It might be a little late for this article, but I believe it is an important comparison. We believe it will take some time before Raspberry Pi 4 is announced and ready in the market, so Raspberry Pi 3B+ will be significant for quite some time. Let’s see whether it is worth getting the latest Raspberry Pi 3B+, and we will compare it with its predecessor, Raspberry Pi 3B. This article will also highlight the compatibility issues, can the old Raspbian be used? Old microSD card being used? How about the enclosure that you used for Raspberry Pi 3B? How about the power adapter?
THE SPECIFICATION IMPROVEMENT
Without wasting any of your time, let’s start the comparison. I believe the most exciting element to compare is the computing performance and connectivity spec. Well, this table summarizes the improvements:
Well, there is nothing much to elaborate on except to highlight that the processor still remains the same 64-bit, Quad core, Cortex-A53, Broadcom BCM2837 SoC. But it is upgraded to BCM2837B0 with a metal cover for better heat dissipation. In fact, the PCB layout is also being designed to better dissipate heat from the processor. With that, the processor speed is being increased to 1.4GHz as of 1.2GHz in pi 3B. You will see a slight increase in overall performance, in terms of speed is a 16% of increment.
As for the RAM, it remains the same as Raspberry Pi 3B. So we will skip that portion.
Wire Connection - Ethernet
Another improvement that is worth highlighting is the connectivity, wire, and wireless. Let's look at the wired connection which is USB and Ethernet. USB is still USB 2.0, so we will skip that portion too. As for Ethernet, it might excite you, is yet full Gigabit Ethernet, though. There is a significant improvement in Raspberry Pi 3B+ by using the Gigabit Ethernet hub, the LAN7515 (Microchip). But due to the USB2.0 interface between the hub (LAN7515) and the main processor, the actual Ethernet speed is limited, yet it can still achieve 300Mbps (3B is within 100Mbps only). BTW, the LAN7515 is also the hub for 4 x USB2.0 sockets.
With the Ethernet speed being upgraded, another hot request is PoE (Power over Ethernet) which a lot of users like to see. Raspberry Pi 3B+ has finally implemented the possibility of PoE onto the main board. With additional PoE HAT, it is possible to power your Raspberry Pi 3B+ over Ethernet (need PoE switch or router). And Booting over Ethernet has also been improved.
You will notice there are 2x2 pre-soldered headers (labeled PoE) beside the mounting hole, the back of the USB sockets. The power pins of RJ45 (for the use of PoE) are being extended out to these headers. I believe with the space limitation and cost, Raspberry Pi foundation can only extend the pins out. Those that wanted to use PoE are welcome to get the PoE HAT and stack it. With this, the cost of the Raspberry Pi main board can remain and compatibility issue is minimized. We are fortunate enough to get a sample of PoE HAT during the Raspberry Pi Approved Reseller Event in early July 2018. Here is the picture of PoE HAT in my hand. You should be able to get it by end of July or early August 2018.
Wireless improvement might be the most exciting part of Raspberry Pi 3B+. Wireless connectivity plays an important role in making Raspberry Pi an IoT platform, as a device, router, gateway, server, and many possible applications that we have yet to think of. In Raspberry Pi 3 B+, wireless specifications have a boost improvement. It does not limit to WiFi, but overall it receives:
- An upgrade to use Cypress 43455 “Single-Chip 5G WiFi IEEE 802.11ac MAC/Baseband/ Radio with Integrated Bluetooth 4.2 and FM Receiver” (FM Receiver not connected).
- The ceramic antenna has been replaced with the Proant resonant cavity antenna (as used on the Pi Zero W)
- The wireless/Bluetooth components have been enclosed in a metallized can which offers better EMI shielding and help to get the certification.
- 802.11ac is now supported, which means the Pi can do Dual Band WiFi, at 5 GHz as well as 2.4 GHz. Superb!
With IEEE 802.11ac, the wireless speed can go up to 100Mbps, and with the support of 5GHz WiFi, Raspberry Pi have the option to switch the connection to another band when the 2.4GHz band is congested. This upgrade will help Raspberry Pi 3B+ be a better choice for IoT applications.
The metalized "can" is not there for the fancy Raspberry Pi logo (Yet, it is nice), but it is there to cover all the WiFi and Bluetooth components. The metal can actually act as a shield and the wireless part of Raspberry Pi 3B+ has been FCC approved as a module. In other words, you can use Raspberry Pi 3B+ in your product and the Wireless/Bluetooth module does not require further certification (other parts still need certification, though). Well, if you did certification before, you will love to avoid wireless certification.
When Raspberry Pi Zero W was released on 28th February 2017, one of the special features is the PCB antenna that intelligently uses low-cost components and the PCB layout as the antenna. There is feedback that this antenna has a better performance compared to the ceramic antenna on RPi 3B. So this PCB antenna design which is licensed from Proant AB is incorporated into Raspberry Pi 3B+ but is being tweaked for Pi 3B+. If you look carefully, there are extra capacitors (two) at the antenna.
