Yes, the Raspberry Pi 4 does use an ARM processor. Specifically, it uses the Broadcom BCM2711B0 quad-core Cortex-A72 64-bit SoC (System on a Chip) running at 1.5GHz. This ARM-based processor gives the Raspberry Pi 4 significantly improved performance over previous Raspberry Pi models, while maintaining compatibility with existing Raspberry Pi software and applications.
Overview of the Raspberry Pi 4
The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is the latest generation Raspberry Pi single-board computer. Released in June 2019, the Raspberry Pi 4 offers the following major upgrades over the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+:
- Processor upgraded to a 1.5GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A72 CPU (from a 1.4GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU on the Pi 3B+)
- RAM options of 1GB, 2GB, 4GB or 8GB LPDDR4 SDRAM (from 1GB LPDDR2 SDRAM on the Pi 3B+)
- Dual-band 802.11ac wireless networking
- True Gigabit Ethernet (from 300Mbps on the Pi 3B+)
- Two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports (from four USB 2.0 ports on the Pi 3B+)
- Dual monitor support via two micro HDMI ports (from single HDMI port on Pi 3B+)
- PCIe interface for add-on devices
These upgrades make the Raspberry Pi 4 significantly more powerful than prior models. The improved processor and memory options provide better performance for applications like web browsing, office productivity software, media streaming, and gaming. The faster wired and wireless networking allows for quick large file transfers and improved streaming media capabilities.
ARM Processor Overview
ARM processors are RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) CPUs based on the ARM architecture developed by Arm Holdings. They are designed for use in mobile devices and other embedded systems where low power draw and high efficiency are priorities. Some key attributes of ARM processors include:
- RISC architecture with streamlined instruction sets optimized for low power consumption
- Primarily 32-bit and 64-bit designs
- Very small physical size allowing integration into compact systems-on-a-chip (SoCs)
- Licensable architecture enabling customization and integration by many semiconductor firms
- Power efficiency enabling extensive use in battery-powered mobile devices
ARM CPUs power the majority of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. They are also popular in many embedded systems, appliances, smart home devices, and IoT products. Major firms that license and produce ARM-based designs include Qualcomm, Samsung, Apple, Nvidia, Huawei and others.
ARM Cortex-A Series
The ARM Cortex-A series processors are high-performance application processor cores designed for demanding tasks like multimedia, gaming and system-on-a-chip (SoC) devices. Key attributes include:
- High performance 32-bit and 64-bit application processing
- Advanced virtualization and security features
- Leading benchmarks in efficiency per MHz
- Power optimization options such as big.LITTLE processing
- Used in smartphones, tablets, embedded devices, streaming media platforms, etc.
The Cortex-A72 core used in the Raspberry Pi 4 is a 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture CPU. It delivers significantly better performance than the older Cortex-A53 in the Pi 3B+, while retaining compatibility with existing 32-bit ARMv7 and 64-bit ARMv8 applications.
Raspberry Pi ARM Processor History
Since the initial Model B version in 2012, all Raspberry Pi boards have used ARM processors. Here is a brief history of the ARM CPUs used in major Raspberry Pi models:
- Raspberry Pi 1 Model B – Released in 2012. Used single-core 700MHz ARM1176JZF-S.
- Raspberry Pi 2 Model B – Released in 2015. First multi-core Pi with 900MHz 32-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU.
- Raspberry Pi 3 Model B – Released in 2016. Upgraded to 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU.
- Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ – Released in 2018. CPU speed increased to 1.4GHz.
- Raspberry Pi 4 Model B – Released in 2019. Upgraded to 1.5GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A72.
The steady evolution of ARM processors has allowed major performance and compatibility improvements while maintaining software support continuity. The Raspberry Pi 4’s Cortex-A72 CPU provides 3x the performance of the original Raspberry Pi while remaining compatible with existing ARM software applications.
Raspberry Pi 4 ARM Processor Details
Here are some key details on the Broadcom BCM2711B0 ARM-based SoC powering the Raspberry Pi 4:
- CPU Cores: 4x ARM Cortex-A72 running at 1.5GHz
- Architecture: 64-bit ARMv8-A
- Process Node: 16nm FinFET
- Graphics: Broadcom VideoCore VI handling H.265 decode
- Memory Interface: 32-bit LPDDR4-2400
- USB: 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
- Ethernet: Gigabit Ethernet
- Wireless: 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0
- OS Support: Linux, Android, Windows 10 IoT, RISC OS
This improved SoC brings the Raspberry Pi platform to 64-bit ARM computing while retaining backward compatibility. The Cortex-A72 cores provide excellent performance for home, business, industrial and entertainment applications.
Benefits of Using ARM CPUs
The Raspberry Pi Foundation’s decision to use ARM-based processors has provided many benefits that contribute to the Pi’s popularity, including:
- Performance per watt efficiency: ARM’s RISC architecture provides good computing power at low power draws ideal for compact devices.
- Low cost: ARM CPUs are inexpensive to manufacture and license allowing the Pi’s low prices.
- Customizability: The licensable ARM architecture enables SoC customization for specific needs.
- Ease of development: The ARM ecosystem includes extensive software, operating system, and application support.
- Community adoption: ARM’s ubiquity in mobile devices fosters community engagement.
While the x86 architecture is still dominant in PCs and servers, ARM processors now account for over 95% of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. Having an ARM chip ensures good compatibility for the Raspberry Pi within the mobile and embedded ARM ecosystem.
The Raspberry Pi 4 marks a major advancement by transitioning to a 64-bit ARM Cortex-A72 processing core. This gives a significant performance boost while retaining software compatibility with previous 32-bit ARMv7 and 64-bit ARMv8 Raspberry Pi boards. ARM’s balance of performance, efficiency, customizability and an extensive ecosystem makes it an ideal architecture for affordable single board computers like the Raspberry Pi aimed at students, hobbyists, and developers.