Thursday, November 15th 2018

The New Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ is Here: Smaller, Cheaper, But With Compromises

The original Raspberry Pi showed the world that we could have (almost) a computer for $35. This little prodigy has surprised us over and over again, and their developers have now announced the Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+, which according to them "is about closing things out in style" on the current generation of this miniPC. The new version has shrunk down the previous Model B+ both in size and in price: it is now available for just $25. To accomplish that we'll have to live with certain comprises.

The new model keeps the same CPU, but halves the memory to 512 MB of LPDDR2 SDRAM, the four USB 2.0 ports are reduced to one, and there is no Ehernet port available. The rest of its connectivity options are still there, including the 802.11 ac WiFi or the Bluetooth 4.2 LE support. The new model sits therefore between the even more compact Raspberry Pi Zero W and the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ announced in March 2018. As Eben Upton explained on the official announcement, the next Raspberry Pi will be quite different from the current generation: "whatever we do next will of necessity be less of an evolution, because it will need new core silicon, on a new process node, with new memory technology". Until that future model arrives, though, the new and compact version of the Raspberry Pi could be an interesting option for many users.
Source: Raspberry Pi Foundation
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17 Comments on The New Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ is Here: Smaller, Cheaper, But With Compromises

#1
natr0n
They are becoming nvidia now with these variants.
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#2
bug
natr0n, post: 3942846, member: 102496"
They are becoming nvidia now with these variants.
If you buy these in bulk (and don't need the extra connectivity and RAM), I'm sure you'll dig a 30% price decrease ;)
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#3
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
So they basically just cut down the size and cost by eliminating pretty much all the connectivity. Doesn't really seem worth it, IMO. If anything I would have rather seen them give us a USB2.0 Header instead of the port, so we can at least connect a front panel USB header from a computer case and get two ports instead of just the one and it would have taken up the same amount of PCB space.
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#4
silentbogo
dmartin, post: 3942838, member: 181885"
the next Raspberry Pi will be quite different from the current generation: "whatever we do next will of necessity be less of an evolution, because it will need new core silicon, on a new process node, with new memory technology".
What a big load of bullshit. They will keep milking that cow with outdated and underspecced hardware until one of the chinese companies decides to invest some time and effort into a long-term software support.
While competition already offers onboard eMMC storage, USB3.0, 1-2GB RAM, and real GbE, this piece of crap is still the same old SD-only, USB2.0, old Broadcom chipset, half-a-gig to gig of DDR2, and topped off with fake Gig ethernet over USB (which may cause some issues with third-party distros, just like USB2.0 hub on my OPi Win Plus).
This is basically the same shit, only made cheaper by cutting all peripherals. Not even small enough to compete with $10 IoT boards with better specs.
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#5
Nioktefe
newtekie1, post: 3942870, member: 20670"
So they basically just cut down the size and cost by eliminating pretty much all the connectivity. Doesn't really seem worth it, IMO. If anything I would have rather seen them give us a USB2.0 Header instead of the port, so we can at least connect a front panel USB header from a computer case and get two ports instead of just the one and it would have taken up the same amount of PCB space.
It's not a matter of connector, the cpu only handle one usb port, on the 3b+ version the ethernet and additionnal usb port are handled by a usb hub (with integrated ethernet)
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#6
TheLostSwede
newtekie1, post: 3942870, member: 20670"
So they basically just cut down the size and cost by eliminating pretty much all the connectivity. Doesn't really seem worth it, IMO. If anything I would have rather seen them give us a USB2.0 Header instead of the port, so we can at least connect a front panel USB header from a computer case and get two ports instead of just the one and it would have taken up the same amount of PCB space.
You're aware that the Broadcom made SoC they use only supports one native USB interface, right? So what you want would require a USB hub, which is what they removed, although one combined with an Ethernet controller as well. The Wi-Fi is via SDIO.
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#7
Frick
Fishfaced Nincompoop
silentbogo, post: 3942871, member: 141875"
What a big load of bullshit. They will keep milking that cow with outdated and underspecced hardware until one of the chinese companies decides to invest some time and effort into a long-term software support.
While competition already offers onboard eMMC storage, USB3.0, 1-2GB RAM, and real GbE, this piece of crap is still the same old SD-only, USB2.0, old Broadcom chipset, half-a-gig to gig of DDR2, and topped off with fake Gig ethernet over USB (which may cause some issues with third-party distros, just like USB2.0 hub on my OPi Win Plus).
This is basically the same shit, only made cheaper by cutting all peripherals. Not even small enough to compete with $10 IoT boards with better specs.
Basically this. I was super excited for the first generation, which was good, but I was super broke at the time so I never got one, and after that it has never been worth it. I look at them from time to time (my interests shifted a bit) but they've never appealed and they're just dissapointing. Plus they are so popular, despite everything, they never ever come down in price and even used ones cost more than new boards with better specs.
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#8
silentbogo
Frick, post: 3943030, member: 23907"
Basically this. I was super excited for the first generation, which was good, but I was super broke at the time so I never got one, and after that it has never been worth it. I look at them from time to time (my interests shifted a bit) but they've never appealed and they're just dissapointing. Plus they are so popular, despite everything, they never ever come down in price and even used ones cost more than new boards with better specs.
The last one I bought was an RPi2 when it just came out. There was some kind of early sale at Element14, so I got it for $25. At its normal price I would've settled on some NanoPi board or Pine A64, which was the shit at the time (quad-core, 2GB RAM, eMMC, tons of I/O, same price).
Sold it a few months later and bought my current OrangePi Win Plus without losing a penny in the process.
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#9
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
Nioktefe, post: 3942878, member: 103262"
It's not a matter of connector, the cpu only handle one usb port, on the 3b+ version the ethernet and additionnal usb port are handled by a usb hub (with integrated ethernet)
TheLostSwede, post: 3942908, member: 3382"
You're aware that the Broadcom made SoC they use only supports one native USB interface, right? So what you want would require a USB hub, which is what they removed, although one combined with an Ethernet controller as well. The Wi-Fi is via SDIO.
Yes, I'm aware, but I'm also aware of how small and cheap USB hub chips have gotten. IMO they could have fit the chip on the board if they had switch to a header and the dollar or so extra for the chip would have been worth it.
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#10
silentbogo
newtekie1, post: 3943088, member: 20670"
Yes, I'm aware, but I'm also aware of how small and cheap USB hub chips have gotten. IMO they could have fit the chip on the board if they had switch to a header and the dollar or so extra for the chip would have been worth it.
I got one better: drop Broadcom as an exclusive partner and get an adequate SoC. Like a dirt-cheap Allwinner H6 which runs circles around bcm2837, or Samsung, or Amlogic, or even an entry-level Qualcomm.
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#11
TheLostSwede
newtekie1, post: 3943088, member: 20670"
Yes, I'm aware, but I'm also aware of how small and cheap USB hub chips have gotten. IMO they could have fit the chip on the board if they had switch to a header and the dollar or so extra for the chip would have been worth it.
In the volumes they sell, it would be more like 50 cents...

