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Raspberry Pi review

Ardjuna Seghers

By
Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

9/10

Pros

  • Cheap as (digital) chips
  • Excellent connectivity
  • Relatively powerful graphics
  • Extensive community support

Cons

  • Very sloooow CPU
  • Not immediately accessible (but that’s part of the point)

Review Price £29.00

Key Features: Broadcom SoC with 700MHz ARM11 CPU and Videocore IV GPU; 256MB of RAM, SD card slot for permanent storage; HDMI, 2x USB, Ethernet, 3.5m audio out, composite video out

Manufacturer: Raspberry Pi

For some reason, fruity tech seems to stir up crowds (Apple or Blackberry in its glory days, anyone?). Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Raspberry Pi is a functional computer the size of a credit card for under £30, created by a charity – the Raspberry Pi foundation - primarily to help kids (and maybe adults) become more digitally creative and gain knowledge of programming. But what can you possibly get for that little money and what can you use it for? Join us as we find out whether you can have your (Raspberry) pie and eat it too.

Also read:

- Android ICS coming to Rasbperry Pi

- Rasbperry Pi turned into a Super Nintendo

- Rasbperry Pi Top Ten Uses

Raspberry Pi: What It Is and What You Need

First, let’s go over exactly what the Raspberry Pi is. To get a bit more on the back story, have a read of our Raspberry Pi preview, but what about the actual computer? You get a mid-range ARM-based SoC on a bare board, with all the connectivity needed to hook up peripherals, a screen and wired internet, while using SD cards for permanent storage. You need to install your own operating system before this particular Pi is edible.

There are two Raspberry Pi versions, the Model A and B. The latter is the more powerful of the two, and the only one currently available. Model A halves the two USB ports to just one and removes the Ethernet controller for an even lower price point. Model B should cost $35 while A will set you back $25. For now we’re seeing the B in the UK for around £29.

Raspberry Pi 1

Realistically, you can’t expect a particularly capable computer for this kind of money, and indeed the Raspberry Pi won’t provide the best experience for multi-tasking, intensive web-browsing, and the like. It doesn’t even support Flash or HTML 5. What you do get is the ability to run all basic desktop tasks, similar gaming to what you might get on a low-end smartphone, and the ability to play smooth HD video – all in a package that uses less electricity than most light bulbs.

So to sum up what you’ll need to make use of the Pi: a screen - monitor or TV - with digital or analogue composite connection and matching video cable; a USB keyboard and preferably mouse too; a full-size SD card or microSD card with adapter of 2GB or more (4GB is recommended); and a microUSB power adapter, like the ones you get for smartphones - or a powered USB port with microUSB cable.

Raspberry Pi Interface

There is no on/off button for the Pi, so you may want to get a switched power supply or socket adapter. Display aside, buying the other bits should set you back no more than £20.

Of course, unless you buy a pre-loaded SD card, you’ll also need a computer with internet to download and install your Raspberry OS of choice onto a card. However, even if you don’t own one you can borrow a friend’s laptop – the entire process of creating the Raspberry Pi’s bootable storage only takes 30 minutes at most.

Raspberry Pi Design

There’s nothing pretty about the Pi. It’s a bare board, with no case or chassis (yet), though there are third-party ones available. However, it’s literally the size of a credit card, and no thicker than a UK power plug.

To be exact, it’s 85.60mm x 53.98mm x 17mm, though the USB ports (and SD card if you have one installed) stick out beyond the board’s edge. It also weighs less than 50g. Basically, it’s very cute, and has that geek factor going for it.

Build quality is difficult to measure on a plain board, but at least the connectors seemed soldered securely. However, with our retail-purchased Raspberry Pi there was a slight quality control issue, in that the eight-pin P2 expansion header didn’t have all its pins soldered correctly and the plastic pin frame was permanently stuck away from the board.

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KeithM

March 24, 2012, 3:13 pm

Who writes this stuff? I taught Computer Science from 1981 - the notion that computers were "a lot more accessible" then is twisting the truth - they were a great deal more cumbersome to use and you often had to write code because that's was all you could do and/or there was no code to do what you wanted. Remember no internet then either!

Hazellhoff

August 2, 2012, 12:19 pm

"It's all backed by 256GB of RAM, which is shared by both the system and GPU."

I want one. That's the cheapest and most compact 256GB of RAM I have *EVER* seen. My macbook pro tops out at 8GB...

Has anyone proof read this article? Made me smile though...

TechVegan

August 2, 2012, 2:39 pm

@KeithM:
Just to clarify that your comment is on the Preview, not the Review. And you're right, but I guess Ed (who wrote the preview) was referring to the 'guts' of the computer - you needed to know more to get anything out of them...

@Hazellhoff:
I'm afraid the Special Edition with 256GB of RAM that we received for review is not available to buy for the public...

Seriously though, thanks for spotting that, fixed (and as mentioned in the review, we actually used a retail Raspberry Pi). Glad we made you smile!

jimmystevo

November 28, 2012, 2:24 am

CONSIDERING THE PI IS AIMED AT NEWCOMERS YOUR REVIEW COMES WITH A LOT OF UNEXPLAINED SPECS AND TEXT,THANK YOU JS

Chris

May 2, 2013, 10:32 am

I bought a Raspberry Pi it is a brilliant piece of hardware but unlike the old BBC computer you need a lot of knowledge and know how just to get it to do anything. After help from an "expert" who spent an hour (he said it would take a few minutes) trying to get the thing to run as a media server using a pre written program we succeeded. I am not technophobic or new in this field but even with the wiki guide I am sure it would have taken me 5 or 6 hours to accomplish this task.

When running it using a PC as a vehicle can someone explain to me why it is necessary to do become a "robot" following a sequence of instructions (I have summarized them below) that are not easy and for the unwary there are pitfalls at every turn. (This is totally non creative and much of it incomprehensible to the new user). There is virtually nothing obvious and it begs the question, why can't it be automated?

All of the below could surely be automated as with a set up program", eg. Click install. then follow the on screen prompts.

Here is the a summary of the sequence!

Download image Unzip
Download USB tool
Setup as in instructions (it took ten minutes to work out that I needed to an administrator and another few minutes to work our how to become one!)
Run restore image, (Why?)
Download Putty http://www.chiark.greenend.org...
Place SD card in Pi. Connect network plug. Switch on.
Connect through putty - may need trial and error to get IP address (ping squeezeplug). Port 22.
Login: root Password: nosoup4u (why do you need to do this?)
Type setup
Follow prompts.
Select Expand_RootFS. (obvious isn't it)
Select Yes and follow prompts. Select Yes to reboot.

Wait a bit for it to come back and login again. Resize the window.
Run setup again.
Configuration:
Advanced Install samba,Media Handling.
MiniDLNA - Install

Need I say more. A shame as it really is a great bit of kit.

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