Introducing the Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+

The final iteration of the “classic” Raspberry Pi

Alasdair Allan
a year ago

Back in the mists of time the original Raspberry Pi Model B had a smaller sibling. Stripped of the wired networking and with reduced memory, the Model A was a smaller and cheaper alternative. The launch of the Model B+ was then closely followed by a Model A+. However with the release if the Raspberry Pi 2 and 3 there was no corresponding Model A, perhaps that niche in the line up was now supposed to be filled by the Raspberry Pi Zero, or maybe even the Compute Module?

So with the release of the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ earlier in the year it was questionable a new model A+ would be along. But earlier this morning, the Raspberry Pi Foundation unveiled the latest board in their lineup, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+.

The new Model A+ weighs in at just 29g, that’s just a smidgen over an ounce, and has the same smaller footprint as previous Model A+ board—about the size of a Raspberry Pi HAT.

Like the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, it is built around the 64-bit quad Broadcom BCM2837 core processor clocked at 1.4 GHz, and has on-board dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless Wi-Fi, as well as Bluetooth LE support. But like previous Model A boards, the new Model A+ board lacks wired Ethernet and has just a single USB socket.

Also like its big brother the Model B+, the new Model A+ has its processor encapsulated in a new package with a heat spreader for better thermal control, and the wireless chip is now in an RF shielded module. That means that the board comes with RF modular compliance certification, allowing it to be designed into end products with much reduced compliance testing.

The official case for the new Model A+ “isn’t quite ready yet” but the pictures make it look very similar to the official case for the Model B+, and it should be available at the start of next month. Just in time for Christmas.

However that means that this Christmas, when the accessories for the new Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ ship, will mean an end of an era for the Raspberry Pi. Because this is the last Pi that will share hardware compatibility with the original Raspberry Pi released back in 2012.

“…the 3+ platform is the final iteration of the ‘classic’ Raspberry Pi: whatever we do next will of necessity be less of an evolution, because it will need new core silicon, on a new process node, with new memory technology. So 3A+ is about closing things out in style.”

Back in the day, when the bigger more expensive Raspberry Pi Model B lacked wireless networking, the lack of wired Ethernet port in the Model A made a big difference. These days though, perhaps the lack of wired networking doesn’t matter quite as much as it used to?

So, at least for most people, the new Model A+ board is probably a much more attractive proposition than it was in the past. Costing just $25, that’s $10 less than the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, the new Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ board is intended to fill a gap between the lower powered Raspberry Pi Zero and the top end model B+. But for most people, who don’t need the wired Ethernet that the B+ provides, it should be the Raspberry Pi of choice.

Alasdair Allan
Scientist, author, hacker, maker, and journalist. Building, breaking, and writing. For hire. You can reach me at 📫 alasdair@babilim.co.uk.
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