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Raspberry Pi Gets More USB Ports With The Release Of Model B+

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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The new board doubles the number of USBs, adds more GPIO pins and support for external hard drives

This morning, electronic component supplier element14 launched an updated version of the world’s favourite Linux computer – the Raspberry Pi.

The Raspberry Pi Model B+ keeps the same processor and the amount of RAM but features a new board layout, increases the number of USBs from two to four, scraps the huge SD card slot for a miniSD slot and adds another 14 pins to the General Purpose Input/Output (GPIO) header.

The power consumption of the board has been optimised, so it can now support at least one 2.5-inch external hard drive. Best of all, the new Raspberry Pi is available immediately, at the same price as the older Model B.

Better than ever

The Raspberry Pi Foundation was established in 2011, specifically to develop a cheap Linux computer for education. It launched its first product, Raspberry Pi Model A, in February 2012.

rsz_b--500x337This tiny computer can be connected to a TV or monitor via HDMI. It can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, including office work, Internet browsing and high-definition video playback – all possible through a circuit board the size of a credit card, which costs under £30.

Raspberry Pi became immensely popular among hobbyists, programmers and prototype designers worldwide, with more than three million units sold, thanks to its versatility and compatibility with existing Linux software.

It has been used to create everything from Internet of Things sensor networks to Enterprise resource Planning (EPR) platforms, sea-faring research robots, and even a so-called “supercomputer”.

The latest Raspberry Pi iteration, Model B+, doubles the number of USB ports, which can now deliver up to 1.2A of current, thanks to an improved power supply on the board. The new 40-pin GPIO allows linking more sensors, connectors and expansion boards, while remaining completely backwards compatible with older accessories.

The power consumption of the board as a whole has been reduced from 750mA to 650mA, mostly due to a more efficient switching power supply, element14 staff told TechWeek at the London launch. The physical dimensions of the board have been slightly changed also.

The combined four-pole 3.5mm jack now includes both audio and composite video, saving the space on the board and simplifying the design.

The new Raspberry Pi units are still made in Wales at a Sony factory in Pencoed.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation says Model B+ is not ‘Raspberry Pi 2’, but rather the final stage of evolution for the original board.

“We’ve already seen the board drive some amazing designs, but the B+ model opens up the opportunity to push the boundaries of complexity and innovation to make even bigger and better projects. It is also the board that can open up a whole new area of learning for young people,” commented Claire Doyle, global head of Raspberry Pi at element14.

The electronics supplier has also launched a basic enclosure priced at £4.75 that features cut-outs for the new layout. It includes mounting for the official Raspberry Pi camera module, so the board can be instantly used as a webcam.

Considering added storage options, the Model B+ could become a serious competitor in the budget media centre space – the element14 team told TechWeekEurope that it works really well with RaspBMC, a distribution of the popular XBMC open source media player. In comparison, an Android media centre with XBMC installed would cost upwards of £35.

If you’re in London today, element14 will be giving away free ice-cream at Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge around noon. And if you ask for special ‘raspberry sauce’, you could get one of 100 free Model B+ units.

Meanwhile, the Raspberry Pi Foundation continues its work on the official 7-inch TFT screen module, due to be released later this year.

Do you know how many raspberries are used in the making of a Raspberry Pi? Take our quiz!

Raspberry Pi B

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Raspberry Pi B+