Raspberry Pi 2 review – not all the same
The biggest surprise of the year is the true second iteration of the greatest education and hobby tool since Arduino
We’ll be honest, when the Raspberry Pi 2 hit our desk in mid- January we were very excited to crack it open and try it out. From what we had been told this was basically the Raspberry Pi everyone had ever wanted, at least in terms of power. It was a bit of a have-your-cake-and-eat-it moment though, as we hooked up the board that was essentially a Model B+ and began using a very familiar Raspbian layout.
It worked fantastically well; while performing normal computer actions there was none of the classic slowdown the Pi used to get. We could upgrade the system and comfortably do other tasks such as web browsing or even word processing. Simple yet appreciated, and on the surface that’s really about it for the Raspberry Pi 2. There is no real killer feature of the updated Raspbian that we can point to that illustrates the new Pi’s full abilities.
However, this is frankly a great thing. The Raspberry Pi Foundation’s mission has always been education, and with the amount of excellent tutorials and software that already exist for the Raspberry Pi, making the Pi 2 very different would make the last three years of work obsolete.
Before we talk about that though, let’s bring some context to exactly what the changes are to the Raspberry Pi 2. As we’ve said and as is evident from the photos, it looks exactly the same as the Raspberry Pi Model B+. In our interview with Eben Upton, co-creator of the Raspberry Pi and co-founder of the Pi Foundation, it was mentioned that the redesign of the B+ was done to facilitate the changes planned for the Raspberry Pi 2. Specifically in this case, more room for the larger BCM2836 chip that powers the Pi 2. This is a modified version of the BCM2835 that was on the original Pi, but it now has a much beefier, quad-core, ARMv7 processor with 512Kb of cache. At the time of writing, the Pi Foundation reckons it performs six times better than the original and they have been testing out some overclocking as well.
There’s also more RAM, 1GB located on the rear of the board rather than PoP with the BCM chip. This has resulted in better heat dissipation, and overall the extra resources result in a far better Raspberry Pi as we’ve already described.
That’s about it though for additions – there’s no Wi-Fi as many people may have hoped for, but the Foundation has developed its own, very cheap dongle that it claims outperforms most current dongles recommended for the Pi.
Although you’re getting basically the same functionality, the greatly improved power and experience makes the Raspberry Pi 2 a perfect successor and replacement for the original Raspberry Pi. While it’s going to take a few months for some of the distros and packages to properly catch up with the new Pi, all the Python project code and add-on boards will work fine. All of the existing setup tutorials and project tutorials will work just as they did before, allowing people to replace their Pi in order to get a better experience without sacrificing the potential at all.
It’s also just nicer to use, and this is what a lot of hobbyists have been wanting for a long time. The extra power makes it completely viable for a lot more day-to-day tasks and projects as well, opening up the Pi to many more possibilities – all for the same extremely low price.
This is the Raspberry Pi that everyone has always wanted. It successfully brings some new potential without alienating the user, and we can safely say that it completely delivers.
The first true new iteration of the Raspberry Pi brings the power that everyone wanted with a minimal sacrifice to backwards compatibility for a few months. For the price, it’s more than worth the upgrade and it’s definitely better than some of its more expensive contemporaries.