Raspberry Pi 4 Benchmarks & Mini Review

Raspberry Pi 4 has just been released with many improvements over Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ including a faster processor, a proper Gigabit Ethernet port, USB 3.0 interfaces, and 4K video support. That’s the theory, but how does it work in practice?

I can now let you know as I’ve received a Raspberry Pi 4 sample courtesy of Cytron, and ran some tests and benchmarks on the very latest boards from the Raspberry Pi foundation.

Raspberry Pi 4 Review
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System Info

Before starting with the benchmarks, let’s go through some basic system info:

For reference, you’ll find Raspberry Pi 4 Linux boot log here.

Phoronix benchmarks

Let’s go ahead and install the latest version of Phoronix benchmarks:

Now let’s run the test to compare the performance of Raspberry Pi 4 model B to some other Arm Linux boards including Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.

For reference, my office has an ambient temperature of around 28 to 30°C, and I’ve monitored the CPU temperature with an IR thermometer during some of the phases:

  • Idle – 62°C
  • Phoronix benchmarks download/installation – 64°C
  • John The Ripper – 73°C

I also typed a few commands to get the system temperature and CPU clock, in this case during John the Ripper benchmark:

So the CPU is clocked down to around 1.0 GHz since proper cooling is not implemented for this type of workload, and the system automatically lowers the CPU frequency.

Another way to confirm throttling does occur is to check out the output of Phoronix John The Ripper:

The test is repeated several times, with the score starting at 696, and eventually dropping under 500, as the board fails to cool.

This behavior is actually explained in the board’s datasheet:

To reduce thermal output when idling or under light load, the Pi4B reduces the CPU clock speed and voltage. During heavier load the speed and voltage (and hence thermal output) are increased. The
internal governor will throttle back both the CPU speed and voltage to make sure the CPU temperature never exceeds 85 degrees C.

The Pi4B will operate perfectly well without any extra cooling and is designed for sprint performance – expecting a light use case on average and ramping up the CPU speed when needed (e.g. when loading a webpage). If a user wishes to load the system continually or operate it at a high temperature at full performance, further cooling may be needed.

We do not have a cooling solution at hand here, so running the benchmarks without heatsink, nor fan does seriously impact the performance under load, meaning Raspberry Pi 4 is slower than Raspberry Pi 3 model B in some of the benchmarks.
Raspberry Pi 4 Phoronix Benchmarks John The Ripper
John the Ripper is a shocker since my Raspberry Pi 4 is actually slower than a Raspberry Pi 3 model B tested by others due to the lack of proper cooling for the multi-threaded benchmark.

Raspberry Pi 4 C-Ray Benchmark
C-Ray looks better since RPi 4 is about 27% faster than RPi 3 model B (187.03s vs 250.79s), but still twice as slow as Rockchip RK3399 powered VS-RK3399 board.

Raspberry Pi 4 Benchmarks SmallptRaspberry Pi 4 performance also looks better with Smallpt illumination renderer benchmark.

Raspberry Pi 4 Benchmarks HimenoThe board is however much much faster with Himeno Poisson solver benchmark, almost 5 times faster than RPi 3 model B, so there may have been some software/compilation changes in this Phoronix benchmark, or possibly there are some extra instructions that come with Cortex-A72 cores, since the Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core processor with 2x A72 + 4x A53 is also quite faster than other A53/A7 Arm platforms.

Raspberry Pi 4 FLAC Audio Encoding

AFAIK, FLAC Audio encoding is a single-core benchmark so it’s not quite as susceptible to overheating as other multi-threaded benchmarks, and Raspberry Pi 4 did perform well.

We can see from Raspberry Pi 4 benchmarks that the board is quite faster than Raspberry Pi 3 model B in most cases, but it’s also clear that to leverage the full power of the board, especially for multi-threaded tasks, a proper cooling solution is needed. You can check out the full results here.

SBC Bench

SBC Bench is a simple benchmark for single board computers developed by Thomas Kaiser that allows checking the performance of SBC quite faster than running Phoronix benchmarks.

That’s the output which confirms throttling does occur:

Checking into the details in the link, we can see for example the CPU dropped to 1.0 GHz for most of 7-zip multi-threaded tests, dropping even as low as 600 MHz once.  7-zip crashed so we only got two results instead of three. That’s Raspberry Pi 3 model B result for reference:

So RPi 4 is barely faster at just under 3,600, but proper cooling should improve things.

