Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Board Features a 64-Bit ARM Processor, Adds WiFi and Bluetooth Connectivity

The Raspberry Pi foundation is working on yet another model of the popular Raspberry Pi boards, as the Raspberry Pi 3 model B board has showed up on the FCC website. The new board looks very similar to Raspberry Pi 2 model B, but adds on-board WiFi 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz only) and Bluetooth 4.0. Let’s play “spot the difference” with Raspberry Pi 2 at the top and Raspberry Pi 3 under.

Raspberry Pi 2 (Top) vs Raspberry Pi 3 (Bottom)

The processor looks the same as the BCM2836 quad core Cortex A7 SoC found on model 2 B, but one redditer claims it could be a 64-bit processor due to some MagPi ad. [Update: that’s the MagPi ad which confirms Raspberry Pi 3 will feature a 64-bit ARM processor @ 1.2 GHz. Thanks Gabe!

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We’ll find the WiFi/BT chip antenna on the top left corner, and two through holes on the right of the 40-pin connectors, likely the RUN header for reset that can be found on the RPi2 where the chip antenna is now placed on RPi 3. So the through holes are not new, they’ve just moved it. All connectors have the exact same placement between the two versions. Let’s check out the other side of the board.

Raspberry Pi 2 (Top) vs Raspberry Pi 3 (Bottom)

The wireless module (likely Broadcom based) can be found just above the micro SD slot, and J5 connector is soldered. J5 is the JTAG connector, so it will probably not be soldered with the version that ships. The picture is not very clear but it looks like they’ve used the same Elpida B8132B4PB-8D-F RAM chip (1GB) as on Raspberry Pi 2. So although we can’t be 100% certain right now, the RAM appears to be the same, and the processor is still connected to a similar USB to Ethernet chip, so they’ve probably kept the same architecture, expect possibly for the CPU core. So the only major changes on Raspberry Pi 3 appears to be built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, and  64-bit ARM cores (likely Cortex A53).

Via Liliputing and HackerNews

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75 Replies to “Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Board Features a 64-Bit ARM Processor, Adds WiFi and Bluetooth Connectivity”

  1. @Johnny
    Of course it’s using Broadcom chips. Most of the RPi Foundation people are current or former employees of Broadcom. It’s practically a branch of the company. And they certainly get a discount on the chips.

  2. For some reason, there seems to be more resistors towards the top of the CPU on the RPi3, between the CPU and the Raspberry Pi logo. Could hint at at different CPU being used ?

  3. @Ali
    If they had just added WiFi and Bluetooth, they would have probably called it Raspberry Pi 2 Model C, or something similar. They’ve increased the version number, so I’m pretty confident a new processor will be used, and the guy on reddit seems to be onto something:

    The MagPi advert for the next issue lists 64 bit and 1.2GHz as a feature so its not the same SoC. Same amount of RAM though since there is a single RAM chip on the back which has the same part number as the RPi 2 RAM and nothing stacked on the SoC.

    RPi 3 = RPi 2 but with some number of 64 bit ARMv8(.1) cores and integrated 2.4GHz WiFi + Bluetooth. Everything else appears to be the same.

    So we just have to wait for the release of the next MagPi (which date would the be?) to find out the details.

  4. 64-bit? Now that’s interesting. Until now, the only 64-bit ARM boards were either incredibly expensive server boards or the disappointing 96boards offerings. It’ll probably have Cortex-A53 cores, so no speed demon. But at least it’ll be much cheaper and widely available, and not squeezed onto tiny boards like 96boards.

  5. @Gabe
    Thanks! Very useful.
    I’m pretty certain they’ll announce the board on Monday, because February 29 will be the 4th anniversary of the first Raspberry Pi board, so that would be timely.

  6. Where does this 64-bit hype originate from? I would assume they try to stay as compatible to the previous RPis so the hardware will be initialised by the VideoCore processor and then they will run ARMv6 code on Cortex-A53 maybe even using a 32-bit kernel. Cortex-A53 might be interesting if you optimise your code for ARMv8 (_then_ you get probably more performance) or use 64-bit features like more than 4GB RAM. This board has still only 1 GB RAM (32-bit address bus?) and still just a single USB2.0 connection to the outside. Wow.

    In this combination the move to Cortex-A53 will just be the same PR stunt as the last: http://whereismypizero.com

    If I would be interested in Cortex-A53 I would wait for the ODROID-C2.

  7. Let’s hope the new soc will bring better IO.
    I also wonder how the RPI foundation and its community will handle the software optimization transition.

  8. @nobe
    There’s still the LAN9514 USB hub with integrated Fast Ethernet used (check the FCC link and click on ‘External Photos’) so how should I/O improve (maybe they manage to deal with WiFi/BT through SDIO/UART instead of USB). And why should an ‘optimization transition’ happen? That’s maybe the greatest strength of the RPi: Everything the same on every board even if it’s slower than necessary 😉

  9. I’m glad for raspberry pi guys, for their new offering, good for them, wish them success, but really, if you wanna play with something 64-bit arm, then Odroid-C2 is a clear winner. 96boards and pine64 are both an abysmal.

