Raspberry Pi 2 hands-on: Is the souped-up board ready to take on the PC?

Three years since the launch of the credit-card sized Raspberry Pi computer the popular board has had a significant upgrade - so just what can this beefier Pi do that its predecessors can't?

The Pi's co-creator Eben Upton said the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B is the first Pi with the power to be used as a household PC, so we decided to test how it stands up as an everyday computer.

We tested the Pi 2's performance when browsing the web, opening documents, checking email and cloud storage, watching video and other tasks regularly carried out on a PC.

To judge how much more capable this new Pi is, we carried out the same tasks on an original model B Pi from when the board first launched in February 2012. Today this board, which is no longer on sale, is comparable to Model A+ in terms of processing power and memory.

The Pi 1 B tested here is a system on a chip based around a 700MHz ARMv6 processor and with 256MB of memory, while the Pi 2 B board is based around a 900MHz ARMv7 quad core processor and with 1GB of memory. The last page of the gallery details the specs of each board.

The desktop operating system tested on both machines was Raspbian, a lightweight, responsive port of the Linux-based Debian wheezy OS.

I installed Raspbian through the NOOBS 1.3.12 package and set it to boot.

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Boot time

Raspberry Pi 2 - Model B

The average time from powering on to being presented with a usable desktop was around 31 seconds, perfectly acceptable for a $35 machine.

It's worth noting that I couldn't get the popular media centre-focused OSes OpenElec and Raspbmc to install via NOOBS, as the versions offered had not been tweaked to run on the Pi 2.

Raspberry Pi 1 - Model B

In contrast, booting to the Raspbian desktop took noticeably longer, averaging about 56 seconds.

Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic

By Nick Heath

Nick Heath is a computer science student and was formerly a journalist at TechRepublic and ZDNet.