I give the new Raspberry Pi B+ an A-

I give the new Raspberry Pi B+ an A-

Summary: The new Raspberry Pi B+ board is a great upgrade over the RPi B board. I give it an A-.

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TOPICS: Hardware, Software
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Raspberry_Pi_B+_top

I know that a lot of you read my, "Raspberry Pi: How I spent almost $150 on a $35 computer" piece and came away angry about it. I'm still not sure why that happened, but I received a lot of hate mail proclaiming my ignorance, my stupidity, and my downright disregard for all that is cool about the Raspberry Pi (RPi) board. Whew! It was a rough ride, but I'm over it now and ready to look again at the RPi's newest incarnation: The B+. It's a big improvement over the prior models and before you get all huffy on me, I give the B+ an A-.

My two favorite B+ features are four USB ports (compared to two on the B board) and the micro SD card slot (compared to the full-sized SD card slot on the B board). Micro SD is the perfect platform for a board this small. That, and the micro SD card doesn't stick out too far from the board's boundaries.

My least favorite B+ feature is the wired Ethernet port. Seriously, stop putting that on there. You don't need it. Use a wireless one instead. No one wants to connect a wired Ethernet to a small board like this.

In fact, the B+ is a very well done redesign. The component interfaces are much more in line with the physical limits of the board. The B had interfaces sticking out far beyond the board surface, which made it hard to fit into some compact boxes and cases, unless the boxes or cases were specifically designed for the B. This one is much more compact even though the board size is the same.

The RPi B+ is much more what I had in mind when I bought my B version.

The B+ still sports the standard 700MHz Broadcomm BCM2835 CPU and still has 512MB RAM, which is enough for a lot of general computing applications. I'm more than a little shocked at the Raspberry Pi folks because they didn't bother upgrading the CPU or the RAM in the B+. They've done such a brilliant job on the other parts that it's a bit disappointing that they didn't pump up the volume on this round.

Everything on the B+ board is more organized and better placed, although the camera serial interface (CSI) and display serial interface (DSI) didn't move very much. But the DSI is now situated very close to the edge of the board making it more convenient for cabling.

In my opinion, the B+ RPi board is top notch technology and craftsmanship. I love the new styling, the rearrangement of ports, and the expanded GPIO (from 26 pins to 40 pins). And a feature that would only matter to a geek: There are four mounting holes instead of just two. Four mounting holes provides more flexibility and more stability for cases and other pluggable peripherals. For example, the B board's GPIO had no mounting hole near it and I always felt like I had to be extra careful not to damage the pins when plugging and unplugging. Having mounting holes on both sides of the GPIO gives it the sturdiness needed for such a small board.

Raspberry Pi : Vital statistics

  • Broadcom BCM 2835 chipset
  • ARM1176JZFS chip with a floating point co-processor, running at 700MHz
  • Videocore IV GPU, capable of BluRay quality playback, using H.264 at 40MBits/s
  • Ships with OpenGL ES2.0 and OpenVG libraries
  • HDMI out
  • Model B: 512MB of memory, two USB ports and a 10/100 BaseT Ethernet port
  • Model A: 256MB of memory, one USB port

The new board also features lower power consumption by replacing linear regulators with switching ones they’ve reduced power consumption by between 0.5W and 1W. I didn't notice the B board using a lot of power, but now my rechargeable battery packs will last a lot longer and that's always a good thing.

While this post is not a review, I'd give this new RPi board a very strong A- for a grade. Hopefully in the 'C' board, or whatever they decide to call it, will feature a wireless Ethernet and perhaps 1GB RAM. Those two changes would earn the RPi an A+ from me.

The Raspberry Pi B+ board is especially exciting for those who want to create and market their own branded "things" for the Internet of Things applications. I'd love to hear about your projects with the RPi B+ and to see what you've done with it. The more unusual and creative, the more likely I'd be to feature it in a future post.

Special thanks to element 14 for sending me the B+ for a look.

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Topics: Hardware, Software

About

Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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30 comments
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  • Wired ethernet

    WRONG!!!!

    Plenty of people are using these as firewall devices (openwrt for example)
    pauldsmyth
    • True

      It was somewhat awkward to read that while my own Raspberry Pi is sitting two feet away using wired ethernet. It wouldn't be *bad* to have wireless ethernet included in a future model, but wired ethernet would still be a must-have for me (during setup, at least).
      KiteX3
    • Agree.

