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Quad-core 64-bit Raspberry Pi 3 arrives with WiFi, BT, $35 price

Feb 29, 2016 — by Eric Brown 14,239 views

Raspberry Pi Trading launched a $35 Raspberry Pi 3 SBC with a quad-core, 1.2GHz Cortex-A53 Broadcom SoC plus WiFi and Bluetooth.

In the course of a year, the Raspberry Pi has moved from one of the more retro community-backed SBCs on the market to one of the most cutting edge. A few days after the Raspberry Pi 3 story leaked online, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Raspberry Pi Trading, and Element14 formally launched the shiny new 64-bit, wireless-enabled Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. The newly 64-bit hacker boards sells for the same price as the $35 Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, which delivered an even larger performance boost compared to the previous version when it launched with a quad-core, 900MHz Cortex-A7 SoC a year ago.

Raspberry Pi 3
(click image to enlarge)

As usual with new Pi boards, the Pi 3 is backward compatible to previous versions. Considering the Pi Foundation had to squeeze in a new 1.2GHz, quad-core Cortex-A53 BCM2837 system-on-chip from longtime processor partner Broadcom, as well as a Broadcom BCM43438 chip with 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.1 with BLE, it was impressive that the layout barely changed. According to Raspberry Pi Trading CEO Eben Upton’s Leap Year blog announcement, which was posted on the fourth anniversary of the original Raspberry Pi, the only notable change was the shift of the LEDs to the other side of the microSD socket in order to make room for the wireless antenna.

Raspberry Pi 3 top views
(click images to enlarge)

The BCM2837, which has the same basic design as the previous quad-core -A7 BCM2836, delivers 50-60 percent higher performance in 32-bit mode versus the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, claimed Upton. The Pi 3 is claimed to offer 2.5 higher performance than the original Cortex-A8 Pi in most real-world tasks, or a 10x performance boost over the original in multi-threaded CPU benchmarks like SysBench. There’s a claimed 20x boost for NEON-enabled video codecs compared to the Pi 1.

Key features: Raspberry Pi 3 vs. Raspberry Pi 2 Model B

Raspberry Pi 3 Raspberry Pi 2 Model B
Processor Broadcom BCM2837 Broadcom BCM2836
CPU 4x 64-bit ARM Cortex-53 cores @ 1.2GHz 4x 32-bit ARM Cortex-A7 cores @ 900MHz
GPU VideoCore IV @ 400MHz (300MHz in 3D mode) VideoCore IV @ 250MHz
Storage MicroSD
Networking 10/100 Mbps Ethernet
WiFi 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth BT 4.1 BLE
USB 2.0 4x ports
Expansion Standard RPi 40-pin header
Power 5VDC @ 2.5A max. 5VDC @ 1.8A max.
Dimensions 86 x 56 x 17mm

The Broadcom SoC includes the same VideoCore IV GPU, but at a higher clock rate of 400MHz, or 300MHz in 3D mode. Noted Upton: “VideoCore IV 3D is the only publicly documented 3D graphics core for ARM-based SoCs, and we want to make Raspberry Pi more open over time, not less.”

Pi 3 detail view
(click image to enlarge)

Despite the new overhead, the board still runs on 5V power, although Upton recommends a 2.5A adapter “if you want to connect power-hungry USB devices.” The RS shopping page for the Pi 3 is more direct, stating “Power supplies for previous Pi boards will not be sufficient.”

Raspberry Pi 3 (left) compared to Raspberry 2 Model B

Otherwise, everything else is identical to the Pi 2 Model B, including the 1GB of RAM. For now, the Pi 3 is staying with the default 32-bit Raspbian Linux distribution. Upton says the Pi Foundation is considering a move to 64-bit.

Eben Upton
with Compute Module 3

An upcoming third-generation version of the Raspberry Pi Compute Module with the same 64-bit, ARMv8 BCM2837 chip was demo’d at launch events today, and is due to ship in a few months, but without the wireless chip. The current Compute Module still runs the original Cortex-A8 BCM2835 SoC. All other Pi models are still available without pricing changes, including the $35 Pi 2 Model B.


At the launch event, Element14 director of strategic alliances Richard Curtin showed off a variety of new accessories for the Pi 3 sold by Element14. These include the required new 2.5A power supply, as well as a new Pi Case, and a new 16GB NOOBS microSD card.

Other add-ons include the PiFace accessory for IoT prototyping, which offers “easy to wire terminals,” enabling control over motors, fans, lights, and the status of switches and sensors, said Curtin. There’s also a new IoT Starter Kit for IoT gateways, a collaboration between Element14, IBM, and EnOcean. Aimed at “intelligent buildings,” the platform includes IBM’s BlueMix Cloud and Watson-derived AI. There’s also a Bitscope Blade, which offers scalable IoT connectivity.

Two 64-bit SBCs: Raspberry Pi 3 (left) and Odroid-C2
(click images to enlarge)

The Raspberry Pi 3 is roughly on par with one of its biggest competitors: Hardkernel’s $40 Odroid-C2, which debuted earlier this month. The Odroid-C2 has a quad-core, Cortex-Amlogic S809 SoC clocked to a higher 2GHz, but there’s no onboard wireless.

To date, some 8 million Raspberry Pi boards have shipped, said Upton at the launch event (see video below). Most were built by current manufacturer Element14, whose board customization service, which was announced in October, has been “proved incredibly popular,” added Curtin.

Summary of Raspberry Pi 3 Model B specs

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

  • Processor — Broadcom BCM2837:
    • CPU — 4x 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 cores @ 1.2GHz
    • GPU — dual-core Videocore IV @ 400MHz (300MHz in 3D mode)
  • Memory — 1GB LPDDR2 RAM
  • Storage — microSD slot
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet port
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11b/g/n WiFi
    • Bluetooth 4.1 with BLE
    • Chip antenna
  • Multimedia:
    • 1x HDMI port (full size)
    • 1x 3.5mm 4-pole composite video and audio output jack
    • DSI display output port
    • CSI camera input port
  • 4x USB 2.0 ports
  • Expansion — standard RPi 40-pin GPIO and serial I/O header
  • Power — 5VDC @ 2.5A max, via microUSB connector
  • Dimensions — 86 x 56 x 17mm
  • Operating systems — various ARM Linux distributions; Windows 10 IoT

Raspberry Pi 3 launch event video

Further information

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is available now for $35 at Element14’s Pi 3 page. More information is available at the Pi Foundation blog announcement and the RS Pi 3 page, where the Pi 3 sells for $56.16.

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4 responses to “Quad-core 64-bit Raspberry Pi 3 arrives with WiFi, BT, $35 price”

  1. Jj says:

    Now I have dilema: odroid C-2 or this?

  2. wally b greene says:

    Can someone please explain why there is any real benefit to having a 64-bit OS on a system with less than 4GB of RAM?

    I don’t have much use for WiFi or Bluetooth in my applications, but ~40% speedup at the same price is pretty compelling unless they drop the Pi2 price to ~$20.

    Can the WiFi & Bluetooth be disabled to save power when not being used?

  3. Dave says:

    The Raspberry Pi 3 manual in the box says minimum 2A charger is required so saying a 2.5A charger is needed maybe disingenuous.

  4. Columbus Manozca says:

    Is that due to production capacity, as mostly all capacity is used for the new model 3, or do we have to face a permanent price increase?

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