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Try out the Raspberry Pi Model 3 B Plus! - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 9
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 10
Demo Software was of good quality: 10
Product was easy to use: 8
Support materials were available: 10
The price to performance ratio was good: 10
TotalScore: 57 / 60
  • RoadTest: Try out the Raspberry Pi Model 3 B Plus!
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools
  • Was everything in the box required?: Yes - I got everything that was advertised. Some extra parts will be needed to get started: a micro SD card, a USB power adapter and a way to access the Pi directly (Display/Mouse/Keyboard) or a terminal to access it remotely.
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered: Pine64, NanoPi M3
  • What were the biggest problems encountered?: Nothing big but found a couple of issues: 1. The Pi had marks/residues of a liquid; they can be appreciated mostly on the chrome plated parts and other components. 2. powering the Raspberry Pi using the USB port is becoming harder as it consumes more power and there are limited options that don't trigger the under-voltage warning.

  • Detailed Review:

    The new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ is the latest iteration of the top of the line Raspberry Pi developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It delivers increased performance thanks to a faster processor and 5 GHz WiFi. For some tasks, it seems considerable faster than its previous iteration: the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, on some other tasks it feels about the same.

     

    If you are familiar with electronics, the Raspberry Pi is a great tool to develop electronics projects and to start coding. In this review I will provide high level details on this awesome single-board, low-cost computer and some technical details that may be useful to you for future projects.

     

     

    Overview

    The Raspberry Pi has evolved into a very capable little computer that over 6 years has been slowly taking the world. About 19 million of Raspberry Pis have been sold total, out of those, 9 million units sold of the previous versionprevious version in just only 2 years; impressive numbers for a computer considering that it only costs USD $35.

     

    There are four notable changes in the New RPi 3B+ -along with other smaller changes-:

    1. A faster CPU (1.4GHz 64-bit quad-core processor)
    2. Dual-band 802.11ac wireless LAN (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and Bluetooth 4.2
    3. Faster Ethernet (Gigabit Ethernet over USB 2.0)
    4. Power-over-Ethernet support.

     

    The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ may serve for many purposes: to make a media center able to play a wide range of video formats, home servers, play retro-games, to monitor your home remotely, to teach your kids how to code and tons of other DIY projects and prototypes.

     

    Physical Design

    The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ brings hardware improvements maintaining the same mechanical footprint as previous iterations (Raspberry Pi 2 and Pi 3 Model B) with very few noticeable physical changes: a little metal cover on its SoC to help dissipate the heat and a metal cover with the Raspberry Pi logo over the wireless circuits for EMI/RFI shielding.

     

    GPIO Pinout

    As far as I know, the Raspberry Pi pinout has not changed much since the 40-pin header was introduced, which is a very positive aspect for all of you wanting to upgrade your projects without having to drastically change your hardware.

     

    For the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ there is a small addition: a 4-pin header (2x2) was added for Power over Ethernet (PoE) support.

    Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ GPIO 40 Pin Block & PoE Header Pinout

    Source: Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ GPIO 40 Pin Block & PoE Header Pinout

     

    Unboxing

    There is very little to say here as the Raspberry Pi comes inside a thin box and as usual, looks and feel of remarkable quality. Contrary to previous iterations, the new Raspberry Pi 3B+ did not come inside ESD packaging

     

    Package contents

    The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ includes:

    • The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+
    • Raspberry Pi Safety instructions and Quick start guide
    {gallery:width=768,height=432} Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ unboxing

    Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ unboxing

    Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+: Package contents

    Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ liquid/splash residue

    Pi 3 B+ liquid/residue marks: Some liquid residue is visible mostly in the chrome plated parts and other components

    Raspberry Pi 3B+ nad Pi 3B visual comparison

    Comparison: Visual comparison between Raspberry Pi 3B and Pi 3B+

    Raspberry Pi 3 Model B package contents

    Raspberry Pi 3 Model B (previous version): Package contents - included ESD packaging

    Seems that the new iteration of the Pi has less parts, which to me is a step in the right direction reducing the manufacturing costs, manufacturing errors and improving key design aspects with tailored solutions all of these at the end will absolutely benefit the end-user.

     

    Some visible stain marks brought my attention (seems something splashed all over the raspberry pi), leaving marks mostly on chrome plated parts and some components -I've highlighted few of them in the last picture-. These marks seem permanent.

     

    Review

    Most of my tests involved using the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ together with the Raspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen DisplayRaspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen Display. During this RoadTest, I'm not planning to torture test, gather performance benchmarks or to compare them as it has been done already in other places, instead I'm going to provide valuable information on few common use cases, running few simple tasks and to compare some of them between the new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ and the previous model, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model BRaspberry Pi 3 Model B.

