The forgotten child of the Raspberry Pi family finally has an update. The Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 has been launched.
The Pi 3 Compute Module was teased all the way back in July, and what we knew then is just about what we know now. The new Compute Module is based on the BCM2837 processor – the same as found in the Raspberry Pi 3 – running at 1.2 GHz with 1 gigabyte of RAM. The basic form factor SODIMM form factor remains the same between the old and new Compute Modules, although the new version is 1 mm taller.
The Compute Module 3 comes with four gigabytes of eMMC Flash and sells for $30 on element14 and RS Components. There’s also a cost-reduced version called the Compute Module 3 Light that forgoes the eMMC Flash and instead breaks out those pins to the connector, allowing platform integrators to put an SD card or Flash chip on a daughter (mother?) board. The CM3 Lite version sells for $25.
The Compute Module was always the black sheep of the Raspberry Pi family, although it did find a few applications in its desired use case. The Raspberry Pi Foundation heralded NEC’s announcement of a line of large-format displays using the Compute Module recently. The OTTO, from Next Thing Co., makers of the C.H.I.P. single board computer, also had a Pi Compute Module shoved in its brain. Whether or not companies will choose the Compute Module 3 as a platform remains up in the air, but the value proposition is there; the Pi 3 is a vastly superior computational platform compared to the Pi 1. Putting this power on an easy-to-use module will make for some very interesting products.
If you’re looking for a really cool project for the Compute Module 3, I would suggest a cluster of Pis. The problem with a cluster of Compute Modules is that nearly all SODIMM sockets are horizontal, and for maximum efficiency, you’ll want a vertical header. The good news is vertical SODIMM headers do exist, and you can buy 20% of the world’s supply of these headers for about $500. I know because I did.