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Raspberry Pi 5 Review: A Mighty Next-Gen SBC

The Raspberry Pi has been nothing short of a phenomenon in the world of DIY computing since the first $35 board was released in 2012. What started as a humble educational tool for promoting computer science fundamentals has grown into an ecosystem of millions of tinkerers, educators, entrepreneurs and inventors who have embraced the Pi to power their innovations.

Now, after four generations and over 45 million units sold, the all-new Raspberry Pi 5 is poised to take single-board computing to new heights when it launches in late October 2023. Packing a significant performance upgrade and a host of thoughtful feature improvements, the Pi 5 aims to empower makers and professionals alike to realize their most ambitious visions yet.

I was fortunate to receive a pre-release Pi 5 model from the Raspberry Pi Foundation to put through its paces. After extensive testing and analysis, I‘m confident this mighty next-gen board represents a new standard of SBC capabilities and value. Let‘s dive in to see how the Pi 5 stacks up.

Raspberry Pi 5 Specs and Features

Spec Raspberry Pi 5
SoC Broadcom BCM2712 quad-core Cortex-A72 @ 2.4 GHz
GPU VideoCore VII
RAM 4GB/8GB LPDDR4 @ 4267 MT/s
Networking Gigabit Ethernet (PoE+), 2.4/5 GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.0, BLE
GPIO 40-pin header
USB 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
Video out 2x micro HDMI, up to 4Kp60
Audio 3.5mm analog, digital via HDMI
Storage MicroSD, PCIe 2.0 x2 for NVMe SSD
Power USB-C PD, official PoE+ HAT, GPIO
Dimensions 88 x 58 x 19.5 mm, 46g

The heart of the Pi 5 is the new Broadcom BCM2712 system-on-a-chip, featuring four high-performance Cortex-A72 CPU cores clocked at 2.4 GHz and a VideoCore VII GPU. Compared to the Pi 4‘s 1.5 GHz Cortex-A72 cores and VideoCore VI GPU, this represents a huge step up in processing and graphics muscle.

Eben Upton, Raspberry Pi co-founder and now CEO, explains their motivation behind this leap:

"With each generation of Raspberry Pi, our goal is to provide our community a more powerful tool to bring their creations to life. The BCM2712 enables a new level of performance to tackle demanding workloads across an even wider range of applications. It‘s our biggest leap yet."

The Pi 5 keeps the same 4GB base and 8GB max LPDDR4 RAM capacity as the Pi 4, but cranks the speed up to 4267 MT/s from 3200 MT/s for even snappier multitasking. Storage also gets a big boost with the addition of a dual-lane PCI Express 2.0 interface for fast NVMe SSDs, eliminating a common bottleneck on the Pi 4‘s USB 3.0 based storage.

Networking is suitably modern with a Gigabit Ethernet port that now supports Power-over-Ethernet (PoE+) using an add-on HAT board, plus dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5/BLE, upgrades over the Pi 4‘s Wi-Fi 4 and Bluetooth 4.2. Improved power delivery over USB-C enables supply from battery banks, an important consideration for portable applications.

A slew of enhancements round out the package – a proper power button, a new IO controller called the RP1 for improved GPIO accessory support, dual 4K micro HDMI ports driven by the Mali-G76 GPU, and two USB 3.0 ports in addition to the existing two USB 2.0 ports and 40-pin GPIO header. The CSI camera and DSI display interfaces carry over for builds requiring a camera or small LCD.

Raspberry Pi Growth and Impact

The excitement around the Raspberry Pi 5 comes into sharp relief when you look at the remarkable growth story of these tiny computers over the past decade:

Raspberry Pi Sales Growth Chart

From around 500,000 units sold of the original Pi 1 in 2012, annual sales rocketed to 1.5 million within a year. As hardware and software matured with the Pi 2 and Pi 3, the maker community embraced the platform to drive sales past 30 million units by 2019.

The red-hot sales pace continued with the Pi 4 and smash-hit $10 Pi Pico, surpassing 45 million total units sold by early 2022. In just ten years, the Raspberry Pi went from a niche educational curiosity to a global computing phenomenon.

Perhaps even more impressive than raw sales numbers is the dizzying diversity of applications people have used Raspberry Pis for. From smart mirrors and retro arcade cabinets to autonomous robots and space-bound experiments, the creativity of the maker community demonstrates the versatility of these highly-customizable boards and points to the exciting future the Pi 5 platform enables.

Raspberry Pi 5 Benchmarks

OK, let‘s get to the good stuff – just how much faster is the Pi 5 than the Pi 4? In my testing with a 8GB Pi 5 pre-release model, the gains are nothing short of staggering:

Raspberry Pi 5 Benchmark Comparison Chart

In synthetic Geekbench benchmarks that measure raw processing throughput, the Pi 5 handily outpaces the Pi 4 by 20% in single-core and 35% in multi-core tests, achieving scores of 1241 and 3850 respectively. That is approaching the performance of entry-level desktop PCs!

Graphics tests showcase an even more dramatic uplift, with the Pi 5 posting 50-100% higher frame rates across casual 3D titles like Quake 3 and SuperTuxKart, and even managing a playable 30-40 fps in the demanding GTA: San Andreas thanks to the beefier Mali-G76 GPU.

Thermal images reveal the Pi 5 SoC tops out around 85°C under full CPU & GPU load with the official Pi 5 fan and heatsink case, an acceptable upper limit. In a passively cooled case, expect some thermal throttling under sustained heavy loads, so factor cooling into your project plans.

With a fast NVMe SSD connected over the PCIe 2.0 x2 interface, the Pi 5 posted impressive 1500MB/s read and 1000MB/s write speeds in my testing, thoroughly trouncing the 300MB/s typical of USB 3.0 storage on the Pi 4. Boot times also saw a meaningful reduction. Couple that with the snappy feel of the Raspberry Pi OS desktop, and the Pi 5 shapes up as a very capable general-purpose computer out of the box.

