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Raspberry Pi 4 vs Raspberry Pi 3B+

Posted:10:44 AM November 28, 2023 writer: Roland Pelayo

 

 

Introduction

Have you ever wanted to buy a Raspberry Pi but can’t decide which model to choose? Then you’ve come to the right site. Beginners might find it confusing what RPi model to buy especially these days where there are now a lot of options. Different Raspberry Pi models have come out over the years, with different form factors and different features. Case in point: there is the smaller Raspberry Pi Zero W which still comes with WiFi and Bluetooth and a 40-pin GPIO header but on a smaller form factor. The general rule when it comes to computers is to buy the latest. This also applies to the Raspberry Pi because it is also a computer! 

But if you’re short on the budget then you can buy an older model. But not too old! The first and second generations of Raspberry Pi are now outdated and most applications will not run on them anymore. This leaves you with two choices: the Raspberry Pi 4 vs. the Raspberry Pi 3B.

The Raspberry Pi 3B was released in 2016 as a successor to the Raspberry Pi 2. It was the first model to have built-in WiFi and Bluetooth so users won’t need to use a separate dongle to have those wireless features. Two years later, the Raspberry Pi 3B+ was introduced which upgraded the 3B’s CPU from 1.2 to 1.4 GHz.

The Raspberry Pi 4 was released in 2019, notable as the first model to support 4K resolution video. It was also the first model to come with different RAM versions.

Should you choose the newer, more expensive one? Or the older but cheaper model is the wiser choice? Let’s find out.

Raspberry Pi 4 vs Raspberry PI 3B+: CPU, RAM, and graphics

 

Raspberry Pi 3B+

Raspberry Pi 4

CPU

Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 (64-bit) running at 1.4 GHz

Quad-core ARM Cortex-A72 (64-bit) running at 1.5 GHz

RAM 

1GB LPDDR2 SDRAM

Options for 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB LPDDR4 SDRAM

Graphics

VideoCore IV graphics processor supporting OpenGL ES 2.0

VideoCore VI graphics processor supporting OpenGL ES 3.x

The Raspberry Pi 4 CPU is an upgraded version of the Raspberry Pi 3 B+’s CPU. To review, the Central Processing Unit or CPU is the brains of the Raspberry Pi. It manages all processes, computations, and instructions on the board. Thus, performance is almost entirely dependent on the CPU.

Not only is the former’s CPU faster, but it is also more power efficient. The Raspberry Pi 3 B+ is limited to only 1 GB while the Raspberry Pi 4 comes with 2, 4, or 8GB models. Naturally, the higher the RAM value, the higher the price. If you are looking to multitask or your target application is demanding, processing-wise, then go for the highest RAM model.

The Raspberry Pi 4 is the first model to upgrade its Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). The VideoCore VI GPU chip is much more advanced than the VideoCore IV on the older Raspberry Pi 3 B+. Moreover, OpenGL ES 3.x, which the RPi 4 GPU now supports, offers more features than its predecessor.

Looking at the difference in specifications is good but how about the actual performance? This is what is covered in the next section.

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Raspberry Pi 3 vs Raspberry Pi 4 performance

Image source: https://core-electronics.com.au/guides/raspberry-pi-4-vs-3-model-b-performance-benchmark/

You’ll expect that the Raspberry Pi 4 is much more advanced compared to the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ performance-wise because of its updated CPU, RAM, and GPU. Using Sysbench for CPU benchmark, the RPi 4 scored 62 seconds compared to the RPi 4’s 86 seconds. This means that the 4’s CPU is 36% faster than the 3 B+.

Application-wise, the Raspberry Pi 4 handles complex tasks faster than the Raspberry Pi 3B+. The former doesn’t lag as much as the latter when it comes to live video image processing or long mathematical computations.

In terms of GPU, the benchmark scores using OpenGL are 35.8 for the RPi 4 and 30.9 for the RPi 3 B+. That is a 15.9% improvement on the RPi 4 vs. the RPi 3 B+ in graphics performance.

As for gaming support, there are certain things you need to know about OpenGL for Raspberry Pi 4 and Raspberry Pi 3B+. While Raspberry Pi 4 supports OpenGL 3, not all games use it. Most games still use OpenGL 2.1 which the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ readily supports. This means more games can run on Raspberry Pi 3 B+ compared to Raspberry Pi 4. Well, for now, that is. As more games convert to OpenGL 3, expect a bright future for the Raspberry Pi 4 in gaming.

Perhaps the most glaring improvement of the Raspberry Pi 4 against the Raspberry Pi 3B+ is the read and write speeds to an external USB drive. The Raspberry Pi 4, with its 2 USB 3.0 ports, is able to write at a speed that is 342.9% faster than the Raspberry Pi 3B+! Not only that, the Raspberry Pi 4 can also read data at 628.1% faster. 

You can view the rest of the benchmark test results in the table above. Except for boot time and idle power consumption, the Raspberry Pi 4 trumps the Raspberry Pi 3B+ in all areas.

Connectivity and ports

 

Raspberry Pi 3B+

Raspberry Pi 4

WiFi

2.4GHz and 5GHz IEEE 802.11.b/g/n/ac wireless LAN

2.4GHz and 5GHz IEEE 802.11ac wireless LAN

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.2 @ 1 Mbps, 60 m. max. Distance /  Bluetooth Low Energy

Bluetooth 5.0 @ 2 Mbps, 240 m. max distance / Bluetooth Low Energy

USB Ports

4 x USB 2.0

2 x USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0

HDMI Port

One (1080p)

Two (one 4k, one 1080p)

The Raspberry Pi 4 is the first model to introduce two USB 3.0 ports. In comparison, the Raspberry Pi 3 has 4 USB 2.0 ports. The USB 3.0 standard introduces some improvements that make data transfer much faster. To be more precise, USB 2.0 has a transfer rate of 480 Mbps while USB 3.0 has a transfer rate of 4.8 Gbps.

