Try out the Raspberry Pi Model 3 B Plus! - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Try out the Raspberry Pi Model 3 B Plus!

Author: luislabmo

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools

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?: Pine64, NanoPi M3

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Nothing big but found a couple of issues: 1. The Pi had marks/residues of a liquid; they can be appreciated mostly on the chrome plated parts and other components. 2. powering the Raspberry Pi using the USB port is becoming harder as it consumes more power and there are limited options that don't trigger the under-voltage warning.

Detailed Review:

The new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ is the latest iteration of the top of the line Raspberry Pi developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It delivers increased performance thanks to a faster processor and 5 GHz WiFi. For some tasks, it seems considerable faster than its previous iteration: the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, on some other tasks it feels about the same.

 

If you are familiar with electronics, the Raspberry Pi is a great tool to develop electronics projects and to start coding. In this review I will provide high level details on this awesome single-board, low-cost computer and some technical details that may be useful to you for future projects.

 

 

Overview

The Raspberry Pi has evolved into a very capable little computer that over 6 years has been slowly taking the world. About 19 million of Raspberry Pis have been sold total, out of those, 9 million units sold of the previous versionprevious version in just only 2 years; impressive numbers for a computer considering that it only costs USD $35.

 

There are four notable changes in the New RPi 3B+ -along with other smaller changes-:

  1. A faster CPU (1.4GHz 64-bit quad-core processor)
  2. Dual-band 802.11ac wireless LAN (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and Bluetooth 4.2
  3. Faster Ethernet (Gigabit Ethernet over USB 2.0)
  4. Power-over-Ethernet support.

 

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ may serve for many purposes: to make a media center able to play a wide range of video formats, home servers, play retro-games, to monitor your home remotely, to teach your kids how to code and tons of other DIY projects and prototypes.

 

Physical Design

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ brings hardware improvements maintaining the same mechanical footprint as previous iterations (Raspberry Pi 2 and Pi 3 Model B) with very few noticeable physical changes: a little metal cover on its SoC to help dissipate the heat and a metal cover with the Raspberry Pi logo over the wireless circuits for EMI/RFI shielding.

 

GPIO Pinout

As far as I know, the Raspberry Pi pinout has not changed much since the 40-pin header was introduced, which is a very positive aspect for all of you wanting to upgrade your projects without having to drastically change your hardware.

 

For the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ there is a small addition: a 4-pin header (2x2) was added for Power over Ethernet (PoE) support.

Source: Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ GPIO 40 Pin Block & PoE Header Pinout

 

Unboxing

There is very little to say here as the Raspberry Pi comes inside a thin box and as usual, looks and feel of remarkable quality. Contrary to previous iterations, the new Raspberry Pi 3B+ did not come inside ESD packaging

 

Package contents

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ includes:

  • The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+
  • Raspberry Pi Safety instructions and Quick start guide
{gallery:width=768,height=432} Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ unboxing

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+: Package contents

Pi 3 B+ liquid/residue marks: Some liquid residue is visible mostly in the chrome plated parts and other components

Comparison: Visual comparison between Raspberry Pi 3B and Pi 3B+

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B (previous version): Package contents - included ESD packaging

Seems that the new iteration of the Pi has less parts, which to me is a step in the right direction reducing the manufacturing costs, manufacturing errors and improving key design aspects with tailored solutions all of these at the end will absolutely benefit the end-user.

 

Some visible stain marks brought my attention (seems something splashed all over the raspberry pi), leaving marks mostly on chrome plated parts and some components -I've highlighted few of them in the last picture-. These marks seem permanent.

 

Review

Most of my tests involved using the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ together with the Raspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen DisplayRaspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen Display. During this RoadTest, I'm not planning to torture test, gather performance benchmarks or to compare them as it has been done already in other places, instead I'm going to provide valuable information on few common use cases, running few simple tasks and to compare some of them between the new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ and the previous model, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model BRaspberry Pi 3 Model B.

 

How it works with the 7" touchscreen display

There are a lot of displays available for the Raspberry Pi but I ended using the the 7" touchscreen for most of my tests since I have two of them, perfect for what is coming for this review. The display is a perfect addition giving the users the ability to create all-in-one projects with a decent screen size, fairscreen resolution that allows to use Raspbian reasonably and capacitive touch support. It connects to the DSI port on the RPi, which is located in the same spot as the previous version; the hook up requires a little care, but once it is hooked up everything works well right out of the box, no kernel changes required, just make sure you have a good power supply that can handle the load and also make sure your Raspbian is up to date to avoid issues.