     

    How it works with the 7" touchscreen display

    There are a lot of displays available for the Raspberry Pi but I ended using the the 7" touchscreen for most of my tests since I have two of them, perfect for what is coming for this review. The display is a perfect addition giving the users the ability to create all-in-one projects with a decent screen size, fairscreen resolution that allows to use Raspbian reasonably and capacitive touch support. It connects to the DSI port on the RPi, which is located in the same spot as the previous version; the hook up requires a little care, but once it is hooked up everything works well right out of the box, no kernel changes required, just make sure you have a good power supply that can handle the load and also make sure your Raspbian is up to date to avoid issues.

    Raspberry Pi 3B+ DSI Port

    The touch display works very well and I didn't not see any difference compared to using it paired to the previous Raspberry Bi. The mounting holes in the Pi 3B+ align perfectly with the mounting screws of the display, in fact, comparing both the Pi 3B+ and the Pi 3B it is hard to spot any physical layout difference except on some components.

    {gallery:width=768,height=432} Paired to a 7" touchscreen display

    Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B+ mounted on 7" touchscreen display

    Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B: both mounted on 7" touchscreen displays

    Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B mounted on 7" touchscreen display

    Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B image quality: Raspbian desktop on 7" touchscreen display - no visible differences

     

    Power consumption

    The Pi 3B+ has now a custom power supply chip, the MaxLinear MxL7704 which provides the voltage rails necessary for the SoC and other components of the Pi to operate, it is also in charge of the under-voltage monitoring/warning.

    Pi 3 Model B+ MxL7704 custom power supply chip

    During my tests it became clear that the Raspberry Pi consumes more power in this iteration; which later on I've corroborated with the power requirements:

    Note that Raspberry Pi 3B+ does consume substantially more power than its predecessor. We strongly encourage you to use a high-quality 2.5A power supply, such as the official Raspberry Pi Universal Power Supply.

     

    I wanted to run some experiments powering the RPi through the USB Power IN with/without the Raspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen DisplayRaspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen Display -kinda the official way of doing it-, also I wanted to monitor the Pi's power usage under various test conditions using my Keysight E36313A Bench Power Supply. A nice excuse to build a small adapter to convert a Double Banana plug to USB in order to use a regular USB A Male to Micro USB Male cable -I wanted to run my tests as if a user was using a USB power adapter- which became a big challenge: first I was not able to find a USB receptacle with more than 1.8A advertised on the GND/VBUS terminals, on the other side, finding a USB cable that will indicate how much current did support became another impossible task -more on this later-.

    {gallery:width=768,height=432,autoplay=false} Double banana plug to USB adapter

    USB to dual banana plug adapter 1

    USB to dual banana plug adapter: assembled - top view

    USB to dual banana plug adapter

    USB to dual banana plug adapter: assembled - bottom view

    USB to dual banana plug adapter

    USB to dual banana plug adapter: assembled - left side view

    USB to dual banana plug adapter parts

    USB to dual banana plug adapter - parts required: Pomona 72918 4mm plug, MOLEX 48408-0003 USB Connector and custom made PCB

    Before diving in, I want to clarify on how to know if the under-voltage warning on the Pi 3B+ has been triggered or is still under under-voltage fault:

    • Log files: the kernel will log events like this in the file /var/log/syslog. An under-voltage condition will look like this:
      Jun  7 11:30:23 raspberrypi kernel: [  393.114764] Under-voltage detected! (0x00050005)
    • The PWR led (red): when the Pi is on, the PWR led will be off as long as there is an under-voltage condition.
      Raspberry Pi 3 B+ PWR led
    • The lightning bolt: when there is a display connected to the Pi, recent versions of Raspbian will display a lightning bolt close to the top-right corner when there is an under-voltage condition.
      Raspbian Lightning bolt

     

    Power usage without touchscreen

    First I wanted to monitor the power usage of the Pi using Raspbian without anything connected. Before starting my test, I tried to power the Pi with different USB power adapters and different USB cables -different brands and lengths-. I was able to spot a few times the PWR led turning off (which indicates an under-voltage condition), at this point it became clear to me that powering the Pi using this method is becoming more and more tricky -honestly I had noticed this on the Pi 3B already- and there are a lot of users in many different forums (including E14) running on similar issues.

    {gallery:width=768,height=432,autoplay=false} Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ without display

    Raspberry Pi 3 B+ USB PWR IN

    Pi 3B+ without display: Powered through the USB PWR IN port

    Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ without display power GPIO

    Pi 3B+ without display: Powered through the GPIO port

    USB cables and power adapters

    Various cables and USB adapters: Used different USB cables and USB power adapters on the various tests

    Given the above, I measured anyways the power consumption during the boot-up sequence, idle, during the shutdown sequence and idle after shutdown both powering the Pi through the USB PWR IN and directly to the GPIO (+5V/GND pins):

    Raspberry Pi 3+ power consumption - no display

    • Power usage when Idle ~420mA.
    • Power usage when Idle after shutdown ~100mA.

