We benchmark-test the latest Raspberry Pi boards (including the new 3A+). Small but mighty, the reduction in size doesn’t mean the 3A+ costs you any performance. See how the 3A+ shapes up to the Raspberry Pi 3B+, Pi Zero, Pi Zero W, and older models
The Raspberry Pi has always been the best low-cost computer, but which Raspberry Pi is the best fit for you? Our Raspberry Pi specs and benchmarks feature looks at all the current models, and helps you decide which one is the best fit for your needs.
The new Raspberry Pi 3A+ is an interesting choice, offering high performance in a compact package. The Raspberry Pi 3B+ is the all-connected model with bells and whistles (and four USB ports), while the Pi Zero family is ultra-compact.
For projects where a full-size Raspberry Pi 3B+ is simply too bulky, there hasn’t been much choice: aside from the Compute Module 3, which is targeted at industrial users, the choices were the four-year-old Raspberry Pi A+ or ultra-compact Pi Zero family – and in either case it meant a dramatic drop in performance.
The Pi 3A+ comes with the promise of full-size performance in a small, lightweight, and less power-hungry package, but the only way to see if that is true or not is to put it through its paces in a range of benchmarks.
At its heart, the Pi 3A+ is literally a cut-down version of the Pi 3B+. It has the same Broadcom BCM2837B0 system-on-chip (SoC) roughly in the centre of the board, hidden under a metal heat-spreader, which runs at the same 1.4GHz frequency. While 512MB of RAM is less than the 1GB of a Pi 3B+, the smaller 3A+ can certainly hold its own.
Looking back at the original Pi A+, it’s hard to imagine they’re from the same family: from a single-core 32-bit 700MHz processor and no networking to a quad-core 64-bit 1.4GHz processor with built-in wireless LAN and Bluetooth, the 3A+ should prove a serious upgrade for users of its predecessor.
Designed to highlight a real-world bottleneck, the Python GPIO benchmark switches a single pin on and off while a frequency counter measures how quickly the pin is toggled. The faster a Pi’s processor, the faster the pin can be toggled before the processor hits its limit.
Designed to focus on the central processor’s performance, the SysBench CPU benchmark tests how quickly a Pi can perform prime number calculations. For Pi models with quad-core processors, the test is run twice: once with a single thread using only one of the cores, and again with four threads using all four cores.
Processor performance is only part of the puzzle when it comes to overall system performance: in the SysBench Memory Throughput test, measurements are taken to show how quickly a Pi can read and write to the random-access memory (RAM) in 1kB chunks, reported in megabytes per second (MBps).
More performance typically means more power used, and here each Pi is connected to an HDMI display, wireless keyboard, and, where applicable, a WiFi or wired Ethernet network before two measurements are taken: the power used, in watts, while the Pi is sat idle at the desktop, and again while running a CPU-heavy application.
The biggest difference between the Pi 3B+ and the 3A+ is their respective sizes. Here the footprint of each Raspberry Pi model is measured from its widest points – to include the size of the ports which sit proud of the board – and its weight measured, both important aspects for embedded and robotics applications.
The Pi 3B+ benefited from a change to the way the system-on-chip (SoC) is attached to the circuit board, allowing it to better dissipate heat. With the 3A+ having a smaller board, this test captures thermal images under heavy CPU load to show how well the two designs cope.