The Raspberry Pi Foundation unveiled the latest incarnation of its affordable single-board computer recently, sporting a redesign that adds more USB ports and access to more I/O pins from the processor, but keeping software compatibility with the current Pi.
Although many of these changes are largely cosmetic, we took the opportunity to take a closer look at the new Raspberry Pi Model B+ and see what has changed since we reviewed the original Raspberry Pi back in 2012.
What has not changed is the price, which is still around the £22-£24 mark before VAT and delivery, although the price varies depending upon which retailer you buy the miniature marvel from, so it is worth shopping around.
The new Raspberry Pi has the same footprint as the original device, but has been given a redesign that doubles the number of available USB ports to four, while adding a larger I/O connector block to bring out more of the general-purpose I/O pins from the Broadcom system on a chip (SoC) so that hobbyists can use these in hardware projects.
While the SoC is still the same ARM-based Broadcom BCM2835 of the original, the chip has been upgraded since our original review and now has 512MB of memory mounted with the CPU inside the chip package, rather than 256MB.
The GPIO header is basically an extension of that in the original Raspberry Pi, which had 26 pins. The new one has 40, but retains the same pinout for the first 26 pins, which should mean that 26-pin ribbon cables for the older model should still fit.
However, these are just the most obvious changes. The Model B+ circuit board also now has four mounting holes to enable it to be fixed securely into an enclosure or something else. The Pi actually gained a pair of mounting holes in a minor revision, but now the designers have done a better job and delivered four regularly spaced holes.
Most of the connectors now fit pretty much flush with the edge of the board rather than sticking out, as with earlier Raspberry Pi boards, which makes for a neater appearance if the board is fitted into a case.
The redesign also swaps the SD card slot of the original for a smaller smartphone-style micro SD slot on the underside of the board. As with a typical smartphone, you insert the card by pushing it in until it clicks into place, and remove it by pushing again to eject it. The SD card slot of the original Pi simply held the card in place using friction.
In order to make room for the larger I/O header connector, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has had to remove the RCA-style phono connector that provided the composite video output. This signal is still available, but is now output on a new four-pole 3.5mm jack socket that also carries the audio. This has been designed in such a way that a standard audio cable will work as normal, but if you want the composite video you will need to purchase an adapter cable that breaks out the audio and video signals.
The on-board power regulator has also been redesigned in order to make the Model B+ more power efficient, while also supplying enough current to power peripherals such as external hard drives via the USB ports. However, this is still restricted to a maximum of 1.2A across all four of the USB ports on the Model B+, and requires a power supply capable of delivering 2A to the Raspberry Pi itself.
Next: Setup, in use