Image: Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi has come a long way since hitting the scene in 2014. Since then, it has found its way into a plethora of applications. From basic tinkering and educational purposes to specialized scientific and manufacturing applications, it has become a go-to for those looking at an affordable means of getting things done. Meanwhile, in the last six years, the Raspberry Pi has become a full-fledged computer. The latest compute module has just been announced, and it has many new modern features.

The newly redesigned board has even more options now. Starting at only $25, many would be hard pressed to find a lower-cost solution. From DDR4 memory to 4K HEVC decoding, this little board has a lot going for it. How about a 64-bit processor to use modern apps? They now have Wi-Fi options as well, including the latest Bluetooth. Wi-Fi can be achieved using either the built-in antenna or a separate antenna kit.

Image: Raspberry Pi

Compute Module Specifications

  • Broadcom BCM2711 quad-core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8) 64-bit SoC @ 1.5GHz
  • H.265 (HEVC) (up to 4K/60 FPS decode), H.264 (up to 1080p/60 FPS decode, 1080p/30 FPS encode) 
  • OpenGL ES 3.0 graphics
  • Options for 1GB, 2GB, 4GB or 8GB LPDDR4-3200 SDRAM (depending on variant)
  • Options for 0GB (“Lite”), 8GB, 16GB or 32GB eMMC Flash memory (depending on variant)
  • Optional fully certified radio module: 2.4 GHz, 5.0 GHz IEEE 802.11 b/g/n/ac wireless; Bluetooth 5.0, BLE; On-board electronic switch to select either external or PCB trace antenna
  • Dual HDMI interfaces, at resolutions up to 4K
  • Single-lane PCI Express 2.0 interface
  • Dual MIPI DSI display, and dual MIPI CSI-2 camera interfaces
  • Gigabit Ethernet PHY with IEEE 1588 support
  • 28 GPIO pins, with up to 6 × UART, 6 × I2C and 5 × SPI
Image: Raspberry Pi

Compute Module 4 IO Board

A Compute Module 4 IO Board has also been released. This addon board aims to provide some of the options available with the 32 variants being offered for the compute module. Essentially, this version includes a number of the optional ports listed for the basic board. The IO board will sell for $35, so the two combined comes to $60.

Compute Module 4 IO Specifications

  • Two full-size HDMI ports
  • Gigabit Ethernet jack
  • Two USB 2.0 ports
  • MicroSD card socket (only for use with Lite, no-eMMC Compute Module 4 variants)
  • PCI Express Gen 2 x1 socket
  • HAT footprint with 40-pin GPIO connector and PoE header
  • 12V input via barrel jack (supports up to 26V if PCIe unused)
  • Camera and display FPC connectors
  • Real-time clock with battery backup

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Peter Brosdahl

As a child of the 70’s I was part of the many who became enthralled by the video arcade invasion of the 1980’s. Saving money from various odd jobs I purchased my first computer from a friend of my...

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10 Comments

  1. I’m not certain I understand who this is marketed towards. Sure it’s neat, but if you have to buy that "giant" expansion board… just get a Pi 4?
  2. I’m not certain I understand who this is marketed towards. Sure it’s neat, but if you have to buy that "giant" expansion board… just get a Pi 4?

    I was kinda thinking the same thing. The card was neat, but I was trying to figure out how you I/O into it. I could see the WiFi antenna post, and the article says it has a wired NIC, but no visible RJ45 or any other standard I/O on the card itself…. other than the "high density I/O connector"

    I guess if you are doing a dense deployment then you wouldn’t necessarily need all of that on each and every board, but that means that you are always going to have to pair it on a backplane of some sort. So yeah, if you got to have the I/O board along with the CPU card… what’s the advantage over a regular Pi?

    Maybe people using these as embedded devices? I don’t know, honestly.

  3. I could see i/o boards that can support 4 to 12 of these compute units… then why not just have an server?
  4. I’m not certain I understand who this is marketed towards. Sure it’s neat, but if you have to buy that "giant" expansion board… just get a Pi 4?

