It was four years ago that the Raspberry Pi foundation launched the original 256 MB Raspberry Pi Model B. In the intervening years the foundation, led by Eben Upton, has released lots of interesting variants of the original concept, including the quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 based Raspberry Pi 2 and the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero. Now, Eben and gang have made the jump to 64-bits with the new Raspberry Pi 3.
Maintaining the exact same form factor as the Pi 2 (and Pi 1 Model B+), the new Raspberry Pi 3 uses a 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core Cortex-A53 ARMv8 based CPU from Broadcom. That in itself is a huge (and welcome) leap, however there is more. For the first time the Pi 3 also includes built-in Wi-Fi and built-in Bluetooth.
The exact same binary files for commands like ping, bash, tar, vi and grep run on all the Pi boards, from ARMv6 to ARMv8.
The new processor from Broadcom is the BCM2837, which keeps the same basic architecture as its predecessors, the BCM2835 and the BCM2836, so all those projects and tutorials which rely on the precise details of the Raspberry Pi hardware will continue to work. The BCM2835 found in the Raspberry Pi 1 and the Raspberry Pi Zero contains a single core ARMv6 (i.e. and ARM1176) CPU and a VideoCore IV CPU. The BCM2836 keeps the same GPU core but replaces the ARMv6 CPU with a quad-core ARMv7 Cortex-A7 CPU. The new BCM2837 remains essentially the same as the BCM2836 but replaces the four 32-bit Cortex-A7 cores with four 64-bit Cortex-A53 cores.
In terms of performance the Raspberry Pi 3 is clocked at 1.2GHz compared to the 900MHz of the Pi 2, so that is a 33% increase from the start. However with the new CPU cores plus other architectural enhancements, the Pi 3 should be around 50-60% faster than the Raspberry Pi 2, or roughly a factor of ten times faster than the original Raspberry Pi.
|Device||Raspberry Pi 3||Raspberry Pi Zero||Raspberry Pi 1||Raspberry Pi 2|
|CPU||1.2GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU from Broadcom||1GHz ARM11 Broadcom CPU||700MHz ARM11 Broadcom CPU||900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU from Broadcom|
|GPU||Videocore IV||Videocore IV||Videocore IV||Videocore IV|
|Storage||microSD card slot||microSD card slot||SD card slot||microSD card slot|
|Connectivity||4 x USB, HDMI, Ethernet, 3.5mm audio jack||1 x microUSB, mini-HDMI, an unpopulated composite video header||4 x USB, HDMI, Ethernet, 3.5mm audio jack||4 x USB, HDMI, Ethernet, 3.5mm audio jack|
|OS||Linux, Windows 10 IoT core (unconfirmed)||Linux||Linux||Linux, Windows 10 IoT core|
|Connectors||Camera interface (CSI), GPIO, SPI, I2C, JTAG||Unpopulated 40-pin GPIO header, SPI, I2C||Camera interface (CSI), GPIO, SPI, I2C, JTAG||Camera interface (CSI), GPIO, SPI, I2C, JTAG|
The Pi 3 also includes a new chip, the BCM43438 wireless “combo” chip. It is built using a 40 nm process technology (to reduce active and idle power) and adds dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity to the Pi 3, as well as Bluetooth 4.0 and Bluetooth 4.1 (i.e. Bluetooth Low Energy). Because the Pi 3 now has wireless capabilities the board needed to be re-arrange ever-so-slightly, now the position of the LEDs have been moved to the other side of the micro SD card socket to make room for the antenna.
As with all the other Pi boards, the Pi 3 is powered via a 5V micro-USB port, however this time you need to use a 2.5A adapter if you want to connect power-hungry USB devices to the board.
The Raspberry Pi foundation says that it will continue to build Raspberry Pi 1 and 2 boards for the time being, and will do so until there is no more demand for these boards. It also says that it plans to build a BCM2837-based Compute Module 3 in the next few months, as well as a Raspberry Pi 3 Model A (without the Ethernet port etc) using the Model A+ form factor.
The Linux kernels for each board is built specifically for the respective architectures: ARMv6, ARMv7 and now 64-bit ARMv8.
One interesting thing to note is that at the moment the Pi 3 will use the same 32-bit userland binaries as the Pi 1 and Pi 2. The Linux kernels for each board is built specifically for the respective architectures: ARMv6, ARMv7 and now 64-bit ARMv8. However the command line tools (like the binaries you find in /usr/bin) are at the moment the same across all the boards. This is actually a great testament to the compatibility of ARM’s system architecture. The exact same binary files for commands like ping, bash, tar, vi and grep run on all the Pi boards, from ARMv6 to ARMv8. However, over the next few months the Raspberry Pi Foundation will be looking at whether there is value in moving to 64-bit mode.
As for price and availability, the Pi 3 is available now for $35. In the UK you can get one for £30.00.