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Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ Initial Tests & Benchmarks

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+

Yesterday, the Raspberry Pi community got a nice surprise – a new Pi! This one has some improved features over the previous RPi 3 Model B:

  • Improved CPU – 64-Bit 1.4GHz Quad-Core BCM2837B0
  • Improved WiFi – Dual Band 802.11b/g/n/ac. This is now under a shield on the top of the board.
  • Improved Ethernet – The USB/Ethernet IC has been replaced with a LAN7515, supporting gigabit ethernet. The backhaul is still over USB2 though, so this would max out at about 300Mbit/s
  • PoE Support – There’s a new 4-pin header, and a matching HAT for power over ethernet support.
Chipset
Chipset

The USB/LAN Controller is now a BGA package, supporting gigabit ethernet. The USB connections are still USB2 though, limiting total bandwidth. This shouldn’t be much of an issue though, since anything over the 100Mbit connection we’ve had previously is an improvement.

CPU & Radio
CPU & Radio

The CPU now has a metal heatspreader on top of the die, no doubt to help with cooling under heavy loads. As far as I know, it’s still the same silicon under the hood though. The WiFi radio is under the shielding can to the top left, with the PCB trace antenna down the left edge of the board.

Power Controller
Power Controller

The power supplies are handled on this new Pi by the MaxLinear MxL7704, from what I can tell from MaxLinear’s page, it seems to be somewhat of a collaborative effort to find something that would do the best job, since they apparently worked with the Foundation to get this one right. This IC apparently includes four synchronous step-down buck regulators that provide system, memory, I/O and core power from 1.5A to 4A. An on-board 100mA LDO provides clean 1.5V to 3.6V power for analog sub-systems. This PMIC utilizes a conditional sequencing state machine that is flexible enough to meet the requirements of virtually any processor.

PCB Bottom
PCB Bottom

The bottom of the PCB has the Elpida 1GB RAM package, which is LPDDR2, along with the MicroSD slot.

A quick benchmark running Raspbian Lite & a SanDisk Ultra 32GB Class 10 SD card gives some nice results:

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Contec CMS-50F Pulse Oximeter Teardown

Rear Case
Rear Case

The rear has the specifications, laser-marked into the plastic. The serial numbers are just sticky labels though, and will come off easily with use.

Contec CMS-50F
Contec CMS-50F

This is the Contec CMS-50F wrist-mounted pulse oximeter unit, which has the capability to record data continuously to onboard memory, to be read out at a later time via a USB-Serial link. There is software supplied with the unit for this purpose, although it suffers from the usual Chinese quality problems. The hardware of this unit is rather well made, the firmware has some niggles but is otherwise fully functional, however the PC software looks completely rushed, is of low quality & just has enough functionality to kind-of pass as usable.

Top Cover Removed
Top Cover Removed

A total of 4 screws hold the casing together, once these are removed the top comes off. The large colour OLED display covers nearly all of the board here. The single button below is the user interface. The connection to the probe is made via the Lemo-style connector on the lower right.

Lithium Cell
Lithium Cell

Power is provided by a relatively large lithium-ion cell, rated at 1.78Wh.

Main Processor
Main Processor

All the heavy lifting work of the LCD, serial comms, etc are handled by this large Texas Instruments microcontroller, a MSP430F247. The clock crystal is just to the left, with the programming pins. I’m not sure of the purpose of the small IC in the top left corner, I couldn’t find any reference to the markings.

Aux Processor
Aux Processor

The actual pulse oximetry sensor readings seem to be dealth with by a secondary microcontroller, a Texas Instruments M430F1232 Mixed-Signal micro. This has it’s own clock crystal just underneath. The connections to the probe socket are to the right of this µC, while the programming bus is broken out to vias just above. The final devices on this side of the board are 3 linear regulators, supplying the rails to run all the logic in this device.

Main PCB Rear
Main PCB Rear

The rear of the PCB has the SiLabs CL2102 USB-Serial interface IC, the large Winbond 25X40CLNIG 512KByte SPI flash for recording oximetry data, and some of the power support components. The RTC crystal is also located here at the top of the board. Up in the top left corner is a Texas Instruments TPS61041 Boost converter, with it’s associated components. This is probably supplying the main voltage for the OLED display module.

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Website Hosting Updates!

Over the past few weeks, the host I’ve been with for over 3 years, OVH, announced a rather large price increase of 20% because of Brexit – the current universal excuse to squeeze the customer for more cash. This change has sent the price of my dedicated server solution with them to over £45 a month. Doing some napkin-calculation gave me £18 a month in extra power to run a small server locally. So I’ve decided to bring the hosting solution back to my local network & run from my domestic internet link, which at 200Mbit/s DL & 20Mbit/s UL should be plenty fast enough to handle the modest levels of traffic I usually get.

Obviously, some hardware was required for this, so I obtained this beauty cheap on eBay:

HP MicroServer Gen 8
HP Proliant MicroServer Gen 8

This is a Gen 8 HP Proliant Microserver, very small & quiet, perfect for the job. This came with 4GB of RAM installed from the factory, and a Celeron G1610T running at 2.3GHz. Both are a little limited, so some upgrades will be made to the system.

Disk Bays
Disk Bays

4 SATA drive bays are located behind the magnetically-locked front door, there’s a 250GB boot disk in here along with a pair of 500GB disks in RAID1 to handle the website files & databases. For my online file hosting site, the server has a backend NFS link direct to Volantis – my 28TB storage server. This arrangement keeps the large file storage side of things off the web server disks & on a NAS, where it should be.

Extra RAM
Extra RAM

First thing is a RAM upgrade to the full supported capacity of 16GB. This being a Proliant server machine, doesn’t take anything of a standard flavour, it’s requirements are DDR3-10600E or DDR3-12800E (the E in here being ECC). This memory is both eye-wateringly expensive & difficult to find anywhere in stock. It’s much cheaper & easier to find the ECC Registered variety, but alas this isn’t compatible.

Over the past 48 hours or so, I’ve been migrating everything over to the new baby server, with a couple of associated teething problems, but everything seems to have gone well so far. The remaining job to get everything running as it should is an external mail relay – sending any kind of email from a dynamic IP / domestic ISP usually gets it spam binned by the big providers instantly, regardless of it actually being spam or not – more to come on that setup & configuring postfix to use an external SMTP relay server soon!

If anyone does find something weird going on with the blog, do let me know via the contact page or comments!