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Raspberry Pi 2 has quad-core SoC, keeps $35 price

Feb 2, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 0 views
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[Updated 7AM] — The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B moves up to a 900MHz, quad-core Cortex-A7 CPU with 1GB RAM, and offers backward compatibility and the same $35 price.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation announced a much faster new version of the world’s leading community-backed, hacker-friendly Linux SBC. The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B moves from Broadcom’s 700MHz, ARM11 based Broadcom BCM2835 system-on-chip to a new quad-core Broadcom BCM2836 SoC clocked at 900MHz, and doubles RAM to 1GB.

According to Matt Richardson, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s U.S.-based evangelist, the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B is “highly backward compatible” with the previous Pi models, and offers an almost identical feature set and port placement as the Raspberry Pi B+. The new SBC is even the same size (85 x 56mm) and weight (45 grams).

Raspberry Pi 2 Model B (left) compared to earlier Raspberry Pi Model B+
(click images to enlarge)

Importantly, the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B’s 40-pin expansion connector has the same pinout as that of the B+, adds Richardson. This also means that, like the B+, the new SBC offers backward compatibility with the original 26-pin connector on the first-generation Pi Model B.

Four views of the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B
(click images to enlarge)

The new SBC’s 900MHz BCM2836 SoC is equipped with four Cortex-A7 cores, which means it moves up from an ARMv6 architecture to ARMv7, like just about every other modern ARM SoC. The SoC appears to have been designed specially for the Pi — and why not, with over four million devices sold? The new SoC cranks up the processing power, but is otherwise almost identical.

The new Broadcom SoC’s VideoCore IV GPU is the same as that provided by the BCM2835 in the earlier Pi models, so the new SBC’s video capabilities — 1080p video at 30 frames per second — matches that of the earlier SBCs. However, presumably the video will run a bit more smoothly on the new board, due to the faster (and multi-core) SoC along with the doubled RAM.

The Pi moves to Ubuntu and Windows 10, but where’s the Android?

Users will need to download “an updated NOOBS or Raspbian image including an ARMv7 kernel and modules,” writes the Pi Foundation’s Eben Upton in the blog announcement. “At launch, we are using the same ARMv6 Raspbian userland on both Raspberry Pi 1 and 2,” he continues. “Over the next few months we will investigate whether we can obtain higher performance from regular ARMv7 Debian, or whether we can selectively replace a small number of libraries to get the best of both worlds. Now that we’re using an ARMv7 core, we can also run Ubuntu: a Snappy Ubuntu Core image is available now and a package for NOOBS will be available in the next couple of weeks.”

Presumably, the quad-core SoC could also run Android, which was not feasible on the previous Pi SBCs, but is something most hacker boards can do easily. Surprisingly, the announcement says nothing about Android, but does mention that it will run Windows 10.

“For the last six months we’ve been working closely with Microsoft to bring the forthcoming Windows 10 to Raspberry Pi 2,” writes Upton. “Microsoft will have much more to share over the coming months. The Raspberry Pi 2-compatible version of Windows 10 will be available free of charge to makers.”


Comparison between Pi 2 Model B and Pi Model B+

  Raspberry Pi 2 Model B Raspberry Pi Model B+
Processor Broadcom BCM2836
4x ARMv7 cores @ 900MHz
Broadcom BCM2835
1x ARMv6 core @ 700MHz
GPU Broadcom VideoCore IV Broadcom VideoCore IV
Power (typical) 800mA @ 5V 600mA @ 5V
List price $35 $35

In an email to LinuxGizmos, Richardson said the new board’s silkscreen was different than that of the first-generation B+. He also noted that “The RAM is no longer package on package, so you’ll notice the Broadcom logo on the chip and the RAM on the bottom of the board.”

Raspberry Pi 2 Model B back (left) and 40-pin expansion pinout
(click images to enlarge)

The board’s microSD slot on the back side of the board is visible in the photo above. The pads labeled “J5” on the back of the board are for JTAG access, which is mainly for VideoCore debug using the Broadcom toolchain, says Richardson.

The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B continues to run on 5V power, which you can draw from either the micro-USB port or the 40-pin expansion header. Typical power consumption, however, has risen from 600mA (3 Watts) to 800mA (4 Watts), which is understandable given there are three more CPU cores than before, and they run at a faster clock rate.

