Close-up of raspberry pi 4 b board

Raspberry Pi 3 vs 4: What’s the difference?

The Raspberry Pi has built a reputation in the years since the launch of the first single-board computer (SBC) in 2012. These small computers are affordable, easy to use, and powerful for their small size.


There are many models available with different specifications and price tags. So how does the Raspberry Pi 3 compare to the Raspberry Pi 4, and what kind of projects can you use it for?


Raspberry Pi 3 vs 4: Overview

As with many tech products, each generation of the Raspberry Pi is more powerful than the last. Since the 2012 launch, about 15 different models have been released, although some are no longer available. Pi Zero models are smaller, while the Pi 400 is integrated into the keyboard. There are three standard Raspberry Pi models currently available:

  • Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
  • Raspberry Pi 3 Model B +
  • Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

Each of these microcomputers comes in the standard Raspberry Pi form factor. This means that they are of the same shape and size, and their mounting holes are in the same places. But the hardware on each board is completely different.

Overview of the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B appeared in 2016 as a direct successor to the RPi 2 Model B, and was a major upgrade in processing power and features. This was the first RPi SBC to come with built-in Wi-Fi, and it’s still in production to this day.

Overview of the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B +

Next came the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ in 2018. This board upgraded 3B wireless connectivity with dual-band Wi-Fi, along with a host of other improvements.

Overview of the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

Released in 2019, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is the most powerful RPi to date. Three versions of the SBC are in production, and the latest 8GB variant was introduced in 2020.

Raspberry Pi 3 vs 4: General Specifications

The Raspberry Pi Foundation works hard to release devices that outperform other options at similar price points. That means every RPi board is surprisingly powerful, and the specs under the hood reflect that.

Raspberry Pi Model 3 B General Specifications

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is the least of the building challenges on this list. When comparing the Pi 3 versus the Pi 4, it is important to remember that several years of research and development separate them. The RPi 3B has a 1.2GHz Broadcom BCM2837 SoC (System on a Chip) based on a 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU. It features 1 GB of RAM; Fine for basic computer use.

CPU 1.2GHz Broadcom BCM2837 SoC, Cortex-A53 64-bit Quad Core
RAM 1 GB LPDDR2 SDRAM

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B + General Specifications

The RPi Model 3B+ is a step forward over the 3B, featuring a 1.4GHz Broadcom BCM2837B0 SoC that’s still based on a quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU. Despite the processor upgrade, the 3B+ has the same 1GB of RAM as its predecessor.

CPU 1.4GHz Broadcom BCM2837B0 SoC, Cortex-A53 64-bit Quad Core
RAM 1 GB LPDDR2 SDRAM

Raspberry Pi 4 Model B General Specifications

As the latest RPi variant, it should come as no surprise that the Raspberry Pi 4B is the most powerful. This SBC features a Broadcom BCM2711 SoC based on a 1.5GHz Cortex-A72 quad-core CPU. This makes it almost three times more powerful than 3B+.

There is a selection of 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB LPDDR4 SDRAM models available. LPDDR4 RAM is capable of operating at higher frequencies than the LPDDR2 RAM found in earlier RPi boards. (The 1 GB version of the Raspberry Pi 4B has been discontinued and is hard to find.)

CPU 1.5GHz Broadcom BCM2711 SoC, Cortex-A72 64-bit Quad Core
RAM 1 GB (production discontinued), 2 GB, 4 GB, or 8 GB LPDDR4 SDRAM

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the Raspberry Pi 4B is the best for your project because it’s the latest board. While it certainly has an edge in the Raspberry Pi 3 versus 4 Power Match-up, it’s the least affordable board.

Choosing the right Raspberry Pi for your project is all about balancing price with power. As you’ll see later, all three of these minicomputers have what it takes to work on a variety of projects.

