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Raspberry Pi 2 review: The revolutionary $35 micro-PC, supercharged

Brad Chacos | Feb. 23, 2015
Let's cut right to the chase: This thing rocks. The new Raspberry Pi 2 Model B fixes the most glaring issues of the three-year-old original Pi, and even better, it manages to do so at the same $35 price point of its predecessor. This credit card sized-mini PC delivers a shocking amount of value for the money.

Let's cut right to the chase: This thing rocks. The new Raspberry Pi 2 Model B fixes the most glaring issues of the three-year-old original Pi, and even better, it manages to do so at the same $35 price point of its predecessor. This credit card sized-mini PC delivers a shocking amount of value for the money.

Don't head into this thinking the RP2 is some sort of radical leap forward, however. As Apple has done with the iPhone, the Raspberry Pi 2 is an evolutionary tweaking of the first model's then-revolutionary concept. Most of the new model's features are exactly the same as the original, which helps to ensure full backward compatibility. But the changes the Raspberry Pi Foundation did make were very welcome ones indeed.

Because the performance changes are the big difference in the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, let's dig into that first.

Powered up Pi

The Raspberry Pi 2 includes three basic, powerful upgrades. It replaces the single-core, 700MHz ARM11 processor of the original in favor of a far more powerful quad-core, 900MHz ARM Cortex-A7 chip; it doubles the available RAM from 512MB to a full 1GB; and it packs four full USB ports, twice the amount of the original Model B. (Four USB ports first appeared in the incremental Raspberry Pi Model B+ model released in July 2014.)

Beyond the upgrades, the micro-PC uses the same VideoCore IV 3D graphics processor as its forefathers, but that was already a (relatively) beefy processor that punches above its weight class with full 1080p video output capabilities. The Raspberry Pi 2 also features an Ethernet port, a full HDMI port, a jack for combined 3.5mm audio and composite video, and a micro-SD card slot. Tinkerers will appreciate the 40 GPIO pins (the original Model B had 24), and CSI and DSI connectors for direct connections to expansion boards, displays, and more.

Collectively, the upgrades add up to dramatically improve the Pi's performance.

U.S. Pi supplier Element14 sent me a Raspberry Pi 2. I had an old, original Raspberry Pi Model B already knocking around my office. I loaded each up with the recommended Linux-based Raspbian 3.18 operating system stashed in the Raspberry Pi Foundation's NOOBS installer tool and got to benchmarking. The results were astonishing.

First, I ran a pair of browser-based benchmarks in the included Epiphany browser to see how performance stacks up in real-world situations. As you can see in the graph below, the Raspberry Pi 2 chewed through Sunspider roughly 3.5 times faster than the first Model B.

The results when I ran Google's Octane benchmark were even more illuminating. The Raspberry Pi 2 delivered a total combined score of 318, while the original Model B crashed repeatedly when attempting to run the test. (But to put things in proper perspective, my 2013 Moto X smartphone — a capable, but not high-end phone when it launched — scored 3247 using the Chrome browser, and it took far less time to run the test.)

 

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