HomeRaspberry PiArgon ONE for Raspberry Pi 4

Argon ONE for Raspberry Pi 4

Worth every penny spent

My Argon ONE came from China a day ago (speedy 14-day delivery) as the local stock (in the UK) got emptied very quickly. I can understand why, as online impressions were very good. Having opened the box, I have to say it’s not a good case, it’s a great case! And it couldn’t come at a better time. It lands here just as Raspberry Pi 4 gets the boot directly from the USB. There is one thing that is missing… (It’s not missing any more as Argon ONE released new revision that supports M.2 HDD – read more here).

Argon ONE

What online videos and pictures can’t tell you, is how heavy the case is. The bottom part is made of plastic, but the much bigger, the top part is made out of metal. It gives a very good impression and since the inside fans are attached to it, will act as a giant heat sink to cool down the air. This is not why Argon ONE cost more than your average Raspberry Pi 4 case. If you haven’t upgraded to Raspberry Pi 4 yet, don’t worry – argon40.com has a Raspberry Pi 3B version available too!

Included in the price of about $25, Argon ONE comes with:

  • Extension board
  • 25 mm fan
  • Cooling blocks
  • optional IR support
  • 4 mode power button
  • GPIO access

The “specs” list is just the part of the story, it’s the redesigned I/O panel that makes it so awesome. Thanks to the extension board, the entire Raspberry Pi’s I/O had been moved to the “back” of the case. Now I can connect the audio, video, USB, Ethernet – all of it together without creating a cable octopus out of the Raspberry Pi 4. This alone is what’s so cool about the Argon ONE. All cables are coming out of a single side of the case.

If you ever considered using Raspberry Pi 4 as your primary computer, you can achieve this with zen alike cable management. Especially if you consider Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to go with it. Thanks to Argon ONE, Raspberry Pi has all the cables routed at the back, and if you go wireless, your cable setup would be limited to just 2 cables (power and micro HDMI).

Simply beautiful! As soon as this review is over, Argon ONE will be storing my NodeRED server. I’m looking forward to it.

Even better details

It’s easy to assume that the case caters to Kodi & PLEX users. The “TV box” look, sleek design and IR support make perfect sense if all you need is a media streaming experience, but Argon ONE is perfectly equipped to satisfy the makers. Made of metal, magnetic latch shields access to the GPIO header. The attention to details doesn’t stop there.

The GPIOs are not only labelled but are attached to a coloured header. No more counting pins! The latch had been thought through as well. A comb-alike design allows for the wires to freely flows out of the GPIO header with the latch closed, just bear in mind, there is no space to fit the standard jumper cables and close the lid at the same time. Makes will be pleased! I know I am!

More than a power button

Placed at the back, power button comes with a couple surprises too! Software operated push button enables the 4 different modes of operation:

  • Short press (ON)
  • Long press 3s (sudo power off)
  • Double tap (sudo reboot)
  • Long press 5s (forced power off)

Thanks to the translucent bottom half of the case, both Raspberry Pi LED’s are visible. I hate wondering if the Raspberry Pi powered up correctly. Being able to see the LED’s solves that issue.

The button requires the following library to be installed to work:

curl https://download.argon40.com/argon1.sh | bash

Cooling performance

To keep the Raspberry Pi 4, known for running rather warm, Argon ONE is equipped with a PWM controlled fan. The fan isn’t working alone, the case combines active fan cooling with passive extrusions that act as heat sinks for the CPU and RAM. The case keeps the Raspberry Pi decently cooled. I can set my own cooling profiles, or keep the fan on constantly, Argon ONE leaves you in charge of the fan.

Select fan mode:
  1. Always on
  2. Adjust to temperatures (55C, 60C, and 65C)
  3. Customize behavior
  4. Cancel
NOTE: You can also edit /etc/argononed.conf directly
Enter Number (1-4):

At idle (tested at 22℃, fan speed 100%)

The Raspberry Pi 4 reports 34℃ and you can shave 1-2℃ down if you put the fan at 100%. I personally don’t see a reason for doing so, but who knows what are you into 🤷🏻‍♂️. This is on pair with 52pi’s DockerPi Powerboard (review) and the massive ICE Cooling Tower (review).

At 100%

If you turn up the CPU temperatures (benchmark) with ./cpuburn-a53 things don’t get hot either. I did a 10 min benchmark to see how high the temperature would get and Argon ONE keeps it steady around 47℃ mark. Looks like this case has decent cooling potential and it’s right in line with 52pi DockerPi Powerboard (review) and is marginally worse than ICE Cooling Tower (review).

WiFi performance

Raspberry Pi 4 is enclosed in a body of metal. This can have an impact on the wireless performance of the board to find out if Argon ONE is as well thought through. I run a couple of iperf3 tests to find out if 2.4GHz & 5.0GHz ranges are affected. In my first scenario, the board was in ideal WiFi conditions 2 m from the router and in my second benchmark I took the Raspberry Pi 4 to another room to simulate a typical use-case scenario:

Ideal (no case)Ideal (Argon ONE)Typical (no case)Typical (Argon ONE)
2.4 GHz9.0 MBytes/s8.59 MBytes/s6.90 MBytes/s4.82 MBytes/s
5.0 GHz10.7 MBytes/s10.7 MBytes/s10.3 MBytes/s10.0 MBytes/s

There is a small difference in wireless speeds especially over the 2.4GHz band at distance. The drop in performance isn’t massive and the 5GHz isn’t affected. There are no reasons to get stressed about it.

Add a remote if you want to

I mentioned IR controls are optional. Argon ONE comes without a remote, but the fan board comes with mounting holes for through-hole IR diodes. There is one for the signal coming in, and one for the signal coming out. If you want to equip your box with IR remote capabilities, you can solder IR diodes (check these IR in TL1838 and IR out 940nm on AliExpress).

The cleanest Raspberry Pi desktop you could have

And it could be more

The bottom part of the case is made of the translucent plastic. It could be a cost-saving move, one that also makes it easy to pass the IR signals in and out, but I think this is a great opportunity. The case is about the size of an HDD drive, and with mSATA board coming my way, I start to imagine how much of a redesign it would be to make the SSD fit inside?

With the help of my 3D printer (Ender 3), I’m planning to transform this case to support an mSATA SSD. Raspberry Pi 4 is finally getting USB boot support – so a mod like that would be just perfect! Keep in touch over my social media if you want to see how this will turn out.

Edit 30/11/2020
Looks like Argon40 listed to my feedback (and probably not just mine) and released ArgonONE M.2 (review) with SSD support. If you want to know more about that case, I already wrote an article about it.

Who will dislike Argon ONE?

It’s hard to please everyone. Anyone hoping to use PoE or Raspberry Pi camera will be disappointed. The case blocks the access to Power over Ethernet pins entirely. The camera fanatics could find a way to lead the camera tape out of the Argon ONE case, but without designated cut-outs, the effect will be ugly.

Buy Argon ONE

Buy it using these links to support NotEnoughTech.

Final thoughts

Considering all cases I already own, Argon ONE is hands down the best case I have. If you are happy to part with $25, you could add a premium case to your Raspberry Pi 4 board. It won’t please all users out there, but it doesn’t have to. The sleek design will speak to all media fanatics, and a well thought GPIO header design will be endeared by makers. That’s a big part of the community that will be happy with this case being an option for them! I’m looking forward to seeing more designs from argon40. If you have any comments or questions about this case – let me know in this Reddit thread.


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