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The Compute Module for embedded computing got its first upgrade since 2014The Raspberry Pi Compute Module is in for a big upgrade, with the same 64-bit processor used in the recently released Raspberry Pi 3. Intended for industrial applications, the Compute Module, first released in April 2014 with the same CPU as the first-generation Pi, will now have 1 GB of RAM and a Broadcom BCM2837 processor that can run at up to 1.2 GHz.
According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, this means that the upgrade provides twice the RAM and 10 times the CPU performance of the original Compute Module. The company acknowledged that some of its users had an issue with the fixed 4 GB of eMMC flash storage on the original module, so in order to address this, it launched two variants of Compute Module 3: one with 4-GB eMMC on-board, and a 'Lite' model that requires the user to add their own SD card socket or eMMC flash. Although this is the second major version of the Compute Module, it’s being called the “Compute Module 3” to match the last flagship Pi’s version number.
And while the flagship Raspberry Pi can serve as a general-purpose computer and can power many hobbyist projects, the Compute Module's stripped-down form factor makes it more suitable for embedded computing, as it fits into a standard SODIMM connector. The latest version is being used by NEC in displays for digital signs, streaming, and presentations. The new Compute Module can run Windows IoT Core and supports Linux, and also supports more flexible storage options than the original.
Because it’s tiny, the core module can fit into other hardware. For development purposes, there’s a separate I/O board with GPIO, USB, MicroUSB, CSI, and DSI ports for camera and display boards, HDMI, and MicroSD.
Fortunately in most cases, the new Compute Module can replace the original in embedded projects because the form factor is nearly identical. According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s announcement, "with a few caveats, the CM3 can be used a drop-in replacement for the CM1 because they are pin-compatible; the CM3 is 1 mm taller, however, while the CPU can pull a lot more current from the VBAT power supply line and will generate far more heat under heavy load.”
The company has priced the Compute Module 3 at $30, while the Lite version has been priced slightly lower at $25. According to the Foundation, an updated IO breakout board (CMIO3) has also been launched, which will accept all three models. Currently, the modules can be purchased via distributors such as element14 and RS Components. Although availability seems limited, the I/O board is being sold separately by RS Components for about $116.