Always imagined a Raspberry Pi but never got around to it? With so many versions of the board, it’s easy to get distracted. Is the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ what you are looking for? Or should you consider an earlier Raspberry Pi 3 or a later Raspberry Pi 4?
Here’s everything you need to know about choosing a Raspberry Pi 3 B+.
What is the difference between Raspberry Pi Model B and B+?
If you’ve been trying to buy a Raspberry Pi, you might have noticed a strange naming convention. The letters A, B, and B+ correspond to most Pi models (except Pi Zero and Pi Compute), but what do they stand for?
Well, they mostly refer to the board. The original Raspberry Pi used a B credit card board, quickly followed by a smaller and more square A board. For the past years, the revision of the B board has used the name B+. In Raspberry Pi 3 models, the B+ name indicates a superior specification while retaining much of the same hardware.
Check out our model guide about these differences.
Raspberry Pi 3 B, Raspberry Pi 3 B+ or Raspberry Pi 4?
Despite the low power of the early versions of the Raspberry Pi, the choice is much better these days.
When Raspberry Pi 3 B+ was released in 2016, it all started with Raspberry Pi 3 B. Since 2017, we have had Raspberry Pi 3 B+ and Raspberry Pi 4 B in 2019.
Each of these models is affordable, with the boards selling for less than $50 each.
The Raspberry Pi 3 B+ offers improved specifications over previous versions and better OS and software support than the Raspberry Pi 4. However, this may change as developers update their software.
If you’re interested in the later version, check out our Raspberry Pi 4 guide. and best cases for Raspberry Pi 4 best cases Raspberry Pi 4 best cases
Raspberry Pi 3B vs. B+ Specifications
Planning to buy Raspberry Pi 3 or Raspberry Pi 3 B+? Since both devices are similar in price, your decision will probably depend on the specification of the boards.
Raspberry Pi 3 B System Specifications
The Raspberry Pi 3 B board uses the ARMv8-A (64/32-bit) instruction set and BCM2837 SoC (System on a Chip). It is 1GB RAM, 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU and GPU.
It has four USB 2.0 ports, 10/100Mbps Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n single band 2.4GHz wireless, and Bluetooth 4.1 BLE.
All this makes the Raspberry Pi 3 B perfect for almost any task. As the first Raspberry Pi with built-in wireless, the Pi 3 B is the first genuine upgrade for the platform.
Raspberry Pi 3 B+ System Specifications
This time, the 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture uses the BCM2837B0 SoC. At the heart of this is a 1.4GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor with a GPU and 1GB of RAM.
Much of the other hardware is the same as the previous model, but there are some interesting differences. For example, dual-band 802.11ac (2.4GHz and 5GHz) wireless LAN and Bluetooth 4.2 are faster than the previous model.
Thanks to faster Ethernet, wireless and wired network throughput has been increased by about three times. It’s impressive. However, be aware that all devices connected via USB (including Ethernet) will share the single-port USB bus, limited to just 480Mbps.
Under the hood, PXE network boot has also been improved, while anyone using a mass storage device will boot boot will also benefit from better loading. The Pi 3 B+ also boasts improved thermal management, which should offer new overclocking options. Radiators and other cooling will no doubt be required!
Finally, an improved PMIC (Power Management IC) improves dynamic voltage scaling, giving the Pi 3 B+ better data and performance control.
Raspberry Pi 3 B+ First Impressions
A few minor changes have been made to the Raspberry Pi 3 B+. The most obvious is the heat spreader on top of the SoC, which resembles a small Pentium 4 (or later) processor. Although a heat spreader can be used with a heatsink, they are usually used in conjunction with a system fan.
You’ll also likely notice a metal screen that sits around the improved Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chip. Cause? Well, it’s been embossed with the Raspberry Pi logo, which we think you’ll agree looks pretty eye-catching.
Also note the new four-pin Power over Ethernet (PoE) connector between the GPIO and USB ports. The purpose of this is to provide power to the Pi (along with data) over a dedicated ethernet cable. You can buy a HAT board to adapt 48V from PoE power to Pi-friendly 5V.
You will immediately notice improvements in the Pi 3 B+. Media center designs perform much better, and the system as a whole certainly feels faster.
Raspberry Pi 3 B+ compatibility with accessories
Some previous updates to the Raspberry Pi have resulted in compatibility issues, mostly with cases and power supplies. This time it seems like some effort has been made to keep the previous form factor when it comes to USB and other ports. I successfully installed my Pi 3 B+ in a case designed for Pi 3, so that’s good news.
As with any Raspberry Pi, you need to make sure you’re using the right microSD card. These flash memory devices get a lot of punishment from read/write cycles, so it’s important to have fast and good error correction software. Check out our guide to buying the right SD card for details.
Similarly, the right power supply is critical to the performance of your Raspberry Pi. While many are available, it’s hard not to recommend an official power source. For reliability, they are perfect.
How about another raspberry piss?
To the best of our knowledge, other Pi models are still in production. The Raspberry Pi Foundation stated that it «will continue to build these models for as long as there is demand,» noting the importance of these models to industrial consumers.
Raspberry Pi 1 A+, Raspberry Pi 1 B+, Raspberry Pi 2 B, Raspberry Pi 3 B and Pi Zero will be available until at least 2022. The Raspberry Pi 4, meanwhile, will be released until at least 2026.
Better for you: Raspberry Pi 3 B or Raspberry Pi 3 B+?
With two versions of the Raspberry Pi 3 B, it can be difficult to choose the right model. So you can just choose a cheaper model (although it doesn’t have much in it) or order a better device.
Making this choice can be tricky, but as good as the Pi 3 B is, any initial software and Pi 3 B+ issues have been resolved. Throw in better network support and a faster processor, and the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ makes more sense than its immediate predecessor.
Of course, you should buy a Raspberry Pi based on the requirements of the project you have in mind. If your plans don’t require optimal network speed, an earlier version of the Raspberry Pi 3 B should suffice.
Raspberry Pi 3 B+: excellent and worth the upgrade
The Raspberry Pi 3 B+ has excellent technical specifications and the potential to improve existing projects. In short, unless you’re looking for a smaller, lighter computer, the Pi 3 B+ is a smart choice. It’s also easier than wasting time trying to decide which version of the Raspberry Pi 4 you want to buy.
Just look at the potential as a replacement/thin client desktop, Kodi box and retro gaming device! With a new version of Raspbian accompanying the new computer, the Raspberry Pi goes further. Looking for a project for your Raspberry Pi 3 B+? Check out our guide to the best Raspberry Pi projects