Raspberry Pi: Element14 vs RS Components

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.

11 Responses to Raspberry Pi: Element14 vs RS Components

  1. Fray Bentos says:

    Nice blogsite, good to see you’re using a Pi to host it.

    Shame RS don’t test their boards components properly before shipping (especially given how long that takes). As you may know, the E14/Farnell boards are made by Sony in Pencoed (south Wales) which is primarily a broadcast TV camera factory.
    There is actually a picture of the PCBs in sets of 6, which apparently makes them easier and cheaper to assemble, that you might like to see http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/2058.

    • Gough Lui says:

      Thanks for the link Fray! Indeed it is interesting – I can see how doing it in batches of six makes it easier to handle, rather than working with much smaller individual PCBs. I was aware that they moved production a while back to Sony in the UK (formerly China), which is fantastic (it’s not common to find manufacturers operating outside of China nowadays)!

  2. MK says:

    Thanks for the comparison.

    I too received a board from RS components (Australia) with a faulty polyfuse and have had it sent back and was told it could take up to 2 weeks to process… and if they deemed it was not faulty they would send it back without informing me.

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  5. PC says:

    I’ve just order my camera from RS components after getting my RPi from them originally – should have learnt first time round. Again late delivery, delays with no communication and poor customer services afterwards. I wont be using/recommending them again.

  6. Dave Mc says:

    I ordered a Pi over six weeks ago from RS as it’s still not arrived. Can’t even get in touch with them now as their inbox [email protected] is full!

    Pretty pathetic really, my brother sent me a package from the UK it turned up within a week.

    Ordered my first RPi in the UK with Element14 and it turned up quickly… so not happy with RS ‘service’ at all.

  7. Thank so much for the comparison.
    Saludos, desde Argentina.

  8. Gavin Davies says:

    The main difference in the UK is that you actually received your Raspberry Pi from Element 15, as my Pi didn’t arrive from RS Conponents, and as well as lot of other peoples.

  9. just been reading all of the above and it would be fair to allow RS components a right of reply or atleast allow them some customer feedback as they may not be aware of these blogs.

    Its very easy to destroy a company profile and business as being in business is hard enough, Im sure if RS components were made aware then something would be done.

    I know its frustrating if something takes a long time but please be assertive not aggressive

    • lui_gough says:

      I have contacted them in numerous ways and through numerous channels, but they were unwilling to help. Others have experienced similar problems many years back, and the issue was traced to a likely “bad batch”, as the other Raspberry Pi Foundation Forum users had seen. Delays in supply were amongst one of the biggest annoyances, the infuriating part being that my colleagues had not pre-ordered and managed to get a *walk in* purchase of a Model B from their competitors. I felt very much cheated.

      I do not prevent any meaningful comment from being posted, especially if it is relevant and a reply from the company would have been both appreciated, expected, and they WERE indeed informed of the article’s existence at the time of publication by e-mail as a last resort to elicit a response. Nobody in several years has taken any initiative to try and resolve this issue despite this.

      This is not the first time I have had issues with RS in Australia – several of my orders was mis-picked, and many others were delayed or lost by the incompetent couriers they choose to use in Australia. Over four orders in the space of half a year suffered from these issues. As a result, I cannot recommend dealing with RS at all.

      Suffice it to say, my experience with element14 has been more positive – I’ve had one mis-picked order, but things generally do arrive on time and work well. For other electronic components, Mouser has been great too, no problems with them so far, although delivery timeframes are a bit longer. I haven’t had a need to try DigiKey at this stage, but some of my colleagues use them …

      Regardless, it has been so many years ago that this was posted – in fact, it was the reason this blog was started in the first place. I suppose every company does fail a minority of their customers from time to time, but what I experienced was beyond acceptable, and resulted in a total loss of both time and money. It took too much of my time e-mailing them numerous times, keeping a hawk-eye on the Spam folder just in case, only to see no reply, and then chasing down other e-mail addresses to try. It wasn’t a case of things taking a “long time”, it’s a case of NEVER.

      – Gough

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