     

    The results speak for themselves: Higher current peaks can be appreciated when powering the Pi directly to the GPIO -this is not a conclusive result-; this just indicates that when powering the Pi with a USB cable, to provide clean, stable and enough current at all times, many factors must be accounted for like:

    • the USB cables internal resistance which may be affected by the internal wires thickness, length, connectors capacity and build quality.
    • the power adapter's specifications
    • the USB connector's capacity
    • the PCB traces width -on this one I made sure to use 2oz/ft² and to use traces wide enough-.

     

    The lack of any of the above considerations may lower the power flowing in to the Pi

     

    At this point is where I realized that failed miserably when I tried to build my Double Banana plug to USB adapter. For the reasons mentioned above and to get the most reliable results, all my tests that involved measuring the power usage from this point of the test were executed strictly powering the Raspberry Pi directly to the +5V/GND pins which I nailed making something else, few Banana-plug to Female PCB connector cables.

    {gallery:width=768,height=432,autoplay=false} Banana-plug to Female PCB connector cables

    Banana-plug to Female PCB connector cables

    Banana-plug to Female PCB connector cables: 12in length, made with 20 AWG silicone wire and Radioshack Stackable Banana plugs

    Parts

    Parts and tools: Parts and tools needed for the Banana-plug to Female PCB connector cables assembly

    I was able to avoid the under-voltage warning completely only under two conditions:

    • when using the official and recommended micro USB power supply for Raspberry Pimicro USB power supply for Raspberry Pi, which on a side note, is made with 18/2 AWG wire and seems of outstanding quality.
    • when powering the Pi directly through the GPIO (+5V/GND pins)

    Raspberry Pi Universal power supply - unboxed

    Power usage with touchscreen

    My second test involved seeing how fast the Pi 3B+ with the Raspberry Pi 7" Touchscreen DisplayRaspberry Pi 7" Touchscreen Display using Raspbian would boot. I was also interested in monitoring the power usage of everything together.

     

    I measured the power consumption during the boot-up sequence, idle while in the desktop, shutdown sequence and idle after shutdown. Then compared the results with the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B under the same circumstances.

    Raspberry Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B power usage when idle

    • Power usage when Idle in the Raspbian desktop ~955mA Pi 3B+, ~800mA Pi 3B.
    • Power usage when Idle after shutdown ~155mA both Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B.

     

    The boot-up sequence in both the Pi 3B+ and the Pi 3B took nearly identical time. In the graph, almost every activity consumed more power in the Pi 3B+, except when it was idle after the shutdown sequence, where the power usage was nearly identical to the older version, the Pi 3B.

     

    Power usage when watching an online video

    My next test involved, opening Chromium Web Browser, heading to youtube, searching and watching a 2m40s trailer in 720p and after the trailer was done, leaving the browser idle for some seconds.

    Raspberry Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B power usage when playing an online video

    Here is where I first noticed the hardware improvements in the new Pi 3B+. Not only searching the video, loading it and changing the resolution to 720p was faster -I repeated this tests a couple of times-, once in a while there were slight delays -mostly when buffering- which seemed less problematic and less noticeable in new Raspberry Pi 3B+.

     

    Notes on performance

    Generation after generation the Raspberry Pi has been target of performance improvements - the Pi 3B+ is no exception. Raspbian feels very responsive, opening menus and software quickly without any noticeable lag with some exceptions - like the chromium browser. Of course the new Pi is still no match for a current generation Desktop or Laptop, but probably will get there eventually in the years to come.

     

    I tried few tasks both on the Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B, I was able to see the difference on speed, mostly on tasks that would demand high CPU usage like watching a youtube video in 720p or higher, when creating a new game in Minecraft -I never thought I was going to mention this game in a post but yet here I am taking one for for the team /sigh -.

     

    {gallery:width=768,height=432} Some common tasks in the new Raspberry Pi

    Raspberry Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B - Minecraft

    Minecraft: Raspberry Pi 3B+ (left) and Pi 3B (right)

    Speedtest LAN: Raspberry Pi 3B+ (left) and Pi 3B (right)

    Speedtest LAN: Raspberry Pi 3B+ (left) and Pi 3B (right)

    Speedtest WI-FI: Raspberry Pi 3B+ (left) and Pi 3B (right)

    Speedtest WI-FI: Raspberry Pi 3B+ (left) and Pi 3B (right)

    When running a simple speedtest both using Wi-Fi and LAN, the results were nearly identical in both the Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B.

     

    helpusobi 1

    I wanted to wrap-up my review doing something "more enjoyable". Knowing that there are a lot of Star Wars fans and quite some video game enthusiasts in this community, while I was working in my review -I wanted to test a videogame- I came across with something that could be a really nice addition to this review, so here are some simple steps and my experiences installing STAR WARS™ Jedi Knight II - Jedi Outcast™ in the Raspberry Pi 3B+ which works well overall.

