Raspberry Pi 3 Quick Practical Review

This is from real-life experience, because most reviews on the web:
1) are written through rose-tinted glasses, and often read as advertisement for the Pi,
2) contain way too much technical facts, and
3) seldom detail what's it like to use the Pi 3.

Make no mistake, I love the Pi 3; in fact, to help people avoid the same mistakes I did with the previous generation I've written a quite detailed guide for it. It's available in the Amazon Kindle store, pre-order now and save some headache when you buy a Pi 3.
Comparison to the Pi 2 is unavoidable, as I'm using one.


Price

Hyped as as the $35 microcomputer, I haven't seen a bare bones Pi 3 under $40; usually price is closer to the $45-50 mark.
It will not work out of the box; several accessories will be required such as a memory card, charger etc.


Unboxing and first impressions

Box feels and looks like a medicine box, thin cardboard with top opening. Retrospectively, the Pi 2 came in a much better box, suitable as a makeshift case.
Board itself in a non-sealed antistatic bag, plus small leaflet on regulatory compliance. No instructions, nor any beginner guide, "Thanks for buying" or "Getting Started Guide". Come on.


Case and Tactile feel


Snaps into existing Pi 2 case, microSD card slot has no spring-loaded ejection mechanism. I've read somewhere an obscure explanation for the reason behind this choice, probably that 0.05c saved will matter at projected quantities. Remember, over 8 million Raspberries were sold over the last few years.
All other physical connectors are exactly in the same place, apart from the LED light, which moved a few inches.


Raspberry, Pi, Pi 3, Pi 2, review, comparison, test, unboxing, testing, real-lifePower up


Worked with existing image from the Pi 2, but to be on the safe side, downloaded new Jessie.
Speed increase is immediately apparent, desktop environment loads in about the same time as command line used to.
Officially, the Pi 3 requires a 3A charger for <insert multitude of reasons here>. Realistically, it happily ran off a 700 mA phone charger with wired mouse and keyboard during casual browsing, and even at 100 % processor load remained at 400-500 mA maximum current consumption.


Speed


The headline news were new processor and improved memory and graphics speed. Rumours are true: it's much faster and more usable than the Pi 2 was, but still somewhat behind even a cheap tablet or smartphone. 64-bit makes no difference, operating system is still 32-bit. Nice try.
As a desktop replacement, expect day-to-day tasks such as web browsing, YouTube videos and basic office tasks, such as opening a Word or Excel file to take two or three times longer compared to a 500-dollar laptop - which is really good performance in my book. For example, loading CNN.com took 32 seconds, loading Youtube took 21 seconds, and starting a Word processor takes 15 second from click to type (I got 70MBit/s bandwidth).
Compared to the Pi 2, the change is dramatic: whereas the predecessor was near-unusable for a fast and efficient workflow, with the the Pi 3, the job can be done. Somewhat slowly, but if not in a hurry, it's a viable platform for small- and medium business enterprises with basic needs, or any individual who does not wish to pay exorbitant licensing charges.


Project compatibility


Most users buy a Raspberry Pi 3 to realize a dormant project requiring computer control; internet connectivity is a bonus, letting folks integrate a simple thermostat with a web-based control panel. The possibilities are endless for electronics tinkering, and a faster processor means less waiting.


Still Linux, still 5V, still same GPIO pins


As detailed in a previous post, Linux is great: no need to mess with the main computer to run specific software. Half of the universe works on 5V, and transferring previous projects is literally plug-and-play: General Purpose Input and Output pins are the same, python scripts will work, in fact: whatever you did with a Pi 2, all will be good on the Pi 3.


Should you buy one?


Absolutely.
After years of waiting, the time has come when the teenager became a grown men. For new users, overall speed is now tolerable, projects and alternative operating systems abound, and Pi 2 users can revel knowing that existing scripts and circuits will work faster with the new Pi 3.

3 comments:

  1. the great question is: Is this reliable to rtl-sdr use ??? Gnu-radio ??? GQRX???

    ReplyDelete
  2. Haven't tried, I'm using my Raspberries as either a data feeder to flightaware or as a rtl_tcp server at the antenna feedpoint.
    Pi+dongle+upconverter+LNA4HF with homemade PoE in a metal box is hard to beat for convenience :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Odroids are far, far better devices.

    The Odroid C2 has the advantage of a faster CPU and the option of much faster EMMS 5.0 Flash. Can run Ubuntu and Android.

    ReplyDelete