back to article Get in the C: Raspberry Pi 4 can handle a wider range of USB adapters thanks to revised design's silent arrival

There is good news for prospective buyers of the diminutive Raspberry Pi 4 as the USB-C issue that stopped the device working with some power supplies has been fixed. The issue arose with the change to a USB Type-C connector for powering the device. An error in detection circuitry on the Pi side caused some power adapters to …

  1. YourNameHere

    Recall a $40 device to re work it?!

    Seriously? It's a $40 device! Shipping, handling and paper work would cost more than that...

    1. overunder Silver badge

      Re: Recall a $40 device to re work it?!

      Not at all, especially if you bought the device locally and want to trade it in. If the retailer wasn't international, shipping wouldn't cost more than $10 round trip WITH handling, and what paperwork?

      In the USA, there has been recalls and/or trade in programs for half this price. Also, "As seen on TV" products that MSRP at $20, even $10 sometimes.

      Bottom line, they can make it right somehow, but is it wrong to start? I think the device is lackluster now, but the price is still fair.

    2. Sykowasp

      Re: Recall a $40 device to re work it?!

      Also the problem was only with higher charge rate (USB power delivery) adapters - the dozens of old USB adapters everyone has lying around their house from past USB devices all worked fine. No need to recall, just add some small print / clarifications.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Recall a $40 device to re work it?!

        Small print / clarifications: "When we said USB-C we did not mean USB-C".

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Recall a $40 device to re work it?!

          USB-C doesn't mean PD unless stated as PD

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Recall a $40 device to re work it?!

            No, no, no. USB-C doesn't mean "PD", but it does mean "compliant with USB-C spec". USB-C spec says that, if you connect a PD-capable adapter to a non-PD capable device, the device requests a certain amount of current through various mechanisms and the adapter provides that current at 5 V if possible. The pi misidentified itself, and thus didn't get its current. The adapters did what they were supposed to do.

            Consider what you would think if the problem went the other way. If you had an adapter for USB-C PD which was expecting to deliver about 60 W, and didn't rigorously follow the spec. You plug in a pi, and the adapter sees it and starts firing 20 V PD at it. That would fry the pi, and it might even be a fire risk. You wouldn't be happy at all. This issue was less destructive, and has now been resolved, but it was a problem.

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Bought one a few weeks ago

    How do I know which version I've got?

    1. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: Bought one a few weeks ago

      Run:

      cat /proc/cpuinfo

      You're looking for revision c03112 at the end.

      1. Gnoitall
        Trollface

        Re: Bought one a few weeks ago

        The other way to know is if you can't power the thing using the USB-C power supply of your choice. Which is a useful fallback test if you can't power the thing to muck around with /proc.

        1. Steve Evans

          Re: Bought one a few weeks ago

          I'd look for the switch...

          - The update, Upton told us, had also moved "the WLCSP SD card voltage switch to the top side" to protect it from damage, and also "silk screen tweaks to reduce solder bridging in manufacture".

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Bought one a few weeks ago

        Yay, got a new one!

        So these have been around for about 5 weeks at least.

      3. Benchops
        Trollface

        I have one of the early ones

        but I've fixed it with

        ```

        sudo echo c03112 >> /proc/cpuinfo

        ```

    2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Bought one a few weeks ago

      How do I know which version I've got?

      If you follow the articles link to https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=256646

      It appears there are some component changes to the board which the sharp-eyed can use to identify which board is which.

      It would have helped if they had updated the silkscreen to show the version.

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    Dodged the bullet

    The application I'm using them for powers them via the GPIO pins. I'm handling several other functions with these, so it was a no-brainer.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Dodged the bullet

      Fancy power supllies like ones that power macbooks are not really a typical match for a £34 device anyway. I never noticed any problem.

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Re: Dodged the bullet

        They are a perfect match if you've already got them and they aren't otherwise being used. Or would have been if the Pi had allowed them to work.

        That was the real annoyance, having bought a Pi 4 expecting it to be USB-C compatible, expecting you could use your expensive power supply, finding it couldn't and you had to buy the official power supply. Grr.

        1. Tomato42 Silver badge

          Re: Dodged the bullet

          exactly, the point of universal standards is that you shouldn't care what's on either side of the cable

          not to mention the stuff the muggles will get themselves into by plugging stuff in as soon as they see a compatible socket

          1. Mike 137 Silver badge

            "you shouldn't care what's on either side of the cable"

            The basic problem is that USB is trying to stay both "universal" and plug and play as its specifications are extended. The mechanisms that have evolved to accommodate the entire requirement set have become rather too subtle for reliability, so it's easy for kit to get confused.

            USB is not alone in this. The same is happening with other protocols (e.g. HDMI), as demand or drive for new features requires them to be shoehorned into designs and specifications that didn't envisage them. Already my monitor, HDMI switch and audio extractor fight to tell my DVD player which video format to use, and sometimes that crashes the player.

