Pi Foundation Releases Refreshed $35 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2018 - 11:48 PM |
Tagged: sbc, Raspberry Pi 3, Raspberry Pi, gigabit ethernet, dual band, bluetooth, 802.11ac

The Raspberry Pi Foundation recently released the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ with refreshed hardware. The new single board computer retains its predecessor's $35 price tag while including a tweaked SoC with faster clockspeeds and improved power management as well as moves to modern Gigabit Ethernet and dual band 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking. The Pi Foundation has further managed to shield the board such that it can be certified as a radio board under FCC rules which should make end product certification an easier process.

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On the outside, not much has changed as the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ has the same form factor and board layout and I/O options as previous models. Digging a bit deeper though, nestled under a new heatspreader lies the Broadcom BCM2837B0 which can run its four ARM Cortex A53 cores at up to 1.4 GHz or run at the same 1.2 GHz clocks as the Pi 3 Model B (BCM2837) while using less power. A MaxLinear MxL7704 power management IC regulates board power and processor clockspeeds to keep it from overheating. Below 70°C the SoC runs at 1.4 GHz, but if it heats up to above that it will reduce voltage and clocks to 1.2 GHz. If the chip continues to heat up past 80°C it trips the thermal throttle, and clockspeeds will be further reduced until temperatures fall. The Pi Foundation notes that the new heatspreader should help it run faster and for longer lengths of time than the Pi 3 Model B. On the networking side of things, the upgraded Wi-Fi is powered by a Cypress CYW4355 and a Proant PCB antenna (similar to the one used in the Pi Zero W) for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy while the Gigabit Ethernet is powered by a LAN7515 chipset.

Note than the wired networking is still limited by the USB 2.0 bus, and the board itself has not been upgraded with USB 3.0 support or any USB 3 ports unlike many of its competitors (which is unfortunate). According to the Pi Foundation, the new SBC can hit 102 Mbps over 5 GHz Wi-Fi and up to 315 Mbps over a wired connection which is a huge boost over the Pi 3 Model B's ~36 Mbps wireless and ~95 Mbps wired performance. Interestingly, the new board features PXE boot turned on by default and support for PoE (802.3af) using a POE HAT which has a switched power supply for converting the 37V DC from PoE sources to the 5V/2.5A needed by the Pi.

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The Raspberry Pi 3 with its POE HAT connected via the 40-pin GPIO header.

The Videocore IV GPU, HDMI 1.3, 1GB LPDDR2, USB 2.0, and other features of the small form factor PC remain unchanged. The Pi Foundation plans to produce this model until 2023 and hints at "+" model refreshes for the Pi 3 Model A and Pi CM3 and CM3L compute modules coming soon. The Pi 3 Model B+ is listed for $35 (the same as the non-plus model) and joins the existing lineup of Pi 3s of which the foundation has sold 9 million of so far!

What are your thoughts on the refreshed Pi 3?

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March 22, 2018 | 06:35 AM - Posted by willmore

PoE hat is $25 and you lose all GPIO.

All storage and wired networking shares *one* USB2.0 link. And it's not even a host port, it's a dodgy OTG port.

Power use has increased around 1W at idle and higher under load, but it's still using a micro USB connector for power.

It's still running a 32bit OS and userspace compiled for a processor two full generations older. That's going to make it slower than its competetors even those with similar CPU specs.

While it's a nice upgrade for the same price, it's still not competetive with other boards in the market.

Unless you're solidly wed to the Rpi ecosystem, this is not a board you should pay attention to. If you are stuck in there, then it's a small incremental increase in performance, but at the cost of a good deal of power consumption increase.

March 22, 2018 | 12:27 PM - Posted by Randy (not verified)

Can you provide a suggestion for alternative boards?

March 22, 2018 | 12:57 PM - Posted by Anonymouse (not verified)

Google "single board ARM computers"

You are a lazy sod, aren't you?

March 22, 2018 | 05:28 PM - Posted by willmore

Certainly. I'd be glad to.

