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New Raspberry Pi A+ board shrinks RPi 3B+ features to HAT dimensions

Nov 15, 2018 — by Eric Brown — 1259 views

A HAT-sized, $25, Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ will soon arrive with the same 1.4GHz quad-A53 SoC, dual-band WiFi, and 40-pin GPIO of the RPi 3B+, but with only 512MB RAM, one USB, and no LAN.

As promised, Raspberry Pi Trading has revived its old mini-size, four-year old Raspberry Pi Model A+ SBC with a new Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ model. Measuring the same 65 x 56mm as the earlier $20 RPi A+, the SBC will go on sale in early December for $25.



Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+
(click images to enlarge)

The SBC runs the same Linux distributions on the same 1.4GHz, quad-core Cortex-A53 Broadcom BCM2837B0 SoC as the 86 x 56mm, $35 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. It’s pricier than the more stripped down, $5 and up Raspberry Pi Zero family of products, which trim down to a 65 x 30mm and use a single-core, 1GHz ARM11-based Broadcom BCM2836.

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ has moved beyond the old 26-pin GPIO interface to provide a modern. HAT-ready 40-pin header. It provides the same HDMI port, microSD slot, DSI and CSI interfaces, and composite port as the latest 3B+. Like the 3B+, you get a pre-certified dual-band WiFi-ac/Bluetooth 4.2 module, which appears to be the same Cypress CYW43455 part.

The biggest sacrifice is the halving of RAM to 512MB, although this is twice the allotment of the earlier A and A+ models. There’s also no LAN port, and instead of 4x USB 2.0 host ports, you get one. The announcement mentions improvements over the 3B+ regarding USB mass-storage booting and thermal management, but offers no details.



Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ (left) and schematics
(click images to enlarge)

The new SBC offers lifecycle support through 2033, and features an optional, custom-designed case. Like other Pi boards, it’s backed by a vibrant third party ecosystem and open source community, as well as the education focused Raspberry Pi Foundation. Like the other Pi models, it’s mostly open-spec but impossible to precisely reproduce due in part to RPI Trading’s monopoly on the Broadcom SoC.


Rear view (left) and SoC closeup view from amusing Home Shopping Network send-up unveiling on YouTube (see farther below)
(click images to enlarge)

Is the gap between the RPi 3 and Zero boards enough of a window to make the 3A+ more successful than the earlier A+ and original, circa-2013 RPi Model A? The A line sold well, but never attained the popularity of the Zero or full-size Pi boards. Yet, considering that the Zero boards offer limited features and require more hardware hacking than many users prefer, the RPi 3A+ could be the “just right” alternative for those who want a smaller size without all the hassle.


Previous 65 x 56mm Raspberry Pi Model A+ (left) and original, 86 x 56mm Model A
(click images to enlarge)

The A+ line has been “one of our most frequently requested ‘missing’ products,” writes RPi CEO Eben Upton in this morning’s blog announcement. It’s also a milestone, as it represents the last of the RPi 3 line. The next Pi (presumably the RPi 4) “will need new core silicon, on a new process node, with new memory technology,” continues Upton. “So the 3A+ is about closing things out in style…” Upton adds.


RPi 3A+ case
(click images to enlarge)

The following specifications are listed for the Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+:

  • Processor — Broadcom BCM2837B0 (4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.4GHz); VideoCore IV GPU
  • Memory/storage — 512MB SDRAM; microSD slot
  • Wireless — 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11.b/g/n/ac with Bluetooth 4.2/BLE
  • Other I/O:
    • HDMI port with 1080p30 H.264 and MPEG-4 decode
    • Composite video plus stereo outputs on 4-pole 3.5mm jack
    • MIPI-DSI display
    • MIPI-CSI camera with 1080p30 H.264 encode
  • USB 2.0 host port
  • Micro-USB device port for power
  • Expansion — 40-pin GPIO (“HAT” compatible)
  • Power — 5V/2.5A DC input via micro-USB or GPIO header
  • Dimensions — 65 x 56mm
  • Operating system — Raspbian and other RPi supported distros




Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ promo video

 
Further information

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ will go on sale in early December for $25. More information may be found in the Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ announcement and product page.
 

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