The Holy Grail of DIY Projects Just Got Better (And Rarer)

Key takeaways

  • The Raspberry Pi 5 is a powerful single-board computer with a quad-core Arm Cortex-A76 processor, dual monitor support, and a dedicated power button.
  • Despite its impressive performance, the Pi 5 has limited stock, a higher starting price of $60, and can endure high temperatures without a cooler.
  • The Raspberry Pi 5 is a great choice for DIYers who appreciate community support, plenty of accessories, and customizable coding environments. However, it may not be suitable for simple, inexpensive projects or those who are not comfortable with Arm architecture.


If you are a seasoned computing veteran, you must have heard about the Raspberry Pi. Unlike usual gaming desktops, the Pi line of devices are classified as single-board computers. This means that all essential components, including the memory, CPU and IO ports, are integrated into the same PCB, making the Pi and similarly sized products a cost-effective solution for most DIY projects. Small scale.

What makes the Raspberry Pi line better than its competitors is its huge community, extensive accessory support, and (arguably) better performance. And performance has only improved with the Pi 5, which benefits from numerous hardware improvements over its predecessor.

I managed to get my hands on the 8GB model of the Pi 5, and having used it for a while, it’s by far the best SBC on the market. That said, the latest addition to the Raspberry Pi series hasn’t solved the limited supply issues. Hell, it even brought a new set of drawbacks: a $60 higher starting price and poor system temperatures even under normal operating conditions.

About this review: I bought the Raspberry Pi 5 a few days ago early Black Friday offers had started to appear. Therefore, the manufacturers of the device had no influence on the content of this article.

A render of the Raspberry Pi 5

Raspberry Pi 5

Ideal for DIY enthusiasts

The Raspberry Pi is back and the fifth iteration of the SBC is much more efficient than older models. From a new quad-core Arm Cortex-A76 processor, support for dual-monitor setups at 4K 60Hz, and a dedicated power button, there’s a lot to like about this palm-sized computer.

CPU
Arm Cortex-A76 (quad core, 2.4 GHz)

GPU
VideoCore VII

Memory
Up to 8 GB LPDDR4X SDRAM

Wireless connectivity
Bluetooth 5.0, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi

Ports
2 × USB 3.0, 2 × USB 2.0, Ethernet, 2x micro HDMI, 2 × 4-lane MIPI transceivers, PCIe Gen 2.0 interface, USB-C, 40-pin GPIO header

Starting price
$60

Benefits

  • Arm Cortex-A76 processor delivers fantastic performance
  • Comes with a built-in real-time clock and power button
  • Includes PCIe Gen 2.0 interface
The inconvenients

  • Rather expensive compared to predecessors
  • Limited stock
  • Reaches high temperatures without a cooler

Pricing and availability

Announced in September, the Raspberry Pi 5 was finally released on October 23, 2023. The Raspberry Pi Foundation released two models of the Pi 5: the base model includes 4 GB of memory for a price of $60, while the 8 GB variant Go is priced at $60. at $80. At the time of writing, the Raspberry Pi 5 is out of stock at all retailers, although some retailers like CanaKit and SparkFun Electronics allow you to pre-order the device.

Port design and layout

A Lean, Mean, Green Machine (Raspberry)

Like the rest of its brothers, the Pi 5 is a small system that can easily fit in your pocket. Although the overall design is largely similar to the Raspberry Pi 4, there are some differences in port layout between the two generations. On the one hand, the positions of the Ethernet and USB ports have been reversed. The PoE HAT connector, which can be used to power the Pi 5 over Ethernet, is now located in the lower right corner of the board, next to the two MIPI connectors that support both cameras and displays.

The SD card slot has been pushed to the other side of the PCB and in its place is a PCIe Gen 2.0 interface. This new addition allows you to pair broadband devices including Fast M.2 SSDsto your Pi 5 (although you will need a specialized HAT for this).

Along with a new fan connector, this is the first ever Raspberry Pi model to ship with a dedicated power button. You also get a real-time clock (RTC), and near the RTC battery connector is the UART port that allows you to debug the device without connecting it to an external display.

Adding a power button, real-time clock, and PCIe Gen 2.0 interface is worth the high price.

A Raspberry Pi 5 with a USB Type-C charging cable and a micro HDMI to HDMI adapter plugged in

Despite the new additions, the Raspberry Pi 5 no longer has an audio port, likely due to limited space on the circuit board. One thing that remains unchanged is the 40-pin GPIO connector which can be used with sensors, LEDs and other gadgets.

As for the usual ports, the Pi packs two micro HDMI connections, an Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 connections, and a USB Type-C port typically used to power the device.

Software

The Raspberry Pi OS is more than enough for most usersA Raspberry Pi 5 with a keyboard and mouse plugged in, the monitor displaying the Raspberry Pi operating system desktop

When I received the Raspberry Pi 5, I used Balena Etcher to flash the Raspberry Pi OS with only the desktop environment on my SD card. I used the latest 64-bit version of the operating system based on the latest Debian 12 (Bookworm) operating system and powered by Linux 6.1 kernel.

