What better place to put this than a blog which is actually running on one of these. The element14 one is powering the site as we speak. I had uploaded this set to Facebook, but it’d be nice to include the Pi’s goodness on this page as well.
So lets start by examining the package from the outside. This is what you get for your GBP25 ($41.80 Australian Dollars including GST):
The element14 one comes in a plain thin-walled cardboard box. Nothing special, whereas the RS one comes in a pink plastic box (presumably as a warning of ESD sensitive components). The plastic box looks quite a bit nicer to me, but it doesn’t quite close firmly like it was made with quality. So lets open them up …
I’ve left the regulatory information out of this shot – just to note that both do come with warnings about EMC regulations – element14 bundles a thin one pager, whereas RS bundles a larger print version. But really, not that important – just have to keep in mind that these are not finished “products” as such, and so can radiate signals out (especially when in non-metallic cases), and are also susceptible to radiation causing improper operation. Not to mention that adding or modifying it will affect the EMC of the device.
Enough on the regulations, but it’s of interest to note – both are in Anti-static bags as expected, but the RS case has nice notches/standoffs to hold an SD card and to act as a stand for the Raspberry Pi. If one were to cut some notches into the walls, it would make for a complete case, free of charge! But definitely it does a good job for transporting an Raspberry Pi if one doesn’t have a case for it. Now for the product itself …
Top-sides of the boards – as you’ll notice, the PCB designs are all Revision 2 designs, and both are 512Mb versions (lucky me, or rather unlucky, given the wait time of 17 weeks for the RS one). Note the differences – the silkscreening on the element14 one is quite a bit thinner and lighter, the solder resist/soldermask is also a lighter colour. The colour of the audio jack is different between the two, the ribbon connectors are different too – the RS one also appears to have protective tape still applied to it. The branding on the USB and magjack are different as well, so components are definitely chopped and changed depending on which vendor you get it from. Hard to say which is the better quality one – but at this stage, given that the RS one does NOT work due to a high-resistance polyfuse fault (which causes voltage dips on the CPU causing instability), I’d have to recommend potential buyers stick to element14.
It’s also great news that element14 has now allowed people to go in and get their Pi fix in person at their trade counter, with no quantity restrictions or requirements to wait online. It is now a stocked item, making it easy to get. No more worrying “will I get another Pi if mine breaks?”
And now the bottom side. Note the revision labels are different in format, and at different places. The SD contacts are different as well – the one on the element14 one looks quite a bit better for size, given that the SD contact has been an issue for some people, again, I would probably recommend that one. That being said, unusually, around the connectors, there appears to be quite a bit of flux residue on the element14 board, making for an untidy look. The RS board has the holes for the headers under the GPIO partially filled with solder for some strange reason. Judging from the markings, element14 and RS have chosen to use different PCB Manufacturers. The markings on the element14 board suggest it was made by KCE and may have been made panellized (note the ‘3 OF 6’ marking near the corner), whereas the one from RS appears to be made by Shenzhen Sun and Lynn (which I’ve seen their markings on quite a lot of electronic PCBs).
It’s a shame that both of these don’t work identically. RS has yet to respond to my e-mail, and are yet to resolve the problem. After the long wait, I’m not surprised if they’re sick and tired of dealing with so many disgruntled customers. Apparently this polyfuse issue has affected at least 10 people on the official Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Forums.