Introducing the Raspberry Pi 3

TL;DR: The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is out now. This latest model includes 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and a quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex A53 running at 1.2 GHz. It’s a usable desktop computer. Available now at the usual Pi retailers for $35.

News of the latest Raspberry Pi swept around the Internet like wildfire this last weekend, thanks to a published FCC docs showing a Pi with on-board WiFi and Bluetooth. While we thank the dozens of Hackaday readers that wrote in to tell us about the leaked FCC documents, our lips have been sealed until now. We’ve been doing a few hands-on tests with the Pi 3 for about two weeks now, and the reality of the Pi 3 is much cooler than a few leaked FCC docs will tell you.

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B features a quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex A53 clocked at 1.2 GHz. This puts the Pi 3 roughly 50% faster than the Pi 2. Compared to the Pi 2, the RAM remains the same – 1GB of LPDDR2-900 SDRAM, and the graphics capabilities, provided by the VideoCore IV GPU, are the same as they ever were. As the leaked FCC docs will tell you, the Pi 3 now includes on-board 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. WiFi, wireless keyboards, and wireless mice now work out of the box.


This is a very special year for the Raspberry Pi foundation. Because the foundation was founded on February 29th 2012, today is technically their first birthday, or at least that’s the cheeky line they’re telling everyone. With this anniversary, celebrations are in order and a new model of the Raspberry Pi has been announced.

Pi5
The Raspberry Pi 2 (left) and the Raspberry Pi 3 (right). Physically, there are very few differences.

Specs

The headlining feature of the Pi 3 is the built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, but it doesn’t stop there. Here’s the complete specs for the Pi 3:

  • SoC: Broadcom BCM2837 (roughly 50% faster than the Pi 2)
  • CPU: 1.2 GHZ quad-core ARM Cortex A53 (ARMv8 Instruction Set)
  • GPU: Broadcom VideoCore IV @ 400 MHz
  • Memory: 1 GB LPDDR2-900 SDRAM
  • USB ports: 4
  • Network: 10/100 MBPS Ethernet, 802.11n Wireless LAN, Bluetooth 4.0

PiSpecs

The Pi 3 is exactly what you would expect from the latest Raspberry Pi. No, it doesn’t have SATA or USB C or a PCIe connector. The goal of the Raspberry Pi Foundation has always been to produce an inexpensive computer for everyone, and adding these ports would only drive up the price. Instead of pleasing the power users, the Pi Foundation has done their best to please anyone. Like the Raspberry Pi 2 from late last year, the Raspberry Pi 3 features a new CPU, a Broadcom BCM2837 quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex A53 running at 1.2 GHz.

While the most newsworthy pre-launch leak surrounding the Raspberry Pi 3 is the added wireless functionality, the big news is the upgraded CPU. With the Cortex A53, the Pi 3 has passed through a threshold. The Raspberry Pi isn’t just a board that is used to play retro video games in emulators anymore, and it’s no longer confined to duty as a set-top box. The Pi 3 is a real computer.

This is the Revolver and Fargo of the Raspberry Pi Ecosystem

When the original Raspberry Pi launched four years ago, it immediately fulfilled its promise of bringing a low-cost Linux-based computer to the masses. This promise wasn’t one to bring a high power Linux computer to the masses; checking your email, or loading a web page on the original Pi was a chore. Still, the board was capable enough to be very popular, and rightly so: there’s a lot you can do with a tiny Linux board with a few GPIO pins and an Ethernet port.

Last year, the Raspberry Pi foundation introduced the Pi 2, a much more powerful board with a faster and more capable CPU. The first impressions were wonderful. Here was a computer that could actually be used as a computer. I still have my Pi 2 connected to an old flat screen TV and keyboard on my workbench for light-duty browsing and viewing PDFs.

The Raspberry Pi 3 is another beast entirely. The Pi 3 is now over a threshold where it becomes a useful desktop computer.

