Pironman review – A Raspberry Pi 4 enclosure with M.2 SATA, safe power off, RGB LED strip, and more

SunFounder Pironman is a Raspberry Pi 4 enclosure inspired by Michael Klement’s DIY Raspberry Pi 4 mini server with an OLED display and ICE Tower cooling solution, as well as some improvements such as an aluminum alloy and acrylic enclosure, support for an M.2 SATA SSD, a power button for safe shutdown,  an IR receiver, and an RGB LED strip.

The company sent me a Pironman kit without Raspberry Pi 4 for review. I’ll check the package content, go through the assembly, software installation, and testing of the unique features listed above.

Pironman unboxing

Some of the main specifications are listed on the side of the package.

The enclosure comes fully disassembled with the Pironman board, metal and acrylic panels, RGB LED strip, OLED display, heatsink, fan, adapters, flat cables, screws, standoffs, and so on.

The top of the Pironman board (JMS580-V1.8) comes with a JMicron JMS580 USB 3.2 Gen 2 to SATA 6Gb/s bridge, microSD card slot, a USB port for the SSD, a USB port for power, as well as connectors for the GPIO expander, OLED, and a microSD card bridge, as well as some headers to connect the fan, power button, and RGB LED strip.

The bottom side includes the M.2 SATA socket suitable for 2230, 2242, 2260, and 2280 drives, as well as three RGB LEDs, and a 40-pin GPIO header.

There’s also an assembly guide provided in the package. It’s fairly good and helps a lot with the assembly.

You can also access detailed documentation online.

Pironman assembly with Raspberry Pi 4 and M.2 SATA SSD

We’ll need to prepare a Raspberry Pi 4 SBC and a MicroSD card flashed with Raspberry Pi OS, as well as optionally an M.2 SATA SSD.

The first step is to install the standoffs in the mounting holes of the Pironman board as well as insert the OLED display into its connector. Simply lift the black bit, insert the FFC cable into the connector, and push the black bit into place. Make sure the FFC cable is oriented properly as shown in the photo below.

We’ll then stick the display to plate B of the enclosure and install the power switch.

We can now connect the four wires of the power switch to the 5V (red) and GND (black) header, as well as the two green wires to the remaining header next to 5V/GND in no particular order. We’ll do the same for the microSD card bridge, RGB LED, and GPIO expander board.

Everything is a bit tight, but I managed. The most difficult part was installing the FFC cable for the GPIO. The black bit rotates instead of being lifted up, and either the FFC cable is too thick or the connector is too narrow, but it was really hard to close, so I ended up using pliers covered with thick plastic tape to push the black bit into place both on the small adapter board and the main pironman board.

The jumper cables used for the power button, RGB LED, and as we’ll see later the fan, feel a bit loose, so I would not be surprised if they come off if you transport/carry the case to another location. Nevertheless, I had no such problems.

We can now install the Raspberry Pi 4 SBC securing it with more standoffs and a hex key provided with the kit. We can also connect the GPIO and microSD card bridges as shown above.

The next step is to prepare the heatsink by connecting the two supports (note: the orientation is important) and placing the two thermal pads underneath the heatsink.

We can now place the heatsink on top of the Raspberry Pi board and secure it with four screws.

At this point, we can start adding acrylic and metal plates. The fan can be installed on either acrylic plate, but the instructions manual let us attach it to the cover with the GPIO header opening.

We’ll need to install our M.2 SATA SSD before installing the bottom cover.

We’re almost done with the final touch involving the placement of foam pads on the bottom cover (I could have done a better job here).

I noticed the RGB LED strip was not installed properly. I did not clearly understand step 16 which reads “The RGB strip should be pasted to the bottom of metal plate A”. I did not see any dual-sided sticky tape on the LED strip, so I initially placed it in the middle and hoped for the best. But then I noticed I had two black tape left over.

So I removed the top cover and secured the LED strip on both sides of the enclosure.

Finally, I inserted the microSD card and the SSD bridge on one side, and the remaining small acrylic plate to cover the OLED on the other side.

That’s it! It looks nice, and hopefully, we assembled it correctly.

Software installation and features testing

Let’s try it right away by connecting the system to an HDMI display and powering it on. It looks fine and my SATA SSD as detected properly as “NEO Storage”.

I however did something rather stupid above. The red cable comes from the USB adapter, and I did not connect it to the USB-C port on the Pironman system, but instead directly to the Raspberry Pi 4. So initially, after installing the software as shown below, the OLED display would only show the CPU and memory usage for a short time and then show “Power OFF” all the time. So I had a night of good sleep, and in the morning connected the power supply to the USB-C port at the back of the computer.

