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New Raspberry Pi 4 with 8GB RAM - Use as a desktop PC

The Raspberry Pi is now available with 8GB of RAM. The cost is higher, costing almost twice as much as the 2GB version, although only about £25 more than the 4GB version. The question is what can you do with 8GB of RAM and do you really need that much?

The fact that you can now buy a Raspberry Pi computer with 8GB of memory for $75 is a huge achievement. It's something that wasn't possible a few years ago. Whether you need one just yet is up for debate.

Full details are explained in the following video, which shows how I tested this. It's not quite real world setting, but I've tried to at least launch the same applications that you may expect to have running at the same time.

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Raspberry Pi 4 8GB edition with two screens

Testing Memory Usage of the Raspberry Pi 4 - 8GB

To perform the test I connected the Raspberry Pi 4 to a NexDock 2, and a computer monitor. A 32GB SD card had the latest Raspberry Pi OS (full install) and the latest updates were installed. I enabled ssh and VNC and used SimpleScreenRecorder to capture the video from the Raspberry Pi NexDock screen.

I launched various office applications, a web browser with a few tabs open and tried OpenShot. I didn't open many large documents, although I did load some videos into OpenShot and set it rendering the video (I cancelled the video rendering as it woul have taken too long for the video demonstration).

Measured memory usage of Raspberry Pi 4 8GB

In use I didn't manage to get the memory usage much above 2GB, suggesting that the 4GB version is probably up to most peoples requirements.

CAD on a Raspberry Pi 4

One task that I did think would use more memory is CAD (computer aided design). I did try and run FreeCAD, but that failed. I think this is due to it not working with the OpenGL graphics drivers on the Raspberry Pi. I do think that is one place where the extra memory would be useful. Although not tested in the video Blender could be another one, it does run in a reasonable amount of memory (as I have used Blender on the older versions of the Raspberry Pi), but complex designs may benefit from the extra memory.

I also didn't try 3D printer slicers. I know that for Cura the latest version is compiled for 64 bit Intel only, but that is something that may be possible in future.

Summary for desktop use of Raspberry Pi 4

Based on this limited testing I don't think there is a need to have more than 4GB for using a Raspberry Pi as a desktop computer, at the moment.

The testing was not full real-world use and perhaps it may be possible to go beyond 4GB by loading large documents, although I still don't think that most users will need more than 4GB.

CAD is one area that may benefit, but I was unable to perform the test of FreeCAD for this test.

This may change in future and it can potentially open up new opportunities for the Raspberry Pi. Areas that were previously out-of-bounds for the Raspberry Pi are now becoming possible. Paying an extra $25 for the 8GB version can help future proof your Raspberry Pi.

Non desktop use

Beyond the desktop there are other areas that may make better use of the 8GB of memory on the Raspberry Pi 4. You could perhaps look at using a RAM disk to speed up the Raspberry Pi as well as reducing the amount of writes to the SD card if you have a system that is prone to power loss (eg. a remote monitoring device).

It may also help with running a network server by allowing a large number of server threads or caching database information.

The fact that you can now buy a Raspberry Pi computer with 8GB of memory for $75 is a huge achievement. It's something that wasn't possible a few years ago. Whether you need one just yet is up for debate.

Other suggestions

Do you know of any other cases where 8GB RAM would be useful? If so please leave a comment on the Video reviewing the 8GB RAM Raspberry Pi 4.