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Product Update: Raspberry Pi 2 Model B

The Tiny Computer with Big Potential

By Mark Casilang

The Raspberry Pi (RPi) has stolen the hearts of many electronics hobbyists and educators since its launch in early 2012. This credit card sized computer has been used for everything from astrophotography to vegetable instruments to retro game consoles. Since its initial release it has undergone a few iterations and the latest model, the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, is the fastest and most powerful version yet. Before we get into the specs on the new model, let's first look at how this tiny computer from the UK came to fruition.

It all started in 2006 at the University of Cambridge Computer Lab. With a decline in applications to study computer science, Eben Upton, Rob Mullins, Jack Lang and Alan Mycroft wanted to create something that would inspire and teach basic computer science to the next generation of programmers. Their goal was to spark interest in programming by providing a computer cheap enough for kids and easy enough for them to hack.

The design of the RPi was inspired by the BBC Micro, one of the first series of microcomputers used for education in the UK. The A, B and B+ models of the RPi were references to the original models of the BBC Micro.

The RPi A and B models immediately gained popularity with their $25 and $35 price tag. After selling about 4.5 million boards in the first two years, the company released the A+ and B+ models. These models provided more GPIOs and used less power to run. The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, released in February 2015, has more than 6x the performance and twice the memory of the original models.

There are many benefits of the RPi in general as a product. The original models of RPi draw about 5 to 7 watts of electricity and even less for the recent models. As a functional computer, it has the potential to save a lot of money and energy compared to a regular desktop. The RPi's small form factor makes it very portable and can be integrated inside of devices as well. There is no noise when the RPi is running, there are more USB ports for expansion capabilities, built-in HDMI capable graphics, and it's very affordable. The RPi community is also growing every day and show great support through tutorials and projects they have made themselves.

Raspberry Pi Models

Let's go into more detail on each model.

RPi 1 Model A

The Model A is the most basic and was released with the lowest price tag. It has a single USB port and 256MB of SDRAM. It also has an HDMI port, full size SD card port, composite video output, 26-pin expansion header, 3.5mm audio jack, camera interface port, LCD display interface port and one microUSB power connector. It has a lower power consumption compared to other models without the extra USB or Ethernet ports. It has the same processor, 700 MHz ARM1176JZF-S single-core with ARMv6 CPU architecture, as the other models (with the exception of the RPi 2 model).

RPi 1 Model A+

The Model A+ has a lot smaller form factor than the previous A model with mounting holes added to the corners. It has the same memory and processor as the A but has a 40-pin expansion header and uses a microSD for storage instead. It is also more energy efficient.

RPi 1 Model B

The Model B has the same processor 26-pin header and SD card storage as the Model A. The difference is that it has two USB ports and twice the memory of 512MB with an Ethernet port and larger form factor.

RPi 1 Model B+

The Model B+ is more similar to its A+ counterpart with a microSD storage, 40-pin header, and mounting holes, but has the 512MB storage like the B. The upgrade includes 4 USB ports, improved power circuitry which allows higher powered USB devices to be attached that support hot plugging, and a 3.5mm audio/video jack instead of the composite video connector. Some minor detail differences from the B are the Ethernet LEDs moved to the Ethernet connector, no more back powering problems due to the USB current limiters, connectors moved to only two sides of the board instead of all four sides on the previous model, and higher drive capacity for analog audio out from a separate regulator for better audio DAC quality.

RPi 2 Model B

Released in February 2015, the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B is one of the best products out there for those interested in programming and technology. The RPi 2 Model B looks exactly like its B+ predecessor on the outside with microSD storage, 4 USB ports, and 40-pin GPIO. The difference with this model versus others is internal with the processor and RAM, making the RPi 2 capable of even more complex functionality. The B/B+ has 512MB SDRAM at 400 MHz and single core at 700MHz. The RPi 2 has 1GB SDRAM at 450 MHz and Quad core at 900 MHz. This is about a 6 times increase in performance and twice the memory.
RPi 1 Model ARPi 1 Model A


RPi 1 Model A+RPi 1 Model A+


RPi 1 Model BRPi 1 Model B+

RPi 1 Model B+RPi 2 Model B

RPi 2 does in 5 seconds what the B+ did in 50 seconds. More power has been added internally without a significant increase in price. Initial sales of the RPi 2 have gone so well that the price for the RPi B+ was reduced for those that don't need the extra processing and memory. Those that do need the upgrade now have an ideal platform to learn about multicore and multithreaded programming in the RPi 2.

The RPi 2 has the same footprint as the B+, so it is backward compatible with existing accessories and applications; another big plus for those wanting to upgrade. The 4 USBs in the RPi 2 can now support more power hungry USB devices but also require a 2A power supply upgrade as well. The quad-core processor helps solve the limitations the previous hardware had problems with.

The RPi 2 has a definite bright future ahead as enthusiasts become more proficient with the new architecture. We can't wait to see how hobbyists take advantage of this power, taking all of the incredible projects performed with the previous model to the next level and opening new doors in microcomputing.

The impressive projects utilizing the previous RPi hardware will definitely get even more exciting with the upgrade in power and capabilities. Check out these great Raspberry Pi accessories and take your project to the next level.

Let us know what you would do with your own Raspberry Pi 2 at [email protected].
Mark is a graduate from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in Electrical Engineering. He is originally from sunny San Diego, CA. His interests include traveling, movies, games, sports, music, playing tennis and going to the beach.