It might not be significant, but the power supply section that takes 5V from USB microB or 5V at GPIO pin, converts to 3.3V (or other voltage levels), and distribute to devices and components just being tidied up and is able to offer higher performance.
In fact, the Raspberry Pi design team manage to work with Power Management Unit (PMU) silicon supplier to custom design a new IC to handle multiple power distributions, and it is less costly to produce and less external components too. Awesome work! With that, Raspberry Pi 3B+ can handle higher power and it is recommended to get a higher power adapter :)Let's compare both the Raspberry Pi 3B+ and 3B, the top layer and bottom layer to have an overall look at the components count, and placement.
Overall, they have reduced ~30 components on Raspberry Pi 3B+ compared to 3B, and it looks tidier :) I like it! Removing the component designator (label) is a good way to make it tidy. It might not be friendly for troubleshooting, though. Most importantly, despite all the upgrades and improvements, is there a compatibility issue? Can your microSD card with Raspbian or another 3rd party operating system working on Raspberry Pi 3B work on the new Raspberry Pi 3B+? Or can the new Raspberry Pi 3B+ fit into the casing that you bought for your Raspberry Pi 3B?
Older Version of Raspbian will NOT work
Sorry to say it, but with the new Power Management Unit and much other upgraded silicon (Ethernet and USB hub, Wireless), the older version of Raspbian (which works on Raspberry Pi 3B) will not work on Raspberry Pi 3B+, so please go to the Raspberry Pi Foundation official OS download site and get the latest version of Operating system, of course, this applies to NOOBS and other 3rd party OS for Raspberry that include OSMC, LIBREELEC, etc. If you are getting the microSD card (with preloaded NOOBS) from Cytron, both the 8GB and 16GB, are updated to the latest NOOBS version which is good for Raspberry Pi 3B+.
How about the Casing and Enclosure?
The hardware design team of Raspberry Pi foundation did great work, but due to many technical requirements, they need to adjust some of the Silicon (IC) placement and there are some additional components that might conflict with some of the Raspberry Pi casing in the market, not all :) Let me highlight a few.
If you look at the picture of Rpi 3B+ (at the top) and Rpi 3B (at the bottom), you will notice, it is 95% similar which shows most of the casing for Raspberry Pi 3B is compatible with 3B+. These parts are at the same location with the same dimension:
- The 4 x USB socket
- Ethernet (RJ45) port
- Full-size HDMI
- USB microB socket for power
- 4-pole Audio jack for Stereo Audio and Composite Video output
- 2x20, 40-pin GPIO headers
- MIPI CSI, camera socket
- MIPI DSI, Display socket
- microSD card slot (push and pull, no spring latch)
- 4 x 2.5mm mounting holes
- The overall PCB dimension
Changes that might affect compatibility:
- The processor is at the same location, but slightly higher with the metal packaging, with 1 to 2 mm higher. For casing that comes with a heatsink for the processor as a whole structure might not be able to mount or close properly due to this height increment. Yet, many enclosure manufacturers have changed thinner thermal paste to carter for Raspberry Pi 3B+, so do take note.
- The new USB and Ethernet Hub, LAN7515 has been slightly relocated towards RJ45 and USB socket. It will not affect most of the casing/enclosure, just for some casing that has openings for this IC heatsink, it will not be in the right place.
- The PEN and RUN pads have been moved to give way for PoE pins. Again, if you need to use the PEN or RUN pin and the casing is blocking it. You might to do some manual modification. Yet, since these pins are not populated (only pads by default), there is no conflict with most of the casing.
- I guess the major conflict will be the PoE pins because it is populated by default on Raspberry Pi 3B+ but there is no pin popping out on Raspberry Pi 3B on that spot. Some cases that cover the Raspberry Pi PCB might conflict with these pins.
- Anyway, the official casing from the Raspberry Pi foundation is compatible with both the 3B and 3B+.
Well, we are near to the summary of this article. I just wanted to share another point! There is a question of where Raspberry Pi is being made. Is it Made in China? Made in Japan? Made in the UK?
There are different manufacturers of previous Raspberry Pi boards. Yes, China, Japan, and the UK. But for Raspberry Pi 3B+, all the boards are being built in the SONY factory in Wales, UK. Here is the group photo where we visited the SONY factory and witness the making of Raspberry Pi 3B+ until it is being packed! Dated July 2018.
Check out the video too:
For full specifications of this new product, please go through the official product brief from Raspberry Pi Foundation. In short, is it worth getting the latest Raspberry Pi 3B+? Yes, if you plan to buy one, choose the higher spec with better performance at the same price. But if you plan to replace your existing Raspberry Pi 3B, think twice because there is some risk of compatibility and you need to upgrade the OS, and there might need some other tweaks needed in terms of library and casing. Anyway, the Raspberry Pi 3B+ is available now at our store. Feedback is welcome, question? Please post it in our technical forum or email us at email@example.com.