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Today sees the launch of Pi 2, the latest edition to the Raspberry Pi Arsenal.
Not so long ago the world of single board computing was turned upside down when the Raspberry Pi landed on our benches. Before the Raspberry Pi, the Single Board Computer landscape offered limited choice for under $100, but since Raspberry Pi have entered the market, they have played a significant part in driving down the price of Single Board Computing.
With sales to date of around 4.5 million units, the Raspberry Pi is only half a million units away from becoming the fastest selling British Computer, and is soon set to steal the title from the ZX Spectrum. The first Raspberry Pi (AKA "Pi 1"), was based on an ARM11 Broadcom processor, and was a very capable and versatile little board. It gave many people their first experience of Linux and also introduced others to Physical Computing, with the inclusion of GPIO pins for creating and connecting all kinds of hardware projects. I've taken it into schools to teach kids coding, I've even sent one up to the edge of space last year with a Superman Action Figure. The commercial world has also began to adopt it in Industrial Applications.
However, since its introduction, a few contenders have entered the game to try and out feature the Pi in an attempt to grab some it's success. So it was only a matter of time before Raspberry Pi would look to supercharge the world's most favourite Single Board Computer, and when Eben told us about the Foundations plans to "soup up" the Raspberry Pi, we were very excited indeed!
The World's Favourite Single Board Computer is now 6 x Faster!
So what is the difference between the former Raspberry Pi Model B+ (AKA Pi 1) and the new Raspberry Pi 2 Model B? Well, they look almost identical, but Pi 2 has a faster processor and more memory, whilst maintaining compatibility with its earlier version.
Key New Features
- The Broadcom BCM2836SoC Quad Core 900Mhz ARM Cortex A7 gives 6 x the performance of the previous model Pi 1 (No changes to the GPU)
- Twice the memory, now boasting 1GB LPDDR2
- The same price point as Pi 1
- Better availability at launch date. The factory has cranked up production to make as many Pi 2’s available as possible on launch day.
Don’t worry, whatever you’ve been doing on your Pi 1, will work on a Pi 2. The only difference here is the performance.
Increasing the number of processor cores has resulted in a change of processor architecture and new Linux Kernel. The former Pi processor was based on an Arm 11 V6 architecture, the new Pi 2 has an ARM Cortex A7, V7 processor architecture. To maintain continuity with the current operating system, there will be a new operating system build to accommodate the change of Linux Kernel. Other than that, it is almost identical to the currently available O/S and can be used across all Raspberry Pi models. The new O/S will be available to download from launch day.
Thanks to the 4 processor cores, higher processor clock speed and better caching infrastructure, users will notice a good improvement in single threaded application and sustainable improvement in multithreaded applications.
The general user will experience a faster and smoother ride, just browsing the web alone, shows a noticeable improvement in speed! Apps are more responsive and programs run smoother and faster. In fact for some, it could even now replace a PC, especially when it comes to kids doing their homework. They can now browse the web quicker and use Libre Office to write up their assignments.
More processing power of course means more power consumption. The original Raspberry Pi Model B’s peak power was around 3 watts. The migration to the Model B+ then saved around 1 watt of power by improving the power supply circuitry on board, bringing it down to around 2 watts. With its Quad Core processor, peak power consumption will draw more current. This is around 1 watt of incremental power consumption at the high end, so at peak power, the Pi will be around 3 watts again. However, in return for this 50% increase in peak power consumption, users will benefit from a 6 fold increase in processing power, which is actually a pretty good balance of power and performance! When idling, power consumption is about the same as Pi 1.
With regards to the Raspberry Pi model A and Compute Pi, there are no immediate plans to upgrade these to the new Quad Core processor.
All this extra processing power opens up lots more applications as well as enhancing existing ones.
Some of the applications and projects that users have tried to run on the previous Pi 1 were often pushing it the limit, or it just didn’t have enough processing power to cope, even with overclocking.
For example, applications around Software Defined Radio (SDR) can now be run on a Raspberry Pi. SDR applications include Amateur Radio or perhaps even creating your own cellular base station. Pi 2 could also be used with Open CV to create Computer Vision applications. This means that things like facial recognition and individual profile tracking are now feasible.
Below is a short video overview where I compare the Pi 1 B+ to the new P2 B.
At DesignSpark, we’ll be looking to share with you some applications that take advantage of it’s faster processing capability. So, “watch this space!”
left; Rory Cellan-Jones (BBC News technology correspondent ), Pete Wood(RS), Eben Upton (Raspberry Pi)
- Andrew Back takes the Raspberry Pi 2 for a Test Drive with GNU Radio - Read More
- Find more Raspberry Pi articles in our Raspberry Pi Design Centre
- follow me on twitter @petenwood and DesignSpark @DesignSparkRS