In terms of wireless connection, the Raspberry Pi 4 now comes with Bluetooth 5.0. This newer Bluetooth standard offers twice the data transfer rate of Bluetooth 4.2 (the one on the RPi 3 B+) which is 2 Mbps. It also allows devices to connect at longer distances at a maximum of 240 meters. The older Bluetooth 4.2 only allows up to a maximum of 60 meters.

The Raspberry Pi 4 comes with dual-band WiFi vs. the single-band WiFi on the Raspberry Pi 3 B+. Dual-band WiFi refers to two frequency carriers for the WiFi signal: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. WiFi routers that support dual-band WiFi provide both of these carrier frequencies. The 5 GHz frequency is considered “wider” and can contain more information compared to 2.4 GHz. This means the 5 GHz connection is faster than the 2.4 GHz connection. The Raspberry Pi 3, which supports only 2.4 GHz, has a slower WiFi connection than the Raspberry Pi 4.

In terms of wired network support, the Raspberry Pi 4 has Gigabit ethernet while the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ only has 10/100 ethernet. A Gigabit ethernet can transfer data at a rate of 1000 Mbps while a 10/100 ethernet can transfer data at a rate of 100 Mbps. This means that not only the Raspberry Pi 4 have faster WiFi, but it also has faster internet on the wire.

Do you want to use two monitors? It is now entirely possible with the Raspberry Pi 4 as it comes with two HDMI ports. Not only that, but one of them can run a 4K resolution video! The only drawback is the Raspberry Pi 4 opted for micro HDMI instead of the full HDMI from the previous model. This means you’ll need to buy another (or two) micro HDMI cable.

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Raspberry Pi 4 vs Raspberry Pi 3B+ power

 

Another key difference between the Raspberry Pi 4 and the Raspberry Pi 3B+ is the power supply. With higher processing power comes higher input power needs. The newer Raspberry Pi 4 requires a 5V DC power supply capable of providing at least 3A of current. In contrast, the older Raspberry Pi 3 will run on a 5V / 2A power source. Not only that, but the power input is now USB type C compared to microUSB on the previous model. That’s another cable to buy for you.

Because of its higher power requirement, the Raspberry Pi 4 heats up more than the Raspberry Pi 3. Thus, the Raspberry Pi 4 must be installed with heat sinks to help dissipate that extra heat. Not doing so might cause the board to overheat and permanently damage it. It is also recommended to buy a case for the Raspberry Pi 4 with fans installed.

Conclusion

In summary, there is no doubt that the Raspberry Pi 4 is a powerhouse compared to the Raspberry Pi 3 B+. It has a more powerful CPU, increased RAM options, and improved graphics capabilities. Nevertheless, the choice between them depends on the specific requirements of your project and your budget. Your project might not need the more advanced processing speed of the RPi 4 or its support for 4K video. Your application might need to run on lesser power which the RPi 3 is capable of. Always check the latest specifications before making a decision.

The comparison between the Raspberry Pi 4 and Raspberry Pi 3 B+ highlights the evolution of the Raspberry Pi ecosystem, offering users a choice based on their specific needs and project requirements. The advancements in hardware components make each model suitable for different use cases, and the decision between them depends on factors such as performance demands, budget considerations, and desired features.

The Raspberry Pi 4 stands out as a significant upgrade, featuring a more powerful quad-core Cortex-A72 CPU clocked at 1.5 GHz, which provides a noticeable performance boost over the quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU running at 1.4 GHz in the Raspberry Pi 3 B+. The Raspberry Pi 4 also offers a broader range of RAM options, with 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB LPDDR4 SDRAM configurations. This increased RAM capacity is particularly beneficial for multitasking and running more resource-intensive applications.

Graphics capabilities have also seen a notable improvement in the Raspberry Pi 4, with the VideoCore VI graphics processor supporting OpenGL ES 3.x, enabling better performance in graphical applications compared to the VideoCore IV in the Raspberry Pi 3 B+, which supports OpenGL ES 2.0.

Connectivity options have been enhanced in the Raspberry Pi 4, with the inclusion of USB 3.0 ports, providing faster data transfer rates compared to the USB 2.0 ports in the Raspberry Pi 3 B+. Additionally, the Gigabit Ethernet on the Raspberry Pi 4 offers faster wired network speeds.

Wireless capabilities have been upgraded in the Raspberry Pi 4, featuring dual-band 802.11ac wireless networking and Bluetooth 5.0, providing improved wireless performance and connectivity options compared to the single-band 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.2 on the Raspberry Pi 3 B+.

While the Raspberry Pi 4 offers impressive performance enhancements, the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ remains a viable option for less demanding projects due to its affordability and adequate capabilities. For users with budget constraints or projects that do not require the advanced features of the Raspberry Pi 4, the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ continues to be a reliable choice.

In summary, the choice between the Raspberry Pi 4 and Raspberry Pi 3 B+ ultimately depends on the specific needs of the user, the complexity of the project, and the budget available. Both models contribute to the versatility and accessibility of the Raspberry Pi platform, catering to a diverse range of applications and user skill levels.

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