Comparison of SD card performance on a Raspberry Pi 4

Jeff Geerling has carried out a series of SD card benchmarks on his new Raspberry Pi 4 (1GB edition) and has shared them over on his blog. It is a great post, primarily because he doesn’t require the reader to read the whole thing before giving his results and recommendations.

For those in the UK, the Amazon UK links to the two he recommends are: the Samsung Evo Plus and the SanDisk Extreme.

You can read the whole blog post here.

pi-top launches number [4] on Kickstarter with a Raspberry Pi inside – check out the Earlybird offers quickly!

London-based pi-top have just launched the pi-top[4] on Kickstarter. Pitched as a ‘go anywhere’ computer, the [4] has the newly-released Raspberry Pi 4 (4GB version) built in. The key feature is the plastic case that surrounds the Pi and gives some buttons and a small OLED screen and onto it you can attach the ‘Foundation plate’ which allows you to expand the capabilities of the device.

The pi-top[4] pledges come in different flavours: the bare pi-top[4] “brick” (sorry, but it is a bit of a brick, a very high-functioning one, though!) itself, with an accompanying 11.6″ full HD screen (with touch capability) plus keyboard and with a robotics kit (the “AVK”). I won’t go into all the prices, but they’re about where they should be, thinking of their other products.

They appear to be making an effort to, once again, create their own “ecosystem”. This takes the form of the Foundation plate and their “component modules”. These vary from ultrasonic sensors to LEDs, potentiometers to light sensors. They seem to be all magnetic, so no soldering and easy-to-connect is the thing, here. They do, helpfully, provide a couple of male-to-male 40-pin headers so you can plug that into the GPIO pins, which are broken out to a female header on top of the case, and, presumably, use standard HATs with the Pi.

The screen, in particular, is very interesting as it provides a pi-topCEED-like desktop experience. The pity is that there is no screen-only option on the Kickstarter. I believe adding this would prove to be extremely popular, especially for those who already have a Pi 4 and are seeking to get a portable screen. They’ve done a very wise thing – you can just plug the pi-top[4] into the screen on the kickstand via the bespoke connector or you can plug in via an HDMI cable, allowing you to bring the Pi to the front of the screen for physical computing.

The robotics kit (AVK) looks very impressive – the pi-top[4] plugs into it using it’s bespoke connector and then you can build the robot in several different configurations.

Interestingly, they are pitching the pi-top[4] as being “portable” and, as such, it has an internal battery. This seems a bit strange as the Pi 4 is the most power-hungry of all the Raspberry Pis. Still, the Pi 4 being the newest, I can see why they went for it above a different model.

Overall, I think the pi-top[4] is an exciting product for the Pi community. I think it will find its place and, with the accessories that come with it, it’s clearly looking to build a flexible ecosystem. They have a modest $100k goal on Kickstarter, which I expect them to smash. Here’s hoping they allow people to buy the screen/keyboard on its own!

Take a look at the Kickstarter here.

Here’s a video review from Josh:

 

New Witty Pi 3 from @UUGear gives you a realtime clock and lets you power your Raspberry Pi from a battery

Prague-based UUGear have released a new version of their Witty Pi board for the Raspberry Pi. It is a power management board that can accept battery sources (via a XH2.54 connector) of up to 26V (although anything higher than 8V and you’ll want to investigate heatsink options) and provides a real-time clock for your Pi. It has a microcontroller (ATtiny841) on-board to do complex power up/power down operations. All the configuration is done through the I2C interface and there is a web application to help deal with your scheduling requirements.

You can read more about the product in the manual, which is online.

You can get hold of the Witty Pi 3 by visiting their website. It costs 530 CZK which is approximately 20 Euros, £19 or $23.50 making it a very cost-effective solution for powering your Pi by battery and scheduling uptime to get the most out of the power source.

Raspberry Pi 4 power measurements (courtesy of RasPi.TV)

Alex Eames has done his usual sterling power-measurement job on the day after the launch of the Raspberry Pi 4. Unsurprisingly, the Pi 4 uses more power than older models, and is far more suited to being a desktop model than a portable, battery-powered unit. For that, you’re still better off with a Pi Zero or one of the ‘A’ models.

You can check out Alex’s power measurements over on the RasPi.TV blog.

Raspberry Pi 4 launched – three different memory sizes and higher performance… power and HDMI connectors changed

In an unexpected and unheralded move today, Raspberry Pi has announced the launch of the fourth edition of their popular single board computer. Assembled Pi people, I present to you the Raspberry Pi 4 (model B). I’ve broken down all the changes and improvements below. If you prefer to digest things in video form, take a look at Alex Eames’ RasPi.TV video here.

