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

Nov 15, 2018 — by Eric Brown — 2246 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.

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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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