I was lucky enough to get hold of a pre-release Raspberry Pi 5. Here are my impressions of this latest incarnation of the Raspberry Pi Single Board Computer.
The first thing to strike me was the almost minimalist PCB layout, the top-side being mostly big chips with a lot of the tiny little capacitors and resistors on the underside of the board.
Reassuringly, the 40 pin GPIO connector fixing holes and usual great selection of USB and HDMI morts on the Raspberry Pi are all still there.
My version was supplied with an Active Cooler kit. One criticism of the Pi 4 was that it did tend to get quite hot. The complex self-monitoring of the SoC (system on a chip) meant that the hardware was not in danger, but it's a little disconcerting when the top surface of the chips feel like you could fry an egg on them. (I exaggerate!).
So a little fan to keep things cool will allow the Pi 5 to run at full speed.
The 'Active Cooler' is simplicity itself to fit. You just peel off the backing paper from the heatsink pads and push two sprung-loaded plastic pegs through holes on the board for that purpose. It makes the Pi 5 look pretty badass!
However, with the Active Cooler attached, there is very little room between the edge of the heatsink and the GPIO pins. This means that GPIO templates like the Raspberry Leaf are not going to fit. So anyone wanting to use the GPIO is going to be back to counting pin positions.
The Pi 5 is between two and three times faster than Raspberry Pi 4 (itself no slouch). It has a 64-bit quad-core Arm Cortex-A76 processor clocked at 2.4GHz. This time using a SoC designed by the Raspberry Pi team themselves.
Raspberry Pi 5 also offers significantly improved graphics performance and camera support, and some neat little extras:
- A connector for a fan.
- A connector for a backup battery, allowing time to be kept on the Real-time clock. (In most situations, this isn't really very useful as the Pi will set its clock from the internet. However for offline applications, this could come in handy.
- A connector for UART (serial interface)
- a PCIe 2.0 connector (for attaching SSDs etc)
- A Reset switch
Who's it for?
The Raspberry Pi 4 was already a very worthy desktop/laptop replacement. At MonkMakes, we use the closely related (to Pi 4) Pi400 as a very capable office machine. With the increase in performance of the Pi 5 and with the edition of a PCIe SSD and a sturdy little case, then this device can replace a laptop or desktop computer in many situations. I sincerely hope that a Pi 500 built into a keyboard will be coming along soon.
This Pi is much more about being a proper computer, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the GPIO pins to eventually disappear altogether in some future version.
Top marks as a desktop replacement at a very competitive price. As a Single Board Computer (SBC), the huge community and availability of resources and add-ons make this (IMHO) the best SBC option.
However, if you don't need the performance, and are more interested in doing things with GPIO pins than you are browsing the internet or watching videos, then stick with a Pi 3. They use much less power and are perfectly adequate for most embedded applications, and you can attach a GPIO template so you know which pin is which.
For more information, see the official Raspberry Pi announcement.