Raspberry Pi 3 Model B In Review

On 29 February the Raspberry Pi Foundation officially released the third version of its popular open source computer board. This week I finally got my hands on the so called Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, and it was really worth the wait.

In my search for hardware for an experimental web server I decided to try out Raspberry Pi’s computer board. What especially caught my interest in the tiny computer board was that it’s relatively cheap, just $35, and that it comes with loads of features, including Raspbian OS, 1 GB RAM, a 1,2 GHz processor, HDMI support and USB ports.

First impression

After taking the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B out of the package I was immediately struck by its small design. I watched several videos in which I familiarized myself with the board, but to actually see the board in my hand really showed me how small 85.60mm x 56mm x 21mm really is. It roughly fits in the palm of your hand and is like a dwarf in comparison to my desktop at home.

Aside its small size, I was surprised by the amount of software that comes with Raspbian OS, Raspberry Pi’s official Debian Linux-based operating system. The free open source software comes pre-installed with the LibreOffice editing suite, the Ephipany web browser, PDF Viewer, a version of Minecraft and much more. In other words, it basically comes with everything the average PC user needs.

Specifications

  • 1.2 GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU (ten times faster than Raspberry Pi 1)
  • Integrated 802.11n wireless LAN and Bluetooth 4.1
  • Compatibility with Raspberry Pi 1 and 2
  • 1GB RAM (work memory)
  • 4 x USB ports
  • 40 x GPIO pins
  • Full HDMI port
  • Ethernet port
  • 3.5mm audio jack and composite video
  • Camera interface (CSI)
  • Display interface (DSI)
  • Micro SD card slot (for memory storage)
  • VideoCore IV 3D graphics core

A HDMI-compatible PC monitor, HDMI cable, USB mouse, USB keyboard, SD card for memory storage and the power connector will have to be purchased separately. On average this would add around $150 to any set-up, taking into account you don’t have any of those things laying around.

Design

In terms of design the Pi 3 looks like what it is, a miniature motherboard. It doesn’t come with a case or any fancy gimmicks. It’s as essential as a computer board can be. For this reason the design should not be looked at from an aesthetic stand point, but rather be judged for its functionality and simplicity.

The fact all hardware and ports could be placed on a space the size of your hand palm is very impressive. For this reason I am really satisfied with the device’s overall design, not because it’s candy for the eye, but because it offers optimal functionality without wasting any space or adding any unessential features.

Performance

The 1,2 GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM are sufficient to perform all your basic computer tasks. Editing texts and images, surfing the web and playing simple games like Minecraft go without any problems. However, when watching a full HD video on YouTube it will stutter now and then (especially when connected to a large display), but most movies on 720 P and less run pretty smooth. It’s also possible to install omxplayerGUI to allow for smoother video playback.

Although it would have been nice to have had 2 GB of RAM (also since the Pi 2 already had 1 GB of RAM installed), the 1 GB of RAM is sufficient to experiment with a wide range of programs and hardware. It’s not a speed monster, but for $35 it sure gives you a whole lot to bargain for. The fact that for the same reason it consumes less than 5 watts of energy will probably please many users their energy bill as well.

Usability

The Pi is pretty easy to use. By plugging in the power supply it automatically starts up. This also means that the device doesn’t come with an on or off switch. After about ten seconds you’ll find yourself in front of the main desktop screen.

The Raspbian task bar is positioned on top and contains all of the options and menu’s you need. Every aspect of the task bar and the desktop can thereby be adjusted to your own needs, just like in Windows. Many apps are directly installed when you start your RP for the first time. This means you don’t have to spend a day on searching and installing essential software like text editors and browsers.

Conclusion

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is for everyone that wants to learn how to build a PC, build a web server, learn programming or just wants to have a simple and affordable computer. Thanks to its small size, elaborate software package, substantial hardware and vast tweaking options the Raspberry Pi Foundation has succeeded in delivering one of the best single board computers available.

It might be a challenge for some technology noobs to find out how to install Raspbian OS (by downloading it on a formatted SD card from Raspberry Pi’s official website), but after you’re able to figure that out the reward is really worth it.

At the time of this writing I can also share that I have been able to turn my Pi 3 into a fully fledged LAMP web server, by following this tutorial. It currently runs an experimental WordPress website.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B verdict
  • Design
  • Performance
  • Usability
  • Value for money
4.9

Summary

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is for everyone that wants to learn how to build a PC, build a web server, learn programming or just wants to have a simple and affordable computer.