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Raspberry Pi 4 released - and offers complete multimedia desktop PC for £33


By Paul Brackley


The Raspberry Pi 4 is out today - and it promises buyers a complete desktop PC from just £33.

An annotated Raspberry Pi 4 (12863520)
An annotated Raspberry Pi 4 (12863520)

The latest model of the Cambridge company’s credit card-sized computer is a major upgrade on its predecessor, with three times the processing power and four times the multimedia performance.

The Pi Store, which opened in February in the Grand Arcade, Cambridge, is the only physical shop in the world where you can walk in and buy one - so it was expected to be busy today with those eager who couldn’t wait for an online order to come through.

Offered with 1GB, 2GB or 4GB of RAM - priced £33, £43 and £53 respectively - it is the first Pi to replicate the full range of capabilities of a traditional PC.

Users will be able to enjoy multi-tab web browsing, streams films, edit photos and videos, share files fast or even create apps in ultra high definition.

The single-board machine, with a powerful quad-core ARM Cortex-A72 processor running at 1.5GHz, also has dual 4K screen capability for the first time.

So, will it muscle in on the traditional PC market?

Eben Upton, co-founder of Raspberry Pi (12863316)
Eben Upton, co-founder of Raspberry Pi (12863316)

Raspberry Pi co-founder Eben Upton said: “The vision behind Raspberry Pi 4 is to make a rich multimedia PC experience accessible to everyone. By offering a ‘just right’ level of performance for most users, we’ve been able to do this at roughly a tenth the cost of a traditional desktop PC.

“This is a significant development for the PC market as a whole. Raspberry Pi is already the best-selling British computer of all time. In 2018 quarter four, Raspberry Pi 3+ and earlier models accounted for 2.5 per cent of the global PC market; the improved capabilities of Raspberry Pi 4 should allow us to address a much larger fraction of that market.”

The Raspberry Pi 4 is available on its own or it can be purchased with an optional ‘desktop kit’, which for £105 bundles the machine with everything you need to replace your desktop PC, except for the monitor - namely a 4GB Raspberry Pi 4 board, official case, USB mouse, USB keyboard, power supply unit, two HDMI cables, 32GB micro SD card and a beginner’s guide.

“What we've done with Raspberry Pi 4 is to take all of the core functionality of a PC, the sort of PC you're familiar with, and squeeze that down into a credit card-sized device. You can use this to surf the web, you can use this to edit documents, you can use this to upload and download files on the internet. Everything you can do with a traditional PC you should expect to be able to do with the Raspberry Pi 4,” said Eben.

A range of programming languages, from Scratch to Python and C++, is included, as with previous models, encouraging users to learn coding and develop software - a key part of Raspberry Pi’s original mission.

The community of hobbyists who have been using Pi computers to create everything from home multimedia libraries to camera traps since the platform was launched in 2012 will doubtless be delighted with its new features, including gigabit ethernet and USB 3.0 connectivity.

Backwards compatibility with earlier models is retained once more, so old creations should generally work without modification.

Raspberry Pi 4 is also well-positioned to extend the company’s progress in the industrial and commercial markets, aiding the digital transformation of businesses.

The Raspberry Pi 4 (12863362)
The Raspberry Pi 4 (12863362)

It can serve both as a low-cost, low-power embedded controller and as a full-featured Linux workstation.

The machine makes it possible, for the first time, to develop and deploy industrial Internet of Things applications on a single common hardware platform.

The machine offers 802.11ac wireless networking and Bluetooth 5.0, along with a full set of standard serial interfaces.

Billed as the “ideal bridge between the physical world and the network”, it can serve as a leaf node in an IoT network, or as a data aggregator for a large network of low-cost sensors.

The ethernet port on the Raspberry Pi 4 (12863322)
The ethernet port on the Raspberry Pi 4 (12863322)

As its processor can perform sophisticated local processing, it will reduce upstream bandwidth requirements, which Raspberry Pi suggests will help to address privacy concerns in distributed machine-learning applications.

Eben said: “Just as we help make coding more accessible for consumers, we also aim to democratise digital innovation in businesses and public services.

“Today, over 50 per cent of our $35 Raspberry Pi units are destined for industrial and commercial use; Raspberry Pi 4 builds on this success, providing greatly increased performance at the same low cost.

The Raspberry Pi 4 (12863389)
The Raspberry Pi 4 (12863389)

“We aim to create equality of opportunity across our digital economy, by providing a low-cost platform for technological innovation that is accessible to every organisation, from start-ups to multinationals.”

The machine’s multimedia capabilities have been given a major boost with the ability to decode high-dynamic-range 4Kp60 HEVC video, and to drive two simultaneous HDMI displays at resolutions up to 4K.

Digital signage, where one unit can now control two independent panels, and high-end thin client installations, are now possible with the machine - something that had held back some industrial users from using earlier models.

The Raspberry Pi 4 (12863297)
The Raspberry Pi 4 (12863297)

Hotel chains, hydrogen fuel stations and smart factories of blue-chip organisations including Sony UK Technology Centre have already been using Raspberry Pi machines, thanks to their low costs, reliability and availability, along with the approach of embracing open source software and open standards.

