Hardware

Raspberry Pi 2 launch: Six times faster with Windows 10 and Ubuntu support

A major update to the credit card sized Raspberry Pi board is introduced, with a boost to the CPU and memory expected to help it run as a general-purpose PC.

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Co-creator of the Raspberry Pi Eben Upton, left, and Richard Curtain, global director of strategic alliance for element14 at the launch of the Raspberry Pi 2
Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic
The next version of the hugely popular credit card-sized computer, the Raspberry Pi, is available today.

The Raspberry Pi 2 boosts the board's specs to a quad core processor and 1GB of memory - with the new machine racking up several times the benchmark score of its predecessor, as well as being able to run Windows 10 and Ubuntu.

The new board will cost the same as the first-generation, single-core model B+, and is billed by the Pi's co-creator Eben Upton as the first model capable of running as a general-purpose PC.

"[The improvements] gives us something like six times the processing power and takes Raspberry Pi to the level of performance that makes it genuinely like a PC," said Upton, who is also CEO of Pi Trading, at the launch of the Pi 2 in London this morning.

" Pi 2 does broaden the addressable market and we're hoping with this product we will start to have people buy them as the second PC in the house. Applications load faster, browsing the web is faster, all of the tools are much better."

About 4.5 million Raspberry Pis have been sold since the board's release in 2012, and Upton expects to sell three million Pi 2 and B+ models this year.

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The Raspberry Pi 2
Image: Raspberry Pi Foundation

The new board will also be able to support Ubuntu and Windows for the first time, courtesy of the boards' ARM v7 core, with a Snappy Ubuntu Core image available now.

"We've been working with Microsoft for the past six months to enable Windows 10 on Rapsberry Pi. It runs, I've seen it running, it's pretty cool," said Upton.

"This is Windows 10 intended for IoT applications and the intention here is to have a device which you can use to build IoT devices," he said.

"The intention is you can take a Windows 10 application that you can run on Surface, PC, a Windows phone and now Raspberry Pi as well."

The Raspberry Pi version of Windows 10 will be available to makers for free.

So which tasks will the board perform better compared to the previous generation B+? The new board can run a single-threaded CPU benchmark about 2x faster, the Sunspider benchmark 4x faster, a multi-threaded CPU benchmark like SysBench 6x faster and handle NEON -enabled multicore video codecs more than 20x faster.

The Raspberry Pi 2 is available to buy today from element14 and RS Components for $35. Older models such as the B+, A+ and Raspberry Pi compute module will continue to be sold. Upton said a version of the compute module based on the Pi 2 will be produced at a later date.

The new board is compatible with older models, and should run the same operating systems and software as new OS images are released.

The foundation is working to tailor the popular Raspberry Pi operating system Raspbian to the board's more powerful specs, and is hoping to release an image of the OS that will run on both old and new systems, by swapping out the relevant libraries.

Raspberry Pi 2 boards have been produced for the past four weeks at the Sony Factory in South Wales and 100,000 are on sale through element14.

The Raspberry Pi was made with the intention of encouraging children to code and Upton said he hopes the additional power of the new model further the adoption of even more Pis inside classroom, where children use the machine to learn the basics of programming via drag and drop tools like Scratch and hardware hacking using PiFace.

"It's been successful beyond our wildest dreams. We thought we might get 10,000 into the hands of kids," said Upton, going on to say there are between one and two million Pis being used by children.

"It's become clear there is interest in learning about computing among children, as much as anything there is interest in learning something their parents don't understand."

See photos of the Raspberry 2 Pi board and explore its new features here.

The specs

  • 900MHz quad-core Broadcom BCM2836 CPU with 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • VideoCore IV 3D graphics core
  • 40 pin extended pins - with 27 GPIO pins
  • Micro SD slot
  • Multiple ports: Four USB ports, full sized HDMI, four pole stereo output and composite video port. CSI camera port and DSI display port
  • 10/100 BaseT Ethernet
  • Micro-USB power source 5V, 2A
  • Dimensions: 85 x 56 x 17mm

About

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.

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