The newest single board computer from Raspberry Pi

Features

The Pi 4 has the following features:

  • A new processor – Broadcom BCM2711, quad-core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8). It runs at 1.5GHz and is a 64-bit processor with 1MB L2 cache, 32KB L1.
  • A range of memory options (3200-LPDDR4) – the Pi 4 is available in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB flavours. Pricing varies accordingly.
  • A graphics/video processor capable of delivering H265 video up to 4Kp60 over two micro-HDMI ports.
  • Improved networking – for wifi fans, you still get dual-band wireless (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and for wired networking a massive improvement to (bitchin’ fast) Gigabit Ethernet which no longer runs through the restrictive USB bus.
  • 4 USB ports – two are USB 3.0 and two are the traditional USB 2.0. These are driven by a PCIe USB host with integrated hub.
  • Power for the Pi 4 is delivered by a USB-C port which also allows an OTG connection.
  • Power-over-Ethernet capability via the PoE HAT, as per the 3B.
  • 40-pin GPIO header as always, thus maintaining backwards-compatibility. However, these pins have added “oomph” because of additional “alt” modes giving us 4× UART, 4× SPI, and 4× I2C connectors.

More technical information can be found in the official Raspberry Pi preliminary datasheet.

Pricing

As always, Raspberry Pi has delivered on their pricing target. The base unit (with 1GB of memory) comes in at $35. The 2GB option costs $45 and the 4GB board costs $55. This translates, for UK customers, to around £33, £43 and £53. Resellers have been given some leeway to set their own pricing, so you may find a certain variation across outlets. The stated prices will be kept in the physical shop in Cambridge and Pi 4 will be available there from day one.

Where can I get one?

Naturally, only official re-sellers will have the Raspberry Pi 4 for launch. Here’s a list of places to fill your boots:

Pimoroni

There will also be a set of new PiBows available as well as low-profile heatsinks, a Picade HAT USB-C edition and universal power supplies. There’s also the new, previously-announced Fan Shim board that slips over the GPIO pins to provide additional cooling.

And if you want to see the full range all-at-once, visit this page. They’ve done a nice Pi 4 guide introducing the Fan Shim and their Coupe cases here.

The Pi Hut

The full range is, of course, available via their search.

The awesome Claire Pollard has written a great tutorial on using two monitors with the Pi 4 here.

CPC/Farnell

You can find the Pi 4 and accessories on the CPC site by using their search.

Okdo (RS)

The new name for RS (at least in as far as single board computers are concerned) is stocking them here.

The Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge

The store is in the Grand Arcade in Cambridge – maps and directions are here. Open until 8pm on launch day!

Canakit

You can get the whole range of Pi 4s here.

What the improvements mean

The new BCM 2711 CPU

From my testing (rather than benchmarking), I noticed that the new processor lends a significant performance increase. Together with the different memory bundles, you are likely to notice a speed and performance benefit immediately, particularly using the Pi as a desktop.

The range of memory options is lovely – different people require different capabilities for their usage. You will likely find that basic physical computing (including basic robotics) only needs the 1GB version, whereas if you’re using it as a desktop platform, browsing and office applications eat up memory, so you might be best advised to go with the more expensive 4GB version. Likewise, if you’re doing robotics with vision (such as OpenCV), the 2GB or 4GB versions might be better suited.

Presenting the two micro HDMI ports – adapters ahoy!

Dual video output is one of the “big things” for this release. Whether you end up using the dual functionality depends on your use case. I can imagine that industry, in particular, will sit up and take notice of this – many Pis are used for digital signage, so the dual outputs will let companies run two screens from one Pi. Using the dual outputs as some sort of “extended desktop” is something I haven’t tried yet (although Tim has, to great success), but that’s the use case for office and development users. One thing that is a shame is that the ports aren’t full-sized HDMI. This means that you’ll need adaptors or all-new cables. This was simply because they weren’t able to fit the full-sized sockets on the Pi and still keep the form-factor. One thing to note: the “dual outputs at 4Kp60” is “in theory” at this point. There were issues amongst the testers getting the Pi to run fast enough to be able to cope with this kind of high-end use, but I’m hopeful they’ll fix that “in software” fairly soon.

Networking improvements, giving us Gigabit Ethernet, are sure to make those wishing to run Pis as servers extremely happy. It has been a long time coming, and getting the Ethernet away from the USB chip is a massive improvement – no more restrictions on speed and throughput.

Also of note to server users is the inclusion of 2 USB3 ports. This means that you can, for example, now use SSDs at 200MByte/s without breaking a sweat. Media Centre users are likely to be happy for the same reason – Gigabit Ethernet and USB3 are a sweet combination.

The Ethernet and USB ports have swapped sides!

