Meet Pixel, a gorgeous, much-needed visual overhaul for Raspberry Pi's main distro

A delicious upgrade for Raspberry Pi.

The Raspberry Pi isn’t exactly known for its polish. The glorious, but bare-bones $35 mini-PC packs humble hardware and even lacks a case in its quest to deliver affordable computing to the masses. That austere design even extended to the no-frills “Raspbian” Linux distro designed specifically for the Pi—until now.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation just revealed “Pi Improved Xwindows Environment, Lightweight,” or Pixel, a beautified new desktop environment for the Raspbian OS. Pixel delivers a much-needed coat of fresh paint to the Raspberry Pi.

Gone are the cryptic scrolling start-up messages, replaced by a simple splash screen.

pixel splashscreen

Gone is the stark Pi-logo wallpaper, replaced by your choice of 16 gorgeous photos captured by Foundation co-founder Greg Annandale.

pixel desktop

Gone are the janky, cheap looking icons, replaced by a menu designed to look “businesslike enough to be appropriate for those people who use the Pi desktop for serious work, but with just a touch of playfulness.”

pixel menu

Even the window frames and login dialog box have been overhauled with a sleeker, more modern design.

pixel window

This is a top-to-bottom refresh of the Raspbian visual design, and it looks to be a huge quality of life improvement for Raspberry Pi aficionados. Be sure to check out the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Pixel blog post for much more detail on every single design decision.

The latest Raspbian image extends beyond Pixel’s amped-up aesthetics, though. The distro now includes RealVNC server and view applications by default, as well as a desktop Sense HAT emulator.

pixel sensehat

The new Sense HAT application.

The Raspbian image also introduces Chromium, which may eventually replace Epiphany as the Raspberry Pi’s primary web browser. Raspbian preloads Chromium with the uBlock Origin ad-blocker, to keep online advertisements from bogging down the mini-PC’s modest hardware. Likewise, Raspbian’s Chromium also utilizes the h264ify extension, which “forces YouTube to serve videos in a format which can be accelerated by the Pi’s hardware,” according to the Foundation.

The impact on you at home: Pixel’s release won’t matter for Raspberry Pi users who use their machine for fantastical projects. But if you’re using the Pi as a basic computer, a tool to learn coding, or many other surprisingly practical projects, the new look will make navigating the mini-PC much more pleasant. With each new release of Raspbian and the Raspberry Pi itself, the Raspberry Pi Foundation does a stellar job of working out the device’s more annoying kinks.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Raspberry Pi

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?