The Raspberry Pi, the small, basic computer that is aimed at makers and students, keeps getting better even as the price stays the same.
The project behind the computer—which is essentially a motherboard that comes with such features as CPUs, graphics, wireless connectivity and memory—on Feb. 29 unveiled the latest model, the Raspberry Pi 3, which launched exactly four years after the rollout of the original, the Raspberry Pi Model B.
"In celebration of our fourth birthday, we thought it would be fun to release something new," Raspberry Pi Foundation founder Eben Upton said in a post on the group's blog.
The Raspberry Pi 3 is the something new, a computer that comes with a more powerful chip, integrated WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, and 50 to 60 percent better performance with 32-bit applications than its predecessor, the Raspberry Pi 2, and 10 times the performance of the original Raspberry Pi. Even with all that, the price will stay the same as the Raspberry Pi 2—$35.
The computer was launched four years ago to give students, makers and others an easy-to-use system for developing projects or, in the case of students, to learn how to build technology and programs. The hope was the Raspberry Pi would spark an interest in computer science that would carry on into college and a career.
It has taken off. According to Upton, the project has shipped more than 8 million units, including 3 million Raspberry Pi 2s. The foundation itself has grown from a few volunteers to more than 60 full-time employees.
"The two main things that people do with their Pi are use it as a PC replacement or use it as an embedded computer," Upton told the BBC. "The Pi 3 is doubling down on both those things rather than going looking for new things to do."
Among the new components in the Raspberry Pi 3 is the BCM2837 system-on-a-chip (SoC) from Broadcom, a 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core chip with ARM's Cortex-A53 design. It's more powerful than the 32-bit 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 chip in the Raspberry Pi 2 that helps ramp up the clock speed by 33 percent.
Also new is integrated 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1, which means users no longer have to rely only on Ethernet connections for connectivity. Now they have WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities for accessing the Internet and for wirelessly connecting peripherals like keyboards and mice. In addition, the new computer is compatible with Raspberry Pi 1 and 2, enabling users to run workloads that they created with the two previous models on the Raspberry Pi 3.
With a few exceptions—such as the position of the LEDs, which were moved to make room for the antenna—the Raspberry Pi 3 essentially fits into the same form factors as the Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ and Pi 2 Model B, Upton wrote.
"All of the connectors are in the same place and have the same functionality, and the board can still be run from a 5V micro-USB power adaptor," he wrote. "This time round, we're recommending at 2.5A adapter if you want to connect the power-hungry USB devices to the Raspberry Pi."
The new computer, which runs the Raspbian operating system, is available now through Raspberry Pi Foundation partners element14 and RS Components.