The touch display works very well and I didn't not see any difference compared to using it paired to the previous Raspberry Bi. The mounting holes in the Pi 3B+ align perfectly with the mounting screws of the display, in fact, comparing both the Pi 3B+ and the Pi 3B it is hard to spot any physical layout difference except on some components.

{gallery:width=768,height=432} Paired to a 7" touchscreen display

Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B: both mounted on 7" touchscreen displays

Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B image quality: Raspbian desktop on 7" touchscreen display - no visible differences

 

Power consumption

The Pi 3B+ has now a custom power supply chip, the MaxLinear MxL7704 which provides the voltage rails necessary for the SoC and other components of the Pi to operate, it is also in charge of the under-voltage monitoring/warning.

During my tests it became clear that the Raspberry Pi consumes more power in this iteration; which later on I've corroborated with the power requirements:

Note that Raspberry Pi 3B+ does consume substantially more power than its predecessor. We strongly encourage you to use a high-quality 2.5A power supply, such as the official Raspberry Pi Universal Power Supply.

 

I wanted to run some experiments powering the RPi through the USB Power IN with/without the Raspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen DisplayRaspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen Display -kinda the official way of doing it-, also I wanted to monitor the Pi's power usage under various test conditions using my Keysight E36313A Bench Power Supply. A nice excuse to build a small adapter to convert a Double Banana plug to USB in order to use a regular USB A Male to Micro USB Male cable -I wanted to run my tests as if a user was using a USB power adapter- which became a big challenge: first I was not able to find a USB receptacle with more than 1.8A advertised on the GND/VBUS terminals, on the other side, finding a USB cable that will indicate how much current did support became another impossible task -more on this later-.

{gallery:width=768,height=432,autoplay=false} Double banana plug to USB adapter

USB to dual banana plug adapter: assembled - top view

USB to dual banana plug adapter: assembled - bottom view

USB to dual banana plug adapter: assembled - left side view

USB to dual banana plug adapter - parts required: Pomona 72918 4mm plug, MOLEX 48408-0003 USB Connector and custom made PCB

Before diving in, I want to clarify on how to know if the under-voltage warning on the Pi 3B+ has been triggered or is still under under-voltage fault:

  • Log files: the kernel will log events like this in the file /var/log/syslog. An under-voltage condition will look like this:

    Jun  7 11:30:23 raspberrypi kernel: [  393.114764] Under-voltage detected! (0x00050005)

  • The PWR led (red): when the Pi is on, the PWR led will be off as long as there is an under-voltage condition.
  • The lightning bolt: when there is a display connected to the Pi, recent versions of Raspbian will display a lightning bolt close to the top-right corner when there is an under-voltage condition.

 

Power usage without touchscreen

First I wanted to monitor the power usage of the Pi using Raspbian without anything connected. Before starting my test, I tried to power the Pi with different USB power adapters and different USB cables -different brands and lengths-. I was able to spot a few times the PWR led turning off (which indicates an under-voltage condition), at this point it became clear to me that powering the Pi using this method is becoming more and more tricky -honestly I had noticed this on the Pi 3B already- and there are a lot of users in many different forums (including E14) running on similar issues.

{gallery:width=768,height=432,autoplay=false} Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ without display

Pi 3B+ without display: Powered through the USB PWR IN port

Pi 3B+ without display: Powered through the GPIO port

Various cables and USB adapters: Used different USB cables and USB power adapters on the various tests

Given the above, I measured anyways the power consumption during the boot-up sequence, idle, during the shutdown sequence and idle after shutdown both powering the Pi through the USB PWR IN and directly to the GPIO (+5V/GND pins):

  • Power usage when Idle ~420mA.
  • Power usage when Idle after shutdown ~100mA.

 

The results speak for themselves: Higher current peaks can be appreciated when powering the Pi directly to the GPIO -this is not a conclusive result-; this just indicates that when powering the Pi with a USB cable, to provide clean, stable and enough current at all times, many factors must be accounted for like:

  • the USB cables internal resistance which may be affected by the internal wires thickness, length, connectors capacity and build quality.
  • the power adapter's specifications
  • the USB connector's capacity
  • the PCB traces width -on this one I made sure to use 2oz/ft² and to use traces wide enough-.

