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Upgrade to the Raspberry Pi 4 or not?


Finally! The Raspberry Pi 4 has just been announced by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Next to the usual boost in processing power, it also comes in versions with different amount of RAM. We already recommended different options for what to do with your old Raspberry Pi, but is the new version of the worlds favorite microcomputer worth upgrading? And will your Home Assistant or Domoticz setup improve significantly?

About the new Raspberry Pi 4

When it all started approximately eight years ago, no-one could have dreamed, what the popularity of the Raspberry Pi would become. The first Raspberry Pi single board microcomputer was launched with the intent to promote the trade of computer science at schools and in developing countries. The board did not come with a case and could be simply powered by a micro USB adapter and connected to a monitor, keyboard and mouse. One had all the freedom regarding the operating system which could be loaded on a SD card that could be mounted on the motherboard.

Over the past years, newer versions where released making the devices more powerful, energy efficient and with better input/output options. Frequent applications vary from media center, smart home applications to desktop replacements. Because Raspberry is always improving within newer versions, the Raspberry Pi 4 is three times faster than the Pi 3B and has better interfaces (USB 3.0 ports, dual monitor and still is compatible with earlier Raspberry Pi products.

The highlighted specs of the new Raspberry Pi 4:

  • A 1.5GHz quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A72 CPU (~3× performance)
  • 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB of LPDDR4 SDRAM
  • Full-throughput Gigabit Ethernet
  • Dual-band 802.11ac wireless networking
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports
  • Dual monitor support, at resolutions up to 4K
  • VideoCore VI graphics, supporting OpenGL ES 3.x
  • 4Kp60 hardware decode of HEVC video
  • Complete compatibility with earlier Raspberry Pi products
Raspberry Pi 4 board overview

Raspberry Pi 4 vs 3B

Raspberry Pi 4Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+
CpuCortex A72, quadcore, 1,5GHzCortex A53, quadcore, 1,4GHz
Ram1GB, 2GB, 4GB lpddr41GB lpddr2
Usb2x usb 3.0, 2x usb 2.04x usb 2.0
EthernetGigabitethernetGigabitethernet (via usb 2.0, max 300Mbit/s)
Connectiviteitwifi-ac, bluetooth 5.0wifi-ac, bluetooth 4.2
Hdmi2x micro-hdmi1x hdmi

What choose the Raspberry 4 over the Raspberry 3?

Reason 1; More memory & processor power

Domoticz and Home assistant are not that memory hungry. But if you like scripting automations and have lots of devices, it can be quite heavy. But nothing to worry about under normal conditions. But when you like to run extra software to extend your home automation platform, like Pi-hole, grafana, dashboard software etc, you definitely can use some extra gigabytes of ram!
Processor speed is also important to handle multiple instructions parallel. It would be remarkable if you build software or when you have multiple scripts running.

Reason 2; Faster network and USB.

Lot’s of users are running separate hardware/systems that they integrate into their platform. For example: zigbee2mqtt, dsmr-reader, Philips hue, xiaomi gateway. When you do, you can use some extra network speed to handle the different network calls. But more important, when you backup files to a NAS, the speed is important. That’s the network part, but USB 3 give the possibilities to attach faster storage, if you haven’t a NAS.

A reason to take into consideration; Wireless connectivity

Most of the users are running a Raspberry pi nearby their fusebox and mostly nearby a router. So we prefer the gigabit network option. But If you want to build a weather station, better wifi could be useful. Bluetooth 5.0 can be used for presence detection, is faster and has a better range than the previous bluetooth versions.

Graphical improvements not needed in Home Automation.

The extra (mini)HDMI ports, the faster VideoCore and the new support for 4Kp60 hardware decode of HEVC video’s, are very nice when you use this PI with Media center software like Kodi.
But if you use the pi headless, you don’t need this extra features and powers for Home Automation. Headless means that you control the Pi by terminal (putty) and the website GUI that the software hosts.

Conclusion; Is it worth upgrading to the Raspberry Pi 4?

As with everything, it depends on different factors.

Your current setup

If you are planning to start with your first Raspberry Pi, you can safely choose for the Raspberry Pi 4. The software that runs on older models will generally run on the Pi 4 without any problems. The prices of the Pi 4 compared to the previous editions is also nearly similar, so also no reason to go for an older model.

In case you currently use the Raspberry Pi 3B+ and use it for your smart home, you can safely skip this generation. Sure, it is faster and has a better set of ports, but it will not immediately affect the operation of your smart home system.

When you own a Raspberry Pi of a generation before the 3b+, things are different. Of course these systems are still supported, but when running a Home Assistant instance, this can require a lot of the system resources. This causes reboots to take over 10 minutes before the instance is up and running again. This is not bad, but it takes away a part of the fun of playing with the Raspberry Pi.

The applications you want to run on your Raspberry Pi

Besides Domoticz or Home Assistant, there are several nice software projects designed for the Pi. This Pi is the first that support dual (mini) HDMI ports to connect dual monitor setup. With the extra speed it can be used as a real personal computer.

At first the software to extend your home automation platform:
Docker, Pi-Hole, DSMR-Reader, Grafana.
We already published an article where we mentioned some nice software for your old extra Raspberry Pi, but this isn’t only for old Pi’s.
Kodi, RetroPie are great software packages that also can take advantage of the specification upgrades of this latest Pi.

Your budget

The Raspberry Pi 4 starts with an advised retail price of $35 for the basic 1GB model, going up to $55 for the 4GB model. And that’s not it. You will need to buy a case for the the microcomputer and a power adapter with USB-C. On the latter, we advice you not to go cheap. Especially if you are going to run the Pi for 24/7, a decent power brick is a must.

Next to that, there are some parts required that you may already own. Next to the keyboard, mouse and monitor, it also requires a class 10 microSD card and a cable or converter that can connect to the micro HDMI port.

So whether or not your already own a Raspberry Pi, it’s not just a matter of replacing the board. Additional purchases will sometimes even double the amount that you spend on buying the Raspberry Pi 4.

Things to consider when upgrading to the Raspberry Pi 4

  • Form factor requires different case.
  • You need to buy a different power cable, because it is USB-C.
  • Which version you need (how much RAM)
  • Do you need the extra graphical power?

Final Thoughts

Because of the upgrades of the ram, cpu and videocore, it’s the first Pi that can be used as a stand alone pc (with the optimized linux version Raspbian): https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/raspbian/
If you are in need of a PC, there are better alternatives like the Alfawise mini pc

The Raspberry Pi 4 is a great media center with Kodi, and that way you can make use of all the extras of this new Pi. The 4k codec support is maybe the best new feature when using Kodi!

For Home automation with Domoticz or Home Assistant you don’t need to upgrade when you are a beginner and you have already a Pi3 or above. When you are running multiple scripts, dockers, extra software, then sure.. go for it!!
When you do not own a Raspberry Pi yet, spend your money on the newest version!

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