Today, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has officially announced the launch of their latest model, the Raspberry Pi 3.
If you prefer to get your news from a video, head over to Alex Eames’ RasPi.TV YouTube video. I was going to do my own “walk around” but I saw Alex’s video and there’s no way I could do better. Similarly, Matthew Timmons-Brown has created a video in his guise as “The Raspberry Pi Guy” and you can see his very slickly-produced video here.
The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, to give its full name, has the following features:
- Quad-core 64-bit ARM cortex A53 processor (the new Broadcom BCM2837 chip) clocked to 1.2GHz.
- 400MHz VideoCore IV multimedia graphics chip.
- 1GB LPDDR2-900 SDRAM.
- Built-in 802.11n wireless networking chip (the BCM43438) and antenna.
- Built-in Bluetooth 4.0 (also from the BCM43438).
- 40-pin GPIO header.
- 4 USB 2.0 ports.
- 100 Base-T ethernet.
- DSI and CSI ports for the official touchscreen and camera, respectively.
- Composite 4-pole video/audio output port.
The Pi 3 is about 50% faster than the Pi 2 and is now very usable as a desktop machine. Web browsing, in particular, is much improved and reduces a lot of the usability frustration that still existed with the Pi 2.
You’ll be relieved to hear that not much else has changed with the Pi 3 – it’s still the same shape and most things are still in the same place. Probably the most notable “geography” change is that the power/activity LEDs have moved to the other side of the DSI connector to leave space for the wifi antenna. The GPIO pins are the same, meaning all your add-on boards will work just the same.
The one big thing that has changed is that they now recommend a 2.5A microUSB power supply rather than the Pi 2’s 2A. This is likely only to be an issue when using all 4 USB ports, or if you’re hammering the four cores of the processor.
The other change that is particularly welcome (at least by me) is that the micro SD card holder is no longer push-in, push-out. It’s a friction-fit socket now, meaning that you’re far less likely to accidentally remove the card. The number of times I’ve accidentally ejected an SD card because of the spring-loaded mechanism…
Oh, and that pesky problem with camera flashes crashing the Pi? That part now has a black shield, preventing the issue entirely.
Amazingly, considering the added wifi, bluetooth and new chip, the Raspberry Pi 3 comes in at the same price as the Pi 2 – $35, or your local equivalent, plus shipping and taxes. You can buy it at The Pi Hut for £30 (plus postage) as well as other resellers including RS Components. You might even say that the price of getting a Pi up-and-running has dropped because you no longer need a wifi dongle.
The built-in wifi “just works”. (I did have to go through a little procedure pre-launch, but have been assured that it will be integrated properly once the news of Pi 3 officially breaks). It seems very zippy and range and power seem to be good. This is based on non-scientific tests, but suffice to say the days of using a wifi dongle, at least on this Pi, are over.
As mentioned above, the approx. 50% speed increase really makes a difference. Web browsing in particular is greatly improved. I even managed to load up the full version of Google Mail and use it. It was nigh-on unusable on a Pi 2. Looking at videos on YouTube was a good experience, also, and once it had buffered a bit of the video, playback was smooth (I was using the official touchscreen for this test).
Loading applications like LibreOffice Writer is very quick, especially on second and subsequent load-ups. Even Sonic Pi, which is notoriously slow to load, came up in a non-headache-inducing 14 seconds, an improvement over the Pi 2 which sometimes took 20 seconds. I clocked Scratch at a brilliant 3 seconds, although how much that has to do with the Pi 3 and how much that has to do with recent enhancements is anyone’s guess 🙂
For more information about how the Pi 3 behaves, Alex Eames over at RasPi.TV put the new machine through its paces and found it very usable with software loading times much improved. You can find out more about his experiences by heading over to his blog post.
Also revealed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation is that there will be a model 3A this year in the A+ form factor, together with a Compute Module 3. These will be eagerly awaited by those with a penchant for smallness.
The Pi 3 is clearly the way forward for general use, but that doesn’t mean that the Pi 2 (in particular) suddenly becomes useless overnight. The original Pi is still highly usable, and each subsequent revision has improved upon its predecessor. The Pi 3 is an extension of that – evolution, rather than revolution. There will no doubt be detractors who will complain about the lack of this, or the lack of that, but the Pi remains what it always has been: an excellent tool for both school and home education and an excellent toy for hobbyists.