Introducing the New Raspberry Pi 3

The Raspberry Pi 3 is here. The latest version of the credit card‑sized computer comes a whole year after the launch of its predecessor, the Raspberry Pi 2, and has its own set of upgrades.
It’s faster, it has the exact same form‑factor, and it has wireless on it. The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B features a quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex A53 clocked at 1.2 GHz. This puts the Pi 3 roughly 50% faster than the Pi 2. Compared to the Pi 2, the RAM remains the same, 1GB of LPDDR2-900 SDRAM, and the graphics capabilities, provided by the VideoCore IV GPU, are the same as they ever were. The Raspberry Pi 3 now includes on-board 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. WiFi, wireless keyboards, and wireless mice now work out of the box.

Inside Raspberry Pi 3

<img src="raspberry_pi_3_model_b.png" alt="raspberry_pi_3_model_b">

Raspberry Pi 3 has internal antenna. Its radios are connected to this chip antenna soldered directly to the board, in order to keep the size of the device to a minimum. Despite its diminutive stature, this antenna should be more than capable of picking up wireless LAN and Bluetooth signals, even through walls.

Wireless Radio
So small, its markings can only be properly seen through a microscope or magnifying glass, the Broadcom BCM43438 chip provides wireless LAN, Bluetooth, and Bluetooth Classic radio support. Cleverly built directly onto the board to keep costs down, rather than the more common fully qualified module approach, its only unused feature is a disconnected FM radio receiver.

Built specifically for the new Pi 3, the Broadcom BCM2837 system‑on‑chip (SoC) includes four high‑performance ARM Cortex‑A53 processing cores running at 1.2GHz with 32kB Level 1 and 512kB Level 2 cache memory, a VideoCore IV graphics processor, and is linked to a 1GB LPDDR2 memory module on the rear of the board.

The Raspberry Pi 3 features the same 40‑pin general‑purpose input‑output (GPIO) header as all the Pis going back to the Model
B+ and Model A+. Any existing GPIO hardware will work without modification, the only change is a switch to which UART is exposed on the GPIO’s pins, but that’s handled internally by the operating system.

USB Chip
The Raspberry Pi 3 shares the same SMSC LAN9514 chip as its predecessor, the Raspberry Pi 2, adding 10/100 Ethernet connectivity and four USB channels to the board. As before, the SMSC chip connects to the SoC via a single USB channel, acting as a USB‑to‑Ethernet adaptor and USB hub.

Raspberry Pi 3's Features
  • SoC: Broadcom BCM2837
  • CPU: 4× ARM Cortex-A53, 1.2GHz
  • GPU: Broadcom VideoCore IV
  • Networking: 10/100 Ethernet, 2.4GHz 802.11n wireless
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4 Classic, Bluetooth Low Energy
  • Storage: microSD
  • GPIO: 40-pin header, populated Ports HDMI, 3.5mm analogue audio-video jack, 4× USB 2.0, Ethernet, Camera Serial Interface (CSI), Display Serial Interface (DSI)

Here are suggestions for new uses for the Raspberry Pi 3.

Build a Wireless Sensor Network
The Broadcom BCM43438 radio chip is high-performance yet low-power, making it perfect for building wireless sensor networks. Connect everything from temperature sensors to cameras to Raspberry Pi 3 and have it communicate its findings via wireless LAN for quick and easy Internet of Things (IoT) goodness, or drop the power draw further and build a Bluetooth Low Energy network with multiple Pi 3 systems. For remote installations, try pairing to a cheap second-hand GSM mobile handset via Bluetooth Classic.

Bluetooth for Audio Streaming
The BCM43438 chip supports Bluetooth Classic mode, including the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile or A2DP. Support for A2DP means it’s possible to configure a Raspberry Pi 3 as a streamer, either receiving audio from a device such as a smartphone or tablet for amplification via HDMI or analogue outputs, or sending its own audio to a remote A2DP destination such as a Bluetooth-enabled soundbar or hi-fi system.

Play More Games
The Raspberry Pi has always had a powerful graphics processor, and now that the central processor can keep up. For those who enjoy the classics, the Pi 3’s increased performance means smoother emulation in general, plus support for emulating newer or more demanding systems and titles. For others, there’s promise that future Pi games will be able to give mainstream titles a real run for their money in the graphics department.

For Building Client Infrastructure
Raspberry Pi could be used to build a pseudo thin-client infrastructure in the past, but the need for local storage in the form of the microSD card has kept it from being a truly thin implementation. The promised support for PXE network boot means that a Pi 3, unlike any other model, can be used as a thin client without the need for any local storage, decreasing deployment cost and increasing reliability.

Support 64-bit Codes
The BCM2837 at the heart of the Pi 3 uses the 64-bit ARMv8 microarchitecture, compared to the 32-bit ARMv7 and ARMv6 of previous models. As well as widening compatibility for running other operating systems, the shift to 64-bit holds the potential to improve performance, but it’s going to be up to the community to demonstrate that splitting Raspbian into 32-bit and 64-bit variants offers advantages enough to outweigh the headache of maintaining and supporting two distinct operating system builds.

When the original Raspberry Pi launched in 2012, it immediately fulfilled its promise of bringing a low-cost Linux-based computer to the masses. Last year, 2015, the Raspberry Pi foundation introduced the Pi 2, a much more powerful board with a faster and more capable CPU. The first impressions were wonderful. Here was a computer that could actually be used as a computer.
The Raspberry Pi 3 is another beast entirely. The Pi 3 is now over a threshold where it becomes a useful desktop computer. The goal of the Raspberry Pi foundation is to promote computer science in early education. While the Pi, Pi 2, and Pi Zero are marginally capable in this role, the Pi 3 is much more useful. This is a computer that could populate an entire elementary school computer lab. The Raspberry Pi has now passed a threshold of usefulness.