            Unless this "stick on" approach to engineering gets controlled soon, ultimately everything will become "plug and pray".

      2. scorpia

        Re: Dodged the bullet

        The power supply doesent matter, the issue is the type of cable used to connect the supply to the pi, if the cable is emarked (as is required for 5A capable cables and those for higher data rates) then the pi didnt recieve power. The technicial details can be found on my original post about the issue at https://www.scorpia.co.uk/2019/06/28/pi4-not-working-with-some-chargers-or-why-you-need-two-cc-resistors/

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    II've been waiting for this fix

    I had read about the power supply issue here on El Reg a while back so I decided to wait until this was resolved.

    I will be ordering the one with 4 Gb of RAM to go along with my stable of earlier Pi 3 B's.

    Easily my favorite electronics gadgets and I love the crowd-sourced projects like Retro-Pi, Kodi and Pi-Hole which is running my DNS.

  5. vmistery

    That explains why my reasonably expensive (compared to the PI) 6 socket USB supply didn’t work but the included one did. My original plan was to power a bunch of them from one supply but never bought the extra PIs as it didn’t work with one. Not that anyone is interested but I wanted to run my mail server on one, a website on another, a zabbix server on another and my PBX on the 4th. Ended up using an old PC

    1. brucedenney

      You might prefer to make a pi swarm with docker and run all the applications across multiple pis adding more as more performance is needed.

    2. Glen 1 Silver badge

      Might sound daft, but most power supplies out there at the moment only do the funky PD/QC3 on a limited number of ports, and the rest are dumb 5V.

      It might have been worth trying all the USB sockets to see if it made any difference.

    3. gerdesj Silver badge
      Linux

      Get an old laptop and slap a minimal distro on it. It comes with its own UPS, screen and keyboard and if you slap two discs in it then software RAID will make it more available. Bear in mind that PC grade gear does not generally have battery backed cache and holes can appear in filesystems on power out. APC do a £80 UPS with UK three pin sockets and a decent run time and works with apcupsd.

      That said, I'd still go for RaspPBX for telephony - its too easy.

      1. Tomato42 Silver badge

        laptops don't fare well for long term runs: the cooling coupled with small fans make it a deadly combination

        (when you use it yourself you can feel the temps rising and clean it, unattended use makes that far less likely)

  6. Lomax
    Coat

    Power to the Pi-ple

    Personally, I would much rather see a sturdier and more tinkering friendly power connector on the Pi. I typically use the Pi in conjunction with a load of other 5 V powered thingamawidgets, and often opt to use the pin headers to supply power instead of the Micro-USB port (or USB-C on the Pi4). This because 1) the Pi's internal power bus can only handle max 1.75 A on the Pi 3 (minus any current drawn over the USB or camera interfaces), and I often need moar power for LEDs, steppers and such 2) while I do have male solderable Micro-USB plugs in my parts bins, they're a pain in the $%& to solder, especially when working on the road (= no microscope, no Weller, no Panavise) and 3) cutting and stripping Micro-USB cables quickly becomes an expensive exercise, again particularly when on the road, where I often cannot wait for - or sometimes even receive - postal deliveries.

    But using the pin headers for power (whether in or out) has a major draw-back: it gets really fiddly if you also want the Pi to wear a hat; the neatest way I've come up with is to replace the 5 V & GND pair of pins with double height pins which pass through the Pi PCB and bend at 90° on the rear - but yet again; this is a pain to do while out of the workshop (except on the Pi Zero, which you can get without the header already soldered in).

    tl;dr

    I would love it if they could replace the Pi's USB power input with either a pair of screw terminals or a plain old DC barrel jack. Hell, even a separate pair of 2.54 mm header pins would be a huge improvement!

    Icon: see ti-tle.

    1. nagyeger

      Re: Power to the Pi-ple

      would love it if they could replace the Pi's USB power input with either a pair of screw terminals or a plain old DC barrel jack. Hell, even a separate pair of 2.54 mm header pins would be a huge improvement!

      I just applied the trusty soldering iron to my to my pi0...

      1. john.jones.name

        POWER RAIL...

        multiple power rails are the solution to this problem and most professional designs use them...

        the raspberry Pi should have its own input seperate from the power to the peripherals but hey lets not let good engineering practice get in the way of complaining

        raspberry pi trading finally applied the standard to their product... I wonder if they tested it using the apple store across the road...

    2. Zola

      Re: Power to the Pi-ple

      You can power all Raspberry Pis via the GPIO pins, so rigging up an alternative DC input of your choice should be a piece of cake.

      1. Lomax
        WTF?

        Re: Power to the Pi-ple

        > a piece of cake

        tl;dr?

