Faster Raspberry Pi brings low-price computing power to education

Raspberry Pi launched a six-times faster version of its credit card-sized computer, providing PC-equivalent power for under £30.

The Raspberry Pi 2 has four times as many processor cores and twice as much memory as its predecessor – the 4 million-selling device designed and made in Britain as a cheap way for children to learn programming – and can run the new Windows 10.

‘It’s about user-interface responses: it’s just snappier; everything happens faster,’ said Eben Upton, founder of the non-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation that produces the computers, at a press conference this morning.

‘We’d like to sell a total of 3m in 2015. A lot of existing Raspberry Pi users are going to upgrade but the interesting thing about Pi 2 is it broadens the market a little bit in that we hope to stand a chance of customers using it as a second PC in their house.’

Although designed as an educational tool, the original Raspberry Pi has been widely embraced by adult enthusiasts and engineers, with the computer being used for a wide range of industrial and commercial applications from security systems to heating and ventilation to factory automation.

Upton said he suspected a significant number of industrial customers would keep using the Pi 1. ‘Often they don’t really mind how much CPU performance they get; they just want something stable and cheap that works sufficiently for them. I think there is a world of industrial customers for the Pi 2 that are doing things in vision. It’s really pushing out the edges of the industrial market.’

The biggest challenge for the computer’s engineers was hitting the price point of $35 (£26), said Upton, which was required to ensure it was cheap enough to be widely affordable for children and teachers.

‘There was a lot of exciting engineering went on at the silicon level,’ he said. ‘At the board level it was two things: one was making room for the extra silicon. Quite a lot of that cost-engineering first appeared on the B+ [the Raspberry Pi 1’s upgraded model], finding more cost-effective ways of combining components.’

The other challenge was moving from a package-on-package (PoP) system where the memory was part of the main ‘system-on-chip’ to a discrete system with a separate chip that could provide more memory but that required a more complex way of communicating with the rest of the computer.

Raspberry Pi hardware designer Pete Lomas said the new model would enable children to do more with their computers, from creating more complex games to controlling robots. ‘If anything’s going to get kids excited it’s robots,’ he said. ‘The objective was always to give kids the power to do what they dream.’

Raspberry Pi plans to continue manufacturing millions of computers at Sony’s factory in South Wales but expects production for some international markets to be carried out by local sub-contractors.

Raspberry Pi 2 specifications: 

  • Broadcom BCM2836 ARMv7 Quad Core Processor powered Single Board
  • Computer running at 900MHz
  • 1GB RAM
  • 40pin extended GPIO
  • 4 x USB ports
  • 4 pole Stereo output and Composite video port
  • Full size HDMI
  • CSI camera port for connecting the Raspberry Pi camera
  • DSI display port for connecting the Raspberry Pi touch screen display
  • Micro SD port for loading your operating system and storing data
  • Micro USB power source