Evaluation Type: Evaluation Boards
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Older Raspberry Pi variants: 256MB Model B 512MB Model B+ 1GB Model 2
What were the biggest problems encountered?: Some alternative OSes don't quite feel finished for this board (I would like to point out that official Raspbian works perfectly though), however the board is still very new, in a few months and some updates this will more than likely be fixed.
In the box you get health and safety information, some basic instructions on how to set up the Pi (although thanks to Raspbian updates you don't need the login instructions any more as it's all automated) and of course the Raspberry Pi 3 itself. This means that to run the Pi you will probably also need a USB power supply (with a micro USB cable), an micro-SD card (preferably 8GB or more), a HDMI monitor (and HDMI cable) and a keyboard/ mouse. There are ways of connecting to it via SSH so you can connect to a Pi from another computer instead, and you can find plenty of tutorials around and about for how to do this if you want to.
For my review I used several a few of the many different OSs that are avaliable for the Raspberry Pi and did various different things with them to see what the Pi 3 was capable of:
Raspbian (Jessie, May 2016 Update)
I first used Raspbian, if you're a first time user then use NOOBS, as this is a much easier way to set up your Pi. I was amazed at how fast the combination of the Pi 3 and the latest software was, it's also very user friendly and easy to use, making it great to use for almost every kind of thing you could possibly want to do with a Pi. The WiFi worked perfectly, and with Bluetooth I was able to connect to a speaker and a keyboard simultaneously.
To test this I used Firefox (well, it was Iceweasel, but they're essentially the same) to play a video from YouTube (in 1080p) across the WiFi connection, and playing the sound through a bluetooth speaker. Admittedly it wasn't perfectly smooth, but it was perfectly watchable, and incredibly impressive for a £30 piece of hardware! I know that other versions of the Pi would struggled to even run Firefox, so I was very impressed with this.
I was also easily able to host a simple webpage using Apache 2 after following a tutorial from the Raspberry Pi website. All of their tutorials seem to be very easy to follow and I've always found them useful in the past.
Windows 10 IOT (Build 14328)
Firstly, just so no-one makes the same mistake as I did, I would like to point out that Windows 10 IOT is not the same as Windows 10, with this OS the Pi becomes an "Internet of Things" device, so there is no desktop or anything like that. At the moment you can only get preview builds on the Pi 3 as well, this means it is unfinished, a bit buggy and you need to sign up to the Windows Insider Program to be able to get it.
I downloaded and installed this via NOOBS using the built in WiFi connection, this worked perfectly, and meant I didn't need to find a WiFi dongle or an ethernet cable!
Also, I found you need to have Visual Studio 2015 installed on a different PC, you can get it for free, but it's time consuming. Therefore I didn't actually do any projects with this in the end... I was using a preview build, but even after navigating around the few menus, the experience felt very unfinished, hopefully when the Anniversary Update is released (probably at the end of July) it should be a better.
Ubuntu MATE (Version 16.04)
This OS isn't available through Noobs, so I put it straight onto the SD card, there's some good instructions on the Ubuntu MATE website on how to do this.
MATE allows you to do loads of customisation, looks great and has everything you expect from a desktop OS, if you want it will also run x86, x64 or PowerPC computers, which is pretty neat in my opinion!
I did have some WiFi connection issues while using it though, I' m pretty sure this was due to the software I used rather than the hardware, but at this point the Pi 3 hasn't been out long, so I imagine this will improve.
While using MATE I decided to be adventurous and try running a game, Warzone 2100, surprisingly it did actually run and it was just about playable. Unfortunately the Pi isn't going to replace your gaming PC!
Personally I think Raspbian is the best for beginners, projects and just about anyone really who wants to use a Pi really, however Ubuntu MATE is better if you want to use your Pi like a desktop.
I'm sure Windows 10 IOT is probably good, but you lose the ability to use the Pi as a proper computer and you have to use Microsoft’s tools to do anything with it, rather than whatever software you want. It feels to me like it just becomes a fancy (but complicated to use) Arduino. Not that there's anything wrong with that really, I just don't think it's as useful in my opinion.
Hardware wise this is definitely a massive improvement from the original Model B, and it definitely feels quicker than a B+ or 2. It’s also much more convenient to use with the addition of Bluetooth and WiFi as well! On top of this, because the layout of the board hasn’t changed since the B+, you can use any cases or add on boards that are designed for the B+ or 2.
I'd also like to make a quick note on power consumption, I was worried I would need a new 2.5A power supply after reading the specs, however if you're not doing much with it then I found that even the USB 2.0 port on my PC could supply enough current.
NOTE: This is not reccomended and could cause the Pi to malfunction, the official instructions state it should be run from a minimum of a 2A power supply, however I found that it could be run from less than that.
Finally, I'd just like to say thanks for being selected to be given the Pi and write this review, the Pi 3 is a brilliant product and I've loved using it, I can't wait to get started on other projects using it!