Raspberry Pi 4 wields a faster CPU and can drive two 4K displays, costs $35

(Image credit: Raspberry Pi Foundation)

The Raspberry Pi Foundation today unveiled the next major iteration of its popular mini PC, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B. While the new model looks similar to previous variants, there are some key upgrades that embolden the company to pitch this as a potential desktop PC of sorts.

Chief among them is a bump in CPU hardware; it may not boast the best CPU for gaming, but one of the key ingredients in the Raspberry Pi 4 is a Broadcom BCM2711 SoC. This consists of four 1.5GHz 64-bit ARM Cortex-A72 CPU cores, and should offer a nice performance boost over the Cortex-A53 CPU inside the Raspberry Pi 3 (it's up to three times faster).

Users can also select from 1GB, 2GB, or even 4GB of RAM this time around. For reference, the Raspberry Pi 3 only came with 1GB of RAM, which is a bit on the lean side for desktop use. And make no mistake, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is definitely pitching that angle.

"This is a comprehensive upgrade, touching almost every element of the platform. For the first time we provide a PC-like level of performance for most users, while retaining the interfacing capabilities and hackability of the classic Raspberry Pi line," the Raspberry Pi Foundation said.

Here's a rundown of the other key specs:

  • Full-throughput gigabit Ethernet
  • Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • Dual 4K monitor support
  • microSD storage card (up to 50Mbps)
  • 40-pin GPIO connector
  • VideoCore VI graphics supporting OpenGL ES 3.x
  • 4Kp60 hardware decode of HEVC video
  • Complete compatibility with earlier Raspberry Pi products

For the Raspberry Pi 4, the developers moved from USB micro-B to USB-C for the power connector. This gives the mini PC an additional 500mA of current, and a full 1.2A for downstream USB devices. The new model also replaces the full-size HDMI type-A connector for a pair of type-D (micro) connectors. These types of cables are a little harder to come by, but it gives the Raspberry Pi 4 dual 4K monitor support.

We have yet to test a Raspberry Pi 4 for ourselves, but our friends at TomsHardware put one through the wringer and noted some impressive performance gains over the previous model. They also found that it mostly lived up to the claim of being usable as a desktop PC, at least for general purpose chores. (Don't ditch your gaming PC for one of these.)

For those who want to go that route, there is a $120 Desktop Kit that includes a 4GB Raspberry Pi 4; an official case, power supply, and mouse and keyboard; a pair of HDMI cables; a copy of the updated The Raspberry Pi Beginner's Guide; and a preinstalled 16GB microSD card.

The Raspberry Pi 4 arrives a bit ahead of schedule, and with a familiar form factor. We didn't know quite what to expect when the Raspberry Pi Foundation closed out its classic mini PC line with its $25 Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ last November.

"In some ways this is rather a poignant product for us. Back in March, we explained that the 3+ platform is the final iteration of the 'classic' Raspberry Pi: whatever we do next will of necessity be less of an evolution, because it will need new core silicon, on a new process node, with new memory technology. So 3A+ is about closing things out in style, answering one of our most frequent customer requests, and clearing the decks so we can start to think seriously about what comes next," the company said at the time.

The Raspberry Pi 4 was not supposed to arrive until 2020, but here it is, starting at $35 (the 2GB and 4GB models cost $45 and $55, respectively). It is available in the Raspberry Pi Store (online) and at the company's store in Cambridge, UK, as well as from a few authorized retailers.

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