        > using the pin headers for power (whether in or out) has a major draw-back: it gets really fiddly if you also want the Pi to wear a hat

      2. Archivist

        Re: Power to the Pi-ple

        The headers connectors are rated at about 1 amp. Happy?

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Power to the Pi-ple

      I see your reasoning, but I would prefer them not to change the power port because my use case is quite different from yours. I like to power these in many locations and from many sources, and a USB cable is often easier to find than an arbitrary barrel adapter, let alone having to set up my own power supply each time. It also makes it very easy to power them from USB batteries. Although the pi is useful in many engineering setups, it was designed for classroom and hobbyist use, and the hardware demonstrates this in many places. For me, that's more convenient, though that's not for everyone.

      1. elaar

        Re: Power to the Pi-ple

        " and a USB cable is often easier to find than an arbitrary barrel adapter,"

        Well it's not that easy though is it? Firstly it needs to be @3A psu, when most that you'll already have that come with USB are 2A, then there's the fact it has to now be USB-C. So how many people have USB-C leads with 3A PSUs lying around? It's not *that* convenient a power interface at the present time.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Power to the Pi-ple

          I'll admit I was thinking about the older micro USB connector, which is rather easy to find. I don't have many USB-C cables, but I expect that's because all my portable hardware is older. As the standards change, I'll probably start to gather some USB-C cables. In terms of providing the high amounts of power the pi needs, that is becoming a greater issue but doesn't really change the availability of power adapters. If I have to find a USB supply with sufficient amperage, I probably can in a local area in an hour if I don't have one on me. If I have to find a specific barrel adapter, I'm not so confident. I don't yet have a version 4 board, so all of mine are using the older connector, and those adapters are available nearly everywhere. It's also the case that those older pis do not require as much power and can therefore run from most USB wall PSUs.

    4. Anonymous Tribble

      Re: Power to the Pi-ple

      a plain old DC barrel jack

      So, what standard is there for a power supply with a "plain old DC barrel jack"? There are a myriad of sizes - length, diameter, hole size... Some have the centre positive, some negative, some are regulated, some unregulated. Some are even AC.

      Lets just shove a 48VAC barrel jack into a Pi and see what happens, eh? After all, the plug fits, so it must work. Right?

      Much better with USB even if a small design error means some high-end PSUs will fail to power the Pi - but cause no damage to anything (other than a small dent in your wallet to get the very good value official PSU).

  7. Danny 2 Silver badge

    In an age of affordable multimeters

    Resistor colour codes remain a pretty way to 'hide' numbers in plain sight.

  8. Danny 14

    Pi4 4gb is nice but they ate now getting to nuc prices. I picked up a nuc for £84 (sans ram or drive but those arent an issue for most hoarders). The box does have decent wifi and a nic plus hdmi, vga and plenty of usb. They are very good media boxes.

    1. elaar

      How many GPIO does the NUC have?

      Depending on what you're using it for, it's a bad comparison.

  9. Elledan

    Stll boggles the mind

    When I wrote the article for Hackaday on the RPi 4 issue, I was hit by the fact that apparently nobody along the line, nobody at the RPi Foundation or any of the testers had used one of those 'smart' cables, or even validated the resistance values they got from the pins on the USB-C interface. In fact, there are clear and obvious examples of these expected values, so omitting an entire resistor and wiring the whole board-side up wrong, followed by never testing it is rather amazing.

    If one of the main features of the Raspberry Pi 4 is that it now does USB-C, but it actually doesn't really, then that is rather embarrassing. Would love to hear a statement from the developers on this, other than the 'none of our volunteers testers used one of these cables' excuse that we did get.

    1. JBowler

      Re: Stll boggles the mind

      Seconded. I admit USB isn't a simple specification any longer, but it is there and it can be tested. Indeed, because it isn't simple it must be tested.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stll boggles the mind

      To be fair, every defect is predictable in hindsight.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stll boggles the mind

      Like the lack of testing which resulted in their fan hat being recalled. Then they said they would not make the same mistake twice and would tighten up testing.

  10. nautica
    Thumb Down

    Forget the 'Osborne Effect':focus on the "Upton Effect".

    "The Upton Effect" strikes again--

    Can't design two different power supplies; can't design a display; can't COPY the reference design for a USB-C implementation; won't implement a 64-bit OS, because "...we adopted a 64-bit processor simply to get a faster 32-bit machine..."; and the list goes on and on. As does the circumlocution and dissembling and tap-dancing all around the subject...the MAIN subject being that the Raspberry Pi group does not know how to, nor has any desire to perform the simplest of electrical engineering designs. Quality control? Get real.

    It's all right here in the article:

    "...We asked Upton some further questions about the possibility of modifying or recalling existing devices, but he has yet to reply...."