Help! and A Hard Day’s Night were excellent Beatles albums, but it was Revolver that took the Beatles to the next level. Led Zeppelin I  and II were awesome, but it was IV that turned Zeppelin from a good band into a legend. To extend this metaphor into motion pictures, Raising Arizona is a cult favorite from the Coen Brothers, but it was Fargo and The Big Lebowski that put these filmmakers on the map. The Pi 3 is the Pi Foundation’s Revolver and Fargo. The Raspberry Pi has gone from a tiny, cheap Linux board that can blink a few LEDs on a GPIO to a cheap Linux box that’s fast enough to be a proper computer.

The goal of the Raspberry Pi foundation is to promote computer science in early education. While the Pi 1, Pi 2 and Pi Zero are marginally capable in this role, the Pi 3 is much more useful. This is a computer that could populate an entire elementary school computer lab. The Raspberry Pi has now passed a threshold of usefulness.

Bigshot

A Zero Sum Game

Just a few months ago, the Raspberry Pi Foundation launched the Raspberry Pi Zero, a cut-down version of the original Raspberry Pi. It sells for $5. The Internet went crazy, Pi Zeros are being gobbled up, and no one has any in stock. This $5 computer is selling for $45 on eBay. The laws of supply and demand are as unyielding as the laws of gravity and thermodynamics, and there is understandably criticism aimed at the Pi Foundation.

Fools have money
Fools have money

In speaking with [Eben Upton], wearer of many hats and founder of the Raspberry Pi foundation, there was an elephant in the room when discussing the Pi 3. Where are the Pi Zeros, and will the Pi 3 be in stock for more than a few hours?

The original Model B launch was plagued with waitlists, with people waiting months to get their hands on one. The Pi Model B+ was better, and the Pi 2 launch was exceptionally smooth, shipping 500,000 in two weeks. The launch of a Pi Zero was an aberration, due to unexpected demand and low-ish manufacturing quantities. There were only 100,000 units manufactured in the first run of Pi Zeros, with another 100,000 following shortly thereafter. Right now, there are 300,000 Pi 3s sitting in warehouses, ready to be shipped out around the world.

While the Pi 3 will prove to be very popular, you probably won’t see scalpers selling Pi 3s for hundreds on eBay. There’s enough to go around, and as long as we don’t have too many hoarders, you too can get your hands on one soon. As for the Pi Zeros, they’re coming and it’s not like they have an expiration date on them.

The Raspberry Pi Competitors

Four years ago, when it started to look like the Raspberry Pi was indeed not vaporware, there weren’t many offerings for a cheap single board computer running Linux. The best anyone could do were Gumstix, and these cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $150.

Since the release of the Raspberry Pi, everyone realized that a cheap, small device running Linux would be very useful. To give credit where it is due, [Eben] and the rest of the Raspberry Pi foundation are hugely responsible for the vast ecosystem of small embedded development boards. Everyone is in on the act: Intel has the Edison and the Quark, the BeagleBone was released nearly concurrently with the Pi, and even Apple is rumored to have an SBC in the works. Then came the clones, the knockoffs, and everyone else who wanted a piece of the game.

One of the first boards heavily inspired by the Pi was the Banana Pi, a single board computer with a strikingly similar layout to the original Pi. ODROIDs were next, followed by the Orange Pis, the UDOOs, the and the CubieBoards.

The C.H.I.P., a $9 or $8 computer, announced in May of last year. It's only beginning to ship to Kickstarter backers.
The C.H.I.P., a $9 or $8 computer, announced in May of last year. It’s only beginning to ship to Kickstarter backers.

The state of the art in cheap, consumer single board computers is beginning to show a pattern. First, the Raspberry Pi foundation releases a board, and everyone scrambles to come up with an improvement upon that board. Next, the Pi foundation releases new hardware that is at least equal to the current crop of off-brand SBCs, but also builds upon the huge Pi ecosystem and community. The other brands have another go at besting the Pi, and the cycle repeats. Remember C.H.I.P., the computer no one could believe actually cost $9? Now there’s the Raspberry Pi Zero, a computer that costs $5 (if you can find one). You still can’t buy a C.H.I.P.; they’re still handling preorders taken last May, and if you contributed to the C.H.I.P. campaign, you might be waiting another three months. In contrast, 100,000 Raspberry Pi Zeros have been shipped just a few weeks.