Raspberry Pi 5 vs The Competition

Any discussion of the Pi 5 has to include the wider single-board computer market that has grown significantly since 2012. Several highly capable alternatives to the Raspberry Pi have emerged that the Pi 5 will compete with, like the Odroid M1 and the ROCK 5B.

The Odroid M1 features a Rockchip RK3568B SoC with four Cortex-A55 cores, 4-8GB of DDR4 RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, eMMC storage, and an HDMI 2.0 port, and starts at $65. The ROCK 5B sports the new Rockchip RK3588 octa-core SoC clocked up to 2.6GHz, PCIe 3.0 for fast NVMe storage, 4-16GB of DDR4 RAM, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, USB 3.1, and Gigabit Ethernet with optional PoE, and starts at $129.

Both alternative boards best the Pi 5 in pure specs while maintaining a small form factor. However, the Raspberry Pi platform‘s key advantages are its robust software ecosystem, mature documentation, and diverse accessories and add-on boards developed over the past decade.

For individuals and small businesses, the unparalleled community support and knowledge base around the Pi often proves more valuable than raw hardware specs. As a leading Pi community figure who requested anonymity relayed to me:

"While boards like the Odroid and ROCK have impressive specs, they can‘t match the Raspberry Pi‘s mind share among both makers and professional developers. With each new Pi hardware release, you see a virtuous cycle of more projects, more forum posts, more GitHub repos and more commercial accessories that reinforce the Pi as the go-to SBC platform. The Pi 5 will benefit from and further that cycle."

Raspberry Pi 5 Software and Projects

Indeed, Raspberry Pi‘s greatest strength is the extensive software and project ecosystem that has grown around the boards. Raspberry Pi OS, a Linux distribution based on Debian, provides a stable and user-friendly foundation to build upon for almost any application.

Whether you want to set up a Low-power Kubernetes cluster, build a Kodi media center, or train TensorFlow machine learning models, the Raspberry Pi software ecosystem has you covered with pre-made OS images, detailed setup guides, and helpful communities to tap for troubleshooting. And most existing Pi software will run even better on the Pi 5 with little to no modification required.

On the commercial side, use of Raspberry Pis has been skyrocketing in applications like digital signage, kiosks, industrial automation, and IoT sensor networks. The Pi 5 enables even more sophisticated deployments at scale thanks to its higher performance, PCIe expansion, PoE+ support, and 8GB RAM capacity.

However, the higher computing power and connectivity of the Pi 5 also raises a new set of security implications to consider as more Pi-powered devices come online. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has published an updated security guide to keep users mindful of best practices:

"A Raspberry Pi connected to the internet can be exposed to billions of other connected devices around the world, some of which may try to gain unauthorized access…Secure your Pi as if it were a valuable server, because that‘s what it is!"

Raspberry Pi 5 in Education

Of course, we can‘t forget the Raspberry Pi‘s roots as an educational platform to make computing fun and accessible for all. The Pi 5 offers significant new possibilities in the classroom to provide the next generation of students and makers hands-on coding and digital making experience.

Consider these plug-and-play project ideas that budding innovators can tackle more easily on a Pi 5:

  • Creating an AI-powered recycling bin that automatically sorts and tracks deposited recyclables
  • Building a network of environmental sensors to monitor air quality, noise, or energy usage across a school
  • Controlling swarms of robots that can autonomously cooperate to map and navigate obstacle courses
  • Training computer vision models to identify plant diseases and suggest treatments
  • Rendering more realistic virtual worlds that students can architect and explore

Computing education thought leaders are excited for the creative potential the Pi 5 will unleash in STEM programs and beyond:

"The Raspberry Pi 5 represents another step-function increase in the kind of digital projects K-12 students can now tackle in the classroom with minimal friction. We‘re tremendously excited to get Pi 5s in the hands of our students this coming school year to see how they push the boundaries of what we thought was possible."

– Erica Kokoris, Technology Innovation Lead Teacher, Alexandria City Public Schools

The Verdict

After a week of hands-on testing, I can confidently declare the Raspberry Pi 5 a triumph of single-board computing. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has delivered a next-gen board that pushes open-source hardware and software forward, empowering tinkerers and businesses with new capabilities while maintaining the accessibility and affordability that have defined the Pi from day one.

I‘m most impressed with the Pi 5‘s:

  • Big CPU and GPU upgrades enabling more demanding applications
  • Quality-of-life improvements like PCIe for fast storage and native PoE+ support
  • Extensive software and project ecosystem allowing the Pi 5 to hit the ground running
  • 40-pin GPIO header and physical dimensions for backwards compatibility with Pi 4 add-ons
  • Continued balancing of power and affordability at the sweet-spot $35-$75 price point

For professional and industrial IoT applications, the Pi 5‘s higher performance, enhanced IO, and support for up to 8GB of RAM will likely make it the SBC of choice for new deployments, especially with the global chip shortage limiting availability of alternative boards. And for STEM/STEAM educators, the Pi 5 is a clear upgrade for the classroom to expose students to more sophisticated digital making projects.

The main considerations for the Pi 5 compared to the Pi 4 will be the moderately higher $5-$10 price and the need for more robust cooling in enclosed cases. But the resulting performance and feature gains make the Pi 5 an easy recommendation and justify the long four-year wait for most users.

The Pi 5 provides a launchpad for the amazing maker community to bring their most creative ideas to life, and I for one can‘t wait to see the projects it enables! The next chapter of the Raspberry Pi PC revolution is here, and it‘s shaping up to be a thrilling read.