     

    Preparation

    • A Raspberry Pi with a clean -and working- Raspbian installation is recommended
    • Ensure your Raspbian packages are up-to-date
      sudo apt-get update
      sudo apt-get -y upgrade
    • Install the STAR WARS™ Jedi Knight II - Jedi Outcast™ game on any PC -it may be purchased/downloaded from Steam-. We will need it to copy the assets*.pk3 files to the Raspberry Pi

     

    Installing Jedi Outcast in the Raspberry Pi

    We will need to install OpenJK which is an open-source project intended to improve the Jedi Academy (JA) and Jedi Outcast (JO) game engines. Here are the steps I've used to get the game running:

     

    cd ~
    
    # Install packages 
    sudo apt-get install libjpeg8-dev libpng12-dev zlib1g-dev freeglut3-dev cmake git libsdl2-dev
    
    # Clone openjk from github: this will create the 'jka' folders
    git clone https://github.com/JACoders/OpenJK.git jka

     

    In the main CMakeLists.txt file in the root of the repository ('~/jka/' folder) turn the following to ON:

    • BuildJK2SPGame
    • BuildJK2SPEngine
    • BuildJK2SPRdVanilla

     

    Build and compile (this may take around 30 mins)

    # Build and Install
    mkdir ~/jka/build
    cd ~/jka/build
    cmake .. -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=~/jka/
    make -j4
    make install

     

    From the installed GameData folder copy your assets*.pk3 to the ~/jka/JediOutcast/base folder (a USB memory may become handy on this step)

     

    Copy the ~/jka/build/code/rd-vanilla/rdjosp-vanilla_arm.so file to the ~/jka/JediOutcast/ folder

     

    Copy the ~/jka/JediOutcast/OpenJK/jospgamearm.so file to the ~/jka/JediOutcast/ folder

     

    Enable the OpenGL driver in the Raspberry configuration tool (raspi-config) and set memory split to 256 (in Advanced settings). Restart the Pi -from this point I had to switch to an HDMI display- as the OpenGL support is still experimental in Raspbian and well, I didn't get any image on the touch screen display.

    sudo raspi-config

     

    Run openjo_sp.arm (it is in the ~/jka/JediOutcast/ folder)

     

    Have fun and May the force be with you

    {gallery:width=768,height=432} Jedi Outcast on the Raspberry Pi

    Jedi Outcast main menu

    OpenJK Jedi Outcast: Jedi Outcast main menu

    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

    OpenJK Jedi Outcast: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

    Jedi outcast Star Wars

    OpenJK Jedi Outcast: Star Wars

    Jedi Outcast intro

    OpenJK Jedi Outcast: Jedi Outcast intro

    Jedi Outcast gameplay

    OpenJK Jedi Outcast: Jedi Outcast gameplay

     

    Jedi Outcast performance in the Raspberry Pi 3B+

    When I wanted to test a video game in the Pi 3B+ I didn't want to go with the common options: native games or emulators. Jedi Outcast was a good option first of all because I like it, also because this brings some challenges -honestly I spent an entire day making it work since there is not a lot of information about solving issues-.

     

    In my tests this game mattered because it has a 3D engine and requires OpenGL, two features that can highlight how powerful the Raspberry Pi has evolved. The game was playable most of the time -some input lag here and there- but overall enjoyable. Of course, there is room for improvement but my hopes are that my fellow readers can try it and maybe come back with some improvements .

     

    How I tested

    When I was running a comparison between the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ and the previous model, I made sure to use two identical SD cards with a fresh image of Debian with Raspberry Pi Desktop (Version: June 2018), each attached to a Raspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen DisplayRaspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen Display mounted on a custom 3D-printed prototyping stand.

     

    For all my tests where I was interested in measuring the current usage, I avoided the USB Power Input and made two Banana-plug to Female PCB connector cables to connect my Bench Power Supply directly the Raspberry Pi's +5V/GND pins and made sure to set the Voltage output on my PSU to 5V. The data-logger sample interval was set to 200ms.

    Raspberry Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B connected to the Keysight E36313A

     

    Conclusion

    The new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ being a budget board packed with enough computing power is a fantastic piece of hardware. The improvements on performance may be appreciated mostly in activities that demand high CPU usage compared to the previous iteration the Raspberry Pi 3B. It also maintains a level of backwards compatibility and a constantly growing community of makers supporting it.

     

    If you are considering to upgrade from its previous iteration the Pi 3B maybe it doesn't make much sense, but if you are planning to upgrade a much older version of Raspberry Pi -say the Model 2B- or to get one for the first time it is definitively worth the investment.

     

    Thank you all for reading this review and a big thanks to Element14 for choosing me for this Road Test.


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