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Jul
24

Raspberry Pi Model B+ review – a new evolution

by Rob Zwetsloot

The latest version of the original Raspberry Pi has some essential updates while still remaining largely the same. Is it worth the upgrade?

Over the past two years we’ve come to really grow fond of the design of the Raspberry Pi. It’s almost iconic in a way, and we don’t think we’re the only ones to believe this: as you can have see with the Banana Pi review on the previous page the layout is almost identical to the standard model B.

With the brand new model B+, an enhanced version of the model B revision two, some of hardware has been relocated into a more logical and tidier layout. This is the first thing anyone will notice about the device and it’s probably got a lot to do with the new USB ports being very prominent and drawing a critical eye over the rest of the board.

The model B+ has a slick new configuration
The model B+ has a slick new configuration

It may be a slightly minor thing to pick up on but the configuration for the new model B+ loses some of that aesthetic charm for us. Now the B+ looks bland, uniform and efficient. Frankly though, this is much better for a number of reasons and we’ll surely get used to it over the next two years.

New configuration

The new layout lends itself to a much tidier work station or project innards. Everything is much more flush to the board without the USB ports or Video connector sticking way out, and with all the ports along two sides rather than all four the cabling can be a lot more tidy and the placement can be more flexible and less awkward for specific setups.

The inclusion of two more USB ports is of course a godsend to a lot of Raspberry Pi users who want to use a mouse, a keyboard, a wifi dongle and perhaps some external storage at the same time without a powered USB hub throw into the mix. There are other configurations you’ll be able to use as well but these are the common things that the original version of the Raspberry Pi limits.

As well as two more USB ports there are 14 more pins added to the GPIO port, which still remains in roughly the same position on the side of the board. The extra pins are merely added on to the end of the original layout, meaning your old projects will still work just fine. You can now do a lot more with them though which should really help to expand your projects.

Same old, same old

Despite the new configuration the actual core of the Raspberry Pi B+ is fundamentally the same as the revision two of the model B – it still has the same Broadcom ARM v6 system-on-a-chip along with the 512 Mb of RAM found in the revision two.

On the one hand, this is excellent. People getting into Raspberry Pi don’t need to learn the hard way that all the online tutorials have stopped being relevant. Those who decide to upgrade don’t need to learn anything specifically new and they can create a copy of their SD card that will work straight away in the B+.

For those satisfied with their Raspberry Pi, the lack of core changes makes it difficult to recommend as an upgrade. Sure it’s a lot nicer overall and you can do slightly more with it but the extra features won’t affect more than a small percentage of the Pi community.

Either way, the B+ is replacing the model B as the flagship Raspberry Pi so it will be there when the inevitable urge to upgrade arises. For those still hanging on to the revision one Raspberry Pi it’s a great time to upgrade and get ahead of the curve.

Verdict

5/5

It’s the ultimate evolution of the current Raspberry Pi which we already adore, so it goes without saying that the B+ gets a perfect score. From a utilitarian stand point the rearranged components are much better than the original layout. It’s not quite an essential upgrade if you’re satisfied with the normal B but it’s still better

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    • Mi Pen

      Sorry but they also needed to up the power and memory. Some of use need a little power too and arm based duo cores are dirt cheap on tablets. I tried to use an original RPI B, and it was barely usable as a media player.Not because it couldn’t play video with scamp, but that I it was choking loadind up websites. Waiting 3 mins for a page to finish opening was horric. In the end I had to give in and buy an old amd LE1640 base unit for £49.99 and install linux. This is far better. I can see the other uses this can be put towards, but to my needs it was near useless.

    • glnds

      First benchmark results Raspberry Pi B vs B+: no difference in performance but quite a huge difference in power consumption! The benchmark results can be found here: http://gleenders.blogspot.be/2014/07/raspberry-pi-b-vs-raspberry-pi-b.html

    • http://www.vmlite.com Huihong Luo, Ph.D.

      I honestly think users and communities are too generous towards Raspberry Pi, all I hear are good words on RPi. I think we should be a bit more critical to push the team to release new models. 2 years passed, we are still stick on a single core low end cpu. I have 5 Pis laying around in my house, they are just too damn slow that I stopped using them. Whenever I do something, the CPU goes to 100%. Perhaps I am not patient enough, but how come others can tolerate 100% CPU usage? I agree that RPi is a very good thing, but it also needs to move forward. Why not releasing something like quad core @ $80? just my 2 cents.

    • Lynn Willis

      The whole idea behind the Pi is to make something extremely affordable, not something extremely fast. Yes, it would be possible to make a quad core with more memory, but that’s hardly the point. The point was to get something into the hands of school children to get them involved with programming computers, not just passively playing games on them. That’s the core mission of the RasPi Foundation.

    • http://www.vmlite.com Huihong Luo, Ph.D.