 

The lack of any of the above considerations may lower the power flowing in to the Pi

 

At this point is where I realized that failed miserably when I tried to build my Double Banana plug to USB adapter. For the reasons mentioned above and to get the most reliable results, all my tests that involved measuring the power usage from this point of the test were executed strictly powering the Raspberry Pi directly to the +5V/GND pins which I nailed making something else, few Banana-plug to Female PCB connector cables.

{gallery:width=768,height=432,autoplay=false} Banana-plug to Female PCB connector cables

Banana-plug to Female PCB connector cables: 12in length, made with 20 AWG silicone wire and Radioshack Stackable Banana plugs

Parts and tools: Parts and tools needed for the Banana-plug to Female PCB connector cables assembly

I was able to avoid the under-voltage warning completely only under two conditions:

  • when using the official and recommended micro USB power supply for Raspberry Pimicro USB power supply for Raspberry Pi, which on a side note, is made with 18/2 AWG wire and seems of outstanding quality.
  • when powering the Pi directly through the GPIO (+5V/GND pins)

Power usage with touchscreen

My second test involved seeing how fast the Pi 3B+ with the Raspberry Pi 7" Touchscreen DisplayRaspberry Pi 7" Touchscreen Display using Raspbian would boot. I was also interested in monitoring the power usage of everything together.

 

I measured the power consumption during the boot-up sequence, idle while in the desktop, shutdown sequence and idle after shutdown. Then compared the results with the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B under the same circumstances.

  • Power usage when Idle in the Raspbian desktop ~955mA Pi 3B+, ~800mA Pi 3B.
  • Power usage when Idle after shutdown ~155mA both Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B.

 

The boot-up sequence in both the Pi 3B+ and the Pi 3B took nearly identical time. In the graph, almost every activity consumed more power in the Pi 3B+, except when it was idle after the shutdown sequence, where the power usage was nearly identical to the older version, the Pi 3B.

 

Power usage when watching an online video

My next test involved, opening Chromium Web Browser, heading to youtube, searching and watching a 2m40s trailer in 720p and after the trailer was done, leaving the browser idle for some seconds.

Here is where I first noticed the hardware improvements in the new Pi 3B+. Not only searching the video, loading it and changing the resolution to 720p was faster -I repeated this tests a couple of times-, once in a while there were slight delays -mostly when buffering- which seemed less problematic and less noticeable in new Raspberry Pi 3B+.

 

Notes on performance

Generation after generation the Raspberry Pi has been target of performance improvements - the Pi 3B+ is no exception. Raspbian feels very responsive, opening menus and software quickly without any noticeable lag with some exceptions - like the chromium browser. Of course the new Pi is still no match for a current generation Desktop or Laptop, but probably will get there eventually in the years to come.

 

I tried few tasks both on the Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B, I was able to see the difference on speed, mostly on tasks that would demand high CPU usage like watching a youtube video in 720p or higher, when creating a new game in Minecraft -I never thought I was going to mention this game in a post but yet here I am taking one for for the team /sigh -.

 

{gallery:width=768,height=432} Some common tasks in the new Raspberry Pi

Minecraft: Raspberry Pi 3B+ (left) and Pi 3B (right)

Speedtest LAN: Raspberry Pi 3B+ (left) and Pi 3B (right)

Speedtest WI-FI: Raspberry Pi 3B+ (left) and Pi 3B (right)

When running a simple speedtest both using Wi-Fi and LAN, the results were nearly identical in both the Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B.

 

helpusobi 1

I wanted to wrap-up my review doing something "more enjoyable". Knowing that there are a lot of Star Wars fans and quite some video game enthusiasts in this community, while I was working in my review -I wanted to test a videogame- I came across with something that could be a really nice addition to this review, so here are some simple steps and my experiences installing STAR WARS™ Jedi Knight II - Jedi Outcast™ in the Raspberry Pi 3B+ which works well overall.