silentbogo, post: 3943099, member: 141875"
I got one better: drop Broadcom as an exclusive partner and get an adequate SoC. Like a dirt-cheap Allwinner H6 which runs circles around bcm2837, or Samsung, or Amlogic, or even an entry-level Qualcomm.
The H6 had very poor Linux support, a bodged PCIe interface and little to no manufacturer support. So another flawed product. Amlogic aren't big on Linux or openness. Samsung, maybe, but why would they care? Qualcomm, possibly after the merger with NXP, as long as you don't mind paying twice as much for the board.

Biggest problem is still going to be graphics and video drivers, as they're all proprietary. This is the one common flaw in all these boards.
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#12
silentbogo
TheLostSwede, post: 3943105, member: 3382"
The H6 had very poor Linux support
Armbian w/ 4.18 is available, and issues are not that critical (even my desktop loses USB3.0 devices on occasion).
S905 also has decent support with stable releases based off 4.xx kernel
All with hardware acceleration.
Qualcomm is more expensive (though not as expensive as you think), but I'm sure they will dump their leftover 410 in bulk no problem, otherwise we wouldn't have those cheap-ass chinese phones sporting authentic Qualcomm SoCs. Just an example: a Dragonboard costs 75 green piastres, and an ugly Lenovo K3 knock-off costs 75 american rubles. A phone includes an LCD display, plastic housing, bunch of other parts and is generally harder to make. So, realistically they can make a $50 dev board based on this chip and still make good profit. You may argue that they can't make it happen in UK and have to outsource to China, but they had been doing that since RPi2 days anyways.
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#13
TheLostSwede
silentbogo, post: 3943124, member: 141875"
Armbian w/ 4.18 is available, and issues are not that critical (even my desktop loses USB3.0 devices on occasion).
S905 also has decent support with stable releases based off 4.xx kernel
All with hardware acceleration.
Qualcomm is more expensive (though not as expensive as you think), but I'm sure they will dump their leftover 410 in bulk no problem, otherwise we wouldn't have those cheap-ass chinese phones sporting authentic Qualcomm SoCs. Just an example: a Dragonboard costs 75 green piastres, and an ugly Lenovo K3 knock-off costs 75 american rubles. A phone includes an LCD display, plastic housing, bunch of other parts and is generally harder to make. So, realistically they can make a $50 dev board based on this chip and still make good profit. You may argue that they can't make it happen in UK and have to outsource to China, but they had been doing that since RPi2 days anyways.
Considering it barely works on the H5, do you really expect a community built Linux OS is going to work on a fairly new chip straight away?
Sorry, but it doesn't. The basics might work, but it's not at an acceptable level imho.

