Hardware

New Raspberry Pi board: Compute Module 3 means you'll see Pi in more products

The Pi 3 is shrunk down into a slimmer board designed to be built into appliances.

compute-module-small-768x430.jpg

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3.

Image: Raspberry Pi Foundation

A new Raspberry Pi board launched today, designed to provide firms with low-cost computer hardware to build into products.

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 (CM3) packs the same 1.2GHz, quad-core Broadcom BCM2837 processor and 1GB memory used on the Pi 3 onto a slimmer and smaller board.

The CM3's compact design, the same size as a DDR2 small outline dual in-line memory module, is suited to being built into electronic appliances. The original Raspberry Pi Compute Module was used inside various IoT, home and factory automation products, as well as a media player.

SEE: Raspberry Pi in 2017: New boards, new OSes and more

Describing the new board, James Adams, COO and hardware lead at the Raspberry Pi Foundation said: "This is based on the Raspberry Pi 3 hardware, providing twice the RAM and roughly 10x the CPU performance of the original module."

One of the first appliances to use the new CM3 will be a range of displays from NEC, which is building a custom version of the CM3 into 40-, 48-, and 55-inch screens.

"The idea of the Compute Module was to provide an easy and cost-effective route to producing customised products based on the Pi hardware and software platform," said Adams.

"The thought was to provide the 'team in a garage' with easy access to the same technology as the big guys."

Apart from the smaller form factor, the only differences between the CM3 and the Pi 3 are that the compute module includes 4GB eMMC Flash storage but doesn't have the Pi 3's built-in support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. A separate version of the CM3, called the Compute Module 3 Lite (CM3L), lacks this built-in storage but includes the SD card interface on the module pins, to allow users to wire up eMMC or SD card storage of their choice.

The original version of the compute module (CM1), based on the Raspberry Pi 1, will remain on sale as a lower-cost and lower-power option, "where the performance of a CM3 would be overkill", according to Adams.

However the CM1 will drop in price to $25, selling alongside the $30 CM3 and the $25 CM3L.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation said the CM3 should be able to replace the CM1 in most hardware, but there are caveats. The CM3 is 1mm taller than the CM1, and processor can draw significantly more current, as seen below, which can lead to the processor running much hotter when the CPU is under heavy load. Consequently CM-based appliances may need to be redesigned to remove this additional heat, as the CM3 will throttle the core frequency of the processor when its temperature exceeds 85C.

power-requirements.png

The power requirements of the CM1 vs the CM3 can be seen at the top of the table.

Image: Raspberry Pi Foundation

The foundation is also launching a new board to help users get to grips with building electronics around the compute module.

Both versions of the compute module can be slotted into this new Compute Module IO Board V3 (CMIO3). The CMIO3 is designed to make it easier to get started with the CM, allowing users to build and test a system before going to the expense of fabricating a custom board.

The CMIO3 provides the necessary power to the CM and allows users to program the module's storage, offers easier access to the processor interfaces—via pin headers and flexi connectors—and provides the necessary HDMI and USB connectors for booting an OS from the CM.

For more information on the compute modules check the foundation's hardware documentation, which includes a datasheet and schematics for the CM3.

The CM3 is available online via element14 and RS Components.

Read more about the Raspberry Pi

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

Editor's Picks