Raspberry Pi 3 + Ubuntu MATE = surprisingly capable PC

I don't know whether anyone else on the forum has had a chance to test this particular combination, but I've been fooling around with it for the past few days, and I must admit, I'm left quite impressed. I've tinkered with RPis since the first one, mostly with Raspbian, but this is the first time that I've felt like someone might actually be crazy enough to think about using something like this as his or her daily machine.

With the 3's hardware improvements and the work that has gone into polishing UM for the Pi in this latest release (16.04), the usability has taken a big step. If I'm not mistaken, you can install it on an RPi 2, but it feels much smoother here. Most mundane tasks--working at a terminal, browsing, office work, basic multitasking, and navigating the DE itself--work quite well, if slowly. Video, both local and streaming through sites such as YouTube, I have found to be still quite taxing, but part of this may still be me working out the kinks in the configuration. The UM team has done a lot of the legwork in getting more mainstream packages working and discoverable on the pi: Firefox, Libre Office, GParted, and others. Chromium still takes some fiddling.

Call me surprised. A couple more generations of hardware and a lot more work on polishing the software, and I could honestly see millions of people with modest computing needs using something like this as their main PC. It of course won't do for enthusiasts, gamers, content creators, and other performance-minded people like many of us here on the forum. As it is now, it feels like using a low-to-mid-range PC from a decade or so ago. Slow, but tantalizingly close to being there in terms of functionality.

Just wanted to share that thought. I've followed the other RPi threads on the forum. What are others on the forum using on your machines? Are all of you doing more specific/embedded-type tasks, running headless machines, or has anyone else experimented with using it as a desktop machine?

If it runs minecraft well I am sure it will be a hit ;-)

I use it headless for hosting my own Mumble server + NAS + Torrenting machine + I've go two webcams hooked up to it to peak into my room when I'm not home. All running at the same time on a RPi2 overclocked to the factory 1GHz. I think I might do even a cloud application soon with OwnCloud but I'm not that sure about it. For now it's running like charm. I've seen the UI only twice and never actually really tested it as a desktop PC. This is my first RPi ever and I've had some issues here and there but people here on the forum have been really kind and helped me a lot.

Don't be dumb as me and set the security stuff before setting up any kind of server or host any personal stuff. I had to redo everything because I wasn't secure on the internet when I first started fiddling with it.

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A friend used his Cubietruck (comparable to RPI 2, actually) as his only pc (and server) for quite some time. Just to be efficient with electricity and because he only needed a *unix for $STUFF.

I think most of the PCs are overkill for their average utilization.
But diversity is the most interesting aspect for me: just choose the right hardware for the right job!
A small single board computer is usually enough for your own server-needs when running headless.

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If it ran on a Pi 1 I would be impressed. I have one and I am annoyed that the coolest thing I can do woth it is use it as a PS1.

I have a RP2 and use it to watch TV (and movies) - unfortunately, Netflix doesn't work stutter free. But I think this is more of a software than hardware issue - btw: anyone else tried it? Apart from that everything else works fine and flawlessly (1080p movies for instance are no problem at all)

Thanks for all of the responses and ideas, everybody. Since I'm done with my RP MATE experiment, I'm looking for the next RP3 project, and you've given me plenty of ideas.

Yes, the part of the whole experiement that gave me the most pause was realizing that maybe half of the time I spend on my ~200 W desktop computer I'm actually doing stuff that I could do just as well with the 2.5 W RP3. Granted, the other half of the time I really do appreciate all of the extra power and features, but still. Mobile Skylake has some major improvements in terms of switching back and forth between low- and high-power states quickly and frequently, so maybe some of those will trickle down to desktop parts over the next couple of generations. If my hexacore rig were better able to sip power at idle like the Pi, and then instantly ramp up to full bore, that would be great.

@MetalizeYourBrain, thanks for the great post. When you went back and re-did your security setup, what sources did you use? Did you follow some sort of guide?

Im not sure if using chromium for performance (unless you need to for netflix) is a great idea, there are other faster browsers and ones that aren’t run in ultimate terms by google ;)

Welcome! I just looked around on the internet and asked a bit here. What I did was change the default user (I'm using Raspbian so I deleted the Pi user and made my own. Look closely and make your user a sudoer before deleting the default one else you'll be stuck without root access because Raspbian doesen't allow root access!), installed fail2ban to protect all the web services I'm using, installed UFW to manage the ip-tables, try to route connections as much as I can through SSH and I "generate" my own passwords with Diceware. Will require quite a lot of work at first but you'll be happy with the result and be much more secure.

Change default user on Raspbian
UFW Setup
fail2ban Wiki
Mail notifications on fail2ban actions
SSH Tunneling

if your running a gen1 and finding it pathetically slow, may i suggest..

https://pi-hole.net/

works to block phone ads in apps too lel :D

I'm curious as to how well the newer raspberry Pi 3 handles power consumption and heat dissipation in relation to the older models. I've heard rumors the new Pi 3 runs a bit hot, making me concerned for its long term stability, especially if ever used as a desktop platform or in a hot enviornment.

Have you ever had any issues related to overheating? Do you use or recommend any "aftermarket" heatsinks for the chips?

Currently, I'm using a RaspberryPi 2B as a seedbox, and might make it an XDCC server as well. I might post a guide or script on seeding raspberries at some point.