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Raspberry Pi 4 promises desktop performance from an SBC

  • A new version of the Raspberry Pi small board computer (SBC), announced today, brings with it some hefty hardware changes whilst holding the asking price to US$35. Version 4 (Model B) of the world’s most well-known and widely adopted SBC kicks the processor specification up the stairs from the RPi 3B+’s quad-core Cortex A53 to Broadcomm’s BCM2711 that features 4 x 1.5GHz A72 cores.

    A more substantial hardware upgrade comes in the form of more RAM. The Raspberry Pi Version 4 Model B gives us 1GB of DDR4 RAM as standard with options for 2GB and 4GB that successively add US$10 to the board’s asking price. No wonder the Raspberry Pi foundation is now promising performance in line with “entry-level x86 PC systems”.

    Other changes include the return of the 4-pole 3.5mm headphone socket, a switch from microUSB to USB C for 5V power injection, two of the four USB A ports are now USB 3.0 specc’d, Bluetooth 5.0 and, more controversially, the removal of the full-size HDMI port in favour of a pair of micro HDMI ports, thus enabling dual 4K monitor setups.

    Network connectivity on the RPi 4B remains the same as the RPi 3B+: Gigabit Ethernet and 5GHz 802.11b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi.

    Hifi enthusiasts already in possession of an audio HAT can upgrade the RPi motherboard without worry: the Version 4 Model B’s 40-Pin GPIO header is backwards compatible with HATs offered by the likes of ALLO, HiFi Berry, IQAudIO and JustBoom.

    My first and only question about the 4B: is it powerful enough to run Roon Core? 4GB of RAM leans toward a “yes” but a question mark hangs over its CPU. We won’t know for sure until we (or someone else) try it.

    If confirmed by real-world experience, not only will the Raspberry Pi (and its ilk) continue to eat the entry-level network streamer market but also the entry-level server market where, when not directly connected to a DAC, the RPi’s higher levels of electrical noise are less of an issue.

    Further information: Raspberry Pi

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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