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Raspberry Pi 4 vs. Raspberry Pi 3: Should you upgrade?

Raspberry Pi Hero
Raspberry Pi Hero (Image credit: Android Central)

Raspberry Pi 4

Raspberry Pi 4 Render Cropped

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The Raspberry Pi version 4 is a bump up in every spec from the previous model. The CPU, the GPU, the memory speeds, and even the SD card read and write speeds are much faster, and the system as a whole should prove to be a lot more robust for those projects that were almost too much for the model 3B+ to tackle. It's also available with three different memory sizes — 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB — to be the right fit for any project.

Raspberry Pi 4

More Power

Better CPU
Faster Memory
Dual 4K monitor support
USB 3.0
More ports
No full-size HDMI port
Draws more power
You need a new case

Raspberry Pi 3 B+

Raspberrry Pi 3B+ Cropped Render

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The Raspberry Pi model 3B+ is still an awesome little PC board, but its beefier sibling completely outclasses it. It's most notable in the SD card read-write speeds and the GPU, which are a good bit faster on version 4. The good news is that it's still going to keep doing everything it always did and should be supported for a few more years.

Raspberry Pi 3 B+

Tried and true

Full-size HDMI port
More accessories (for now)
Gigabit Ethernet over USB 2.0
Lower specs
USB 2.0
Still using OpenGL ES 2.0

The Raspberry Pi isn't the world's fastest super-computer, but it just might be the best supported. You'll find them used to power everything from Christmas lights, video game consoles, media servers, and home automation hubs, and they do an excellent job. Version 4 and its better specs mean the use case has expanded for anything that needed just a little more power, and the bump in graphical abilities means it makes for an even better entertainment device. But that doesn't mean the model 3B+ suddenly becomes obsolete; if it works for you now, it's going to keep working for a long time.

Raspberry Pi 4 vs. 3 The spec breakdown

Raspberry Pi HDMI

Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

What's really important is the difference in specs. Just like any computer, more is better, but everything comes at a cost.

Raspberry Pi 4Raspberry Pi 3 B+
CPUBroadcom BCM2711
Quad core Cortex-A72 @ 1.5GHz
Broadcom BCM2837B0
Quad core Cortex-A53 @ 1.4GHz
GPUVideoCore VI @ 500MhzVideoCore IV @ 250-400MHz
RAM1GB, 2GB or 4GB LPDDR4-2400 SDRAM1GB LPDDR2 SDRAM
USB2x USB-a 2.0, 2x USB-A 3.0, 1x USB-C4x USB-A 2.0 ports
Display ports2x microHDMISingle Full-size HDMI
Connectivity802.11ac Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.0802.11ac Wi-Fi, 300Mbps Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.0
Misc.40-pin GPIO header, 3.5mm audio port, camera module support, composite video40-pin GPIO header, 3.5mm audio port, camera module support, composite video

There's a saying about specs never telling the whole story, but when you're dealing with a low-power, low-cost single-board computer, they really do. Because the Raspberry Pi wasn't over-designed so that you'll have plenty of processing power to spare, you really notice even the smallest performance increase — especially if you are pushing it to its limit.

Raspberry Pi 3 B+ and Case

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Perhaps even more noticeable than a new SoC and faster (and more) RAM is the dual-monitor 4K60fps support the version 4 offers. Thanks to its beefier GPU, you can not only go with dual displays without any fiddling, but the output will be easier on your eyes. You'll also find OpenGL ES 3.0 support for more modern gaming. Everything has its drawbacks, though, and the Raspberry Pi 4 uses micro HDMI ports and uses 3 Amps of power compared to the 3B+'s full-size port and 2.5A draw.

Another thing the specs don't completely tell is that the Raspberry Pi 3B+ didn't suddenly become obsolete. It will still be supported for a while, and any project that works well with it will continue to work well. If you don't need the extra power for an existing project, getting a new board and enclosure — the port layout is different, and 3B+ cases won't fit — might not be worth it. If you're starting something new and don't already have a Raspberry Pi and some of the best Raspberry Pi accessories, go with version 4. The price difference is minor, but the capabilities are much improved.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.