Raspberry Pi Gets Faster ARM Chip, Windows 10

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2015-02-02 Print this article Print
Raspberry Pi 2

The enhancements to the tiny computing board bring six times the performance and twice the memory, but the price remains at $35.

The group behind the small and simple Raspberry Pi computer is adding a more powerful processor, more memory and support for Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system in the latest model of the minicomputer.

The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, announced by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, is powered by a 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor and comes with 1GB of memory, giving the computing board six times the performance and twice the memory of the previous system. In addition, the minicomputer, which already runs Linux operating systems, will support Windows 10 when the OS is released later this year.

The enhancements boost the capabilities of the credit-card-size system, the first of which was introduced in 2012 with hopes that it would be embraced by students and enthusiasts to learn how to program. However, businesses have adopted the board for their computing environments.

In a post on the Raspberry Pi Foundation blog, founder and CEO Eben Upton noted that for the models leading up to the Raspberry Pi 2, engineers have been squeezing what they could out of the BCM2835 application processor from Broadcom, a 700MHz ARM CPU. They've optimized open-source libraries and applications—such as WebKit, LibreOffice, Scratch and Pixman—and those with the Raspbian Project created a rebuild of Debian to make it compatible with the ARMv6 architecture.

Engineers have "spent thousands of hours working on the firmware and board support to make Raspberry Pi the most stable single board computer in the world," Upton wrote. "Nonetheless, there comes a point when there's no substitute for more memory and CPU performance. Our challenge was to figure out how to get this without throwing away our investment in the platform or spoiling all those projects and tutorials which rely on the precise details of the Raspberry Pi hardware."

Broadcom developed a new processor, the BCM2836, which he said retains the features of the BCM2835 while putting in the ARM Cortex-A7.

"Everything else remains the same, so there is no painful transition or reduction in stability," Upton wrote.

Even with the boost in performance and memory—and the addition of Windows 10 support—the price remains the same: The Raspberry Pi 2 goes for the same $35 price that the Raspberry Pi 1 B+ does. It is available immediately from partners element14 and RS Components.

The foundation also worked with Microsoft for six months to bring Windows 10 to the Raspberry Pi 2, he said. Microsoft officials have said Windows 10 will be a key OS not only for PCs but for a range of other systems, including Internet of things (IoT) devices, as the software giant looks to extend the reach of Windows into new growth areas.

"Windows 10 is the first step toward an era of more personal computing," Kevin Dallas, general manager of Microsoft's Windows IoT Group, wrote in a post on the company blog. "This vision guided our efforts to reimagine Windows for a world that is more mobile, natural and grounded in trust. Windows 10 will inspire and support a broad range of devices—from PCs, tablets and 2-in-1s to phones to Xbox and the Internet of Things."

Microsoft is making Windows 10 free to Raspberry Pi users later this year through the software maker's Windows Developer Program for IoT.

"We see the Maker community as an amazing source of innovation for smart, connected devices that represent the very foundation of the next wave of computing, and we’re excited to be a part of this community," Dallas wrote. "Last year we took an important step in embracing the Maker movement by creating the Windows Developer Program for IoT and delivering Windows for the Intel Galileo board. We are taking the next step by bringing Microsoft’s leading development tools, services, and ecosystem to the Raspberry Pi community for free through our Windows Developer Program for IoT."



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