Happy Birthday Raspberry Pi! And welcome to the new Pi 3 with built in WiFi and Bluetooth

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Raspberry Pi3 is released today, February 29th, 2016
Raspberry Pi3 is released today, February 29th, 2016, complete with integrated Bluetooth and WiFi

Today is the Raspberry Pi’s fourth birthday, and along with birthday wishes, we’re welcoming their newest addition on board, the new Pi 3.  The new credit card sized model sized goes on sale today priced $35/£30, the same price as its predecessor.

Whereas in previous versions, the Pi needed USB adapters to get Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, Raspberry Pi 3 supports 802.11n Wi-Fi (2.4GHz only) and Bluetooth 4.0 without an adapter, freeing up its four USB ports for other purposes.

Also while the Raspberry Pi 2 released a year ago used a Broadcom system-on-chip with a 32-bit, 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex A7, the new Raspberry Pi 3 upgrades to a 64-bit ARM Cortex A53 that’s also quad-core and is clocked at 1.2GHz.

The device is expected to be about 50 percent faster than the previous version due to the increase in clock speeds and architectural improvements, Raspberry Pi creator Eben Upton told tech blog Ars Technica.

“The main reason we’re excited about Cortex A53 is it’s a better 32-bit processor [than A7]. You can run in 32-bit mode,” Upton said. 64-bit ARM processors also support a new ARMv8 instruction set that’s capable of speeding up both 32-bit and 64-bit operations.

While the 64-bit capability means that 64-bit operating systems could come to the Pi, there are no specific plans yet, Upton said.

“We’re going to wait until someone can demonstrate a concrete benefit to going to 64-bit before we make that our standard,” he said.

The new Pi has 1GB of RAM, the same amount as last year. For RAM usage, 64-bit is only necessary if you have more than 4GB.

Pi 3 also has a graphics upgrade, using Broadcom’s 400MHz VideoCore IV, rather than last year’s 250MHz version. The new hardware will support 1080p video at 60fps using the H.264 format, up from 30fps. It also gains H.265 support for the first time, but limited to 1080p at 30fps.

Remarkably, the Raspberry Pi has become the most popular British computer ever made in its four years of existence. The title was formerly held by the Amstrad PCW which is believed to have sold a total of eight million units.

“The two main things that people do with their Pi are use it as a PC replacement or use it as an embedded computer,” Mr Upton told the BBC.

“The Pi 3 is doubling down on both those things rather than going looking for new things to do.”

The gadget is also starting to be used widely in schools, and the Pi Foundation’s merger with the Code Club initiative will make sure it reaches more children, says Upton. “With 9-11 year-olds, we are seeing a lot of people get excited about it at that level,” he says.

UK astronaut Tim Peake also took a Raspberry Pi to the International Space Station

Chris Price
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