Raspberry Pi 3 vs 4: Input/Output and Connectivity

Besides the general specifications, it is worth considering the I/O and connection on each RPi SBC when choosing the right one for your project. This includes the ports, wireless connections, and other types of connectors found on the Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model BI / O and Connectivity

Despite its age and price, the Raspberry Pi Model 3 B is packed with a surprisingly good set of connections. This was the first RPi to feature built-in Wi-Fi, and the board comes with four USB 2.0 ports for peripherals and additional storage.

storage micro memory card slot
USB ports 4 USB 2.0
Ethernet / Wireless Wireless LAN, BLE, 100 Base Ethernet
Display / Sound Four-pole stereo audio and composite video, 1 x full-size HDMI
power supply 2.5A micro-USB port
GPIO رأس head 40 Pin GPIO Extended
Additional links CSI camera port, DSI monitor port

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B + I/O & Connectivity

The Raspberry Pi 3B+ brings dual-band Wi-Fi and faster Gigabit Ethernet to the table. Apart from these changes, this SBC offers very similar input/output to its predecessor.

storage micro memory card slot
USB ports 4 USB 2.0
Ethernet / Wireless Wireless LAN 2.4GHz and 5GHz, Bluetooth 4.2, BLE, Gigabit Ethernet
Display / Sound Four-pole stereo audio and composite video, 1 x full-size HDMI
power supply 2.5A micro-USB port
GPIO رأس head 40 Pin GPIO Extended
Additional links CSI camera port, DSI monitor port

Raspberry Pi Model 4 BI/O and Communication

Besides being the fastest RPi out there, 4B also has the best connectivity. This SBC has everything you would expect from a laptop or small desktop computer. Two Micro HDMI ports support two 4K displays, while USB 3.0 ports provide faster data transfer.

This board also upgrades the Bluetooth standard found in the RPi 3 Model B+. Bluetooth 5.0 is faster than Bluetooth 4.2, which makes it excellent for handling multiple connections to different devices.

storage micro memory card slot
USB ports 2 x USB 3.0 ports, 2 x USB 2.0 ports
Ethernet / Wireless Wireless LAN 2.4GHz and 5GHz, Bluetooth 5.0, BLE, Gigabit Ethernet
Display / Sound 4-Pole Stereo Audio & Composite Video, 2 x Micro HDMI
power supply 3A + USB Type C
GPIO رأس head 40 Pin GPIO Extended
Additional links 2-Lane MIPI CSI Camera Port, 2-Lane MIPI DSI Display Port

Simple projects that require low-speed Wi-Fi and a few USB ports are ideal for the Raspberry Pi 3B and 3B+. When you compare the Raspberry Pi 3B+ versus the 4B, though, it’s clear that the later board is more suitable for use as a desktop computer.

Raspberry Pi 3 vs 4: Examples of Projects

Several Raspberry Pi projects work with a range of line-up challenges in the kit. The examples of projects below show the strengths of the boards they are assigned to, but they are very easy to get started with.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B . Wireless Printer

Some printers lack wireless functionality, but even those that do are often moody at best. With built-in basic Wi-Fi and a low price, the Raspberry Pi 3B is perfect for giving your other gadgets wireless capabilities. You just need a Raspberry Pi 3B printer and a guide that shows you how to make your printer wireless.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B + Home Cloud Storage

Cloud storage has seen increasing popularity in recent years, with people all over the world relying on the internet to access their files. Nextcloud enables you to escape subscription fees and ensure your privacy by building your own Raspberry Pi cloud storage server. The Raspberry Pi 3B+ is perfect for that, thanks to its low price and dual-band Wi-Fi or Gigabit Ethernet for fast file transfers.

Raspberry Pi 4 Model B Tablet with RasPad 3

Raspberry Pi 4B boards provide great desktop alternatives for those who need light, but can also function as devices like tablets. The RasPad 3 works with the Raspberry Pi 4 B to build a powerful tablet with a touch screen and plenty of I/O options. A project like this requires as much energy as possible, which makes this board perfect for it.

What is the difference? Raspberry Pi 3 for 4

As you can see, the main differences between the Raspberry Pi 3B, 3B+, and 4B models lie in processing power and I/O connectivity. This lineup of line-up challenges has seen upgrades in strength over the years, while still retaining the low price point that made them popular.

All of these boards can function as a desktop computer, and many of the RPi projects you find around the web can work with all three models. Of course, though, you should always try to choose the board that offers the best price-performance balance for your projects.

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