  10. @tkaiser

    For me *the* 64-bit argument is … Docker.

    Docker is possible on ARM32 (I have it on my Raspi2) and other 32bit, but it is a bit of stepchild: only a few container images available in the Docker hub.

  11. @tkaiser
    Technically speaking, 64bit isn’t just ram. The buses – which are the major bottleneck when it come to graphics and communication – multiply in width too. So it’s much easier to write interpreters and implement garbage collection, concurrency and type safety when you have many large registers and a big, fat stack (and heap).

    Practically speaking, when servers, desktops, mobiles and embedded are all moving to 64bit architectures (x86-64 and ARMv8), not doing the same often means losing out on optimizations. Especially when you consider how Android is moving away form Dalvik and ART to the OpenJDK, leaving all those 32bit optimizations behind.

  12. Each comment was removed today, is related to pi 3. (from raspberrypi.org)
    Something must have made…
    2 night sleep and everything will be clean. 😉

  13. most probably the pi3 will have the same GPU as before. just like the transition from pi to pi2, only the CPU cores will change. also, the bus does not get wider in 64 bit, the registers do. the pi3 will unfortunately still have the IO as bottleneck, as again will have one shared USB controller for network and all its 4 USB ports.
    i don’t foresee any HEVC, VP, 4k, or better performance in emulators such as ppsspp or n64 that rely on GPU.

  14. It’s disappointing that it still only has 1GB of RAM. Hopefully it is still not LPDDR2 and they have at least upgraded it to LPDDR3.

  15. @RK
    Ok, 64-bit isn’t just ‘more RAM’ but wider buses. Since they now write ‘BCM2837 64bit ARMv7’ these wider buses seem all you get from the 64-bit transition? The same ultra slow 1GB LPDDR2 DRAM, still just one USB2.0 connection to the outside and their official USB WiFi dongle based on BCM43143 is now also onboard.

    Really no ARMv8 but Aarch64 ‘backported’ to ARMv7? No ATF (ARM trusted firmware) but proprietary hardware initialisation through VideoCore? If that’s the case this board isn’t even interesting for software devs trying to dive into 64-bit ARM development. 🙂

  16. I am wondering if 64bit computers need twice as much ram as 32bit computers.
    I know that arm used to have a thumb instruction set that somehow managed to shoehorn 2 16bit instructions into a 32bit word for 32bit processors, so that ram wouldn’t be wasted. I am not sure if they still do this or if it is part of Android or Linux or even if people bother with 64bit cpus.
    The problem is that ram is still relatively expensive so 64bit instructions that waste ram still matters. If there is not enough ram the 64bit board could run slower than a 32bit board with the same amount of ram.

  17. @Nz1

    Apps in 64b computers are a lot bigger than 32b ones. Just compare the same Linux app source code compiled for x86 and x86_64. It is because they drag around a lot of 64b numbers (addresses) that weren’t there before. But without 64b you aren’t going to get more than 4GB of physical memory. Bigger apps need more memory bandwidth, more cache area, etc.

    A 64b CPU like the Allwinner A64 with a 3GB DRAM limit is fairly pointless except for marketing purposes.

  18. BTW – ARM is chasing 64b to get large address spaces (like 128GB of memory or more) so that there is room for many virtual machines. This is all about ARM64 on the server, not the desktop.

  19. I too want to know if it supports hardware video decoding of HEVC (H.265) and VP9? Both are royaltee free so should be fine to use if only the hardware would support it.

    Don’t think it really deserves to be called Raspberry Pi “3” unless it the CPU is 64-bit and it supports at least hardware decoding of 1080p HEVC videos, with VP9 being a bonus.

  20. @Stephen
    Why when the latest firmware updates allow it to run at up to 600MHz with complete stability on a Pi2B? The same is likely to be true of the Pi3B unless they’ve downgraded the RAM.

  21. Good job you are not posting about this on The RaspberryPi forum. The posts about it get deleted by the heavy handed who answer to no one.

  22. @Jon Smirl

    For ARM, just like X86 but unlike MIPS and PowerPC, 64 bit is not pointless. It effectively is a complete new instruction set. ARM32 is mediocre. ARM64 is a very well instruction set with more than doubled amount of registers. Whether your pointers are 32 or 64 bit is up to you.

    Nice to see RPi moving to ARM64 that early. However, I want more performance than Cortex A35, 4GB memory and faster IO.

  23. @Slackstick
    Is it possible that RasPi 3 will use Cortex A32? Heat dissipation for Raspberry Pi is a real challenge because the provision for HAT boards precludes use of a substantial heatsink on the SoC. In such a constrained situation Cortex A32 features offer intriguing possibilities.

  24. @Slackstick

    Totally bogus comparison….

