Raspberry Pi: World's Smallest Computer Gets An Upgrade
July 14, 2014

Raspberry Pi: World’s Smallest Computer Gets An Upgrade

Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Last year the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced that its $25 Model A computer was available for purchase in the United States. At the time of that announcement the Model A was actually $10 less than the company's original Model B mini-computer, which had become a hit with hobbyists and those looking for a truly affordable computer.

Now the Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced that it has a new "B plan" of sorts, and with it brought out its "A game" to make it a reality.

"In the two years since we launched the current Raspberry Pi Model B, we’ve often talked about our intention to do one more hardware revision to incorporate the numerous small improvements people have been asking for," Eben Upton, Raspberry Pi founder and CEO of Raspberry Pi's engineering team, posted on the official blog on Monday. "This isn't a 'Raspberry Pi 2', but rather the final evolution of the original Raspberry Pi. Today, I'm very pleased to be able to announce the immediate availability, at $35 – it's still the same price, of what we're calling the Raspberry Pi Model B+."

Upton said that the Model B+ will use the same BCM2835 application processor as the Model B, will run the same software and will still have just 512MB of RAM. However, Upton added that the team has made a number of improvements.

The Raspberry Pi Model B+ will offer a GPIO head that has grown to 40 pins, yet retains the same pinout for the first 26 pins as the Model B. The new version will also feature four USB 2.0 ports, compared to the two on the Model B, along with better hotplug and overcurrent behavior; and will replace the friction-fit SD card socket with a push-push micro SD version.

The Model B+ will have lower power consumption as the team replaced the linear regulators with switching ones. This has allowed the power consumption to be reduced by between 0.5W and 1W. The audio circuit incorporates a dedicated low-noise power supply, which should mean better audio from the computer. Overall the team also promised a neater form factor for the Model B+ by realigning the USB connectors with the board edge, and moving the composite video onto the 3.5mm jack.

These improvements should add to the functionality of the machine.

"People expect to see four USB ports these days," Mike Powell, a spokesman for electronics components firm Element 14 which sells the Pi, told the BBC. "With the Model B as soon as you had connected a keyboard and mouse that was it."

While the original Model B hasn't exactly given the major players in the PC world cause for concern, it did pass the two million mark for sales last October. Its makers also don't plan to put it out to pasture any time soon.

"We think you’re going to love Model B+, but to ensure continuity of supply for our industrial customers we'll be keeping Model B in production for as long as there’s demand for it," Upton added.

If anything the Model B's success could be its actual undoing in the small hobbyist computer space.

"The Raspberry Pi has seen more competitors entering the scene as the maker community grows," Kaylene Hong wrote for TheNextWeb. "For example, we recently wrote about a new challenger, the tiny Hummingboard micro-computer from SolidRun, which like the Raspberry Pi, is an ARM-based naked board — and has a 1GHz ARMv7 processor while the Raspberry Pi only has a 700MHz ARMv6 processor."


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