Author Archives: Eben Upton

Vulkan update: we’re conformant!

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Today we have a guest post from Igalia’s Iago Toral, who has spent the past year working on the Mesa graphic driver stack for Raspberry Pi 4.

It’s been nearly a year since we first announced that we were developing a Vulkan driver for the latest generation of Raspberry Pi devices (Raspberry Pi 4, Raspberry Pi 400, and Compute Module 4).

Sascha Willems’ Vulkan radial blur demo

In June we released the source code for our prototype driver, and last month we announced that the driver had been successfully merged to Mesa upstream.

Today we have some very exciting news to share: as of 24 November the V3DV Vulkan Mesa driver for Raspberry Pi 4 has demonstrated Vulkan 1.0 conformance.

Khronos describes the conformance process as a way to ensure that its standards are consistently implemented by multiple vendors, so as to create a reliable platform for application developers. For each standard, Khronos provides a large conformance test suite (CTS) that implementations must pass successfully to be declared conformant; in the case of Vulkan 1.0, the CTS contains over 100,000 tests.

Vulkan 1.0 conformance is a major milestone in bringing Vulkan to Raspberry Pi, but it isn’t the end of the journey. Our team continues to work on all fronts to expand the Vulkan feature set, improve performance, and fix bugs. So stay tuned for future Vulkan updates!

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Raspberry Pi 400: the $70 desktop PC

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Raspberry Pi has always been a PC company. Inspired by the home computers of the 1980s, our mission is to put affordable, high-performance, programmable computers into the hands of people all over the world. And inspired by these classic PCs, here is Raspberry Pi 400: a complete personal computer, built into a compact keyboard.

Raspberry Pi 4, which we launched in June last year, is roughly forty times as powerful as the original Raspberry Pi, and offers an experience that is indistinguishable from a legacy PC for the majority of users. Particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a rapid increase in the use of Raspberry Pi 4 for home working and studying.

A front view of the Raspberry Pi keyboard

But user friendliness is about more than performance: it can also be about form factor. In particular, having fewer objects on your desk makes for a simpler set-up experience. Classic home computers – BBC Micros, ZX Spectrums, Commodore Amigas, and the rest – integrated the motherboard directly into the keyboard. No separate system unit and case; no keyboard cable. Just a computer, a power supply, a monitor cable, and (sometimes) a mouse.

Raspberry Pi 400

We’ve never been shy about borrowing a good idea. Which brings us to Raspberry Pi 400: it’s a faster, cooler 4GB Raspberry Pi 4, integrated into a compact keyboard. Priced at just $70 for the computer on its own, or $100 for a ready-to-go kit, if you’re looking for an affordable PC for day-to-day use this is the Raspberry Pi for you.

Buy the kit

The Raspberry Pi 400 Personal Computer Kit is the “Christmas morning” product, with the best possible out-of-box experience: a complete PC which plugs into your TV or monitor. The kit comprises:

  • A Raspberry Pi 400 computer
  • Our official USB mouse
  • Our official USB-C power supply
  • An SD card with Raspberry Pi OS pre-installed
  • A micro HDMI to HDMI cable
  • The official Raspberry Pi Beginner’s Guide

At launch, we are supporting English (UK and US), French, Italian, German, and Spanish keyboard layouts, with (for the first time) translated versions of the Beginner’s Guide. In the near future, we plan to support the same set of languages as our official keyboard.

Buy the computer

Saving money by bringing your own peripherals has always been part of the Raspberry Pi ethos. If you already have the other bits of the kit, you can buy a Raspberry Pi 400 computer on its own for just $70.

A close up of the left-hand keys of the Raspberry Pi 400

Buy the book

To accompany Raspberry Pi 400, we’ve released a fourth edition of our popular Raspberry Pi Beginner’s Guide, packed with updated material to help you get the most out of your new PC.

You can buy a copy of the Beginner’s Guide today from the Raspberry Pi Press store, or download a free PDF.

Where to buy Raspberry Pi 400

UK, US, and French Raspberry Pi 400 kits and computers are available to buy right now. Italian, German, and Spanish units are on their way to Raspberry Pi Approved Resellers, who should have them in stock in the next week.

We expect that Approved Resellers in India, Australia, and New Zealand will have kits and computers in stock by the end of the year. We’re rapidly rolling out compliance certification for other territories too, so that Raspberry Pi 400 will be available around the world in the first few months of 2021.

