Raspberry Pi Foundation serves up an 8GB slice of mini-computing goodness
Double the RAM but not double the price
Updated Eben Upton, founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, has confirmed a doubling of the diminutive computer's RAM to 8GB for £74.
Rumours of the upgrade have been swirling for some time, not helped by its appearance in the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B compliance leaflet.
The update comes on the eve of the Pi 4's first birthday and rounds out a busy year for the computer. Since launch, the 1GB variant has been dropped and replaced by the 2GB version for the same money (although the £54 4GB model remained unchanged as well being the most popular).
There has also been a fair share of whoopsies: a skipped resistor led to some USB-C power adapters mistaking the Pi for an audio accessory and the updated hardware pumped out quite a bit more heat than earlier models, making a fan or chunkier passive cooler essential when putting the thing under load.
That USB-C issue was quietly addressed recently (for purchasers of new boards at least) while a succession of firmware updates have gone some way to addressing the thermal issues, and particularly the point at which the Pi 4 throttled back under heavy load.
While the Pi 4 is, in theory, capable of addressing up to 16GB of LPDDR4 SDRAM, the extra memory wasn't available in a form the team could use until Micron produced a suitable part this year. Hence the arrival of the 8GB version.
In order to cope with the higher power demands of the new memory, the board has been changed slightly, with a switch-mode power supply removed and a new switcher added next to the USB-C power connector.
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The extra RAM will be welcomed by enthusiasts who grabbed the 4GB version but still want more headroom for their apps. Those users will also be pleased to note the arrival of an early beta of the newly named Raspberry Pi OS in both existing 32-bit and now 64-bit flavours. The latter is particularly important for purchasers of the new shiny since it means more than 3GB can be mapped into the address space of single process.
The downside is that the new 64-bit userland won't work on earlier editions of the Pi and is only installable on Pi 3 and Pi 4 devices. It is indeed a very early beta (as we discovered when we tried to take it for a spin). Unless you don't mind the odd wobble, the recommendation is to stick with the 32-bit version for a little longer.
Alternatively, the likes of Ubuntu will be more than happy to provide a 64-bit Linux.
The increase in capacity is to be welcomed, although the price may give some pause for thought as it is quite some way from where the Pi began. While the £34 for the 2GB is the equivalent of a few pints at a London pub (back when pubs existed), £74 would fund a more serious night out. It also lifts the Pi into spitting distance of some more exotic kit.
We asked Upton when we might expect to see a 16GB variant, but have yet to receive a response. ®
Updated to add
On a 16GB variant, Upton said that it looked unlikely: "We'd need someone to make a single-channel x8 LPDDR4 byte-mode die, and then either put 8 of them in a package or 4 in a package and stick them on the front and back of the board."
"Never say never," he added, but it doesn't look too hopeful. Still, 8GB is a considerable jump from where the computer was two years ago. He also told us that he reckoned the gang were probably at the limits of what could be done in terms of further reducing thermal output of the Pi, at least in the short term.