At this point, we’ll need to follow the online instructions to install the software and drivers to support the OLED, IR receiver, power button, etc…

First, we’ll need to edit /boot/config.txt by adding the two lines below at the end of the file to add support for the power button and IR receiver:

And then we’ll need to install the pironman Python script:

A reboot may be required for everything to work properly, but here’s what it looked like after installing the script.

The OLED shows the IP address, CPU usage, CPU temperature, as well as memory and storage utilization.

We can check the current configuration as follows:

The pironman script has several options to change the trigger temperature for the fan, RGB LED colors and modes, and screen behavior. You can also switch between Celcius and Fahrenheit.

You can also adapt the script since it’s written in Python, and possibly use other scripts since it’s a standard OLED display. Here’s a short demo showing the RGB LED strip and fan in action.

We’ve already seen the RGB LED strip, OLED, and fan working. I could also use the button to turn on the OLED display with a short press and turn off the Raspberry Pi with a 2-second press. I could also turn on the computer by pressing the button again.

Let’s test the IR receiver with LIRC:

Now that LIRC is installed, we can check if we can receive commands from my TV’s remote control:

It looks good. The IR receiver is also working. We should be able to make it work with Kodi and other media centers.

We’ve already seen the SATA drive was recognized, but we have no tested the performance. We’ll install iozone3 for this purpose:

I went to the mount point (/mediap/pi/NEO Storage) before running iozone3 benchmark:

The read speed (~325MB/s) looks fine over USB 3.0, and the rewrite speed as well, but somehow the write speed (~85MB/s) is on the low side. I tried several times, and the result is the same. I had no such problem when testing the SSD in its USB-C dock in Windows. Note the drive is formatted with the exFAT file system:

We can also see the uas driver (for UASP support) is in use for our device:

Finally, I wanted to run SBC bench to confirm the cooling ability of the solution:

But the script refuses to start with the CPU usage even increasing slightly while idle!

That’s because the Pironman script happens to utilize 4 to 5% of the CPU when the OLED display is on. There’s a 0.5-second sleep in the main loop, but when the display is one there’s also a loop for the display with just a 0.01-second sleep to monitor the button. I had it set to always on to monitor the temperature and CPU usage, but I’ve changed that to default so that the display automatically turns off after a while. I could run the SBC-bench.sh script:

The temperature chart was basically a flat line thanks to the huge heatsink and fan that would turn on from time to time during single-core benchmarks and continuously for the 7-zip multi-core benchmark.

I could also confirm this on the OLED display during the 7-zip test.

I’m not going to do more testing since I’ve already reviewed the ICE Tower with and without the fan, and when overclocking the Raspberry Pi 4 to 2.0 GHz. This type of solution is more than enough, even over-engineered, to cool the Raspberry Pi 4 in most conditions, even overclocked at 2.x GHz.

Final words

The Pironman is quite a nice enclosure for the Raspberry Pi 4. Instructions are detailed, software support is adequate, and it looks really cute. A few things could be improved, for instance, I had trouble installing the FFC cable for the GPIO adapter and jumper cables may become loose during transport. There’s also a question mark about the low write (but not rewrite) performance with the M.2 SATA drive.

I’d like to thank SunFounder for sending the Pironman case for review. You can purchase the kit reviewed above for $63.99 plus shipping, or purchase a complete kit with a Raspberry Pi 4 2GB RAM and a 32GB MicroSD card for $237.97. The Pironman case can also be purchased from Amazon US.

Note: This review was initially posted on December 30, 2022 as a standard review, and subsequently sponsored to be placed at the top of CNX Software website again on March 21-24, 2023

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8 Replies to “Pironman review – A Raspberry Pi 4 enclosure with M.2 SATA, safe power off, RGB LED strip, and more”

  1. The price is absolutely nonsense. With the same amount it’s possible to buy an atx case, and not even a low quality one.

  2. Eh, would be more useful, if I could actually buy a Pi somewhere! They’re out of stock everywhere in Europe, completely unobtainable 😠

  3. I always wanted a Pi Case that came with the Power Supply already integrated in the case, so i didnt need to get a external power supply.
    But every case i saw it, has a external power supply

  4. Not even remotely close to being worth it unless you already have a Raspi 4 laying around ….. $174 for Raspi 4 and a SD card is highway robbery

    With no availability for over a year and a half the Raspberry Pi platform is dead and may as well be consider EoL

  5. the rgb lighting strip has a sticky back. you just need to remove the brown tape with the green writing.

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