The Raspberry Pi 2 Gets A Processor Upgrade

A rumor that has been swirling around the Raspberry Pi hardware community for a significant time has proven to have a basis in fact. The Raspberry Pi 2 has lost its BCM2836 32-bit processor, and gained the 64-bit BCM2837 processor from its newer sibling, the Raspberry Pi 3. It seems this switch was made weeks ago without any fanfare on the release of the Pi 2 V1.2 board revision, so we are among many news sources that were caught on the hop.

The new board is not quite a Pi 3 masquerading as a Pi 2 though. The more capable processor is clocked at a sedate 900MHz as opposed to the Pi 3’s 1.2GHz and there is no Bluetooth or WiFi on board, but the new revision will of course benefit from the extra onboard cache and the 64-bit cores.

This move almost certainly has its roots in saving the cost of BCM2836 production in the face of falling Pi 2 sales after the launch of the Pi 3. It makes sense for the Foundation to keep the Pi 2 in their range though as the board has found a home in many embedded products for which the Pi 3’s wireless capabilities and extra power consumption are not an asset.

Avid collectors of Pi boards will no doubt be running to add this one to their displays, but given that the Pi 2 sells for the same price as a Pi 3 we suspect that most Hackaday readers will go for the faster board. It is still a development worth knowing about though, should you require a faster Pi that is a little less power-hungry. The full specification for the revised board can be found on the Raspberry Pi web site.

The Pi has come a long way since the morning in 2012 when our community brought down the RS and Farnell websites trying to buy one of the first models. This BCM2837 board joins a BCM2837-powered Compute Module as well as the Pi 3. It’s worth reminding you though that there are other players to consider, earlier this year we brought you a look at the Odroid C2, and of course the infamous Apple Device.

Pi 2 header image: Multicherry [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Editorial Note: We originally covered this in Sunday’s Links article but thought it warranted another, expanded mention.

28 thoughts on “The Raspberry Pi 2 Gets A Processor Upgrade

      1. It also has a lipo charging and management circuit which the Raspberry Pi is lacking. There’s also a full-sized USB port, so no OTG adapter is needed to use USB. But if you want HDMI output then you have to shell out another $15 for an adapter board.

        A Pi Zero B with wifi+bt and lipo circuit built-in for $10 or $15 would give the Next Things Chip a run for it’s money.

        Though you can buy a Next Things Chip and Zero’s are just now becoming commonly available.

      1. The problem with these workarounds is, that they are either a) not reliable (bumping core clock doesn’t fix anything on a Pi that does other things) or b) not practical for people not familiar with Linux internals.

    1. Eben Upton’s day job is working at Broadcom and AFAIK, most of the other engineers work or worked for Broadcom on the same SoCs. Broadcom made the BCM2836 and BCM2837 specially for the Raspberry Pi and they’ve hired somebody to write an open source driver for VideoCore so they’re certainly willing to work with the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

    2. A) Broadcom made it happen by giving away the chips for a stupid price. A very smart move for what was a dead chip.

      B) The team understand the issues of fragmentation and have said that they will try to maintain supply of all older versions. Changing chips is a bad idea, a lot of hats will fail. They had enough problems with the RPi 3 chip.

    3. There is work being done on replacing the binary blob required for booting with an open implementation, and there is already a reasonably well-working open-source OpenGL-driver for them, so there is hope for them becoming some of the more open SoCs in the long run.

      1. Last time I tried the OpenGL driver, it crashed within minutes. Is it any better now? Not saying any other SoCs are doing better, just wondering for my arcade cabinet, which is still using a full blown PC due to the lack of better 3D acceleration in these small and nice boards.

  1. I would be more interested in the conversion of NOOBS to 64 bit O/S platform. Time to shuck the 32 bits. Yes, this would split the O/S 32 for the old 64 for the new. But with the PI 2 gaining 64 bit operation. It’s a no brainier.

    1. ARMv8 has its advantages too, it’s not just 64-bit capability for memory addressing.

      I wonder if Broadcom are working on a follow-up SoC for 2017’s RPi upgrade, something with more GPU for example.

        1. Yes, I think that would be a good addition. I guess would need faster peripherals though to support the extra data requirements. Now that NEC support them in their displays it may happen……

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