Of course, if you’re anywhere near Cambridge, you can head over to the Raspberry Pi Store to pick up your Raspberry Pi 400 today.

What does everyone else think?

We let a handful of people take an early look at Raspberry Pi 400 so they could try it out and pull together their thoughts to share with you. Here’s what some of them made of it.

Simon Martin, who has spent the last couple of years bringing Raspberry Pi 400 to life, will be here tomorrow to share some of the interesting technical challenges that he encountered along the way. In the meantime, start thinking about what you’ll do with your Raspberry Pi PC.

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Vulkan update: merged to Mesa

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Today we have another guest post from Igalia’s Iago Toral, who has spent the past year working on the Mesa graphic driver stack for Raspberry Pi 4.

Four months ago we announced that work on the Vulkan effort for Raspberry Pi 4 (v3dv) was progressing well, and that we were moving the development to an open repository.

vkQuake3 on Raspberry Pi 4

This week, the Vulkan driver for Raspberry Pi 4 has been merged with Mesa upstream, becoming one of the official Vulkan Mesa drivers. This brings several advantages:

  • Easier to find: now anyone willing to test the driver just needs to go to the official Mesa repository
  • Bug tracking: issues/bugs can now be filed on the official Mesa repository bug tracker. If the problem affects other parts of the project, it will be easier for us to involve other Mesa developers.
  • Releasing: v3dv will be included in all Mesa releases. In due course, you will no longer need to go to an external repository to obtain the driver, as it will be included in the Mesa package for your distribution.
  • Maintenance: v3dv will be included in the Mesa Continuous Integration system, so every merge request will be tested to ensure that our driver still builds. More effort can go to new features and bug fixes rather than just keeping up with upstream changes.

Progress, and current status

We said back in June that we were passing over 70,000 tests from the Khronos Conformance Test Suite for Vulkan 1.0, and that we had an implementation for a significant subset of the Vulkan 1.0 API. Now we are passing over 100,000 tests, and have implemented the full Vulkan 1.0 API. Only a handful of CTS tests remain to be fixed.

Sascha Willems’ deferred multisampling demo

This doesn’t mean that our work is done, of course. Although the CTS is a really complete test suite, it is not the same as a real use case. As mentioned some of our updates, we have been testing the driver with Vulkan ports of the original Quake trilogy, but deeper and more detailed testing is needed. So the next step will be to test the driver with more use cases, and fixing any bugs or performance issues that we find during the process.

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Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 on sale now from $25

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It’s become a tradition that we follow each Raspberry Pi model with a system-on-module variant based on the same core silicon. Raspberry Pi 1 gave rise to the original Compute Module in 2014; Raspberry Pi 3 and 3+ were followed by Compute Module 3 and 3+ in 2017 and 2019 respectively. Only Raspberry Pi 2, our shortest-lived flagship product at just thirteen months, escaped the Compute Module treatment.

It’s been sixteen months since we unleashed Raspberry Pi 4 on the world, and today we’re announcing the launch of Compute Module 4, starting from $25.

Over half of the seven million Raspberry Pi units we sell each year go into industrial and commercial applications, from digital signage to thin clients to process automation. Many of these applications use the familiar single-board Raspberry Pi, but for users who want a more compact or custom form factor, or on-board eMMC storage, Compute Module products provide a simple way to move from a Raspberry Pi-based prototype to volume production.

A step change in performance

Built on the same 64-bit quad-core BCM2711 application processor as Raspberry Pi 4, our Compute Module 4 delivers a step change in performance over its predecessors: faster CPU cores, better multimedia, more interfacing capabilities, and, for the first time, a choice of RAM densities and a wireless connectivity option.

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4
Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4

You can find detailed specs here, but let’s run through the highlights:

  • 1.5GHz quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A72 CPU
  • VideoCore VI graphics, supporting OpenGL ES 3.x
  • 4Kp60 hardware decode of H.265 (HEVC) video
  • 1080p60 hardware decode, and 1080p30 hardware encode of H.264 (AVC) video
  • Dual HDMI interfaces, at resolutions up to 4K
  • Single-lane PCI Express 2.0 interface
  • Dual MIPI DSI display, and dual MIPI CSI-2 camera interfaces
  • 1GB, 2GB, 4GB or 8GB LPDDR4-3200 SDRAM
  • Optional 8GB, 16GB or 32GB eMMC Flash storage
  • Optional 2.4GHz and 5GHz IEEE 802.11b/g/n/ac wireless LAN and Bluetooth 5.0
  • Gigabit Ethernet PHY with IEEE 1588 support
  • 28 GPIO pins, with up to 6 × UART, 6 × I2C and 5 × SPI
Compute Module 4 Lite (without eMMC Flash memory)
Compute Module 4 Lite, our variant without eMMC Flash memory

New, more compact form factor

Compute Module 4 introduces a brand new form factor, and a compatibility break with earlier Compute Modules. Where previous modules adopted the JEDEC DDR2 SODIMM mechanical standard, with I/O signals on an edge connector, we now bring I/O signals to two high-density perpendicular connectors (one for power and low-speed interfaces, and one for high-speed interfaces).

