This new Raspberry Pi comes with a 'staggering' amount of memory

A year after the launch of the Raspberry Pi 4, the organization has launched a new 8GB model and rebranded Raspbian to 'Raspberry Pi OS' - which now come in 32-bit and 64-bit flavors.

Raspberry Pi: The inside story of the $35 computer

Raspberry Pi has launched its 8GB Raspberry Pi 4 alongside a beta version of a new 64-bit operating system. Available today for $75, the new model features double the RAM of the existing Raspberry Pi 4 Model B and comes a year after the original device's launch.

Eben Upton, Raspberry Pi co-creator, told TechRepublic: "We've been wanting to do this ever since the launch of Raspberry Pi 4 in June last year, and it's finally a reality.

"This is a staggering amount of memory, particularly given the efforts we still put in on the software side to optimize the memory usage of our operating system. We're looking forward to seeing what power users get up to with it."

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The new 8GB Raspberry Pi 4 has been launched to satisfy power users, ranging from those running chunky software or heavy server workloads, to users who simply like running multiple tabs while browsing the web, Upton said in a blog post.

To supply the higher peak currents required by the new 8GB board, Raspberry Pi has rearranged the power supply components. This required removing a switch-mode power supply next to the USB 2.0 sockets and adding a new switcher next to the USB-C power connector.

"While this was a necessary change, it ended up costing us a three-month slip, as COVID-19 disrupted the supply of inductors from the Far East," Upton said.

"Other than that, this is the same Raspberry Pi 4 you've come to know and love."

It's been a busy year for Upton and his team, with Raspberry Pi shifting some three million units since June 2019 alongside pushing out various tweaks to both its single-board computer and operating system. It even  found time to launch a new camera.

In the past few months alone, the organization has seen an explosion in demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic: as well as winning favor with remote workers looking to pick up an inexpensive home office solution, Raspberry Pi has seen its hardware playing a more direct role in tackling the crisis, with programmers using Pi boards to power ventilators and 3D-print protective masks for front-line workers. 

Meanwhile, the organization has worked tirelessly on its operating system to reduce the Pi 4's power consumption, it has started work on a Vulkan driver, as well as the recent beta release of USB mass storage boot mode . All of this "alongside the usual round of bug fixes, feature additions, and kernel version bumps," Upton said.

Yet Raspberry Pi acknowledged that those Pi 4 users who desired to eke out every last drop of power from the new 8GB model required an operating system to match. While there are already third-party options out there, such as Ubuntu and Gentoo, Raspberry Pi has lacked its own 64-bit offer in this space.

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Enter Raspberry Pi OS, the new default operating system image for Raspberry Pi that now comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavors, the latter of which has been built against the Debian arm64 port.

"As our community grows, we want to make sure it's as easy as possible for new users to find our recommended operating system for Raspberry Pi," Upton explained.

"We think the new name will help more people feel confident in using our computers and our software."

In documents outlining the new OS, Raspberry Pi recommends using the 32-bit operating system for all Pi models for the time being. "For the moment this is a 'beta' program, the OS is in heavy flux and its functionality is likely to change significantly over the next few months," the documents read.

The 64-bit OS is only compatible with Raspberry Pi 3 and Raspberry Pi 4 devices.

An update to the Raspberry Pi Desktop for all operating system images is also out today, with the organization promising to share more details in an upcoming blog post.

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