I would like to take a little time to review the case.
I think the idea of DIN rail mounting the Raspberry Pi is excellent and lends itself well to applications such as servers, monitoring networks and more.
DIN rails being standardised makes planning much easier and less stressful to the person involved. In a matter of a few minutes 10 Raspberry Pis could be set up and deployed, and that includes the time to mount the DIN rail itself.
There is plenty of ventilation access in this case which will help immensely in a data centre environment.
The plastic feels light but reasonably strong.
The black bars are of a plastic that I do not believe will survive repeated insertion and removal, it does seem quite inflexible. If the bar is left in place it should last indefinitely however.
The hinged top cover is impractical as it is very difficult to open once closed. I resorted to using a screwdriver blade and forcing it open which is not the best.
If the design was altered slightly to have a lip and some of the catches on the top lid were removed so the lid was only lightly held in place the issue would be resolved. I chose to slice away 2 of the clip points using a sharp knife which mostly resolved the issue for me.
As part of this review the RoadTesters were not issued the breadboard kit which was a shame. I would have loved to have knocked up a temperature sensor on board one of them which would have been perfect for monitoring the environment in such places as data centres.
The important question is "would I buy this again?" to which my honest answer would definitely be yes. Previously my Kodi build Raspberry Pi was in a laser cut case in front of the TV and it was constantly being knocked off when people passed and ending up on the floor. Nothing bad ever happened to it but that was down to luck more than anything else.
I would use them to make Kodi boxes for my children as well as to make a cute little server rack.
I wish to thank Element14 for the Road Test, Phoenix Contact for the product itself, Randall Scasny rscasny for taking the time to sort everything out (and read the New York Times a lot!), various suppliers from auction sites for the parts such as the DIN rail and right angled HDMI connector.
I really appreciated this review. I had many questions of what and why with little knowledge in this area. You clearly explained and organized the way to install and what was needed too.
This review helped me out a lot too. I've been thinking about DIN railing some of my tiny systems, and this might just be what I'm looking for. Thanks for the review (and the heads up about the HDMI thing…
Based on the target for this product, I would think most applications would go headless and therefor not need the HDMI cable attached. or they would be probably using a different case for the solution…
I love node red and it is my goto for all automation projects
I have loads of videos on my youtube channel:- https://www.youtube.com/user/TheBreadboardca/search?query=node-red regarding node-red and so does my friend on his blog http://tech.scargill.net
peteroakes I agree completely, in a data centre or similar environment there would be little need for the HDMI and disabling it may save a fractional amount of power. Following on from that there would be no need to run the X server and graphical front end as everything could be achieved over a simple SSH connection, or uploaded to a central server for processing and viewing.
Based on the target for this product, I would think most applications would go headless and therefor not need the HDMI cable attached. or they would be probably using a different case for the solution. When using for most industrial / Automation applications I would expect users to make use of the prototype board and also extension to other cases on the DIN rail that are available for this case and use it more as a Gateway / remote controller where a local display is not needed or important.
It is however nice to know there is a solution to connecting an otherwise hard to manage cable should the need arise.
This review helped me out a lot too. I've been thinking about DIN railing some of my tiny systems, and this might just be what I'm looking for. Thanks for the review (and the heads up about the HDMI thing, I would have surely have bought the wrong one).