    I’ve seen people design 3D printers on Pi, the original article mentions running store displays. I’ve also heard of people using them to make project emulators as well along with occasional manufacturing applications. For some, it’s just a great way to get into learning how to build and to code from the ground up.

  5. I have always wondered about these little systems. I’ve really never had a use for one but I can imagine that there are many uses.

    I’ve often wondered if these are put in some of the home security systems on the market today.

  6. I used mine for a while for a caching dns server that also blocked ads based on dns, so they wouldn’t display on any computer on my network,but nowmy caching DNS/dhcp runs on my real server. I currently have one setup running octo pi so I can remote 3d print from my network. I’ve found a few uses here and there but nothing really that is a game changer for me. They suck at real time stuff, so I can’t use them in a lot of projects that I do, but once in a while I find a neat use. More of a novelty really, but for $25, you get some pretty impressive hardware honestly. I mean it uses DDR4 and has HEVC decoding, so it could easily run as a smart-tv type replacement. They game decently and I’ve seen them used for MAME ( Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) and even saw some pretty sweet game cabinet builds with them with real arcade controls and stuff. I did use one for a web server in a project I wrote for a watering system where arduino’s did the monitoring and controlling of the moisture sensors and timing to turn on pumps/valves that all communicated back to an RPi that ran the web interface where you could configure each controller and view the status as well as logs and could do manual control for flushing the system.

    Edit: Just checked out the I/O board, it’s just for testing. It breaks out everything, then you can design your custom stuff around it. Also, PCIe x1 slot.. wonder how well it’d run with a GPU!!! Ok, it’s only a x1 Gen 2.. but hey something like a 1030 or 550 would probably run decent enough! So tempting, lol

  7. I’m using a pi on every TV in the house but one, using Kodi on XBian. Dramatically cheaper than the cable box rentals and it works just fine with a cable card and a HDHomeRun.

    i also use a pi running pi hole to filter ads, but that is less and less useful as more places migrate to ad choices and ads can’t be easily filtered via domain name.

    Finally, I’ve got 16 pis running distributed computing (boinc, Rosetta and WCG). The down side to running DC on pis is you don’t need half of the stuff integrated into a pi – you don’t need WiFi, Bluetooth, hdmi, audio, and so on, so you burn power on stuff you don’t need. For the distributed computing use case, the best possible thing they could do is make a PoE adapter that plugs into the board for ~$10. That would price the compute module the same as a normal pi but would save money overall.

    If they did that, it would cover almost everything I could want in a pi. My last wishlist item would be that the compute modules were built on a newer node – a 14nm or 7nm chip would dramatically decrease power usage and make a pi farm the premier points per watt platform.

  8. I run a pihole and unifi controller on my Pi4 4GB; stout little machines, but really, really lack in terms of compute compared to basically anything more powerful/expensive.

    Biggest complaints with the whole series are:

    • PoE isn’t built-in, when it very clearly could be
    • Storage is centered around SD cards with the possibility of using USB, and could really use NVMe for speed and reliability
    • The CPUs themselves are positively ancient, and it’d be nice to see more modern choices on the same platform

    Now, all of these are already addressed by other systems / ecosystems, and they all cost more, so I can see why the Pi Foundation hasn’t really pushed the envelope. After all, the Pis are still usually the cheapest way to get a project going that needs to run a full OS with modern connectivity.

  9. For storage, don’t discount network iscsi. It’s become my preferred way of handling storage on my PIs.
  10. For storage, don’t discount network iscsi. It’s become my preferred way of handling storage on my PIs.

    While it’s a bit of a different discussion for setting up a server with iSCSI, if it’s an option, it’s probably the best one.

    It’s just not an option or not a good one for a lot of stuff, especially in a home environment with limited infrastructure. The main reason I have my pihole and unifi controller on a Pi is that I don’t want that stuff going down in the event that something else goes down, like the NAS!

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