 

Preparation

  • A Raspberry Pi with a clean -and working- Raspbian installation is recommended
  • Ensure your Raspbian packages are up-to-date

    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get -y upgrade

  • Install the STAR WARS™ Jedi Knight II - Jedi Outcast™ game on any PC -it may be purchased/downloaded from Steam-. We will need it to copy the assets*.pk3 files to the Raspberry Pi

 

Installing Jedi Outcast in the Raspberry Pi

We will need to install OpenJK which is an open-source project intended to improve the Jedi Academy (JA) and Jedi Outcast (JO) game engines. Here are the steps I've used to get the game running:

 

cd ~

# Install packages 
sudo apt-get install libjpeg8-dev libpng12-dev zlib1g-dev freeglut3-dev cmake git libsdl2-dev

# Clone openjk from github: this will create the 'jka' folders
git clone https://github.com/JACoders/OpenJK.git jka

 

In the main CMakeLists.txt file in the root of the repository ('~/jka/' folder) turn the following to ON:

  • BuildJK2SPGame
  • BuildJK2SPEngine
  • BuildJK2SPRdVanilla

 

Build and compile (this may take around 30 mins)

# Build and Install
mkdir ~/jka/build
cd ~/jka/build
cmake .. -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=~/jka/
make -j4
make install

 

From the installed GameData folder copy your assets*.pk3 to the ~/jka/JediOutcast/base folder (a USB memory may become handy on this step)

 

Copy the ~/jka/build/code/rd-vanilla/rdjosp-vanilla_arm.so file to the ~/jka/JediOutcast/ folder

 

Copy the ~/jka/JediOutcast/OpenJK/jospgamearm.so file to the ~/jka/JediOutcast/ folder

 

Enable the OpenGL driver in the Raspberry configuration tool (raspi-config) and set memory split to 256 (in Advanced settings). Restart the Pi -from this point I had to switch to an HDMI display- as the OpenGL support is still experimental in Raspbian and well, I didn't get any image on the touch screen display.

sudo raspi-config

 

Run openjo_sp.arm (it is in the ~/jka/JediOutcast/ folder)

 

Have fun and May the force be with you

{gallery:width=768,height=432} Jedi Outcast on the Raspberry Pi

OpenJK Jedi Outcast: Jedi Outcast main menu

OpenJK Jedi Outcast: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

OpenJK Jedi Outcast: Star Wars

OpenJK Jedi Outcast: Jedi Outcast intro

OpenJK Jedi Outcast: Jedi Outcast gameplay

 

Jedi Outcast performance in the Raspberry Pi 3B+

When I wanted to test a video game in the Pi 3B+ I didn't want to go with the common options: native games or emulators. Jedi Outcast was a good option first of all because I like it, also because this brings some challenges -honestly I spent an entire day making it work since there is not a lot of information about solving issues-.

 

In my tests this game mattered because it has a 3D engine and requires OpenGL, two features that can highlight how powerful the Raspberry Pi has evolved. The game was playable most of the time -some input lag here and there- but overall enjoyable. Of course, there is room for improvement but my hopes are that my fellow readers can try it and maybe come back with some improvements .

 

How I tested

When I was running a comparison between the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ and the previous model, I made sure to use two identical SD cards with a fresh image of Debian with Raspberry Pi Desktop (Version: June 2018), each attached to a Raspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen DisplayRaspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen Display mounted on a custom 3D-printed prototyping stand.

 

For all my tests where I was interested in measuring the current usage, I avoided the USB Power Input and made two Banana-plug to Female PCB connector cables to connect my Bench Power Supply directly the Raspberry Pi's +5V/GND pins and made sure to set the Voltage output on my PSU to 5V. The data-logger sample interval was set to 200ms.

 

Conclusion

The new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ being a budget board packed with enough computing power is a fantastic piece of hardware. The improvements on performance may be appreciated mostly in activities that demand high CPU usage compared to the previous iteration the Raspberry Pi 3B. It also maintains a level of backwards compatibility and a constantly growing community of makers supporting it.

 

If you are considering to upgrade from its previous iteration the Pi 3B maybe it doesn't make much sense, but if you are planning to upgrade a much older version of Raspberry Pi -say the Model 2B- or to get one for the first time it is definitively worth the investment.

 

Thank you all for reading this review and a big thanks to Element14 for choosing me for this Road Test.

Anonymous
  • I think you're right. It is a great adaptor, so why not!

  • Hello ,

    Look at what I found on a Keysight video!, it is a bit hard to see but I think it is the one

    Luis

  • Hello Luis,

     

    thank you for your answer. BTW, me too I have found the same document and I have experimented these features on a previous PI generation. As a matter of fact it will work, also because these features are almost the stuff that the energy saving Linux will do on laptops running Ubuntu and similar.

