Introducing the Raspberry Pi 2

TL;DR It’s called the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B. Quad core ARM Cortex A7 with one Gig of RAM. It’s the same form factor as the Raspberry Pi Model B+. Available now at Newark, Element 14, Allied, and RS Components. It’s the same price as the old one.


The original Raspberry Pi released, three years ago, was looking a bit long in the tooth when it was first launched. That’s to be expected for a computer that sells for $35 USD. Three years is a long time in the world of electronics, and the Pi is due for an update. It’s here, now, and the biggest change is a faster quad-core chip, a better processor architecture, and 1GB of RAM.

The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B features a quad-core ARM Cortex A7 running at 1GHz with 1GB of RAM. This chip uses the ARMv7 architecture instead of the ARMv6 of the original Raspi. When playing around with it, it was noticeably zippier than my months-old Raspi Model B in web browsing tasks. Very, very cool, and something that opens up a few doors for CPU-intensive applications.

Although the CPU has been updated, there isn’t much else on the Pi that has changed. USB and Ethernet is still handled by the LAN9514 USB/Ethernet controller. If you’re looking for Gigabit Ethernet, sorry that’s not going to happen. We’re not going to get eMMC Flash, SATA ports, or anything groundbreaking other than the CPU with this hardware update. It’s pretty much just a CPU and RAM upgrade.

All the original ports found on the Raspberry Pi Model B+ are found on the Raspi 2; HDMI, audio, analog video, Ethernet, USB, CSI, the as-for-now unused DSI, and GPIO ports haven’t changed. Again, we’re looking at a CPU and RAM upgrade with this hardware release.

Instead of the odd Package On Package CPU and RAM stack featured in previous Raspberry Pis, the RAM has now moved to the back on the Raspi 2:

raspiback

The RAM chip is an Elpida EDB8132B4PB-8D-F, an eight gigabit DDR2 RAM that has the same clock rate as the RAM in the original Raspi. Don’t look for an increase in memory performance or speed. Instead, just be glad there’s now a full gigabyte of RAM on the Raspi.

A few of you may remember the ‘upgrade’ all those Raspberry Pi early adopters missed out on. After the first few hundred thousand Raspberry Pi Model Bs shipped, someone realized they could upgrade the RAM from 256 MB to 512 MB. It is not yet known whether the Raspberry Pi 2 will be upgraded as easily. Sixteen gigabit RAMs do exist, but now that the CPU and RAM aren’t on the same package, there’s more to consider than just plopping down a new RAM chip.

Compatibility

As far as software is concerned, just about everything that ran on the original Raspberry Pi will run on the Raspberry Pi 2. The capabilities of the Raspberry Pi 2 are a superset of the original. This is an entirely new processor architecture; the Pi 1 used a chip with the ARMv6 architecture, and the Cortex A7 uses the ARMv7 architecture. This is huge. The Raspberry Pi 2 can now run a modern Android system. There’s a ton of stuff that’s possible with the Pi 2 that was unimaginable with the Pi 1.

There is one caveat when it comes to software on the Pi. The Foundation sent me a Pi 2 and an SD card loaded up with a Raspbian distro. This worked well until I was a moron a few times and cut the power to the Pi 2 without doing a proper shutdown. The card was corrupted. I downloaded the current-as-of-a-week-ago Raspbian image. The Pi 2 will not boot this image. If you’re doing stuff with the kernel, there is a difference between the Pi 1 and Pi 2, and there will be specific disk images for the Pi 1 and Pi 2.

Interestingly, a Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ will boot the Pi 2’s Raspbian image. This is somewhat interesting, as the CPU on the Pi 2 is effectively a superset of the CPU on the Pi 1. I’ve talked to people with about a century of combined experience with ARM and Linux, and nobody knows what’s up with this.

For hardware, everything you’d expect from the GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi is present on the Raspberry Pi 2. It’s the usual 40-pin expansion header we’ve all come to expect, and as far as I can tell, there is no change between the Raspi and Raspi 2.

Concerning the form factor, just about every case that is compatible with the Raspberry Pi Model B+ should be compatible with the new Raspi 2 Model B+. I’ve tested the new Pi with a case from HammondCamdenBoss, and Pimoroni Pibow Coupe. Only the Pimoroni was incompatible with the new Raspi 2, but that’s only due to a piece of acrylic interfering with the new, larger CPU. A pair of dykes quickly solved that problem sent shattered acrylic shooting across the room. Use a thin saw or file. In terms of form factor, consider this identical to the Model B+.

