RASPBERRY PI 3 MODEL B+ ON TEST
Faster networking, better processer, same £32 price
It’s a minor update, but the Pi 3 Model B+ feels like a much more complete system and remains the ultimate project computer
IT’S BEEN TWO years since Raspberry Pi last regaled us with a ‘full fat’ new model, with the foundation having released the Raspberry Pi Model 3 (Shopper 340) back in February 2016. Today, we have that model’s successor, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+.
As you might guess from that model name, this new computer isn’t a revolution, but an incremental update, improving on the original’s minor shortcomings. As such, the new model has a slightly faster processor, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and faster wired networking as its stand-out features.
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE
Of course, these are all differences that are hard to spot from the outside. In fact, stand the Model 3 next to the Model B+, and you’d be hard-pressed to see anything that has changed.
The board size remains the same, and you get the same layout, with the full 40-pin GPIO header, headers for the camera and screen, four USB2 ports, a microSD card slot and a Micro USB power input. For the latter, we recommend using a 2.0A USB charger to provide enough power for the USB ports.
Take a closer look, and you’ll see that the processor now has a very small heatsink attached to it. That’s because the quad-core Broadcom BCM2837 CPU has been clocked to 1.4GHz, up from 1.2GHz on the Pi Model 3.
The Ethernet port has also been upgraded from 10/100Mbit/s on the Model 3 to Gigabit Ethernet. However, the chipset only supports speeds of up to 350Mbit/s. Indeed, running our network throughput tests, the Model B+ topped out at 229Mbit/s when running the iPerf benchmark.
Coming soon is a new Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) hat – a type of add-on board – which means that the Pi 3 Model B+ could be powered by the same cable that delivers data. However, the pins on the board that provide this capability may mean that some older Pi 3 cases won’t fit the new model.
Wi-Fi performance is dramatically improved. The old 802.11n chip on the Model 3 was fine for getting the Pi on your network and for a bit of web browsing, but the standard is old and slow, and not so good for file transfers. Using 802.11ac is a step up, particularly if you’ve got a matching router, although you shouldn’t expect the same throughputs that you might get with a powerful laptop or smartphone.
Again, testing with iPerf, we saw throughputs of 85.6Mbit/s. That’s a far cry from the best 802.11ac performance, but a step up from the old wireless adaptor. Faster throughputs are hard, as the Model B+ doesn’t have any visible antennas, so performance was always going to be more limited than on a full-size computer.
There’s also now Bluetooth 4.2 built in, giving wider compatibility with external devices, as well as faster transport speeds.
The faster processor just gives a bit more breathing room and makes the system that little bit snappier. Running Sysbench to calculate every prime number up to 10,000, the Model B+ finished the test in 30.04s, which is a decent improvement over the Model 3’s 45.86s. That’s not life-changing levels of performance, but it should make some more complicated projects run that bit faster.
Otherwise, it’s business as usual for this new Raspberry Pi, and that’s no bad thing at all. Raspbian, the main operating system for the board, is a mature and well-supported OS that does everything you need it to.
The main benefit of buying a Raspberry Pi over rivals such as the Asus Tinker Board (Shopper 357) is the level of support you get from the community and the availability of projects. Simply put, no matter what you
The new model has a slightly faster processor, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and faster wired networking
want to achieve, there will be example projects and people out there willing to help you. That kind of backup is worth far more than the price of the board.
And speaking of the price, the Pi 3 Model B+ costs the same as the Model 3, so you can’t say fairer than that.
A SMALL STEP
On the face of things, the Model B+ isn’t the most exciting of launches. Indeed, if you have a Model 3 that you’re happy with, the new Pi isn’t a game-changer. Nonetheless, the faster networking and processor make a difference, creating a better all-rounder that can handle more demanding projects without needing a whole lot of new power.
Besides, the Pi doesn’t need to be hugely powerful for the types of jobs and projects that it’s designed for. What Raspberry Pi has done here is create the ultimate project board for today, at a price that’s still quite hard to believe. The Pi 3 Model B+ is, without doubt, the finest project computer you can buy.