Ever since I got the first Raspberry Pi, I’ve always wanted to do more than just use it as a home monitoring thing or a robot arm operator or whatever little hobby things most people end up using it for. I wanted it to be a fully usable desktop computer. Raspbian worked on it, but I can’t say it could get the job done. The single-core, 700MHz, 512mb computer lacked the grunt and the memory and the ARMv6 architecture limited the software options.
Both of those problems were solved with the recent Raspberry Pi 2. Quad-core, 900MHz, ARMv7, 1GB – it almost seems like these were specific updates designed to make it a desktop-ready computer. There was no real need for this upgrade if you consider the hobbyist intention of the Pi. It worked perfectly fine for all the projects and it even ran a whole XBMC media center splendidly. So why the Pi 2?
I don’t know. I don’t care. All I know is that the Pi 2 is now fully usable as a normal home or even work desktop computer running Debian Linux (as Raspbian). I’ve been using it for a few day now and I’m just thrilled at how fast and ‘normal’ it feels like. And now that it’s well in to the territory of desktop computers, I’m wondering what it could take to become the PERFECT desktop computer.
The original Pi and even the Pi 2 were not designed to be used like this, so the absence of key features such as wireless are understandable. But if you look at it as a desktop computer, what should the Raspberry Pi 3 have?
- Larger memory card support. The current Pi can only take up to 32GB cards, which is okay for most projects and casual desktop use, but if this is to be the only computer, a 64GB or 128GB capable card reader is a must. Cards are only getting cheaper every day.
- A faster processor. Why not get one of those 2.5GHz ones that are so commonplace in higher end mobile phones now?
- More memory. 1GB is good. 2GB would be great. 4GB would decimate
- USB 3.0 ports. Faster data transfer in use cases like a NAS and other type of servers.
- Miracast wireless display support. Hey, this is a wishlist. Why not?
- A built-in wireless chip. This is obvious. Communication is of paramount importance. It needs to come with a WiFi N (at least) and Bluetooth 4.0. Sure, you can just tack on a mini USB dongle that does WiFi, but there’s no guarantee if it’ll work. Turns out, only RTL8188CU(S)-based chipsets are supported out of the box. Others such as Ralink, MediaTek and even other versions of RealTek either need hundreds of hoops to be jumped through or simply don’t work at all. And I’m not even talking about the Pi 2. It would be great if the Pi 3 integrated a WiFi chip, so that Raspbian would already have the drivers for it. Bluetooth would help in using keyboards and mice without requiring dongles.
- A real-time clock. This will help the Pi keep the time after rebooting even when offline. This is important as this inexpensive type of a computer is likely to be used in places without internet access or even a reliable electric supply.
The last two features can be added-on to current Rasperry Pis, but it would be good to have them built-in.
What else could it have?
I was amazed by how well my media center and seedbox were running on the original Raspberry Pi and I’m even more amazed by how well the full desktop environment works on the Pi 2.