Devised in Cambridge, the new computers are manufactured once again in South Wales at the Sony UK Technology Centre, where investment in automation has been critical in keeping costs down - another critical element of Raspberry Pi’s mission to democratise computing through low-cost accessibility.

Steve Dalton, managing director of Sony UK Technology Centre, said: “We are extremely proud to be selected as the manufacturing partner for the next-generation Raspberry Pi 4 computers.

The Raspberry Pi 4 (12863387)
The Raspberry Pi 4 (12863387)

“Our operation in Pencoed has experienced an unprecedented growth in the last six years, something we are understandably incredibly proud of.

“Our growth has been intrinsically linked to the success of the Raspberry Pi and we are delighted to see our long-standing partnership continue with the launch of the next generation Raspberry Pi computer.

"It’s exciting for us to see the Raspberry Pi technology continue to evolve as we not only produce, but also put the Pi computers into action to challenge and innovate our processes, and push the boundaries of modern manufacturing. It is a significant achievement for the UK manufacturing sector overall to have an internationally successful, high volume, low-cost electronic product manufactured right here in Wales.

“We are confident that our ongoing partnership will serve to further strengthen Wales’s reputation as an innovative and progressive nation and bring vast economic benefits to the UK as a whole.”

The Raspberry Pi 4 (12863326)
The Raspberry Pi 4 (12863326)

Initially, the Raspberry Pi was not expected to be released until 2020.

Eben told the Cambridge Independent it had required fewer iterations to get it ready than originally envisaged, meaning it was ready ahead of time.

Between 100,000 and 200,000 of them have been manufactured for launch, he said, and the factory is able to produce another 100,000 a week.

Within three years of launching the first model, Raspberry Pi had sold five million units, making it the best-selling British computer of all time. It has now sold more than 26 million computers.

Profits from the Raspberry Pi Trading are ploughed back into the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a charity that aims to put the power of computing into the hands of people all over the world.

It offers outreach and education to help more people access computing and has developed free resources to help people learn about computing and how to make things with computers.

The foundation also trains teachers and other educators to help guide other people to learn.

Eben said: “The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK-registered charity founded here in Cambridge about a decade ago. Now all of the profits from the sale of Raspberry Pi computers go to fund the foundation's educational activities. We really believe Raspberry Pi 4 is the next step in delivering our mission of getting low-cost, high-performance, general purpose computing into the hands of children, into the hands of people all over the world.”

There are now more than 13,000 of its free Code Clubs helping nine to 13-year-olds build and share ideas. Across more than 160 countries, they support more than 180,000 young people to learn coding every week - a number that is only likely to spiral with the release of the Raspberry Pi 4.

In 2017, Raspberry Pi won the prestigious MacRobert Award, most prestigious prize for UK engineering innovation.

Not bad for an organisation that’s only seven years old.

The Raspberry Pi Store in the Grand Arcade, Cambridge
The Raspberry Pi Store in the Grand Arcade, Cambridge

Raspberry Pi 4 and the Desktop Kit are available to buy today from Raspberry Pi’s licensee partners element14 and OKdo, from its global network of approved resellers, and from its physical store in the Grand Arcade shopping centre in Cambridge.

The full Raspberry Pi 4 specification

Processor: Broadcom BCM2711, Quad core Cortex-A72 64-bit SoC @ 1.5GHz

Memory: 1GB, 2GB or 4GB LPDDR4 SDRAM (depending on model)

Connectivity: Dual-band IEEE 802.11ac wireless; Bluetooth 5.0; Gigabit Ethernet; two USB 3.0 ports; two USB 2.0 ports

GPIO: Raspberry Pi standard 40 pin GPIO header (fully backwards compatible with previous boards)

Video and sound: Two micro-HDMI ports (up to single 4kp60 or dual 4kp30 supported); 2-lane MIPI DSI display port; 2-lane MIPI CSI camera port; 4-pole stereo audio and composite video port

Multimedia: HEVC/H.265 (4kp60 decode); AVC/H.264 (1080p60 decode, 1080p30 encode), OpenGL ES 3.0 graphics

SD card: Micro-SD card slot for loading operating system and data storage

Input power: 5V DC via USB-C connector (minimum 3A); 5V DC via GPIO header (minimum 3A); Power over Ethernet (PoE) enabled (requires separate PoE HAT).

Environment: Operating temperature: 0 – 50 degrees C ambient

Compliance: For a full list of local and regional product approvals visit www.raspberrypi.org/products/raspberry-pi-4/compliance

Production lifetime: Raspberry Pi 4 will remain in production until at least January 2026

Read more

As £9.60 Zero Wireless computer is released, we speak to Eben Upton about the remarkable life of Raspberry Pi

Eben Upton on Raspberry Pi's first store, expansion and the next Pi computer

Raspberry Pi Foundation helps set up £84m National Centre for Computing Education



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