The initial setup process was quick and I was able to get up and running in the desktop environment within minutes. If you’re used to macOS or Windows, the transition to the Raspberry Pi operating system shouldn’t be too jarring as it integrates the Start menu, taskbar icons, and other handy GUI elements found in both.

Intuitive and highly optimized, the Raspberry Pi OS is a fantastic operating system that includes all the apps and tools to help you get the most out of your Raspberry Pi 5.

The only issue I had with the Pi OS was the fact that the UI elements were a bit too small when I connected the Pi 5 to my 4K display (more on that later). Luckily, all I had to do was increase the size of the text and icons in the Desktop Preferences. Other than this minor pet peeve, the lightweight operating system is quite fast and snappy.

Performance

Easily the best performing SBC I’ve ever usedAn image of the Raspberry Pi Active Cooler mounted on the Pi 5

Besides the changes to the port layout, the Pi 5 brings huge improvements to the hardware. Starting with the microprocessor, you get a quad-core Broadcom BCM2712 Arm Cortex-A76 processor clocked at 2.4 GHz. It is paired with a VideoCore VII GPU supporting OpenGL ES 3.1 and Vulkan 1.2 standards. Capable of reaching a clock speed of 800 MHz, the GPU can run dual 4K monitors at 60 Hz.

“Gaming aside, I haven’t had any issues using it as my daily driver over the past week.”

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has removed the entry-level 1GB and 2GB SDRAM variants on the Pi 5. So you can only choose between the 4GB and 8GB models, and the LPDDR4X memory module has a faster frequency of 4,267 MHz than the Pi 4. Finally, since it lacks onboard storage, you will need to insert a microSD card with a bootable operating system to initialize the device.

A lifestyle image of the Raspberry Pi 5

When I used the Raspberry Pi 5 with my primary 4K monitor, I was pleasantly surprised to see a lag-free experience, even after playing with Terminal. However, the performance limitations of an SBC became apparent once I started the Chromium browser. Although the Pi 5 can run ten windows in Chromium without crashing, it can feel somewhat slow if you’re used to a high-speed desktop or laptop. YouTube was particularly draining on the device, and even 1080p videos were quite choppy.

Raspberry Pi 5 (with active cooler)

Raspberry Pi 5 (without active cooler)

Geekbench 6.2 (single-core)

751

695

Geekbench 6.2 (multi-core)

1539

1514

glmark2

2013

1995

Speedometer

61.5

61.2

Lowering the resolution to 1080p helped a lot in this regard. In fact, the Pi 5 became so responsive that I almost thought I was using my laptop instead of a small computer. Over the past week, I’ve used it for coding, writing, and photo editing without experiencing any performance issues, at least at 1080p. However, there is one elephant in the room that needs to be addressed: thermals.

It is prone to overheatingA lifestyle image of the Raspberry Pi Active Cooler

I received my Raspberry Pi 5 half a week before receiving the official Active Cooler. So I decided to try it without installing a proper cooling solution… which turned out to be a bad idea because the Pi 5 is very bad at dissipating excess heat.

When I ran the Pi 5 without a cooler, it stayed consistently above 60°C and even managed to exceed the 75°C threshold on several occasions. Installing the Active Cooler alleviated the temperature issues and I was able to bring the average temperature to 45°C.

Should you buy the Raspberry Pi 5?

You should buy the Raspberry Pi 5 if:

  • You want a powerful SBC for DIY projects.
  • You have a Pi 3 or 4 and want more power.
  • You prefer a fully customizable environment for your coding journey.
  • You want an SBC powered by open source software and supported by a large community.

You should not buy the Raspberry Pi 5 if:

  • You want to do simple (and inexpensive) projects that don’t require the extra performance of the Pi 5.
  • You’re not a fan of the Arm architecture.

The Raspberry Pi 5 is a fantastic addition to the Raspberry Pi lineup, but it’s worth noting that there are many other powerful SBCs out there. Compared to Orange Pi 5, the latest version of the Raspberry Pi definitely loses in performance, but it more than makes up for this loss with its huge community support, better connectivity, and cheaper price.

It does, however, have some notable problems. Due to limited stock, the device is already sold out at most online retailers. While the performance improvements are a welcome addition, the $60 starting price is not. Plus, you’d want to get a thermal solution if you intend to use it as much as I do, and that could push its cost up to $75, more than twice the price of the base Raspberry Pi 4.

But if you manage to get one and are willing to overlook the heat issues, you definitely won’t regret buying it!

A render of the Raspberry Pi 5

Raspberry Pi 5

Ideal for DIY enthusiasts

The Raspberry Pi is back and the fifth iteration of the SBC is much more efficient than older models. From a new quad-core Arm Cortex-A76 processor, support for dual-monitor setups at 4K 60Hz, and a dedicated power button, there’s a lot to like about this palm-sized computer.


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