      I see a wired Ethernet connection as a plus, not a minus. You only have so much bandwidth available through your wireless router. Why suck up half your bandwidth with a bunch of single task micro computers controlling things around your home? I'd rather have all of my wireless bandwidth available to my tablets and phones. Then again, I had the foresight to wire my entire home with Ethernet during construction. Perhaps I'd feel differently if I only had wireless.
      BillDem
    • Yeah but

      I'd rather have to use the USB for wired ethernet than wireless. For wired, you're going to have protrusions anyway.
      Michael Kelly
    • Agreed

      I use wired ethernet in several projects (and the A model does not have it, so you still have that choice). I like to prototype on the B(+) using ssh to login and write code, muck about, then deploy to the A if I don't want ethernet.

      The other thing to note is that the new USB chip is also the Ethernet controller chip, so all you would be doing is taking off the phy.
      dimonic
      • Not in the US

        The A model is no longer carried by US distributors so unless importing it or buying it from unofficial sources you no longer have that option.
        hello_world.c
        • That is hardly the foundation's fault

          They made the design, they can't force distributors to carry it. Given that the chip does both USB and Ethernet, it would actually be a shame (I think) to drop the Phy.

          On the other hand, in a rework of the A I would have it use the new power supply, drop the Composite AND the hdmi, go to 512MB, have the new 4 port USB (and still no ethernet). I think that would have those distributors carry it again.
          dimonic
          • A+

            There _will_ be an upgrade to the A - it'll be the A+. It's expected to have the same CPU and 256MB of RAM. No ethernet, so there will only be one USB port.
            mike@...
          • Excellent news

            Thanks for the info - I coulnd't find it anywhere. I'm guessing it will probably have the new power regulator (even more battery life), and the connectors will line up much closer to the edges?
            dimonic
        • Only Temporary

          On the PI the temporarily stopped building A version to focus production of the B+. There only so much production capacity .
          Richardbz
    • How about WOL (Wake on LAN?)

      I'm sure someone out there has created a diskless/no MicroSD system using the LAN connector (I don't think this can be done with wireless - let me know if I'm wrong here). Seems to me that using PixieBoot and storing the OS on a central server would make it easier to work with a RPi.
      Roger Ramjet
      • Low-power state

        It is my understanding that the Pi lacks the hardware support for proper low-power states which would be necessary. And the Ethernet controller probably doesn't support WOL either.
        hello_world.c
      • Not sure

        As far as I know, the boot starts with a binary blob that insists on read an SD card. You would need a minimal SD start before an NFS boot could take over.

        I think I have seen some work on exactly this - putting uboot on the SD card.
        dimonic
      • No WOL

        Simple answer - The Pi just doesn't have WOL so PXE boot is a non-starter.

        As has been said the Pi uses a bootloader on the SD card, but you can tweak it to load the OS proper from a USB stick instead of the card which speds thing up a little and circumvents being limted to 32GB SDHC cards...
        Lord Minty
    • Wired ethernet for this board is necessary

      I use my Pi as a headless server running owncloud on it. And yes I want the fastest speed so I can server up movies to more than one person.
      ChicagoBob123
    • Wired ethernet

      Ken, are you an idiot? Wired interface is VERY valuable when dealing with low latency applications running on embedded platforms such as this. Take a look at any article on Ham Radio D-Star Hotspots and you will see how hundreds of THOUSANDS of these boards are used around the globe just for this application. I expect more from you as a "seasoned" IT professional than to make the following statement: "My least favorite B+ feature is the wired Ethernet port. Seriously, stop putting that on there. You don't need it. Use a wireless one instead. No one wants to connect a wired Ethernet to a small board like this." THat is just idiotic. It's not about how much bandwidth the connection supports, but more IMPORTANTLY how much LATENCY the connection offers. Wired ALWAYS beats wireless on latency EVERY time.
      DarthWizworks
  • Eh?

    "My least favorite B+ feature is the wired Ethernet port. Seriously, stop putting that on there. You don't need it. Use a wireless one instead. No one wants to connect a wired Ethernet to a small board like this."

    Are you retarded?
    Anon1337
  • Wireless is expensive

    On an OEM product wireless is a pricey option.
    I don't really know why, maybe the stack license is more expensive but I would expect that native wireless would add $5 to $15 USD to the price.
    NoSpark
    • Agree, and the additional USB ports allow....

      anyone who wants to go wireless can with simple addition of a button at about $10 (readily available). Removing wired kicks the users who want it, right where it hurts. The flexibility is part of the overall attractiveness.
      Willnott
  • No one?

    "No one wants to connect a wired Ethernet to a small board like this."

    *I* don't want to connect a wired Ethernet to a small board like this.

    FTFY
    hello_world.c