Saturday, 18 April 2015

Proto Armour for Raspberry Pi 2 and Camera Enclosure Review




The APC (Armoured Pi Carrier) of Raspberry Pi 2 Enclosures...
MobileApp Systems manufacture four physical variations of their Proto Armour kits for the raspberry Pi 2, available in various colours. 

Today we will look at the Proto Armour for Raspberry Pi 2 and Camera.



Manufacturer:  MobileApp Systems, NY, USA

Model: Proto Armour for Raspberry Pi 2 and Camera in Black
Product code: 110186-BLK-LSR
Price: £36.86 or $50
Material: CNC Anodised Aluminium
Dimensions: L: 121mm W: 75mm H: 25mm
Compatibility: Raspberry Pi B+ & Raspberry Pi 2 Model  B

Model: Proto Armour Heatsink For Raspberry Pi 2
Product code: 110173-BLK
Price: £10.05 or $15




Package contents...





The "Proto Armour for Raspberry Pi 2 and Camera" kit includes, all the mounting hardware necessary, including instructions, shorter Pi Camera ribbon cable and camera tripod mount.

The kit is compatible with the Raspberry Pi B+ & Raspberry Pi 2 Model  B. Although, it should fit the Raspberry Pi 2 Model A, due to its identical  mounting hole arrangement to the Pi 2 Model B.



The Proto Armour enclosure, top features the ability to mount the official Raspberry Pi camera, a cutout for the lens/LED is also provided. This is specific to this version of the Proto Armour.



Both top and bottom halves are made from aircraft grade aluminium and are fully CNC machined.
The CNC machining is of very high quality and tolerances are excellent. All the edges are crisp with some lovely laser etching to show the branding and various I/O ports.




Assembly...




Assembly starts with installing four nylon spacer washers to the base plate.






The 4 PCB screws can now be inserted.



The two case halves are located by two stainless dowel pins to insure, a perfect alignment.





At this point the four stainless socket cap screws can be installed to lock the two half's together.





Included in the kit, are eight grommets which act as feet and also plug the holes.



Raspberry Pi Camera Mounting...


Two screws secure the official Raspberry Pi Camera to the inside of the top case plate. Also included, is a more suitable length of ribbon cable.



Optional Heatsink Installation...


Included in the optional heatsink kit are instructions,3 screws, 3 PCB risers plus, a thermal sugar cube ;)
The custom CNC aluminium heatsink is really well machined with a black anodized finish.




The three of the four previous standard kit PCB screws have to be removed then, replaced with the three included PCB risers.




Once fitted, the Proto Armour heatsink looks great with a cutout for both the I/O ports and the Pi display header







There are however, compromises to installing the heatsink. Once installed, the heatsink impedes the fitting of a standard IDE cable for the I/O headers, both internally and externally.

Even using individual connectors, it proved to be a little tight at the ends of the I/O headers, but not impossible.



It would have been better for the cutout to be slightly larger or have less of a radius in the corners.


I was rather surprised by the thickness of the themal transfer material. I wondered how effective it would be at transferring heat from the Broadcom FPGA to the heatsink. Usually, such materials are commonly only within the 1-5mm range of thickness.
After a 60 minute bout of Quake3 Arena, the heatsink was only slightly warm to the touch as one would expect. 

The Broadcom FPGA is pretty thermally efficient, after all, it is meant to be fully enclosed in mobile phones and tablets with zero airflow. Given the materials and volume of the Proto Armour's interior, unless you are in a situation where thermals are very restricted, serious overclocker's need only apply.


The included tripod mount...


One of the great features for the Proto Armour case are, it's many mounting options. Included in the camera version is a standard threaded tripod mounting bracket. The bracket can be mounted on any corner of the case to allow, for your preferred orientation. The tripod mount feature is also useful for other mounting applications not just, for taking pictures or video. It could also be used as a mounting point for collecting sensor data from a moving object etc.








Mobile App Systems also offer various other accessories including, the Closed Circuit TV Lens mounting plate. This allows, the installation of many different widely available types of CCTV lenses to be used.




The IDE cable installed for prototyping (without the heatsink attached).







The removal of the Micro SD card can be fiddly.



Another feature of the Proto Armour case, is the countersunk holes in the bottom case ends. This allows yet more mounting options on, a number of different materials while also adding some extra security.





Pros...


Simple bolt-on modular design, plus flexible mounting
High quality CNC machined aircraft grade aluminium.
The fit and finish are superb
Alignment dowels for the alignment for the 2 case halves
Spare hardware is provided, in the event, a screw or dowel is lost
Multiple tripod mounting orientations

Cons...


SD Card, small USB dongles and network lead removal, can be fiddly, due to the recessed end design. However,on a positive note, this does allow greater protection from knocks and adds a layer of security from prying hands.

The optional heatsink blocks the use of  40 pin IDE cable.

Comments...


Would have been great to include some 90 degree corner buffers to protect the soft aluminum/anodizing edges from knocks.

I found the "Proto Armour for Raspberry Pi 2 and Camera" product name a bit awkward too, "Proto Armour Camera for Raspberry Pi 2" sounds a tad better in my opinion. 

Conclusion...


The "Proto Armour for Raspberry Pi 2 and Camera" provides everything you need to get your Raspberry Pi IP camera etc, up and running in a very smart and flexible manner!

Other than a few gripes, it's a serious bit of kit and represents good value for money given, the quality of manufacture and materials used.

If I could only pick one accessory to compliment the camera version of the kit, I would definitely go for the CCTV camera plate rather than, the heatsink which has limited functionality.

Mobile App Systems manufacture all of their enclosures in house. This gives, the flexibility of every part being available to purchase from their online store, including, replacement enclosure plates to turn one version in to another.

However, it is slightly disappointing that Mobile App Systems don't stock a few affordable compatible CCTV lenses for recommended scenarios.


Gallery...