If you are a science hobbyist, you may have come across the popular credit card-sized computer by the name Raspberry Pi. The tiny single-board PC is revered for packing a capable computing system in an extremely portable form factor, which is just what you need to build robots and compact gadgets.
We’ve already seen the release of Raspberry Pi 1 (2012), Raspberry Pi 2 (2015), and Raspberry Pi 3 (2016). Each version came in various models and form factors, though the overall size of the device did not change.
While the small size is a selling point of the Raspberry Pi lineup, its computing capabilities are the main factor for a majority of buyers. Every release comes with a few tweaks and improvements.
The Raspberry Foundation has just released the fourth edition of the series – the Raspberry Pi 4. The initial model is hailed as Raspberry Pi 4 Model B; it comes with a host of features that may entice you enough to get you to buy one for your next project. You might even use it as a replacement for your desktop PC.
Let’s dive in some of its most striking features.
Dual monitor support, at resolutions up to 4K (3840 x 2160)
The Raspberry foundation says the Raspberry Pi 4 can feed 4k video to two monitors at 30 Hz. This is an impressive performance for a device of its size. Earlier versions of Pi could only drive one native monitor, so dual-monitor support sets apart the Pi 4 from earlier Pi models. To accommodate a dual-display output without altering the board footprint, the creators replaced the full-size HDMI port with a pair of micro-HDMI ports.
The Raspberry Pi 4 derives all its graphics muscle from a VideoCore VI, which operates at a clock speed of 500 MHz. While it can’t satisfy the requirements of hardcore gamers, it can deliver satisfactory performance in basic game titles.
The dual-monitor support will certainly spark excitement for those who want to multitask or hack productivity with their Pis.
The Raspberry Pi 4 comes with a USB-C. This connector delivers an extra 500mA of current to the board compared to the older micro-USB, allowing Pi 4 to power downstream USB devices even when the CPU is under heavy computing loads.
The USB-C is slowly becoming the industry standard connector for transferring data and power on a single cable, meaning the latest PI is up to date. Note, however, that the functions of a USB-C vary from one device to the next. In Raspberry pi 4, the USB-C port is primarily used for powering the device, but you can use it to access the device locally from your PC through the OTG feature.
Full-throughput Gigabit Ethernet
The latest Pi delivers full network connectivity, thanks to a dedicated RGMII link between the SoC and an external Broadcom PHY. The Raspberry Foundation is promoting Pi 4’s Ethernet feature as a “true Gigabit Ethernet,” which implies it can achieve actual Gb/s output because it is fed by USB 3.0 rather than USB 2.0 as in earlier models.
In a network test by Avram, the Pi 4 achieved 943 Mbps. This is five times faster than what the Pi 3B+ achieved.
Bluetooth 5.0 and USB 3.0
The Pi 4 supports next-gen Bluetooth and USB protocols. Bluetooth 5 increases the speed, range, and broadcast messaging capacity of applications, giving you the capacity to create projects in enterprise, smart home automation, and industrial markets.
By utilizing USB 3.0, the Pi 4 can transfer data 10 times faster than USB 2.0-powered models.
Raspberry Pi PoE HAT
You can power your Raspberry 4 via an Ethernet Cable, but not without a special accessory known as the Raspberry Pi Power over Ethernet (PoE) HAT. This addition allows your Pi to draw power from a PoE-enabled network. You may have to install power-sourcing equipment on your network for this feature to work.
1GB, 2GB, 4GB RAM variants
Besides taking a leap from DDR2 to DDR4 RAM, the Pi now comes in three RAM variants – 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB. The new RAM achieves read/write speeds of 4100/4400 Mbp/s. That’s a 50% improvement over the Pi 3 B+.
A More Powerful CPU
Pi 4 uses a 1.5GHz quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A72 CPU. The chip is built on a 28nm process based on the cortex-A72 microarchitecture, which gives it a significant advantage over the older 40nm SoCs that were based on the Cortex-A53 microarchitecture.
The chip has four cores, clocked at 1.5 GHz. Although this combination does not deliver a much-improved performance over the 1.4 GHz BCM2837B0 in the Raspberry Pi 3B+, it places the fourth edition of Pi at the top of the game.
One downside of the new CPU is it’s more power-hungry.
The creators of Raspberry 4 claim that you can use the device to upgrade your old projects since it is compatible with earlier Raspberry Pi products.
Whether older raspberry software is compatible with Pi 4’s Operating System is debatable at this point. Reports from industry analysts indicate that some applications, such as Retropie, cannot run on Pi 4. But whatever the case may be, let’s hope the Raspberry development team will make adjustments in the near future.
New Raspbian software
The Raspberry Pi 4 ships with what the Raspberry team calls “a radically overhauled operating system.” Rasbian Buster is a customized version of Linux, and it’s not hard to learn.
With Raspbian Buster, you have access to a hardware accelerated environment, faster and efficient data transfer, and a new interface, among other tweaks.
To install Rasbian Buster, download the image and write it to an SD card.
With enhanced features, the Raspberry 4 Model B makes a good replacement for your desktop PC. However, don’t expect it to replace your workstation. The Pi is optimized for science projects such as robot brains, media centers, smart home hubs, factory controllers,and much more.
The price of Raspberry 4 Model B varies with the amount of RAM on board as well as the type of accessories included in your purchase. The base model goes for $35. Check it on the Raspberry Store.
What feature did we omit? Comment below.
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