This significantly reduces the overall footprint of the module on its carrier board, letting you achieve smaller form factors for your products.

High-density connector on board underside
High-density connector on board underside

32 variants

With four RAM options, four Flash options, and optional wireless connectivity, we have a total of 32 variants, with prices ranging from $25 (for the 1GB RAM, Lite, no wireless variant) to $90 (for the 8GB RAM, 32GB Flash, wireless variant).

We’re very pleased that the four variants with 1GB RAM and no wireless keep the same price points ($25, $30, $35, and $40) as their Compute Module 3+ equivalents: once again, we’ve managed to pack a lot more performance into the platform without increasing the price.

You can find the full price list in the Compute Module 4 product brief.

Compute Module 4 IO Board

To help you get started with Compute Module 4, we are also launching an updated IO Board. Like the IO boards for earlier Compute Module products, this breaks out all the interfaces from the Compute Module to standard connectors, providing a ready-made development platform and a starting point for your own designs.

Compute Module 4 IO Board
Compute Module 4 IO Board

The IO board provides:

  • Two full-size HDMI ports
  • Gigabit Ethernet jack
  • Two USB 2.0 ports
  • MicroSD card socket (only for use with Lite, no-eMMC Compute Module 4 variants)
  • PCI Express Gen 2 x1 socket
  • HAT footprint with 40-pin GPIO connector and PoE header
  • 12V input via barrel jack (supports up to 26V if PCIe unused)
  • Camera and display FPC connectors
  • Real-time clock with battery backup

CAD for the IO board is available in KiCad format. You may recall that a few years ago we made a donation to support improvements to KiCad’s differential pair routing and track length control features; now you can use this feature-rich, open-source PCB layout package to design your own Compute Module carrier board.

Compute Module 4 mounted on the IO Board
Compute Module 4 mounted on the IO Board

In addition to serving as a development platform and reference design, we expect the IO board to be a finished product in its own right: if you require a Raspberry Pi that supports a wider range of input voltages, has all its major connectors in a single plane, or allows you to attach your own PCI Express devices, then Compute Module 4 with the IO Board does what you need.

We’ve set the price of the bare IO board at just $35, so a complete package including a Compute Module starts from $60.

Compute Module 4 Antenna Kit

We expect that most users of wireless Compute Module variants will be happy with the on-board PCB antenna. However, in some circumstances – for example, where the product is in a metal case, or where it is not possible to provide the necessary ground plane cut-out under the module – an external antenna will be required. The Compute Module 4 Antenna Kit comprises a whip antenna, with a bulkhead screw fixture and U.FL connector to attach to the socket on the module.

Antenna Kit and Compute Module 4
Antenna Kit and Compute Module 4

When using ether the Antenna Kit or the on-board antenna, you can take advantage of our modular certification to reduce the conformance testing costs for your finished product. And remember, the Raspberry Pi Integrator Programme is there to help you get your Compute Module-based product to market.

Our most powerful Compute Module

This is our best Compute Module yet. It’s also our first product designed by Dominic Plunkett, who joined us almost exactly a year ago.

I sat down with Dominic last week to discuss Compute Module 4 in greater detail, and you can find the video of our conversation here. Dominic will also be sharing more technical detail in the blog tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out the Compute Module 4 page for the datasheet and other details, and start thinking about what you’ll build with Compute Module 4.

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A birthday gift: 2GB Raspberry Pi 4 now only $35

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TL;DR: it’s our eighth birthday, and falling RAM prices have allowed us to cut the price of the 2GB Raspberry Pi 4 to $35. You can buy one here.

Happy birthday to us

In two days’ time, it will be our eighth birthday (or our second, depending on your point of view). Many of you set your alarms and got up early on the morning of 29 February 2012, to order your Raspberry Pi from our newly minted licensee partners, RS Components and Premier Farnell. In the years since, we’ve sold over 30 million Raspberry Pi computers; we’ve seen our products used in an incredible range of applications all over the world (and occasionally off it); and we’ve found our own place in a community of makers, hobbyists, engineers and educators who are changing the world, one project, or one student, at a time.

