It’s been about one year since the release of the Raspberry Pi 2. Now, the new and improved Raspberry Pi 3 is on sale! In the picture above, the device on the left is the international model sent to the Device Plus team and the one on the right is the Japanese version.
In this article, we’ll compare the new Raspberry Pi 3 to previous versions. We’ll also look at the differences between the international and Japanese versions. And lastly, we’ll try out the new onboard Bluetooth module!
Unboxing the new Raspberry Pi 3
As you can already see, the box design is different between the international and Japanese versions.
The logo and text on the international model is printed in portrait format. It has a simple design on a white background that allows the logo to stand out.
The Japanese version comes from RS Components. The RS Raspberry Pi 1 came in a light blue box, the Raspberry Pi 2 in yellow-green, and the Pi 3 in purple. (Note – This version was purchased in late March, 2016. The packaging of the Raspberry Pi 3 currently on sale may be different).
The included manuals also have some differences. Each has instructions in various languages.
The international version has both a Safety Guide and a Quick Start Guide translated into 16 different languages. The Japanese version is translated into 5 languages, including Japanese.
Okay, let’s take a look at the boards. In the picture above, the Raspberry Pi 2 is on top and below are the two versions of the Raspberry Pi 3. At first glance, it’s hard to tell the difference. However, when you look more closely, you can see that the placement of the Raspberry Pi logo is slightly different. But really, that’s about it. Otherwise, they look exactly the same. Also, both versions can fit in any Raspberry Pi 3 case.
The other difference between the international and Japanese versions is the color of the ribbon cable ports. As with previous versions, the Japanese one is white, while the international one is black.
Getting to know the Raspberry Pi 3
The Raspberry Pi 3 is the third generation Raspberry Pi. It replaced the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B in February 2016. Compared to the Raspberry Pi 2 it has:
A 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU
802.11n Wireless LAN
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
Like the Pi 2, it also has:
4 USB ports
40 GPIO pins
Full HDMI port
Combined 3.5mm audio jack and composite video
Camera interface (CSI)
Display interface (DSI)
Micro SD card slot (now push-pull rather than push-push)
VideoCore IV 3D graphics core
The Raspberry Pi 3 is the newest device in the Model B series and an improved version of the Raspberry Pi 2. Even though there aren’t many changes in appearance, the improved functionality is under the hood. The following three points list the main new features of the Raspberry Pi 3:
Onboard WiFi radio
Onboard Bluetooth module
The CPU speed was increased from 900 Mhz to 1.2 Ghz (which means improved processing speed!)
Let’s look at this Bluetooth module. The specs say it is both “Bluetooth 4.1” and “Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).”
Bluetooth Low Energy – Wikipedia
Bluetooth low energy (Bluetooth LE, BLE, marketed as Bluetooth Smart) is a wireless personal area network technology designed and marketed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group aimed at novel applications in the healthcare, fitness, beacons, security, and home entertainment industries.
Bluetooth Smart was originally introduced under the name Wibree by Nokia in 2006. It was merged into the main Bluetooth standard in 2010 with the adoption of the Bluetooth Core Specification Version 4.0.
Bluetooth – v1.0 and v1.0B– Wikipedia
Versions 1.0 and 1.0B had many problems and manufacturers had difficulty making their products interoperable. Versions 1.0 and 1.0B also included mandatory Bluetooth hardware device address (BD_ADDR) transmission in the Connecting process (rendering anonymity impossible at the protocol level), which was a major setback for certain services planned for use in Bluetooth environments.
In our case, BLE = version 4.0. The most recent version is 4.2 (introduced in April 2016). Since Bluetooth is designed to be forward compatible and the Raspberry Pi is compatible up to 4.1, we should be able to use it without having to worry about particular Bluetooth version.
What about the rumored Raspberry Pi 3 power issues?
Rumor has it that there are some power issues with Raspberry Pi 3. There are instructions available on how to solve this problem. According to Switch Science, it is recommended that users use a low resistance micro USB cable for power supply.
5V/2.5A AC power adapter is also recommended. However, if you don’t have one, you can use any 5V/2A adapter as well. The one caveat is that processing power may drop as the load on the CPU increases. So, we’ll keep that in mind as we proceed.
(In this article, we used the same standard USB AC adapter and micro USB cable we’ve used in previous articles).
Starting it up!
When I popped in an old SD card loaded with Raspbian and powered it up, it presented this rainbow screen!
