Four years ago we were treated to a usable computer that cost less than £25 from the guys at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Many asked whether this would be a flash in the pan, after-all by the time you added an SD card for storage, power supply, keyboard, mouse and screen, then tore yourself away from Windows to learn a new operating system (Raspian – a form of Linux) it was looking less value-for-money and more bargain-bucket. So how is the new raspberry Pi 3 going to fare?
Well the Pi’s gone from strength-to-strength and today, on their fourth birthday, they’ve introduced their latest, in what has become quite a long line of successful variants, the new model 3.
The original model B started with 256Mb of RAM , 26 GPIO pins for connecting to external electronic circuits, 2 USB ports and Broadcom BCM2835 chip that featured a 750MHz single-core ARM 1176 processor. It was soon upgraded to a 512Mb version which enabled the device to be used as a desktop computer capable of browsing and simple office-based tasks in addition to its primary role as an educational tool for the teaching of electronics and programming.
Soon these devices were finding their way in to the hands of hackers (experimenters) who started to come up with all sorts of innovate ideas on the how they could be used in almost all facets of life.
The model B+ superceded it introducing a new board size and layout together with 4 USB ports and, more importantly, 40 GPIO pins enabling the device to be used for ever-more complicated applications. Power management was improved which meant that the devices could now be powered for longer without a mains supply using the myriad of battery-powered mobile phone and tablet chargers that were now available on the market – further enhancing the uses to which the Pi could be put.
For amateur radio operators the new low-noise sound card meant that it looked an attractive alternative to an expensive desktop, or laptop, for the transmission and reception of digital modes.
The Pi 2 model B introduced a much faster (about two-and-half times faster than the original Pi model B to be exact) quad-core 900MHz Cortex A7 processor, housed in the new BCM2836 chip, and 1Gb which meant that the Pi now fared well as a stand-alone desktop computer for simple office tasks; in fact Open Office now worked really quite well given the cost and limited scope of the hardware. The new processor also enabled different flavours of Linux to be run on the device, such as Ubuntu. Over 3 million Pis alone have been sold to-date.
Along the way there have also been some ‘cut-down’ versions called the model A, an industrial version known as the Compute Module and the £4 Pi Zero (effectively, and synically, an original 512Mb model B that’s really yet to the see the light of day and may have proven to be a media generating machine – time will tell).
Well now, eight million Pis later, we have the Raspberry Pi 3 model B, a version of the now venerable Pi that has addressed the main issues reported by users that wanted a device that act as a desktop computer in an office environment without having to resort to additional wireless network modules and those that want to mount Pi projects away from a cabled network but still need access to the Internet. Yes, the new Raspberry Pi 3 model B now includes wireless networking and Bluetooth so that the device can not only communicate wirelessly, but you can free up valuable USB ports by using Bluetooth keyboards and mice.
As if that wasn’t enough, whilst sharing the same board layout as the B+ and Pi 2, the latest model also comes with a new quad-core 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU on the latest BCM2837 chip which, the Foundation claims, makes it 10 times faster than the original Pi and about another 50% faster than the Pi 2. This all adds up to the most powerful Pi ever still costing a little over £30 (the same price as the Pi 2) making it’s value-for-money rating better than ever.
Stocks of the Raspberry Pi 3 are currently available from CPC and other which is more than can be said for the Pi Zero that broken cover before Christmas 2015 and has, really, yet to be seen in public in the vast numbers that the users desire.