Other Models

There’s more than one Pi in the Raspberry Pi ecosystem, but for now, the Model A+ and the Raspberry Pi compute module will retain the old BCM2835 chipset. That’s not to say they won’t be upgraded in the future; the board layout between the Pi 1 Model B+, A+, and compute module are extremely similar around the CPU and RAM. An update to the ‘lesser’ Pis may just be a matter of futzing about with whatever EDA software the foundation uses.

Historically, the Raspberry Pi foundation has used the Model B as their flagship product that sees new innovations first. When the Model B+ received a new form factor and more GPIO pins, it took about four months for the Model A to move up to the new design standards. If you’re waiting for an ARM Cortex A7 board in the A+ or Compute Module form factor, you’ll probably be waiting until June or July.

Benchmarks and Performance

Comparisons Since the Raspberry Pi was introduced a few years ago, there has been an explosion of small, cheap ARM Linux boards. Compared to the Banana Pi, Cubieboard2, or the Odroid, the 700MHz ARM11 CPU found in the original Raspberry Pi has seemed a little anemic for the last few years. This is not a fault of the Raspberry Pi; the idea of the Raspberry Pi was to produce a small, single-board Linux computer for about $35 USD. The ‘clone’ boards like the Banana Pi and Odroid came later, with access to better, cheaper silicon, and are not constrained by the $35 USD price point. There will always be better options at a higher price point.

Any comparisons between the Raspberry Pi, ‘clone’ boards, and larger, more capable, and more expensive boards like the Hummingboard and BeagleBone Black must take into consideration the price of the board. Currently, there are few boards that match the power and the price of the Raspberry Pi 2, the Odroid C1 being the one that matches the Raspberry Pi 2 in terms of performance and capability. I do not have an Odroid C1, though, and I’m not going to phone in a comparison between the two.

I do, however, have a Raspberry Pi Model B+. Tomorrow, I will be posting some benchmarks between the Raspberry Pi 2 and a Raspberry Pi Model B+.

Power

I just so happen to have a FriedCircuits USB current/voltage/power meter sitting around. When monitoring the power consumption of the Raspi 2, there is a slight increase in power consumption over the Raspberry Pi 1.

When booting to a Raspbian desktop, the Raspberry Pi 1 draws about 290mA, dropping to about 250mA once the desktop is loaded. The Raspberry Pi 2 draws about 340mA at boot, dropping to about 270mA once the desktop is loaded. There is a slight increase in current draw from the Raspi 1 to the Raspi 2.

With a few experiments, I did determine the Raspberry Pi 2 will draw up to 500mA under heavy load. That’s the max spec for USB. If your current USB power adapter isn’t great, you might want to get a better one for the Raspi 2.

Speed

I’ll be posting something on the speed and benchmarks of the Raspberry Pi 2 tomorrow. Until then the time to boot to a desktop can serve as a sufficient characterization of the speed in the Raspberry Pi 2.

Using the same SD card in both tests, the Raspberry Pi 2 boots to a Raspbian desktop in about 22 seconds. For the same test, a few months-old Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ boots to a Raspbian desktop in about 41 seconds. Test conditions were ‘from the point the Raspberry appears where Tux should appear on the console’ to ‘when the CPU monitor in the corner of the screen bottoms out’. By any measure, the Raspberry Pi 2 is significantly faster.

Where to get one

Anyone who was around for the launch of the Raspberry Pi 1 will remember the months-long waits from Newark, Farnell, Allied, and RS components. Part of this was due to the huge demand, but a significant bit of the blame for the backorders would fall on the Raspberry Pi foundation. It’s understandable; at the time, they were looking at success they hadn’t dreamed of.

This time around, they’re prepared. [Eben] tells us there are 100,000 Raspberry Pi 2 Model Bs sitting in warehouses right now. It’s going to take a while before the new Pis make their way to Fry’s and Microcenter, but we’re looking at waiting a few weeks, not the months of the original launch.

Wrap-up

For the most part, this is simply an upgrade to the CPU and RAM of the Raspberry Pi Model B. Right now, there are no distributions or software compiled specifically for the Raspberry Pi 2, and having the software that will take advantage of the much faster, multi-core CPU of the Raspi 2 will take a while.

The faster and larger CPU of the Raspi 2 opens a few doors for interesting applications. The somewhat anemic CPU of the original Raspberry Pi limited interesting applications of a tiny Linux board. Applications like computer vision and anything where a high amount of I/O was happening at any one time were out of the question. This hardware revision will fix that.

Future updates to the Raspberry Pi will include a Model A+ and Compute Module. Those will probably appear in a few months. You’re not going to hear anything about an improved Raspberry Pi 2 or a Raspberry Pi 3.

There will be a detailed breakdown and benchmarks for the Raspberry Pi 2 posted tomorrow.


If you’re searching for the word ‘disclosure’, there it is. At my request the Raspberry Pi foundation sent me a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B and SD card for this post.

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