The Raspberry Pi 2 is undoubtedly better than the Model B+, but do you need it?
The Raspberry Pi has been a huge success in both the home brew development scene and in educating young minds about how computers work. Its tiny form-factor and incredible price make it irresistible to anyone who’s interested in understanding how computers work, or those who want something small, powerful and flexible to tinker with.
But now the Raspberry Pi 2 has released, is there any reason to pick it up if you’ve already got a Model B+ set up?
Ahead of our Raspberry Pi 2 review, we compare the latest member of the Pi family with the previous bastion of cost-effective micro computing.
Raspberry Pi 2 vs Raspberry Pi B+: Specs
The Raspberry Pi 2 packs a lot of power into the same small frame that the Raspberry Pi has always had. But how much more bang do you actually get for your buck?
Compared to the Raspberry Pi Model B+’s Broadcom BCM2835 ARMv6 system on chip processor, the Pi 2 Model B has a new quad-core Broadcom BCM2836 ARM v7 processor, powering a Single Board Computer running at 900MHz.
The B+’s single-core ran at 700MHz, so it’s quite clear that the Pi 2’s quad-core running at 900 MHz is a beast in comparison.
By having the next step up in Broadcom’s chip range, the Pi 2’s BCM2836 chip can push out Broadcom’s VideoCore IV technology at 250MHz, and has a 1080p30 MPEG-2 and VC-1 decoder, and a 1080p30 h.264/MPEG-4 AVC high-profile decoder and encoder.
The Pi 2 has 1GB of RAM shared between the GPU and the CPU, which is twice the amount of the B+, running 50MHz faster than the B+’s 512MB SDRAM at 400MHz.
You can now push 1.2 Amp to the Pi 2’s 4 USB 2.0 ports so you can connect power-hungry devices. To do this, however, you will have to use a 2 Amp Micro USB power supply instead of the usual 1.8A 5V USB B power source that the Model B+ makes use of and the Pi 2 supports.
Other than that, the Pi 2 still has 4 USB 2.0 ports, uses a 40 pin general-purpose input/output, takes MicroSD cards for storage and has an ethernet port too. There’s also a CSI camera port, and a DSI display port for connecting a Raspberry Pi camera and touch screen display.
Raspberry Pi 2 vs Raspberry Pi B+: Compatibility
The Raspberry Pi 2 runs on the same systems as the Model B+, so everything you have for the Model B+, and older Pi boards, will work without issue on the Pi 2. However, to really make the most of the added power that the Pi 2 brings, software will need to be rejigged to maximize efficiency across the four cores.
You’ll also have to download and install the ARMv7 version of Raspbian as the Pi 2 doesn’t support older builds. However, v7 works across all Raspberry Pi devices, so there’s no reason to not update to it on older devices.
The Pi 2 is now also compatible with both Windows 10 and Linux-based Snappy Ubuntu Core, essentially meaning it’s a fully-functioning PC.
While Windows 10 compatibility isn’t supported right now – so those of you with a Windows 10 Technical Preview ISO ready to go won’t be able to install it on your new Pi 2’s – a special Windows Developer Program for IoT allows you to tinker around with a Windows 10 build that supports the Raspberry Pi 2. Windows 10 will be available free of charge to makers, which is clearly an attractive prospect for developers wanting to create apps and learning experiences for a larger audience.
If it wasn’t for the extra RAM and the increased processing power the quad-core BCM2836 offers, the Pi 2 wouldn’t be able to handle running an operating system like Windows, nor the likes of Snappy Ubuntu Core either.
Raspberry Pi 2 vs Raspberry Pi B+: Potential problems
So far there haven’t been any issues around the Pi 2 besides the fact that – while it’s been stated that all existing cases will fit the Pi 2 – the underside of the board has a couple more protrusions and may cause a snugger fits than desired in some third-party cases.
It’s also worth noting that some older software may not run as efficiently on the Pi 2 until a developer update has been released and therefore optimised it for the quad-core architecture.
Comparing this to the B+, the Raspberry Pi 2 essentially solves the biggest problem that limited past hardware by adopting a quad-core processor.