The 5 things that would have made Raspberry Pi 3 better

Some key technologies could have made Raspberry Pi 3 much better as a PC and board for IoT devices

The Raspberry Pi 3 has Wi-Fi and a 64-bit processor. Credit: Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi 3 has Wi-Fi and a 64-bit processor. Credit: Raspberry Pi

What can you fit into a Raspberry Pi board while still keeping the price to $35? That's a question Raspberry Pi CEO Eben Upton wrestled with when planning the third version of the product.

He opted for a faster 64-bit ARM processor and wireless features so Raspberry Pi 3 could be a PC as well as a board for cool new devices. Other features had to be left out.

But Upton has a never-say-die attitude -- if a new technology is available at a reasonable cost, it will be added to future versions of the Raspberry Pi.

"We'll take what we can get," Upton said.

Here are five technologies that could've made the Pi 3 a better computer but didn't make the cut, due to cost, incompatibility and other issues. They could be available in the next iteration of the computer.

More RAM

The Raspberry Pi can act as an entry-level PC for Web browsing and productivity applications, but 1GB of RAM could be a bottleneck. Powerful programs can gobble up memory, and the Pi 3 won't have the resources to run many applications simultaneously. Most PCs today have a minimum of 4GB of RAM.

USB 3.0

The USB 2.0 ports in Pi 3 are out of date, and the faster USB 3.0 is in vogue. With USB 3.0, users don't have to wait long to extract files out of external storage drives. The ports, however, can be expensive, making them prohibitive for the low-cost Raspberry Pi 3. But the USB 2.0 ports are good enough to attach a mouse, keyboard and other peripherals to use Raspberry Pi 3 as a PC. The board has an HDMI port to attach monitors and a micro-SD slot for expandable storage.

New GPU

The Raspberry Pi has an aging graphics core, and a GPU upgrade would have made the computer better at gaming. The BroadCom VideoCore IV 3D graphics processor can play 1080p video at 60 frames per second, and it'll run OpenGL games. But it isn't compatible with Vulkan, a new gaming API that will bring visually stunning Linux games to PCs and mobile devices. Raspberry Pi could in the future be tempted to move over to the Vulkan-compatible ARM Mali GPU, but Broadcom has a lot invested in the CPU and GPU for the development board and so will hopefully offer Vulkan support. Upton listed graphics as a top priority when considering improvements.

ZigBee

Smart homes can be developed using Pi 3, which supports Wi-Fi b/g/n and Bluetooth technology for wireless device communications. But Pi 3 doesn't include ZigBee, a wireless technology important for home automation and IoT. ZigBee will also run on the Google-backed Thread protocol. The wireless technology could have been included in the $35 price, but Upton believes Bluetooth is the future of short-range wireless communications.

Windows 10

Raspberry Pi boards are capable of running Windows 10 IoT Core, a stripped down version of the OS for embedded devices. But now that Pi 3 is capable of being a PC, why not bring a full-bodied desktop version of Windows 10 to the board? There are two problems: A full Windows 10 currently works only with x86 chips. And Windows 10 Mobile -- which can function as a desktop OS when connected to a larger screen -- runs exclusively on ARM-based chips from Qualcomm. The Pi 3 has a 64-bit ARM processor from Broadcom.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?