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Raspberry Pi 3 B + review: Better than ever, but borders remain

The Raspberry Pi mini computer just gets better. It's been three years since we went through a major upgrade to the Raspberry Pi line and it was worth the wait. If you have wondered if the Raspberry Pi 3 B + is a worthy upgrade, let me answer it with an emphatic yes .

Once again, we see a noticeable leap in performance compared to the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, which we looked at in the beginning of 2016. Some of the downsides of the Raspberry Pi still exist with Pi 3 B +. Nevertheless, Raspberry Pi 3 B + is an excellent choice if you want to think about hardware, start programming or just create a daily PC for much .

Hardware hacking is an important focus on Raspberry Pi, but as this is PCWorld, we are most concerned about how the Raspberry Pi works as a PC. It can act as a basic desktop machine, a home theater PC (HTPC) or a tool to learn to program.

The board we review here was produced by RS Components and Allied Electronics.

  raspberrypi3b 1 Ian Paul / IDG


On paper, hardware for Pi 3 B + is not so different from its predecessor. There is no extra RAM, the GPU is the same, and the processor clock speed made a small jump. And yet Pi 3 B + performs much better than previous boards.

  • SoC: BCM2837B0 64-bit system-on-chip with four ARM Cortex-A53 CPU cores clocked at 1.4GHz
  • CPU: 4x ARM Cortex-A53, 1.4GHz
  • GPU : Broadcom VideoCore IV
  • Network: Gigabit Ethernet (via USB channel), 2.4 GHz and 5GHz 802.11b / g / n / ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.2, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
  • Storage: microSD
  • GPIO: 40-pin header
  • Port: HDMI , 3.5mm analog audio video connector, four USB 2.0, Ethernet, Serial Interface (CSI) Serial Interface (DSI)

The biggest difference between this model and Pi 3 B is the 200MHz boosted in processor speed. This version also adds a shiny new heat spreader that helps reduce gas flow and maintain the speed increase. It also adds a little "chrome" to the board, as well as the new shield around the wireless circuit (the small metal box with the Raspberry Pi logo on it).

In addition to the speed increase and the new look, the same underlying CPU architecture is. RAM has not changed either, and here I really think the board is missing something. Maybe oping RAM for 2GB has technical or cost issues we are not aware of, but it is high time that this card added a little more volatile memory to the overall package.

The Bluetooth connection gets a point upgrade to 4.2, and the Network Features adds dual-band Wi-Fi. The Ethernet port is also faster, with two to three times better performance than its predecessor, but doesn't say the "G" word. Raspberry Pi & # 39; s introduction video for the new board says this is not true Gigabit ethernet. While the physical component is a Gigabit port, it is connected to the board over a single USB 2.0 bridge, limiting the theoretical maximum throughput to 300 Mbps.

  raspberrypi3b 3 Ian Paul / IDG

There are also few changes that will mean more to hardware hobbyists than anyone looking for a cheap HTPC or retro gaming console. It is Power-over-ethernet ready, but you need to buy the HAT module, which is sold separately. Finally, there is a new power management integration circuit (PMIC) that replaces the discrete components for a more even current drawing.

Since the introduction of Raspberry Pi 2 model B in 2015, RPi has rocked four USB ports, which means you can connect a large number of external devices when needed. However, with Pi 3 B +, some users may find that a USB hub with an external power source would be a better option.

This device is serious about its power needs and a hub can relieve it. Days to come up with the old phone or tablet charger you want are far away. If you do not have a 5V / 2.5 amp wall charger, then you will not see the new Pi appear to snuff. You can even get some data loss issues. Most phone and tablet chargers have a maximum of 1 or 2 amps, which is simply not enough for Pi 3 B +.

Users at different forums claim that a 5V / 2.4 amp charger will get the job done, but we haven't tested it. For our test we used a 5V / 3.0 amp charger and it did a great job.

  raspberrypi3b 2 Ian Paul / IDG


We took this board through the usual set of synthetic benchmarks and browser tests to give you a sense of how it performs.

For our test, we loaded the Raspberry Pi with the latest version of Raspbian Stretch build released in April 2019- by this font.

  sunspider IDG

Our first benchmark was Sunspider 1.0.2 using the built-in Chromium browser. Last time we tried this JavaScript benchmark with the Epiphany browser, which was standard at that time. Lower results are better in this case and you can see the Raspberry Pi 3 B + smoked its predecessors.

  octane IDG

The Octane 2.0 test was slightly closer to Pi B +, which only improved its predecessor by 352 points. An incremental improvement for a step-by-step upgrade.

  single core IDG

Next we took a look at Pi 3 B + with sysbench. As with our previous tests for the Raspberry Pi hardware, we have ordered Pi 3 B + to calculate all prime numbers between 0 and 20,000 using a single processor wire. Pi B + was able to complete the task almost three minutes faster than its predecessor.

  quad core IDG

Similarly, when we allowed the mini-computer to use all its processing power, it performed the same task in 82.2932 seconds – a full 41 seconds faster than Pi 3 B.

The Full Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a powerful little computer for its size and price, but it requires a lot more than just the board to make a PC. You also need a mouse, keyboard and display to do it all work. In addition, you need a microSD card loaded with the above Raspbian operating system or another OS such as LibreELEC for media streaming or Retropie for classic games.

The easiest way to install Raspbian is to use Noob's installation tool Alternatively, you can flash the Raspbian disk image to a microSD using a third-party app such as Etcher.

  2019 05 22 132125 1680x1050 scrot IDG

Raspbian Stretch Desktop on a Raspberry Pi 3 B +. [19659050] Raspbian with Stretch desktop interface makes the operating system very useful, especially if you choose the version of Raspbian with recommended software. This includes the LibreOffice package, VLC, a wealth of tools to learn and practice programming, the Chromium browser and Minecraft Pi Edition.

There are still some problems in daily use with Raspbian. I saw some unnatural looks, almost choppy movements in YouTube videos at times. This is a common problem with all Raspberry Pi devices and probably because of its limited power draw. Watching Netflix is ​​also not an easy performance on Raspbian. Having multiple browser tabs or windows open at one time can be a real problem, but as expected video streaming. However, playing for local videos is great.

Minecraft Pi is very basic, and for what it is, it's great; However, if prospective Raspberry Pi users are accustomed to playing on PC (Java or Windows 10) or console, this version will not appeal.

Raspbian also has a program catalog of varieties where you can download and install other programs, but it is not the best experience. The buttons are not well-marked, and at times they did not seem to work. A better approach would be to learn how to install applications from the terminal using the built-in package manager APT. The command line seems scary, but it's quick and easy when you learn the few basic commands needed to get things done.

  img 20190522 131332 Ian Paul / IDG

Raspberry Pi 3 B + with a complete complement of connected peripherals.

Bottom Line

For $ 35 and the addition of a few peripheral devices, many have already shone around. You can put together a nice little basic pass for the kids, an entertainment console or a classic slot machine. I would highly recommend Pi 3 B + for any budding programmer because it has all the tools needed to get started.

For elementary and perhaps even middle school students, Raspberry Pi 3 B + is up to the task as a daily driver for homework and basic web surfing – especially if you buy a case to go with it. Anyone above this age will likely be disappointed with the Raspberry Pi as an everyday desktop.

It's not all a Raspberry Pi can do at any stretch since we've seen some insanely innovative Pi projects. In addition to the above applications, it can also act as a home-based server for everything from Minecraft to chat and home automation.

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