OpenSSL AES results look like Armv8 crypto extension are not enabled, as an Allwinner H5 based Orange Pi Zero Plus board underclocked at just 816 MHz is considerably (up to around 8 times) faster:

Checking out /proc/cpuinfo above, AES feature is missing, so it might be Broadcom did not include Armv8 crypto extension in the processor (TBC).

USB 3.0 & microSD  Storage Benchmarks

Since Raspberry Pi 4 now comes with two USB 3.0 ports, I’ve connected USB 3.0 mechanical hard drive, and installed iozone to verify Raspberry Pi can now achieve the ~100MB/s read/write speed expected from such drive.

Usually, iozone can be installed as follows in most Ubuntu/Debian systems:

But it’s not available in Raspbian Buster, so I’ve built it from sources instead:

We can now run the test to check sequential read and write speeds in the EXT-4 partition of my drive:

So around 94MB/s read and 92 MB/s write that’s about what we should expect from USB 3.0 with this drive, and much better than the 30+MB/S one would get with Raspberry Pi 3.

 While I’m at it, I’ve also tested the performance of the NOOBS Class A1 microSD card part of the kit I received:

The most important numbers here are the random read and write values, and results are good resulting in a smooth experience while using the board (in most cases).

Gigabit Ethernet Benchmark

True Gigabit Ethernet is another key feature of the new Raspberry Pi port, so I’ve tested full duplex Ethernet performance using iperf:

It ended badly on the client side:

But I got some numbers on the server (my laptop) side:

I repeated the test twice with similar results. It does not look so good, so let’s repeat the test in one direction only:

  • Upload

  • Download

So it looks much better here, as the full bandwidth enabled by Gigabit Ethernet is basically saturated by both tests. The driver may have troubles handling high download/upload traffic at the same time in the first test.

4K Video Playback and Output

All previous Raspberry Pi boards were limited to 1080p30/60 video playback with H.264 and other codecs, but Raspberry Pi 4 is the first to play 4K videos using H.265 codec.

So I went back to the desktop to play some 4K H.265 videos played from my USB drive. Clicking on the files opened then in VLC media player:

  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – First frame only
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC, 24 fps) – First frame only for several seconds then video becomes gray, and system hangs
  • Fifa_WorldCup2014_Uruguay-Colombia_4K-x265.mp4 (4K, H.265, 60 fps) – First frame only for several seconds then video updates every 5-10 seconds with heavily gray frames, and frequent audio cuts. Eventually, lost mouse pointer and control of the system -> hard power cycle required

OK, so I guess I can stop right here, as 4K video playback is clearly not working, at least with VLC. So I tried to omxplayer command line:

Let’s switch to 4K video output. There’s an option in the settings and if you planned on using a dual display setup, you can also configure the screen layout as needed.

Raspberry Pi 4 4K HDMI
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So I selected 4K HDMI, clicked on OK, and was told I needed to reboot to apply the new settings. Fair enough, and after the 35 seconds it typically takes to boot the board I was back in the desktop environment, but still at 1080p60 video output & resolution. For reference, my TV is LG 42UB820T which perfectly supports 4K video output. I did, however, connect it through Onkyo TX-NR636 A/V receiver which should not be a problem, but in case of compatibility issues, I connected the RPi 4 directly to the HDMI 3 of my TV and rebooted the board. But sadly same results.

So right now, Raspberry Pi 4 only has the potential to use 4K video decode and output, as it’s just not working right now, at least in the Raspbian image I was provided with the NOOBS microSD card.

Final words

The Raspberry Pi 4 does provide much better I/O performance thanks to Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0 both of which are mostly performing as expected. The processor is also quite faster, but you may have to come up with a cooling solution such as Pimoroni Fan SHIM to leverage it’s full potential, especially if you live in a hot climate. 4K does not work at all right now, with 4K video playback clearly relying on software decode with both VLC and omxplayer, and  4K video output is not working at least with my 4K TV.

Raspberry Pi 4 Computer Accessories
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The Raspberry Pi 4 hardware changes mean you’ll need some extra accessories, and Cytron sent me the Raspberry Pi 4 together with the official 5V/3A USB-C power supply, as well as a micro HDMI cable, and a 16GB NOOBS Class A1 microSD card. So make sure you get at least the first two accessories in your order or you may not be able to use the Raspberry Pi 4 for a while.

I’d like to thank Cytron for the opportunity of getting a Raspberry Pi 4 so early, and you could consider purchasing the board from their store. They ship worldwide, but if you’d rather get the 2GB or 4GB RAM models you’ll have to wait a little longer, as those are not quite available yet.

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