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Raspberry Pi 2 review

Chris Finnamore
12 Feb 2015
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
30
inc VAT

A far more powerful processor means the Raspberry Pi 2 can stand up as a proper computer

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Specifications

Processor: 900 MHz ARM Cortex-A7 quad-core, RAM: 1GB, Front USB ports : 0, Rear USB ports: 4, Total storage: 0, Graphics card: Broadcom BCM2836, Display: N/A, Operating system: Raspian

We've long been fans of the Raspberry Pi. We've used the £30 mini-computer for all kinds of projects, from making a CCTV system to building a multiroom audio receiver on the cheap. 

The Pi is particularly well suited to such embedded applications due to its tiny size and sub-4W power draw. However, although it can be used as a desktop computer, and we have even heard of people using the Pi for some fairly complicated desktop publishing, it always felt compromised. The feeling was that the Pi was "impressive for a £30 computer" rather than in its own right.

The main problem was that the original Pi's 700MHz single-core processor just wasn’t quite quick enough to run applications such as LibreOffice smoothly, or for complicated modern web pages. Step forward the Raspberry Pi 2, which improves matters significantly with a quad-core processor and 1GB RAM. Best of all, a slice of Pi is still just £30.

The new Broadcom BCM2836 system-on-chip, which handles the Pi's video, audio and processing, among other things, has also had a speed bump to 900MHz. The Pi is otherwise unchanged from the B+ model; you still get four USB ports, HDMI, Ethernet, a 3.5mm combination composite video and stereo audio jack, a microSD card slot and, of course, the all-important camera interface and 40 general-purpose input/output pins to plug in resistors, LEDs or whatever your current project requires.

This means that you should be able to swap your old Pi for a new one without having to spend hours modifying your Python scripts to get your projects working again. Processor aside, in terms of hardware it's business as usual for the Pi 2. HDMI is the best connection to use to plug into a display; the combination AV port is really designed for the developing world where CRT TVs are still commonplace. If you don’t have an HDMI-equipped monitor or TV, you can plug into most PC monitors with an HDMI to DVI adaptor (about £4 from Maplin) and use the 3.5mm jack output for your sound.

Four USB ports give you plenty of space for a keyboard and mouse and, if you don’t want to use the Ethernet port, a wireless adaptor; the Pi Hut USB Wi-Fi Adapter is £8 from Amazon. We'd highly recommend using a 2A phone or tablet charger to power the Pi instead of the sub-1A chargers that still ship with most phones, in order to make sure you have enough power for your peripherals. We found that the Pi still couldn’t provide enough power to spin up an external bus-powered mechanical hard disk, so you're best off sticking with flash drives or hard disks with their own power supply. You'll also want a fast microSD card for snappy performance with the Pi's operating system – we had good results with a Class 10 16GB Sandisk Ultra, which is £6.50 from www.ebuyer.com.