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 being announced and ready in 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 being 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 summarize the improvements:
Well, there is nothing much to elaborate except to highlight that the processor still remain same 64-bit, Quad core, Cortex-A53, Broadcom BCM2837 SoC. But it is upgraded to BCM2837B0 with 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 slight increase of overall performance, in term of speed is 16% of increment.
As for the RAM, it remains same as Raspberry Pi 3B. So we will skip that portion.
Wire Connection – Ethernet
Another improvement that 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 significant improvement on Raspberry Pi 3B+ by using Gigabit Ethernet hub, the LAN7515 (Microchip). But due to USB2.0 interface between hub (LAN7515) and 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 socket.
With the Ethernet speed being upgraded, another hot request is PoE (Power over Ethernet) where a lot of users like to see. Raspberry Pi 3B+ has finally implement 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 the Booting over Ethernet has also been improved.
You will notice there are 2×2 pre-soldered headers (labelled PoE) beside the mounting hole, back of USB socket. 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 Raspberry Pi main board can be remained and compatibility issue is minimized. We are fortunate enough to get a sample of PoE HAT during Raspberry Pi Approved Reseller Event early of July 2018. Here is the picture of PoE HAT on my hand. You should be able to get it by end of July or early of August 2018.
Wireless improvement might be the most exciting part of Raspberry Pi 3B+.
Steroid Wireless Spec
Wireless connectivity plays an important role in making Raspberry Pi as IoT platform, as device, router, gateway, server and many possible applications that we have yet to think of. In Raspberry Pi 3 B+, wireless specification have a boost improvement. It does not limited 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 metallised can which offers better EMI shielding and help to get 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 the IEEE 802.11ac, the wireless speed can goes up to 100Mbps, and with the support of 5GHz WiFi, Raspberry Pi have option to switch the connection to other band when 2.4GHz band is congested. This upgrade will help Raspberry Pi 3B+ be a better choice for IoT applications.
The metallised 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 shield and the wireless part of Raspberry Pi 3B+ has been FCC approved as module. In other words, you can use Raspberry Pi 3B+ in your product and 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 released in 28th February 2017, one of the special features is the PCB antenna that intelligently uses low cost component and PCB layout as antenna. There are feedback that this antenna has better performance compared to 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.
Power Management - Tidier Design, Better Performance
It might not be significant, but the power supply section that take 5V from USB microB or 5V at GPIO pin, and converts to 3.3V (or other voltage levels) and distribute to devices and components just being tidy 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 new IC to handle multiple power distribution, and it is less cost to produce and less external components too. Awesome work! With that, Raspberry Pi 3B+ can handle higher power and it is recommended to get higher power adapter 🙂
Overall Board - Less Components!
Let’s compare both the Raspberry Pi 3B+ and 3B, top layer and bottom layer to have an overall look at the components count and placement.
Overall, there has reduce ~30 components on Raspberry Pi 3B+ compared to 3B, and it looks tidier 🙂 I like it! Removing the component designator (label) is good way to make it tidy. It might not be friendly for troubleshooting, though.
Compatibility (OS, Casing)
Most importantly, despite all the upgrade and improvement, is there compatibility issue? Can your microSD card with Raspbian or other 3rd party operating system working on Raspberry Pi 3B works 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 many 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 apply 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 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 a great work, but due to many technical requirement, they need to adjust some of the Silicon (IC) placement and there are some additional component that might conflict with some of Raspberry Pi casing in the market, not all 🙂 Let me highlight a few.
If you look at the picture of Rpi 3B+ (at top) and Rpi 3B (at bottom), you will notice, it is 95% similar which show 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
- 2×20, 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 at the same location, but slightly higher with the metal packaging, with 1 to 2 mm higher. For casing that comes with heatsink for processor as a whole structure might not be able to mount or close properly due to this height increment. Yet, many enclosure designer has change 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 which have opening for this IC heatsink, it will not be at the right place.
- The PEN and RUN pads have been moved to give way for PoE pins. Again, if you need to use 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 not pins 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 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 question of where Raspberry Pi being made. Is it Make in China? Made in Japan? Made in UK?
There are different manufacturer for previous Raspberry Pi boards. Yes, China, Japan and the UK. But for Raspberry Pi 3B+, all the boards are being build in SONY factory in Wales, UK. Here is the group photo where we visited 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 specification 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 are some risk of compatibility and you need to upgrade the OS, and there might need some other tweak needed in term of library and casing. Anyway, the Raspberry Pi 3B+ is available now at our store.Feedback are welcome, question? Please post it in our technical forum or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.