The latest boards heralded as a Raspberry Pi killer are the Pine64 and Odroid XU4 The XU4 costs $70 and on that basis can be rejected as a viable Pi competitor out of hand.  The Pine64 started as a Kickstarter campaign promising a quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor running at 1.2GHz, 1 Gigabyte of RAM, Ethernet, HDMI, and a few GPIO pins to blink a few LEDs. By reading the spec sheet, it’s remarkably similar to the latest from the foundation, save for WiFi and Bluetooth found on the Pi 3.  The Pine64 will be shipping out to backers shortly, but it’s already dead on arrival. I’m a backer of the Pine64 Kickstarter campaign, and I should have some commitment bias towards this cheap 64-bit computer. Even I must concede the Raspberry Pi 3 is the superior board. It comes with wirelesss, after all, and adding the immense community support, examples, and libraries that are already written, the choice is clear: the Pi foundation hit another home run.

You might think that the Raspberry Pi foundation is iterating around their competitors. This isn’t really true; the development time for the Pi Zero was about nine months, well before C.H.I.P’s Kickstarter launched. The development time for the Pi 3 was closer to 18 months, including the time it took for Broadcom to develop the new silicon.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is announcing their products with a keen awareness of the Osborne effect. There are undoubtedly plans for an upgrade to the Pi 3 in the works right now, but announcing these plans to the world would only make people wait for the next great announcement. Compared to the innumerable Kickstarter campaigns for Linux-based ARM dev boards who announce a product expecting it to ship in a year, the Pi Foundation’s approach is much more sensible. At this point, a few leaks from an FCC database a day or two before launch don’t really matter.

Software

Chromium

The Raspberry Pi was always intended to run a variety of operating systems, and for the past four years, we’ve seen just about everything. From the stock Debian distribution to much more esoteric options, ranging from Windows 10 IOT to Plan 9. The usefulness of some of these operating systems is questionable, but it’s not like more choice of OSes is bad, right?

Two operating systems that don’t get enough love on the Raspberry Pi are also two of the most common operating systems for ARM systems: Android and Chrome OS. Yes, there are projects to bring these operating systems to the Pi 2, but they’re not very mature and certainly not ready for mainstream use.

The Pi 3 will change this. It’s faster, yes, but the update to the flagship Pi comes just a few weeks after the release of an experimental OpenGL driver. Graphics, by far, have been the one item holding back a proper Android system for the Pi, and [Eben] tells me Chrome OS will come to the Pi 3 in short order.

The Future of Raspberry Pi

The Pi Zero was a home run, save for manufacturing and distribution, and a $5 computer running Linux and presenting a few GPIO pins is enough to stab the Arduinos of the world through the heart. The Pi 3 is another beast entirely. The Pi 1, Pi 2 and Pi Zero are development systems that just happen to run Linux and Super Nintendo emulators. The Pi 3 is a proper computer that also happens to have GPIO pins, a huge development scene, thousands of examples for any hardware hack you can imagine, and a community with millions of members.

The Pi 3 is also the first board that lives up to the promise of getting students interested in computer science. This is a computer that’s both inexpensive and good enough to give to a classroom of elementary school students. They’ll be able to do their homework, and the most clever of the bunch will start blinking LEDs and switching H-bridges with the pin header. The Raspberry Pi 3 is finally a computer that’s good enough to be a truly mainstream device, and not just a toy for the tech aficionados to fawn over.

We’ll be posting the benchmarks for the Pi 3 in the next few days, but until then head on over to Element 14, RS, or any of the other Pi suppliers and pick one of these boards up. There might be enough to go around.


If you’re searching for the word ‘disclosure’, there it is. The Raspberry Pi foundation sent me a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and SD card for this post.

250 thoughts on “Introducing the Raspberry Pi 3

      1. Thanks for suggesting I have vested interests in something I unfortunately have nothing to do with that I was just pointing out criticizing it considering the value is just crow-baring your opinion in..

        It’s all over now, though. I’m sure you have other places to attempt to portray yourself as wise or insightful at..

          1. Incapable of what? What are you even talking about? You’re mad because I said there is no reason to criticize a $35 board with quad-core ARM and full networking capability?