    A64 toolbox exe from Android 5.1 – 255,280
    RK3128 toolbox exe from Android 5.1 – 150,836
    So same source code, 70% bigger.

    But this is just a proxy comparison, you need to do a lot more work to really compare.

    PS. even though things get bigger on 64b, they don’t necessarily get any slower. Sometimes they get faster due to more and longer registers.

  25. @Curmudgeon

    Possible? Yes. I don’t know. However, I would not expect too much from ARM marketing. I would prefer a 64 bit ARM processor without 32 bit legacy instead of Cortex A32.

  26. If the operating system decides that its running out of ram and decides to page out part of an app to the sdcard then I imagine that the 64bit board will seem to die a lot faster then the 32bit card, if both boards have the same amount of ram.
    I like the idea of a better instruction set and more registers though. If only ram was less expensive then we might really benefit from 64bit single board computers.

  27. @Nz1

    For paging of code, the linux kernel does not write the code to the swap file as it re-uses the code still in the executable.

    Nonetheless, RAM is damned cheap. If they only would solder more of it on the PCB.

  28. @Slackstick
    So what happens if there still isn’t enough ram and all the data has been swapped out. Does the OS think, I tried my best and crash anyway? Thats what OS’s used to do, a long time ago, but then they fixed them.

    Compared to flash, ram is very expensive. I’m not sure why this is given that they use similar technology. I suspect it has something to do with marketing, and what they think the market can bear.

  29. I compiled full Android builds for both CPUs. These files are not using thumb. This is the 32b ARM instruction set vs the 64b one.

    libcrypto.so RK3128 1,052,920
    libcrypto.so A64 1,673,400

    60% larger. Every code file i looked at follows this pattern.
    You see the same thing on 32/64b x86 systems.

    Note that the Android image is not 60% larger, a lot of Android is not code or written in Java. Those parts did not change size.

  30. @Nz1

    A good OS will never crash voluntarily ;-). It doesn’t give the application the requested RAM and the application should handle this. Worst case, the OS quits the application.

    Besides using multi bit cells, I suppose flash is much cheaper because it is much slower. I didn’t hear about excessive earnings of RAM manufacturers for a long time.

  31. I’d hazard a guess that this is the first Cortex-A35 (not A53) SoC to launch. It would make sense from a cost perspective and the target market.

  32. It still uses LPDDR2 DRAM, and uses more power probably because Broadcom is still using the same 40 nm process for the BCM2837 that it used for previous processors.

  33. @Slackstick
    I think worstcase everything should keep working but the system should gracefully degrade by using swapspace.
    Apple may have decided that its better not to use flash as swapspace because they think its too slow or unreliable, or maybe they want their users to spend dollars and buy another device with more ram, but an OS designed for real work should not be designed this way.

  34. @Nz1
    It’s carrot+stick problem.

    If developers can go on freely with almost endless swap and their apps keep on working even if the usability has gone to hell (I’m assuming you’ve experienced systems where swap is being used – it’s not a fun experience) they will never optimise anything – “it still works!”.

    On the other hand if the OS is killing your app because you’ve been careless with it’s resources then it instantly becomes a major issue to be addressed.

  35. I am actually using an ipad at the moment where I have to continually select Desktop view, even though I have selected it previously, because the cookies or whatever are being continually purged because the OS is continually telling Safari to release memory.
    My tabs have to keep on being refreshed because for some reason the OS is running out of memory.
    In practise telling the app to release memory seems to result in the user getting fustrated and little memory actually being released.
    When I first got the Ipad it worked flawlessly. Now with all the OS and app updates it is fustrating, although you learn to live with it, just like users back in the good old days used to live with slow mini computers that used to run on megabytes of ram.
    I would have thought at least Safari being able to store images on flash if the system was running low on ram would be a good comprimise.
    What has happened to QA?
    Maybe the solution is for the kernel developers to insist on everyone except them useing managed code, like Java.
    By the way when I was at University, many years ago, I was taught that languages like C were designed for writing operating systems. Everyone else should use a 3GL like Pascal etc because it was faster to code with less bugs. Now if only everyone had followed this wisdom we wouldn’t be getting programs with excessive malloc code and everything would work properly.

  36. @Nz1
    “Request Desktop View” is a one shot temporary action, it’s does that by design – nothing to do with memory purging cookies or anything, it just changes the user agent anyway so nothing more than a flag to keep in memory.

    I do wish the CNX site itself was better designed so we wouldn’t need to use that kludge.

  37. @JM
    It should keep the flag when navigating in the cnx-software domain. If it loses the flag while the browser is still navigating in the domain then that means Safari is wiping out the page variables when it shouldn’t be.
    Its only when the browser navigates outside the domain that the temp flag gets lost because the new page does not know anything about the cnx-software page software or its variables.

  38. I like the new version of the Raspberry Pi. But i think there is more to do to complete the user whises like sata and 1 GBit ethernet.

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