The Raspberry Pi normally displays a small rainbow in the upper right corner of the desktop screen when it has a power shortage. I wondered if what I saw could be the Raspberry Pi 3’s rumored power issue(?). I tried out different AC adapters and cords only to realize it was an OS error. I installed a fresh copy of Raspbian and it started up normally.
The version I used for this article is the 5/10/2016 release of Raspbian Jessie.
When doing normal stuff like connecting to the internet, I didn’t notice anything like a power drop. However, when I did something that increased the load on the CPU (like downloading something), I did notice processing slowdown (e.g. the system response time to a mouse click was slow).
Figure 6 shows what appears on the screen when you run the package update command. When there is a power outage, the rainbow image will be displayed.
The frequency of power outages depends on the micro USB cable. According the Switch Science article, a cable’s resistance can have a bigger impact on performance than the power source. Since I want to economize the unit’s power consumption as much as possible, I’m going to use a powered USB hub like this one.
Connecting to Wifi
What is shown in Figure 7 appears
On the right side of the top menu bar of the desktop screen, you can see the network connection ion (boxed in red). If it’s not connected to a network, there will be an “x” displayed in the lower right corner of the icon. This is the same as previous versions.
Drag your mouse cursor to this icon and you’ll see a list of access points:
Even though the Pi isn’t connected to a LAN cable or Wifi adapter, you can still see the access point list!
This is evidence that the Raspberry Pi 3’s built-in Wireless LAN is working.
When you select the access point, you will see an input screen asking for a password.
Enter a password and then the icon display will change to show a wireless connection!
Now that the Pi has an internal wifi module, connecting to a network has gotten a lot easier. This is a useful (new) feature since it removes the need to connect up a wifi adapter. This frees up a USB port available for other uses.
Once connectivity is confirmed, I recommend always running the update commands.
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
Connecting to Bluetooth
Next, let’s work on Bluetooth connection! In this tutorial, we’re going to work with a keyboard and mouse. I’d like to say it was easy, but the truth is that I tried all sorts of devices and failed to connect with all of them until I tried this pair specifically. (It was probably due to compatibility issues with the Raspberry Pi).
The Bluetooth icon is right next to the network connection icon. Place your mouse cursor on the icon and a menu will be displayed.
Click on “Add Device …”, then select the device you want to connect. Before you connect a device, make sure you put the device into discoverable/pairing mode.
A new window will open and a list of Bluetooth compatible devices will be displayed. It can take a little while for devices to be recognized so you might have to wait for a little while before the device you want to connect is displayed.
Let’s start with the Bluetooth keyboard. Select the device’s (model) name, and then click the “Pair” button.
When the pairing starts, a window will be displayed as shown in Figure 14. Type in the characters shown on the Bluetooth keyboard. The pairing timeout is on the order of a few seconds, so you have to be very quick about it. (If it times out, you have to start again from the “Add Device”).
When this message displays, you’ve successfully connected the keyboard!
You only have to enter the verification code the first time. In the future, all you need to do is select “Connect” from the menu. Make sure you put the keyboard into pairing mode.
Next, let’s connect the Bluetooth mouse.
After pairing is done, the connection is automatically initiated.
The mouse is now successfully connected!
The mouse doesn’t require a verification code, so it’s automatically connected the next time you start it up.
Connecting the keyboard and mouse over Bluetooth is different than using VNC to do a remote desktop connection. We can now connect them directly to the Pi without going through network.
(Note: the steps to connect a device will vary depending on device type.)
I’m so used to the command line setup that I completely forgot about the SWAT GUI environment we set up in the previous article. That’s okay though because it apparently became incompatible with Raspbian at some point. (I learned this from a Device Plus reader…Thank you for the heads up!)
I couldn’t even install it. It appears to have become completely unusable.
The Raspberry Pi 3 has some big improvements over previous versions, even though it has some power issues. Whenever I see the rainbow image indicating a power outage, I get worried. Still, I think I’ve managed to get it running pretty well overall.
The outward appearance of the Pi is nice since there are fewer cords required now that there are built-in WiFi and Bluetooth onboard. Better yet, since I’m using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, all the USB ports are now available for other uses. The more things become wireless, the more it feels like we’re really in the world of IoT!
Next time, we’re going to take a look at the new Raspberry Pi Zero V1.3. It’s the newest version that has a camera connector. Stay tuned for a mini Raspberry Pi camera project!