The first Raspberry Pi

When we first started talking about Raspberry Pi 1 Model B back in 2011, we were very clear about what we were trying to build: a desktop Linux PC with interfacing capabilities for $35. At the time, it seemed obvious that our low price point would come with compromises. Even though you could use your Raspberry Pi 1 to watch HD video, or play Quake 3, or compile the Linux kernel, or automate a factory, some things – like browsing modern, JavaScript-heavy websites – were out of reach.

Our very first website led with an early prototype running an Ubuntu 9.04 desktop

Improving performance

Every subsequent product – from quad-core Raspberry Pi 2 in 2015, to 64-bit Raspberry Pi 3 in 2016, to Raspberry Pi 3+ in 2018 – whittled down those compromises a little further. By offering steadily increasing processing power at a time when the performance of traditional PCs had begun to stagnate, we were gradually able to catch up with typical PC use cases. With each generation, more people were able to use a Raspberry Pi as their daily-driver PC.

The Raspberry Pi I’d buy for my parents

Until, in June of last year, we launched Raspberry Pi 4. Roughly forty times faster than the original Raspberry Pi, for the first time we have a no-compromises PC for the majority of users. I’ve described Raspberry Pi 4 as “the Raspberry Pi I’d buy for my parents”, and since I bought them a Desktop Kit for Christmas they’ve found it to be basically indistinguishable in performance and functionality from other PCs.

In a sense, this was a “mission accomplished” moment. But Raspberry Pi 4 brought its own compromises: for the first time we couldn’t fit as much memory as we wanted into the base product. While the $35 1GB device makes a great media player, home server, or embedded controller, to get the best desktop experience you need at least 2GB of RAM. At launch this would have cost you $45.

Dropping the price of 2GB

Which brings us to today’s announcement. The fall in RAM prices over the last year has allowed us to cut the price of the 2GB variant of Raspberry Pi 4 to $35. Effective immediately, you will be able to buy a no-compromises desktop PC for the same price as Raspberry Pi 1 in 2012. In comparison to that original machine, we offer:

  • 40× the CPU performance
  • 8× the memory
  • 10× the I/O bandwidth
  • 4× the number of pixels on screen
  • Two screens instead of one
  • Dual-band wireless networking

And of course, thanks to inflation, $35 in 2012 is equivalent to nearly $40 today. So effectively you’re getting all these improvements, and a $5 price cut.

We’re going to keep working to make Raspberry Pi a better desktop computer. But this feels like a great place to be, eight years in. We hope you’ve enjoyed the first eight years of our journey as much as we have: here’s to another eight!

FAQs

Is this a permanent price cut?

Yes.

What about the 1GB product?

In line with our commitment to long-term support, the 1GB product will remain available to industrial and commercial customers, at a list price of $35. As there is no price advantage over the 2GB product, we expect most users to opt for the larger-memory variant.

What about the 4GB product?

The 4GB variant of Raspberry Pi 4 will remain on sale, priced at $55.

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Vulkan is coming to Raspberry Pi: first triangle

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Following on from our recent announcement that Raspberry Pi 4 is OpenGL ES 3.1 conformant, we have some more news to share on the graphics front. We have started work on a much requested feature: an open-source Vulkan driver!

Vulkan

Standards body Khronos describes Vulkan as “a new generation graphics and compute API that provides high-efficiency, cross-platform access to modern GPUs”. The Vulkan API has been designed to better accommodate modern GPUs and address common performance bottlenecks in OpenGL, providing graphics developers with new means to squeeze the best performance out of the hardware.

First triangle

The “first triangle” image is something of a VideoCore graphics tradition: while I arrived at Broadcom too late to witness the VideoCore III version, I still remember the first time James and Gary were able to get a flawless, single-tile, RGB triangle out of VideoCore IV in simulation. So, without further ado, here’s the VideoCore VI Vulkan version.

First triangle out of Vulkan

Before you get too excited, remember that this is just the start of the development process for Vulkan on Raspberry Pi. Igalia has only been working on this new driver for a few weeks, and we still have a very long development roadmap ahead of us before we can put an actual driver in the hands of our users. So don’t hold your breath, and instead look forward to more news from us and Igalia as they make further development progress.

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