Summary of Raspberry Pi 2 Model B specs

The following specifications are listed for the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B:

  • Processor — Broadcom BCM2836 (4x Cortex-A7 cores @ 900MHz) with VideoCore IV GPU @ 250MHz and DSP; OpenGL ES 2.0 (24 GFLOPS); 1080p30 MPEG-2 and VC-1 decoder (with license); 1080p30 h.264/MPEG-4 AVC high-profile decoder and encoder
  • Memory — 1GB SDRAM (shared with GPU)
  • Storage — microSD slot
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet port
  • Other I/O ports:
    • 4x USB 2.0 ports
    • Micro-USB port (for power)
    • HDMI 1.4 port with audio
    • Composite video (PAL/NTSC) out (on shared 4-pole 3.5mm jack)
    • Stereo audio out (on same 3.5mm jack as Composite)
    • 15-way MPI CSI-2 connector (for Raspberry Pi HD video camera)
    • 15-way DSI (Display Serial Interface) connector
    • Header footprint for JTAG connector
  • Expansion — 40-pin connector for GPIO and serial buses (pin compatible with 26-pin)
  • Power — +5V via micro-USB or GPIO header; 800mA (4.0 W) consumption
  • Dimensions — 85 x 56mm
  • Weight — 45gm
  • Operating system — Linux

Pi envy

Last year, the Raspberry Pi Foundation substantially upgraded the feature set of the Model B and stripped-down Model A with the Model B+ and Model A+, respectively. With the A+ it even lowered the price by $5 to $20. All this has helped keep Pi sales going at their usual brisk pace.

All the earlier Pi models will continue to be sold at their existing prices. There are no plans to update the Model A line in 2015, but the company does plan to release a RPi 2 version of the Raspberry Pi Compute Module later this year.

Despite the “+” updates of 2014, many Pi lovers have been frustrated the Pi hasn’t moved beyond the original single-core ARM11 Broadcom SoC. This conservative approach has helped to maintain a close compatibility between versions, but has led some users to try out faster Pi clones such as the Banana Pi with a faster, 1GHz Cortex-A7 based Allwinner A20 SoC.

Additionally, two competing Gen-2 Banana Pi designs recently emerged: SinoVoip’s $59 Banana Pi M2 moves up to an RPi2-like quad-core Cortex-A7 SoC, in this case an Allwinner A31 clocked to 1GHz; alternatively, Lemaker’s $55 Banana Pro offers a more modest upgrade than the M2, retaining the original BPi’s Allwinner A20 SoC while adding WiFi and a micro-USB OTG port.

Upper row: Raspberry Pi 2 Model B (left) and Banana Pi M2
Lower row: Banana Pro (left) and Odroid-C1

(click images to enlarge)

For those willing to forgo full Raspberry Pi compatibility, there are many other low-cost ARM hacker boards, such as Hardkernel’s $35 Odroid-C1, featuring four Cortex-A5 cores at 1.5GHz, dimensions matching those of the Pi, and a quasi-Pi-compatible 40-pin expansion bus. A more recent entrant in the Pi-like field is the Orange Pi, from Shenzhen Xunlong Software, which comes in $39.80 Orange Pi Mini, $49 Orange Pi, and $69 Orange Pi Plus flavors.

Left to right: Orange Pi, Orange Pi Mini, Orange Pi Plus
(click images to enlarge)

The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, meanwhile, should keep the Pi faithful happy for some time to come, especially since it’s still priced at $35. The continuation of Broadcom as the chip manufacturer may not please everybody, but the Pi Foundation has worked hard to open up the processors more to give developers access. Sticking with Broadcom should help ensure better software compatibility, especially on graphics-intensive applications.

Some might have hoped for a gigabit Ethernet port instead of 10/100, and others some built-in flash memory would have been nice, such as the 4GB on the BeagleBone Black or the Cubieboard2. Still, along with the earlier upgrades on the B+, such as the move to four USB ports, the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B stacks up very nicely with the competition.

Further information

The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B is available now for orders at Element14 in North America for $35, but is listed as out of stock. It’s also available in the U.K. at RS Components for £22.85, where it’s listed as in stock for delivery the next working day. More information may be found in the Raspberry Pi 2 blog announcement.

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5 responses to “Raspberry Pi 2 has quad-core SoC, keeps $35 price”

  1. Gary Stewart says:

    It should also be noted that the Raspberry Pi ‘s VideoCore IV GPU is the only one that has had
    its specifications open sourced making the Pi a more open design than any of the competitors.

  2. CFWhitman says:

    Another board worth mentioning in the discussion at the end might be the Freescale i.MX6 based Hummingboard. Of course, that may be true of several other boards as well, but the Hummingboard is another board designed to fit in enclosures for the original Raspberry Pi, and it’s software stack is pretty open.

    The worst thing about the Raspberry Pi 2 is that it will probably be months before the rush dies down enough for me to get my hands on one. Oh well, I suppose that will give developers time to get various distributions ready.

  3. Sum Yung Gai says:

    This new version of the Pi will solve so many problems. It’s the perfect thing for home email/DNS/Web servers. Remember, most techie home users who host their own stuff don’t have high CPU or throughput requirements. This is great for them. And now that it’ll be able to run stock Debian, the goodness is all the better.


  4. David Eaton says:

    I’m really excited about this new version. Does anyone know if they are available yet in the U.S.?

  5. Heather says:

    The new raspberry PI really opens a lot of doors for programmers that like to have something they can call their own. Soon enough I can see this gizmo as a requirement for innovative programmers.

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