One very important thing to note: the USB ports and Ethernet port have “swapped sides”, making the Pi 4 incompatible with every single Pi case there is out there. This is sure to ruffle a few feathers.

USB-C power socket which expects at least 3A power at 5V. Note the new adjacent power circuitry.

The use of USB-C for power is sure to be controversial – suddenly all those microUSB power supplies that you’ve got are likely to be redundant, at least in as far as using them with the Pi 4 is concerned. The power usage of the Pi 4 is higher than the Pi 3B+, hence the need for the change (as well as just keeping up with the times) so a straight adapter with a microUSB supply may not cut it if you’re using high-powered USB peripherals. The USB-C connector supports 5V at 3A, so the (generally) 2.5A microUSB supplies you get may result in the infamous power symbol appearing at times. The OTG connection is a nice touch – perhaps this could be used to make physical computing via a normal Windows/Mac over-the-cable possible?

Great to see them maintaining compatibility with GPIO peripherals with the 40-pin header. This, I’m sure, will prove a relief to companies such as Pimoroni and Pi Supply who develop their own add-on boards. It also makes good business sense for Raspberry Pi as it means their own SenseHAT and PoE HAT will be compatible out-of-the-box.

Conclusion

As always, Raspberry Pi has delivered significant improvements whilst maintaining their desired price point. As technology moves on, better components are available for the Pi, albeit slightly behind-the-times as was always the case. Nowadays, mobile phones have Octacore and sometimes Decacore processors – the Pi’s processor is modest in comparison, but because it’s been designed specifically for the Pi, it punches above its weight. The inclusion of different memory packages, depending on how much you’re willing to pay, is a great touch and should cut down on the moans from those people who use the Pi as a desktop replacement or development machine. I’m even tempted to try getting Sublime Text to work on the Pi so I can develop at work on it, but that’s another story!

Perhaps the most ground-breaking part of this upgrade is the combination of Gigabit Ethernet on it’s own (without tying it into the USB chip) with USB3 ports which is sure to get those wanting to run the Pi as a server running to their nearest outlet to get hold of one.

I think the most interesting thing on the Pi 4, though, is the dual video outputs, clearly designed for industry. It does make me wonder, though, whether this is what your typical home or school user really wants, and what was sacrificed to make it more appealing for industry. For a while now, Raspberry Pi Trading has clearly re-aligned themselves to develop products which will sell better in industry. This is hardly surprising – Eben Upton has been quoted as saying that over 50% of sales are into industry – but I keep wondering if the original mission of Raspberry Pi is being left behind in order to achieve more sales. I don’t know whether this is “a bad thing”, you understand. Every sale of the Pi means there’s more money to be ploughed back into the Educational mission of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Is there a disconnect between the hardware and the mission? Does it matter? (Answers on a postcard, or just make a comment below).

In any case, the Pi 4 is sure to provide a much-needed boost to the “Raspberry Pi Economy”. There is still a groundswell of support, whether in industrial or hobbyist use, and the Pi 4 can only serve to satisfy the requirements and demands of those two, disparate markets.

Congratulations, as always, to the engineers at Raspberry Pi – you have once again knocked it “out of the park” – a strong product which maintains the price point suitable for a wide number of uses.

More information

For an alternative view, take a look at Alex Eames’ video below and read his accompanying blog post:

If you want more info, you could do worse than read this excellent interview over on The IET website with Eben Upton.

If you’re after benchmarks, check out The MagPi’s results here or Roy Longbottom’s much-more-comprehensive set here.

If you’re after a beginner’s guide to Raspberry Pi, including the Pi 4, take a look at this physical guide from Raspberry Pi Press.

 

I’d love to hear what you think about the Pi 4 – please leave a comment!

Raspberry Pi re-seller ModMyPi acquired by The Pi Hut

Interesting news in the Pi world today. Official re-seller ModMyPi has been acquired by fellow re-seller The Pi Hut. What this means in the long term is anyone’s guess, but in the official announcement on the ModMyPi website, they have stated that the entire ModMyPi product range will shortly be available at The Pi Hut and that products manufactured by ModMyPi will continue to be manufactured at their new home.

This presumably means that products such as the recently-released Jam HAT (pictured) will continue to be available as well as the range of Beaglebone and Onion products that ModMyPi stocked.

The previous relationship between ModMyPi and PiBorg seems to have been dissolved as Pi Borg’s web shop has been re-activated.

No doubt there will be some physical transfer of assets in the next couple of weeks between ModMyPi (located in Tunbridge Wells) and The Pi Hut (located in Haverhill).

It’s a shame that the good folks over at ModMyPi are not able to continue, but at least their product range is in good hands. Myself and Tim Richardson are especially grateful for the generous support of Jacob and his team for their sponsorship of Pi Wars over the past many years.