Raspberry Pi 3 model B launch is today’s big news. The new Pi sports a 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex A53 CPU with VideoCore IV GPU packaged into the new BCM2837 chip. This 1.2GHz CPU offers ~50% speed improvement over the Pi 2’s BCM2836.
Pretty much all the information and impressions I have of the Raspberry Pi 3 model B are in this short video…
…but if you prefer to read, it’s all here too…
Now With Built-in WiFi & Bluetooth
The other major news is that the Raspberry Pi 3B now has built-in 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 courtesy of the very shiny (and very hard to photograph so you can actually see the writing) new BCM43438 chip on the underside of the board.
It also has an amazingly compact antenna on the topside near the DSI port.
And here’s a closer view of the WiFi/BT circuitry itself…
What About The Price?
It’s also the same traditional Raspberry Pi model B base price of $35 plus shipping and local taxes.
- New BCM2837 chip
- Quad-core 64-bit ARM cortex A53 CPU
- Clocked at 1.2GHz
- ~50% faster than Pi 2
- 400MHz VideoCore IV GPU
- 1GB LPDDR2-900 SDRAM
- New BCM43438 chip for WiFi/BT
- 802.11n Wireless LAN
- Bluetooth 4.1
- 26 GPIO ports in the standard 40-pin Pi configuration
- 4 USB 2 ports
- 100Base-T ethernet
- DSI port
- CSI port
- 4-pole composite video/audio
- HDMI 1.4
- Micro-usb power in
- 2.5 Amp supply recommended
While we’re on the subject of power, I’ve done some preliminary measurements and will publish my findings in full with updated charts and some new tests in a day or two. The Pi3B uses virtually the same amount of power as the 2B until you start hammering those A53 CPU cores. The 4 cores appear to use 100-110 mA each when heavily loaded (compared with the Pi2B’s 40-50 mA per core).
So What’s Changed?
The antenna is positioned where the PWR and ACT LEDs were on Pi2. These LEDS have been moved to the other side of the DSI connector. The RUN (reset) header has also been repositioned near to the USB ports.
There’s a new GPIO expander chip (U20) XTAA FSB near the DSI connector. I’m not sure what this is for. I wonder if it’s for some new DSI related feature or it could be something to do with the new WiFi/BT additions e.g. a chip to handle SDIO? (WJDK – but I expect we will soon.)
The ‘neon death flash’ semiconductor (U16) in the power circuitry now has a black shield on it. So taking flash photos of your Pi3 while it’s running should not cause it to crash.
The micro-USB slot is no longer ‘click-in, click-out’. It’s now a friction-fit, like the Pi Zero. This should avoid accidentally popping out the SD card (which I’ve done a few times).
Because the CPU is more powerful, the recommended PSU spec has increased from 2.0 to 2.5 Amps. This should give enough headroom for devices plugged into USB.
The GPIO port pinouts are identical to B+, A+ and Pi2B…
I’ve tested both GPIOZero and RPi.GPIO and both work fine on the Pi3B.
What are the Real-World Differences?
These are really best seen in the video, but…
- It’s faster
- It has built-in wifi
- The web-browsing experience is now comparable with that of a decent smartphone
- It boots to the desktop in about 27 seconds compared with Pi2B’s 28s and Pi Zero’s 42s (all tested using the same micro-SD card)
- LibreOffice Writer opens in about 7s and Scratch in about 4s
The built-in wifi capability frees up a USB port and potentially saves £5-£10 on a wifi dongle. The Bluetooth capability saves another USB and another few pounds too (although I was unable to test this as the software was not available for pre-release testing).
But what really impressed me the most in playing with the Pi3B was the improved web browser performance. Loading up the RasPi.TV site (which isn’t particularly designed for ‘lightness’) and watching an embedded video, using the inbuilt wifi, was a pleasant experience. Even the Pi2 was a bit too slow at this for my patience threshold. But now I think the Raspberry Pi has really arrived as a usable alternative to a desktop computer. No I’m not going to give up my quad-core i7 MacBook Pro 16GB to use a Pi3B for day-to-day work, but it’s now fast enough not to be offputting for the iPad generation.
It’s a great achievement to increase the speed, add WiFi/BT and hold the price at the same level as before.