Hardware acceleration for? Video playback? Great, but does it support all the codecs? Does the GPU work with full 3D acceleration? I guess not.

It's not about what I think, it's what I know. Also, to work with Qualcomm, you need to order large number of chips, which a lot of businesses can't do. Personally I don't want to touch the 410, but that might be a not so expensive part at least. Do they do video/graphics drivers for Linux though? Not even asking for open source, just working drivers on parity with Android.

The funny thing is, phones are cheap, ARM based boards somehow are not as soon as you glance at Qualcomm, I don't know why.

I'm about to help launch a new development board that won't be super cheap either, but at least we've done our best to provide modern software with 4.18.x, rather than 4.4 or some other old crap. It's a bit of a different idea behind the boards as well, as the target isn't educational use as the RPi. However, as it's from a smaller company, the price isn't that competitive, so we'll see if it works out.
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#15
GreiverBlade
well i am fine now ... my less recent Odroid C2 is still going strong, i bought numerous Pi : 2 3B 3B+ ... none of them (inclusive the latest one the 3B+) did challenge the board from Hardkernel ... plus it is said that the C2 ought to be 10-15$ more expensive, although it would be fine given the performance of that board, but it's not really pricier than a Pi 3B+ where i live, ok it lacks WiFi and BT but still works flawlessly with a dongle and also it's faster on LAN.


the only issue would be "Made In Korea" instead of "Made In Uk" :laugh:

edit, forgot to add: at last the C2 didn't give me a hard time with a perfectly stable 5V/2.5A power supply, the 3B+ was drawing more even at idle and when working it would show "insufficient current input" logo under Libreelec, and the SOC was heating up ... so much for the new metal heatspreader and better regulation of the SOC (via another dedicated chip) plus in Wlan it was slower on his own AC WLAN than with a USB AC dongle ... :roll:

Posted on Reply
#16
silentbogo
TheLostSwede, post: 3943296, member: 3382"
Considering it barely works on the H5, do you really expect a community built Linux OS is going to work on a fairly new chip straight away?
Sorry, but it doesn't. The basics might work, but it's not at an acceptable level imho.
Well, I was watching some OPi Lite 2 reviews (direct competitor to this new Pi) and stumbled upon some interesting data. All in all, h.264 and h.265 works as expected. Apparently it also features a full-fledged HDMI 2.0a interface (4K60Hz and HDR!).

Haven't seen any data on 3D acceleration, but I see no reason why it should not work. T720 was around long before H6 was even released.
The only problematic ARM GPU is the old and beat-up Mali 400 MP/MP2. Awhile ago I had a Cubietruck w/ A20 SoC onboard and I had to wait for over a year to get proper H/W acceleration on linux. That one still has issues.
Posted on Reply
#17
TheLostSwede
Gorstak, post: 3943724, member: 182626"
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1598272670/chip-the-worlds-first-9-computer
Those guys were given chips at cost from AllWinner, in fact some of them were ex AllWinner people. Unfortunately they went bust early this year.

silentbogo, post: 3943889, member: 141875"
Well, I was watching some OPi Lite 2 reviews (direct competitor to this new Pi) and stumbled upon some interesting data. All in all, h.264 and h.265 works as expected. Apparently it also features a full-fledged HDMI 2.0a interface (4K60Hz and HDR!).

Haven't seen any data on 3D acceleration, but I see no reason why it should not work. T720 was around long before H6 was even released.
The only problematic ARM GPU is the old and beat-up Mali 400 MP/MP2. Awhile ago I had a Cubietruck w/ A20 SoC onboard and I had to wait for over a year to get proper H/W acceleration on linux. That one still has issues.
Uhm, that's running Android, not Linux... AllWinner has Android drivers, but not Linux drivers.
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