            You seem to be waiting for someone to acknowledge you for something.. Is it that you know how xor ops work? I knew that too weeks in to learning programming decades ago..

            Go try to impress someone else with your noob BS..

          2. You need to understand that you just don’t understand things that other people do. I accept now that there is no point using a communications protocol that is incompatible with you, you could just accept that too and move on.

          3. @xorpunk, Dan made a joke referencing your name and you didn’t get it. At all. You still don’t get it. I’m not sure what that says about what you know, but maybe that implies you don’t know what you don’t know. Over and out.

    1. while a lot has been said, one fact remains, this board was designed for day one all the way back to the PI1 to be a CHEAP Single Board Computer. It was not ment to be a super duper mainframe,but a way to get hackers(the good kind) a simple way to experiment with ideas. I started in home computers back in 1977,building my first PC by soldering parts onto pc cards following assembly instructions, and having Too many hours debugging(Altair,Imsai,SWTP era) my First IO was a TTY at 110 baud and paper tape as main storage. Yes these card have limits, but the creators want to keep it CHEAP. And I applaud them for it maybe next year the PI 4 will come out and “fix”some of the shortcomings. one idea i have would me someone to come up with a case similar to the Apple 2,but made to lallow us to put a Pi board in it and allow us to upgrade the boards easily as each new revision comes up. or maybe a case similar to the commodore 64. one of my old jobs was to program one to collect data using a GPIO card. if It could do it ,these boards should be able to

    2. I can’t criticize the $35. But I can criticize the $40 Adafruit is planning to charge considering the are one of the Foundation’s biggest partners. It’s an improvement over the $45 they charged for the Pi 2. But why the Foundation continues to work so closely with them and why anyone continues to buy from this company is beyond me. This is just straight ripping off your loyal customers because you can.

  1. That’s an awfully small WiFi antenna. Is there any provision for connecting an external one? It’s sort of ironic if you have to buy USB WiFi anyway just to get decent reception. Would love to hear a review of what WiFi reception is like.

  2. $61AUD after tax here in Australia on Element14. Stock due in on the 7th.

    I thought it was supposed to be the same price as the 2B? 2B is $50ex GST, 3 is $56ex GST.

  3. Quick Reply aimed at the above poster who said Bluetooth was a useless waste of resources, and only served to drive the price of the board up:
    To this I point out the Retro Pie game console builders will appreciate being able to fire up common wireless game controllers without additional hardware. Also any additional cpu/gpu speed and performance will surly be appreciated by the same crowd

    Since all my posts to date on the PI have been overly sarcastic I gotta say I’m looking forward to seeing the first USB hub “hack”

    1. USB is 2.0, else it’d be a huge announcement. Your range will vary, your best bet is either getting one for experimentation or just buying a WiFi router capable of acting like an extender and, optionally, being used with OpenWRT.

      1. i am looking to be able to share my internet access with my neighbor so i can share the costs of internet access so i need to get a 600 feet range as the neighbor lives a street down and block over from me.

        1. Then I’d take a really good directional antenna, and a good router or an external card for Raspberry Pi which the antenna could be plugged in – that’s for reaching your neighbour. Raspberry Pi’s onboard WiFi will, I think, be the best thing to make WiFi AP inside your house, which is the nature of repeaters – get WiFi and make another WiFi out of it. Also, AFAIK point-to-point WiFi over long distances was featured on Hackaday a couple of times and numerous times on the Internet in general, so I suggest you look up tested and proven solutions.

  4. For me the closed source video driver still bothers me, not enough to stop me from getting a pi3 eventually (unless I end up waiting too long and the pi4 comes out) but open closed drivers have shown in the past to inhibit the ability of people much smarter than me to make cool things I get to use.

  5. So what we need now is a high-res display suitable for VR use.
    And then it’s waiting fro the Pi people to add an accelerometer/gyro as default in the next version, while in the meantime we can use add-on boards.

    And as for the HaD staff, I knew they already had the info, that’s why I didn’t submit it but just mentioned it in a post. Submitting is useless if a site staff is jumping into a DNR embrace..

    Still though, it’s a nice bit of news and it sounds like a good Pi upgrade.
    But to still be stuck with 10/100 LAN? it’s a bit long in the tooth isn’t it? And no audio-in/mic yet? But I guess you need to not go overboard and push the price over the standard set.

