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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Preliminary Review: Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

The Hudson Valley Digital Network aims to provide early reviews of various devices that may be of interest to amateur radio and electronic enthusiasts in and around the Hudson Valley of New York

The somewhat ubiquitous Raspberry Pi single board computer has a new model available called the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.

The major differences between the regular Pi 3 and the new Pi 3 Model B include:

  • Added 5.8 GHz Wi-Fi in addition to the 2.4 GHz as found in its predecessor
  • Processor upgraded to the Quad Core 1.2GHz Broadcom BCM2837 64bit CPU
  • Broadcom BCM43438 WLAN includes Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) on board
  • Wired Ethernet increases it true life throughput to 300 Mbps
  • Addition of a header to support power over Ethernet add on boards/hats

Exciting applications for ham radio

Excitement #1:  The addition of faster Ethernet and how it is implemented on the raspberry pi 3 model B may create all sorts of remote radio head applications such as a variety of software defined radio (SDR) use cases that have been constrained in the past due to the 10/100 Mbps speed limitations in prior Raspberry Pi versions. Actual throughput on the model B may reach up to 300 Mbps instead of the average 30-60 Mbps on prior models.   What is interesting is that the model B is not touting actual gigabit ethernet, but this still means the Ethernet upgrade is a good step forward and still keeping the cost down to $35 at launch time in late Q1 2018.

Excitement #2: Adding in a header for power over Ethernet support is interesting and is likely just tapping out pins 4, 5, 7 and 8 on the Ethernet port. This may frustrate some people, but it should allow for more flexibility.  In comparison, the GL iNet AR-150 has supported add on power over Ethernet which lets the user decide how they want to power the device remotely. For the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, the user may explore powering the pi from as low as 5 volts and most likely, 12, 24 or 48 volts. 

The only problem potential is that the positioning of the header pins may get in the way of certain add on boards, but it looks easy to design into many projects and should be a non issue.  Power over ethernet will also allow more remote radio head applications when using higher frequency applications involving software defined radios.  Being able to eliminate antenna feed line loss where possible is always a good thing and the PoE edition was a smart one to make without greatly increasing costs. 

Excitement #3:  Increased wireless connectivity through the addition of 5.8 GHz and bluetooth low energy (BLE) will expand the usefulness for many applications, possibly including mesh applications. 

Processor Upgrades

With faster processor power comes increased power consumption which may limit the model B for full time powered operation compared to remote battery operation.  The increased processor speed and quad core architecture will enable more intensive  loads such as higher bandwidth SDR and various digital voice applications related to DMR, NXDN and P25. 

Discuss your next Pi project?

Have a look at the HVDN Activity calendar for related moderated discussions around computing and embedded computing to find out where others may be talking about the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B in the coming weeks. 

If you know of additional discussions taking place not already listed on the calendar, please make a suggestion to have something added. 

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