      I think using a better CPU wouldn’t increase cost, perhaps due to the current RPi architecture, not easy doing so. The same cost for B+ upgrade could have been used for a more advanced cpu and still keeps $35. If we users don’t demand better from the team, they may not be motivated, which is why I am saying we can offer some criticism, instead of all praises. I personally like criticisms from others, that will drive me to make more progresses.

    • http://www.vmlite.com Huihong Luo, Ph.D.

      We have a lot of RPi users (>100k) using our rPlay iOS/Android mirroring program, but due to the slow cpu performance, we are unable to implement Chromecast on RPi, which is why I’d really like to see better models, so our users can still stick on RPi. Right now, I am starting to recommend our users to purchase Banana Pi, instead of Raspberry Pi. On Banana Pi, we can implement all features, because it supports Android, and also runs Chrome browser. Chromecast relies on Chrome browser for full features. On Raspberry Pi, we have to use a lot of workarounds to implement only a limited feature (YouTube only) for Chromecast. Of course, the video player from Raspberry Pi is very good, but a better cpu with more memory is the way to go.

    • Ricardo J. Barberis

      There are alternatives if you want more powerful boards: you mention Banana Pi and there’s also Cubieboeard, Beagleboard, Wandboard, etc.

      The Raspberry Pi Foundation has a mission and they’re succesful at it. Why change direction when others can (and do) fill in?

      BTW, if you have issues with video decoding on the RPi, maybe you’re lacking the codec licenses?

      They really help offloading video decoding to the GPU which is much more powerful than the CPU. Maybe they’ll also help running Chromecast.

    • http://www.vmlite.com Huihong Luo, Ph.D.

      RPi decoding is very good, and we are using it, otherwise video will play very slowly. The problem we are having is when cpu is used. We tried to port chrome browser to RPi, but it is not easy due to slow cpu. In order to support Chromecast fully, it requires the javascript engine, which is very slow on RPi. I think RPi team can think of upgrading to a better cpu with more memory. Hardware has advanced a lot during 2-year span, and cost dropped a lot, can still keep $35 with better hardware. It’s about the time.

    • Ben Mull

      Whilst what you say is true as far as it goes, you neglect the lead-time (~1year) necessary to bring a product to market, as well as the stated focus of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
      If it is so easy to do, why do you not do it yourself?

      With respect, you seem to be complaining about a screwdriver when a hammer is probably a more suitable tool for your task.

      What may help you is that the reported reduction in power consumption (http://gleenders.blogspot.be/2014/07/raspberry-pi-b-vs-raspberry-pi-b.html) might well enable higher over-clock numbers as a trade-off.

      I’m anticipating a B+ fairly soon, will see what it delivers.

    • http://www.vmlite.com Huihong Luo, Ph.D.

      Hi Ben, it’s not me, it’s our current RPi users who want more from RPi. We have many RPi users using our rPlay, and they request more features. They wouldn’t know whether it’s hardware limitation, or our software.

    • Ben Mull

      Aha! So it’s your users who have the unreasonable expectations then. Sounds as though they have plenty of Android and iOS toys too.

      RPi is intended for people wanting to learn essential skills. In my own experience it works wonderfully at that.

      Javascript? Chrome browser? Obese stuff.
      Not currently mission-critical to the RPi target demographic.

      Just use that Banana and pay the price, or design your own around the ARM SoC of your choice. It’s not rocket science, just hard work.

      The Foundation will undoubtedly revisit the architecture one day, but reading between the lines it will not be a crude cpu upgrade when it does come, and I’m not holding my breath for it.

      Good luck!
      Ben (long-retired ARM coder)

    • angryenglishman

      lol well try giving kids a computer that’s fast enough to use then instead of that crap slow pi if I was a kid id want to kill myself if I had to use it at school to slow, a 386 would be faster lol joke man in this age. should be quad core at least.

    • werewolfc

      RPI
      is great for small homemade projects … and for teaching. BUT, not all
      the users wan’t to thinker with GPIO (i only tested mine RPI Bv2 with a
      small Python script using GPIO and after that …. came motion :D),
      motors, cameras and so on. Some of us would lilke to use it as a small
      linux PC / mediaplayer. So, we need powerfull CPU + more RAM.
      If RPI
      Foundation is going to keep the existing line without improving hw
      specs soon, i think that the (nice and large) community will loose
      interest and dump RPI, wich will be a sad thing.
      I would love to see that RPI releases a SBC with updated hw specs, while still supporting the actual line.
      I
      would love to see that the new SBC is tailored for the usage like linux
      mini pc/mediaplayer with no GPIO,LVDS interface BUT bringing more CPU
      power and RAM to the game, still supported by the community.
      It
      doesn’t have to be dirt cheap! I’ll gladly pay a few extra $, used to
      lower the actual RPI B+ price, making it more affordably.

      RPI has a great advantage over the rest of the dev-board out there: community and support.