ODROID-C2: more memory, faster, supports eMMC for signifigantly faster storage, real power jack, CIR receiver, huge heatsink for excellent thermal performance, native GigE, 4K display support, H.265 4K decode, and solid commercial support--mainline kernel support almost complete.
Orange Pi PC2: anywhere from slightly slower to 2x faster (depends on if your code can take advantage of AES instructions or NEON). Native Gig E, real power jack, almost fully operable with mainline kernel.
Pine64: pretty much the same as the PC2, but comes in 2GB variant. Has more I/O. Optional wifi/bt module. Battery backup support on board. Real power jack. Mainline kernel support in progress.

Then there's the Rock64, the Tinker Board, the ODROID XU4, the Libre boards, and dozens of 96boards compatable designs.....

If you can tell me what you would like in a board, I can try to narrow down the selection.

Edited to add: I should point out that all of these boards have more USB bandwidth than any of the Rpi boards by a factor of 2 or more. In the case of the boards with USB3, it's way, way more. That means if the board lacks some peripherial that you really need, you can simply plug in a USB version of it and not have your base performance impacted. Since they almost all offer better power input, you don't have to worry about the USB devices power draw impacting the board, either--as long as your power supply is good enough.

March 22, 2018 | 08:09 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Indeed the ODROID boards loook nice as do those other SBCs with USB 3.0. Dissapointed that the Pi didn't get the USB 3.0 upgrade (which would have also given us 1 Gbps ethernet). At least it's still the same $35 price though.

March 22, 2018 | 09:57 PM - Posted by willmore

Indeed, it's nice that they've kept the price point going. Considering they propose this device for education--though I've never seen one inside of a school--staying at a fixed price helps with budgeting.

Sadly, USB3.0 is coming to these boards slowly as most chips used for them are repurposed set top box SoCs. Those rarely have roubust I/O as they don't really need it. They generally have decent graphics--only really need for rendering UI elements--and capable video decode (and sometimes encode) engines. All of the rest of the chip is generally a small random selection of I/O (serial ports, A/D, I2C, SPI, I2S, CIR...) and a few USB port.

Ironically, many of the chips come with multiple USB ports because it's cheaper to put that on the SoC than to add a hub chip to the design!

HardKernel did a good job leveraging the USB 3.0 ports in the XU4 to get GigE and decent storage. It also didn't hurt that they effectively standardized removable eMMC carrier boards for the industry. That gave them the ability to hit multiple performance and capacity points with one base SBC. The later ability to reuse the eMMC between boards made the volume of scale benefits even better.

It doesn't take long to get frustrated with an SBC because you used a poor performing SD card in it. Conversely, it's amazing how responsive and perceptually fast they can be with good storage. Sadly, that's something the Rpi family doesn't get to benefit from as they have such slow I/O. Their SD ports are limited to 25MB/s and their USB is crippled and shared by everything not on the GPIO header. (Well, not wireless, that's a different critter entirely.)

The ODROID-C2 raised the bar by support UHS on their SD interface which doubles the sequential speed--as long as the uSD card can handle it. If that's not enough, add on one of the eMMC modules and get nearly SSD performance.

I expect we'll be seeing a lot more USB3.0 in these boards as that's just the lowest common denominator these days for any SoC except the very cheapest. At least those really cheap SoCs will tend to have multiple USB 2.0 ports and native ethernet (often GigE).

March 22, 2018 | 12:57 PM - Posted by Anonymouse (not verified)

Good points. Pi is running on past glory.

March 22, 2018 | 06:39 AM - Posted by AnonymousMkal213d (not verified)

All this time and all we get is enhanced pi3>?

Pi3 can hit 1.4 best case hand down to keep cool is FLIRC.

March 22, 2018 | 06:42 AM - Posted by AnonymousMkal213d (not verified)

wonder if new CPU if defaults at 1.4 it could prob clock another 1-200Mhz witch would be nice.

March 27, 2018 | 01:57 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Saw a YT video the other day where the guy claimed to have hit 1550MHz on the 3B+ but who knows heh.

March 22, 2018 | 12:55 PM - Posted by Anonymouse (not verified)

They are glacially slow, but hey!, they don't cost much.

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