    Just a suggestion to try fast and furious what happens with a Battery powered device, I have done tests keeping a good control of what happens along a period with a B3 and a USB Power pack (a commercial one, with good capabilities) and monitored the discharge curve history with oscilloscope. I have done this as part of a set of testings with the Raspberry PI industrial version and also in this case I got almost positive surprisingly good results.

     

    Enrico

  • Hello Enrico, thank you for your comments.

     

    I did not try batteries on this Pi, I don't have enough parts to try this (batteries/charger circuits) -yet.

     

    Regarding my conclusion let me explain the reasons. There are still companies/people that need older versions, in fact the Pi foundation still makes/sells them! -found this while writing my review: a newer version may not meet your power requirements (model A for example uses just 0.5 watts at Idle), new features like WiFi/Bluetooth may not be needed in your project or that extra power boost.

     

    Given the above, your needs determine if upgrading to the newest Pi makes sense/or not; if you are looking for maximum performance, sure go for it!. I don't consider extra CPU power as the only decision factor to consider upgrading: I think cost/benefit, extra features, backwards compatibility, power consumption are other things to consider. In my review, I only felt the difference between the Pi 3B+ and Pi 3B under heavy CPU load, the rest felt about the same that is why I said "maybe It doesn't make much sense".

     

    Disabling features/peripherals is something I did not explore - that is an excellent idea of yours!, found this while doing a little bit of research. I may play with them and add them in the future to the review.

     

    Luis

  • Hi, very well done review, interesting and exhaustive. Thumb up

    Frankly I appreciated a lot your Physical parallel comparison between models, I consider this a very nice and clear visual explanation. You have focused a lot on powering advantages / disadvantages of the new model and this sounds very appreciable. Did you tried some option to power the device with batteries?

     

    Just a not on one of the last sentences

    If you are considering to upgrade from its previous iteration the Pi 3B maybe it doesn't make much sense, but if you are planning to upgrade a much older version of Raspberry Pi -say the Model 2B- or to get one for the first time it is definitively worth the investment.

    IMHO it is not 100% true. One of the most advertised and surely important factor, it is just the more powerful processor power but the availability of more peripherals on board respect the previous models also makes the difference.

    Also considering the on-board new peripherals by a point of view of power consumption I think - just a personal impression - that it is less power consuming than the previous model with USB extra devices. What it is interesting to investigate in this case, is the possibility to physically enable/disable the peripherals when are not needed.

     

    Enrico

     

  • Followed, feel free to contact me with the details.

     

    I did try 5.1V (same results), also thought about using the 4-wire remote sense but the only place I could tap the Pi -without having to modify it- was in the GPIO and to my knowledge, there are some components between the USB Pwr IN and the GPIO (polyfuse, capacitors and some other passives), so I thought this was not ideal (placing the power in the USB port and then sensing in the GPIO) -I may be wrong on this one-.

     

    But....... I have a plan, I have a broken USB cable I'm dismantling -for science-. I'm planning to reuse its connectors with thicker wires (just GND/VBUS) if everything goes well, you will see an update to the review in the future.

     

    Luis

  • That's very generous of you, thanks. We'll have to follow each other so I can PM you my address.

     

    By the way did you try the PSU's 4 wire mode to compensate for any voltage drop? Or upping the voltage to 5.1V like some chargers do so it's near the upper range of the USB spec?

  • Hello ,

     

    I considered the USB adapter a failure -well kind of- because I was not able to power the Pi without the under-voltage warning being triggered -my main goal after all-. I'm pretty sure it will work in other projects less demanding -or if I ever find a USB cable up to the task-, but it was a valuable learning experience to me.

    I will be more than happy to send to you some USB Adapter PCBs for free -no issues shipping them to UK-. I will be very interested to know about your experiences with the USB adapter.

    Luis

  • Thank you all , , , , , for your kind words, I'm glad you liked the review.

    Luis


  • A nice detailed review and a good analysis of the difference from the 3.

     

    I like your banana to USB adapter (probably because I've also got a Keysight 36312A PSU) but not sure why you think it was a failure. Surely the 5.1V from USB will take a different path from the 5V to the pins - the difference in measurements is not unexpected.

     

    If you've got any spare PCBs I'd be happy to buy one rather than make up my own (unless shipping to the UK is a pain).