The Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ is smaller and cheaper than the B+ but upgraded connectivity and components make it just as attractive.
it’s been four years since the launch of the original Raspberry Pi Model A+, so this new update feels long overdue.
Where the Model B range pushes the mini computer’s performance boundaries with each new version, the Model A sets out to be just as functional, but smaller and cheaper.
The new Model A+ has the same quad-core Broadcom processor as the Model B+, with the same 1.4GHz clock speed, so the basic performance is identical.
The only significant difference is that the A+ only has half the memory: 512MB versus the 1GB of the B+ version.
This means that certain actions, such as opening dozens of browser tabs, might lead to sluggish performance, but regular apps such as Libre Office and your own programs should perform just as well as on the standard Pi.
The A+model’s physical Format remains exactly the same as the old one, with a65x56mm footprint that’s around 25% smaller than a full-size Pi.
That means existing Model A+ accessories and mountings will continue to work with this new version, and the board retains the standard40-pin GPIO header, so it’s fully compatible with regular Raspberry Pi accessories.
Downside of Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+
The downside of this is that the physical limitations of the old Model A+ have also been faithfully maintained.
While the mainstream Model B has four USB ports, the Model A+ has just one, along with the familiar micro-USB power socket. Conveniently, there’s a full-sized HDMI socket and a 3.5mm audio jack, which can also carry composite analogue video. However, there’s no Ethernet socket.
There is good news, though. Unlike the original Model A+, the new board comes with built-in Bluetooth 4.2 and dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
This means you can easily hook up a wireless keyboard and mouse, and connect the Pi to a fast wireless network, still leaving your one precious USB socket free.
The new Model A+ has launched at $25 (despite being British, the pricing of the Pi is in dollars to keep it from fluctuating) so you can currently expect to pay around £23 for it in the UK –the same price as the old one.
The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ is only barely more expensive, so if you’re looking for a general-purpose computer and don’t care about the size, the B+ is a more powerful option. However, we like the new A+ because its tiny size is genuinely innovative.
With the inclusion of Bluetooth and powerful Wi-Fi on the main board, its lack of extra USB ports really isn’t a problem.
The limited connectivity of the original Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ meant it could never be the star of the Pi family, but the addition of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi transforms this concise computer into something vastly more versatile.
The Model A+ can now replace a full-size Raspberry Pi in almost any role that doesn’t require a physical Ethernet connection or multiple USB accessories.
At such a bargain price, it’s harder than ever to justify not owning one.