Slackware ARM on a Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Review

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B was released by the Raspberry Pi Foundation on 29 February 2016 and succeeded the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B as the latest version of the Pi single-board microcomputer format. The Raspberry Pi 3 has an identical form factor (to the RPi2) but has been upgraded with a brand new custom-hardened Broadcom BCM2837 SoC, on-board Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and faster DDR2 RAM! As a result the Raspberry Pi 3 is quite a bit quicker than it's predecessor, the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B.

The most important thing is, Slackware ARM Linux runs impeccably, as you would expect, on the Raspberry Pi 3.

FatDog says ... The Raspberry Pi 3 looks and costs the same as a RPi2. It has the same amount of DDR2 RAM (1GB) and uses the same VideoCore IV GPU. The GPIO has the same configuration. It uses microSD cards just like the RPi2. The connectors are identical, in precisely the same place, and it even fits perfectly into a RPi2 case!

The Raspberry Pi 3 is more of an evolution rather than a revolution. Think of it as a renovation, and not an innovation, of the Raspberry Pi 2. However, there are a few pleasant surprises in store...

Let's take a look at the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and what it has to offer.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B - top view
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B top view (displaying the new BCM2837 SoC)

At first glance this new device looks almost identical to the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B. On closer inspection, you'll see there's a different SoC, the BCM2837, boasting a 1.2GHz quad-core ARMv8 Cortex-A53 [64 bit] CPU. The 1GB LPDDR2 RAM remains the same but now runs at a clock speed of 900MHz, which is double the speed of the RPi2 RAM. The VideoCore IV GPU speed has been increased to 400MHz. The only other noticable visible differences are the PWR and ACT LEDs have been moved to the other side of the board (again) to make room for the Wi-Fi aerial, and a tiny new BCM43438 chip on the underside of the board. This chip provides the on-board 2.4GHz 802.11n WLAN and Bluetooth. The microSD card slot has changed from a push-push affair to a push-in/pull-out method, just like the RPi1's method using full size SD cards.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B - top view
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B underside view (displaying the new 1GB 900MHz LPDDR2 SDRAM chip)

You'll find the same 4x USB 2.0 ports (only now with a max current of 1200mA which means you can connect a few more USB devices without any problems), HDMI connector, audio/composite jack socket, 10/100 ethernet port, and micro-B USB power socket, that feature on the RPi2. All of the connectors are in the same place with the same functionality, and the board is of course powered via the now familar 5V micro-B USB power adapter (or GPIO pins if you prefer), but which now requires a 2.5A rated supply. Having the same form factor means the Raspberry Pi 3 fits into any existing RPi2 case or enclosure, but remember the LEDs have been moved to the other side of the board. It also incorporates advanced power-saving functions much like the RPi2 features. The Raspberry Pi 3 has been upgraded with a new Soc, CPU, RAM, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, but retains the same price as the RPi2 Model B (US $35 / GBP ~£25 / Euro ~€30 - ex tax).

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B - top view
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B underside view (displaying the new BCM43438 'Wi-Fi and Bluetooth' chip location)

All things considered, the Raspberry Pi 3 is a decidedly good first buy, and/or upgrade/replacement over the RPi2. Even though it has the same $35 price tag, it reportedly, "provides a 50-60% increase in performance in 32-bit mode versus Raspberry Pi 2, or roughly a factor of ten over the original Raspberry Pi". The Raspberry Pi 3 is also reported to be completely compatibile with the RPi1 and RPi2 so your existing operating system(s) and software should work the same.

How does Slackware ARM perform on the Raspberry Pi 3?

"Being somewhat sceptical about the Raspberry Pi 3 initially, I have to admit that, from my experience with installing and running Slackware ARM on it, I am now very much in awe of this device. 'Awesome!' does not even begin to describe it. The RPi1 and RPi2 were more than adequate for Slackware ARM but the RPi3 just takes this wonderful UNIX-like OS into whole new dimensions... the dimensions of (saved) time, (lightening) speed, and (raw) power. I can't believe how ridiculously fast Slackware ARM installs and runs on the Raspberry Pi 3! Get this... a full installation of Slackware ARM 14.2 on a RPi1 took a little over 3 hours to complete. On a RPi2 that same installation took just over 2 hours. On the Raspberry Pi 3 a full installation of Slackware ARM took approx. 50-55 minutes. That's the difference right there! I don't need to mention how stable and faultless Slackware ARM runs on this device - that goes without saying. Over the past 4-5 days that I've been installing and testing Slackware ARM on the RPi3, it's evident that the Raspberry Pi Foundation have produced an ARM device with enough grunt to be able to contend with lower-end x86_64 desktops and laptops. Slackware ARM, of course, doesn't require this amount of power in order to run, but it's beneficial and very welcome all the same.
I am very much more than just 'impressed' with Slackware ARM on the Raspberry Pi 3. ;-)"

["How does Slackware ARM perform on the Raspberry Pi 3?" answered by FatDog.NL NetAdmin Exaga - 21 Apr 2016]

FatDog says ... The conundrum here is...

Q: "Is the Raspberry Pi 3 worth buying if you already have a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B?"

A: "Only if you require, or will benefit from, the additional power and speed of the upgraded hardware."

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Hardware Revisions

There have been two revisions of the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B since its initial release. Depending on the hardware revision of the device, these subtle distinctions include; different manufacturer and place of origin, and different manufacturer of RAM chip.

To find out the hardware revision of your Raspberry Pi(s), use this command, as 'root' user, at the command prompt:

root@slackware:~# cat /proc/cpuinfo | grep Revision

The currently available Raspberry Pi 3 Model B revisions are:

HW Revision RAM PCB Rev Release Date Manufacturer
a02082 1 GB 1.2 Q1 2016 Sony
a22082 1 GB 1.2 Q1 2016 Embest

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Spec's

• SoC: Broadcom BCM2837 (CPU, GPU)
• CPU: Broadcom BCM2710 Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 64-bit (ARMv8-A) @ 1.2GHz
• GPU: Broadcom VideoCore IV @ 400 MHz
• LAN: SMSC LAN9514 10/100 Ethernet
• Wi-Fi: BCM43438 2.4GHz 802.11n Wireless LAN
• Bluetooth 4.1 Classic and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
• GPIO 40 Pin Block Pinout
• Micro Secure Digital / microSD card socket
• Size: 85mm x 56mm x 17mm
• Power source: 5 V (DC) via Micro-B USB socket or GPIO header
• Power consumption: 780mA (4.0W) up to 2.4A @ 5V

• HDMI 1080P socket
• 4x USB 2.0 socket
• Push-in/pull-out type Micro Secure Digital / microSD card socket
• 10/100 BaseT Ethernet socket
• 3.5mm audio out/video out jack (composite video requires 4-pole adapter)
• CSI port for camera
• DSI port for touch screen display
• Micro-B USB power socket
• 40 pin General Purpose Input/Output (GPIO) pins, Serial Peripheral Interface Bus (SPI), I²C, I²S, I2C IDC Pins, Universal asynchronous receiver/transmitter (UART)

For further information on the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B see this link. For benchmark comparisons and more detailed hardware spec's see this link.

Updated: 07 Jan 2017 22:29:07