After losing patience with my cubietruck, I decided to buy an RPi 3 (Raspberry Pi 3). I bought the “official” kit, which included a nice sleek black case, the RPi 3 itself, a power adapter and the noobs uSD (micro SD card) installer. On Amazon, people had reported problems with the uSD card. I did not have any problems, so I assume that they have ironed them all out. The kit cost £47 altogether. Try buying an Intel PC for anything like that price!
I noticed that the RPi 3 is dramatically faster than the RPi 2. The performance enhancements seems to go far beyond what a comparison of the raw specs of the machines might imply.
My comments on the hardware:
- power adapter. Yes! Finally! We now no longer have to mess around with using a powered USB hub and attaching devices to it. That’s a messy solution. The RPi 2 could not even handle a pen drive plugged into its USB ports, making it considerably inconvenient. RPi 3 fixes that issue.
- 4 USB ports. This enables me to use a laptop SATA drive as a root partition, using 2 USB ports (one for power, one for data), with spare ports for the keyboard and mouse, should I want to use it that way.
- HDMI. OK, that was in the RPi 2, too. HDMI is better than DVi because I can get the audio coming out of my telly, rather than have to attach separate speakers.
- Wifi on board. I would not say this is a “fantastic” feature, but it did allow me to ditch the requirement of an ethernet cable. So, again, one less item of clutter. Setting up Wifi was trivial, too. I just typed in my Wifi password, and I’m good to go.
It should also be noted that Raspberry Pi has considerable momentum and a large developer community behind it. This is important, because it means that things just work better, support is wider, and you have more community backup if you run into problems; which happens less often anyway because of the extra design work.
The thing about the RPi compared to potentially competing products is that the former is more “thought through”. Other products, which typically come from China, seems to be a bit “wobbly”. The cubietruck, for example, has a SATA drive, but the power draw means that you have to start hooking extra sources to the board. The latest kernel doesn’t support the NAND device, which is a considerable inconvenience. Booting is a bit of a mess, too. For some reason, I couldn’t get network working when I booted from SATA, even though it seemed to be OK from the uSD card. You run into a lot of these kinds of “chicken and egg” scenarios when you opt for less popular boards.
So I would definitely recommend the RPi over similar solutions. That’s not to say that you should never consider other vendors, Perhaps a Beagleboard, or whatever, which costs less, is more of an appropriate solution for your particular project. The point being is that they don’t occupy the same “solution space”.
I notice the noob card comes with Windows 10 IoT. It’s something I might have a play with. I would be interested in seeing if I could set up a media centre using it. If memory serves, Windows 10 does not include a media player, though. If so, then Microsoft should probably rethink that one.
So basically, the RPi 3 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me. It is British engineering should be about! Well done to the team that designed it.