  6. For the price you really can’t beat this little device. Wifi and Bluetooth alone should cost more than the entire computer does. And you are getting decent enough graphics to surf the internet or use office productivity software. In the day of apps it’s more than enough to run something like this and have it be your main computer if you need it to be.

  7. After my own extensive testing of new Raspberry pi3 as alternative for 4x Raspberry Pi2’s and Odroid XU4 that I already have for my projects (https://hackaday.io/project/10414-raspberry-pi-23-and-odroid-xu4-5x-compact-cluster) if find it disappointing many respect regarding computing improvements but integrated WiFi, BT and faster GPIO operations keep my spirit high for it. Raspberry Pi 3 have same weakness as Pi2 regarding power instability under load not to mention xeon/hi power (UV) light disruption in power distribution. Ad to that that Pi3 without Alu-coolers can get in red to 80 C deg just by performing Wolfram mathbench. I personalty had to do some intervention on it by adding more solder on connectors shielding and by adding 1000uF to input power rail of SoC regardless of fact that I get +5.18V power form super stable silver-class PC Power supply only with my modified output on 1.5m, 2.5mm2 (10 AVG) and 3mm2(8 AVG) copper lines (*not copperised Al or Fe that come with PSU) .

  8. and still no SATA, or USB C , or PCI-Ex ???!!!
    repeat afterm, S-A-T-A,
    But Yes, we have HDMI FullHD, but they talk about “expense” and yet they blow their wads for USELESS Bluetooth, and the even more useless MicroSD -which is far to expensive and slow for r/w storage
    Comon Raspberry !, the Quad-Core horsepower is there, so just at least add the darn sata storage already now will ya ? -sheessh.

  9. Hi everybody
    I am going to buy RPi3 but before do that who has been using it could send a output from command : iw list. I want to make sure if it can support ” AP ” and ” mesh point ” feature as well.
    Regards

  10. Pi 3 is a great new device. And it’s compatibility is fine – our project WTware (winterminal.com) for creating thin clients from Pi 2 started working with Pi 3 even before we received our item of Pi 3, with minimum of efforts. Hoping that it will soon work for Pi 4, Pi 5 etc. I’m renaming my project to WTware 4 Raspberry, without mentioning numbers :)

  11. I bought a few raspberry pi zero’s for much more than $5. I’ve got a team of engineers building prototypes for some kids toys based on them. $40 for a few pi zeros is way cheaper than having $500 a day engineers sit around and scratch their nuts…

    1. Do they also scratch their bolts and screws too?

      That is what engineers do if somebody says “come here, do as I want, I will give you money!” but when you get there there is nothing for them to do…..

  12. Here’s a link to a video showing how to assemble an inexpensive desktop computer using the Raspberry Pi 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqj9U-jeVkc

    The video shows how to assemble a full fledged desktop computer for under $75.00 using the Raspberry Pi 3, including:
    -The parts needed
    -How to format an SD Card and install the operating system
    -How to connect the hardware
    -The first time startup
    -How to update and upgrade the file systems
    -How to set the localization specifications
    -A tour of the desktop including the Libre Office word processor, Claws mail, Chromium web browser and the available integrated development environments

  13. mY nEIGHBOR HAS A r-pi 3-b and his wife is having soooo much fun with it and Raspian OS with cooking that he hardly has a chance to play with it. …. And I’m sitting here with 15 HP Beats 15 Laps, in a parallel HPCC config. When I couldve waited till now for 15 R 3B’s. I’m running CentOS on all laps, and I’m having a BALL with Linear Algebra though. I’m still Interested in R-3B, and hope like hell the R-PI team will fortify their R-OS as a Full SUPERBEAST. Let’s dump ExFAT32 though, that’s really not wanted, as a Secure System.

  14. Can anyone figure out a way to bootstrap one of the Movidius AI inference USBs ? I think the CPU has to be an x86-64 though so anything compatible should work.
    I have run Ubuntu on here before (Toshiba C650D-Phenom QC-6GB RAM-256GB SSD) but not sure if the latest version will run.

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