The Raspberry Pi 4 family of single-board computers grows one larger today, with the launch of a new model boasting twice the RAM of its closest predecessor: welcome to the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 8GB.
The Raspberry Pi 4 launched last year as the first-ever Raspberry Pi model to come with a choice in the amount of RAM on board: The three launch models were all identical in specification bar coming with 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB of LPDDR4 memory respectively. Falling RAM prices led to the effective retirement of the 1GB model — though still available to customers who need it, the 2GB is now the same price — while a technological shift has allowed for the launch of the 8GB variant.
“We wanted to be able to do an 8GB model [last year] but there was no 8GB RAM package then," Eben Upton, founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, explains. "We're launching this absolutely as soon as we can — there's no synthetic delay in this product. If we could have launched this on day one we would have done, but the technology just wasn't there yet."
"The 8GB, of course, is about wanting to provide a platform for power users, and wanting to do that just as soon as the technology is ready. You know, when we launched last year this 8GB package didn't exist – but we sort of suspected it might come to exist. The memory packages we're using are literally some of the first off the production line. This really is a brand-new, shiny memory technology."
The board is, effectively, identical to the latest revision of the existing 4GB Raspberry Pi 4 — which, in turn, is the same as the 2GB, and the 1GB - bar the memory module on board. The BCM2711 system-on-chip is present and correct, still running at 1.5GHz and still with a VideoCore-VI graphics processor. The new model has the same general-purpose input/output (GPIO) header, the same two USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, the same USB Type-C power input, and the same gigabit Ethernet port, as well as the same on-board Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radio.
The only difference is the memory capacity — and the price. At around $75, the 8GB model is the most expensive Raspberry Pi yet launched — but for those whose working data sets exceed the capabilities of the 4GB model and for whom swapping pages out to microSD or USB storage isn't an option, it's likely to be money well spent.
Anyone waiting to see if there's something better around the corner, however, is likely to be disappointed: "There's a SoC [system-on-chip] upper limit, which is 16GB. If you think about where the peripheral registers are on the platform, they appear at 16GB. There's only a 16GB aperture for DRAM in the address map on this chip," Upton explains of the BCM2711's built-in addressing limit.
"Now, there really isn't a 16GB RAM package that we could use, or a way to use a pair of 8GB packages on the board. So, I think this is probably the pinnacle for Raspberry Pi 4 in terms of memory capacity."
To get the most out of the 8GB model, you'll need a 64-bit operating system. While Raspberry Pi OS, formerly known as Raspbian, has previously been available exclusively as a 32-bit build for backwards compatibility reasons — though using Physical Address Extensions (PAE), meaning it can access more than 4GB of memory but with a 4GB limit per-process — a beta has been launched today for a 64-bit build; third-party operating systems, like Ubuntu Linux, are also available in 64-bit variants.
The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 8GB is now available from the usual retailers.