Hands On With the New Raspberry Pi B+
Not too long ago, we were proud to cover the new Raspberry Pi B+ announcement by the Raspberry Pi foundation. But what is this new Raspberry Pi really about? Earlier this week I ordered a brand new Raspberry Pi B+ to do a side-by-side comparison of the Raspberry Pi Model B and Raspberry Pi Model B+ to see if this board is worthy of the plus status.
For a brief list of whats changed on this revision:
- GPIO connection moved from 26 to 40 pins
- Device has changed from 2 to 4 USB ports
- Added an integrated audio/video port
- Now uses micro SD instead of a standard SD card
- Significant power use reduction
Operating System, RAM, CPU and Functionality
Generally speaking the functionality in the core operating system has remained the same. You won't find any extra CPU power or increased RAM (those would require an entire redevelopment of the Raspberry Pi, including new chipsets!) and the operating system behaves just as it normally would.
Based on this, you could consider the Model B+ to be a hardware revision of the previous B model.
Top View Hardware Comparison
The majority of the changes are restructuring to accommodate some core alterations.
The GPIO change is one of the bigger changes a user will notice on the Raspberry Pi B+. The GPIO is what allows you interface with external devices, much like an Arduino or development board. This is where you connect small LCD's, temperature sensors, or other fun toys.
The new board moves from 26 PIN's to 40 PIN's to meet increased demand for access to PIN's on the PI. More on what the new GPIO PINs actually do is available here at the Raspberry Pi foundations website.
With this said, be cautious when working with the GPIO. The original GPIO connectors for the Raspberry Pi Model A & B will not be compatible on the Model B+ in many cases. Connectors with GPIO headers have plastic sides for support of the cable, and this will be in the way of the new pins. To address this you may need to look for GPIO port converters, which are now available on most RPi retail websites.
With that said, the GPIO changes are a big plus and could help entice Arduino developers to move projects over to the Raspberry Pi.
The USB Port has moved from 2x USB 2.0 ports to 4x USB 2.0 ports, which increases the USB devices you can connect (and all for the same price). Having only 1 or 2 USB ports has been a challenge with previous models of the Raspberry Pi. When you consider adding a keyboard, mouse and wifi-dongle to your Raspberry Pi, this typically required users to add a separate powered USB hub. This change aims to change that.
However when we look closer at the USB ports and power consumption, there is potential concerns with these new ports for advanced users. The USB 2.0 specifications expects 5V, 500ma available to USB ports (or 5V, 2000ma total for all 4 ports). In testing, the RPi B+ appears to be providing a maximum output of 5V, 1500ma across all of the 4 ports and could have issues if you try to use more than 3 devices. This is more than enough for an average user, but may require an external powered USB hub or an interesting add-on like the Raspiado powered USB to connect serious USB devices.
Audio Vido (AV) Port
The new AV port is slightly more confusing for new users. Instead of using a standard composite cable, this new connector requires a 4 pole 3.55mm AV cable. And to complicate matters: not all of these cables are the same!
When looking for a cable, seek an iPod 4 pole AV cable. This will result in the left and right audio being reversed but otherwise provides the proper connections. Using other cables, such as a camcorder cable, will be hit or miss. As typically camcorder cables have the wrong pin connection for Video and Ground.
This change also can cause some issues with shared grounding with audio speakers. However when we look at the overview of the board, we can see the change was necessary to save space. If you are insistent on having a separate composite AV connector, you could solder one to the rear of the board and separate the connections to the 4 pole connector.
Camera, Micro USB and HDMI
There isn't much to say here.
The Camera, Micro USB and HDMI ports are moved around to accommodate the new hardware changes. Most of these are cosmetic, however it does mean that most Raspberry Pi model B cases will not fit.
If you have access to a 3D printer, you can give this case a go (erm... a print) and see how well it fits your RPi B+. In addition some suppliers have already started to make RPi B+ cases available for sale.
I have done some very simple power testing for the two models. On average, I find the new Raspberry Pi Model B+ is running utilizing about 40% less power than the previous model B. This leaves more power for other USB devices and GPIO connections, and reduces the amount of power it uses throughout a day.
This is a big step for embedded electronics. And if you run your Raspberry Pi from any kind of battery system, this means the new model could last up-to 40% longer.
The bottom view itself contains changes of very little of interest ... except for the SD Card.
One issue with the older Raspberry Pi Model B is that the SD card sits funny. It expects a full length SD card and leaves room for it to hang outside of the body of the device. This was likely intended early on to make the SD card more accessible but resulted in most people purchasing a unique SD card connector.
However on the Raspberry Pi B+ they have discarded the old SD card mount and moved to a MicroSD card (which is just better for everybody). Testing and comparing I found the new SD card mount is a tight fit, but seems very durable. And even though your SD card doesn't lock into place, it isn't likely to go anywhere from movement.
That's it for my side-by-side comparison!
If you are buying a Raspberry Pi, I definitely recommend grabbing the model B+. It costs the same as the B, brings a bunch of important changes and overall will give you a better experience. However if you already have a Raspberry Pi B then the benefit isn't significant enough to upgrade unnecessarily.
If your interested in more information, there is an interesting Webinar coming from Eben Upton (founder of the Raspberry Pi) on the model B+ scheduled for July 31st.
In the meantime of you have any questions please feel free to leave them here in the comments, or on this forum post.