The Raspberry Pi Foundation Raspberry Pi review
We're used to queues for slick products like a new iPhone, but demand for the Raspberry Pi – a tiny, basic computer without even a case – took many people by surprise. At its late-February launch, the two web stores selling it were overcome, and deliveries are only now catching up.
For those that missed the hoo-ha, the 'RasPi' was conceived as an affordable, community-supported computer that would encourage children to take up coding; much in the way that the Sinclair, Commodore and BBC computers of the early 1980s spawned a generation of enthusiasts and programmers. At its core is a Broadcom 'System on Chip', which contains a 700MHz ARM processor and a graphics core capable of displaying HD video at 30 frames per second.
There's room for little else other than some input/output headers on the RasPi's credit card-sized circuit board, but various connectors crowd the perimeter, including HDMI, a 3.5mm audio jack, composite video and – on the model B reviewed here – two USB ports and an Ethernet socket. There's a micro USB connector to accept power, and on the underside a single slot for the SD card that must be used to boot the computer. The basic device comes without a power adaptor or suitable SD card, but it's possible to buy them in a bundle. The minimum SD card you'll need is a 4GB model.
The X window system makes everyday computing viable, but it's slow in this release
The RasPi can't run Windows, but there are already three Pi-optimised Linux distributions available from the Raspberry Pi Foundation's website. Some bundled SD cards come pre-loaded with the recommended Debian Squeeze, but while this will save you the initial preparation, it's worth familiarising yourself with the recommended Win32DiskImager if you have an SD card reader for your PC; Win32DiskImager provides an easy way to make and restore backup images.