    "...the revision has emerged with very little fanfare..."

    1. elaar

      Re: Forget the 'Osborne Effect':focus on the "Upton Effect".

      Wow, a little over the top. It's a cheap hobby board in it's infancy....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Wow, a little over the top. It's a cheap hobby board in it's infancy

        There is such a thing as fit for purpose and if the PI is still in it's infancy then when exactly is it going to grow up?

        I have noticed that any criticism of the pi (here and on the foundations forum) is bombarded by fanboy posts to the effect that all if forgivable when those that have been around since the start know that the foundation have not always acted with the community's best interests at heart. Not seen an issue for a corporations but something that charities should avoid.

        As to the "Osbourne Effect", this is waved around as an excuse not to treat your customers with respect when those that were around at the time know that Osbourne went out of business for more than just saying that a new system is on it's way

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Forget the 'Osborne Effect':focus on the "Upton Effect".

        These complaints are rather tenuous. The USB-C thing was a design flaw, and they should have caught it. It was not very impressive when they didn't. But it was a nondestructive design flaw that could be worked around, and they fixed it.

        They have a reason for not making the OS a 64-bit one, namely they still make older pis, including the zero, which have 32-bit processors and they want it to be easy for the new customer who is probably a schoolchild to flash an OS to the pi without worrying about versions. You can dislike this reason, but it's logical from their viewpoint and they've been consistent about it. A 64-bit OS is possible from others, just not from them for the time being.

        That said, it is absolutely not the case that the pi is "in its infancy". It's been around for over eight years, and we're on our sixth model (and that's not counting any of the non-B models). Even in human lifetimes, that's childhood not infancy, and as computer product lines go, that's between young adulthood and middle age. The fact that the pi is not in its infancy is one of the major reasons it is such a good product; one of the main problems with competitor products is the lack of the type of support the pi community has. Therefore, it's not fair to defend problems that are problems by claiming the product or the designers to be new at this. They're not.

    2. Blane Bramble

      Re: Forget the 'Osborne Effect':focus on the "Upton Effect".

      And yet the R-Pi is hugely successful.

      Maybe it's not about you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ "Maybe it's not about you."

        perhaps it should be about all the customers rather than just those that know no better.

    3. JBowler

      Re: Forget the 'Osborne Effect':focus on the "Upton Effect".

      That's silly; wildly over capable ASICs are routinely used in applications because using a generic ASIC is cheaper (they are mass produced) than designing something that fits the exact requirements and no more. So the CPU is 64 bit capable, so what? It isn't required for the application so it isn't switched on, surely that is obvious.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Forget the 'Osborne Effect':focus on the "Upton Effect".

        The OP clearly never bought a budget multi-core CPU :-)

    4. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Forget the 'Osborne Effect':focus on the "Upton Effect".

      There's lots of things to get angry about in the world, but the peripatetic nature of the raspberry pi really isn't one of them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Forget the 'Osborne Effect':focus on the "Upton Effect".

        @"There's lots of things to get angry about in the world, but the peripatetic nature of the raspberry pi really isn't one of them."

        People are entitled to get angry when they feel cheated, who are you to say otherwise?

    5. milliganp
      Pint

      Re: Forget the 'Osborne Effect':focus on the "Upton Effect".

      I fail to understand people who don't seem to realise what the Raspberry Pi project is about. The primary focus is putting cheap hardware in the hands of kids to enable them to try programming and basic control of electronics. The USB C ports was put on to allow higher supply current, it has almost *NO* USB functionality.

      The business model of the Raspberry Pi foundation is to license manufacturing for a small royalty fee, so they don't have a model that supports product recall and rework (particularly for <5% of use cases).

      They have a superb support infrastructure for what the product is designed to do. Nearly all of the so called Pi alternatives are either more expensive or have only limited support.

      I would congratulate Upton on getting his priorities right.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Forget the 'Osborne Effect':focus on the "Upton Effect".

        @"I fail to understand people who don't seem to realise what the Raspberry Pi project is about."

        No I understand perfectly well but the PI4 doesnt really fit what you think the project is about either

        Example

        The Pi3 has all the same GPIO pins/wifi/BT etc for electronics control and yet the best selling PI4 is not the one with 1 or 2 GB of ram that is sufficient for control it is instead the 4GB version.

        So clearly the people buying the Pi4 are looking to do other things in addition to what you believe the foundation is about.

        Now I am not confused about what the goal of the foundation really is, it is simple, to continue to exist. Even if that means straying away from what you insist the foundation is about in order to be relevant to people so they buy it.

        Personally I haven't bought one because for me it doesn't make sense, I have all the previous models so what does the Pi4 offer? basically faster performance, that's it.

        They advertised the Pi4 as a desktop replacement complete with SPECTRE vulnerability just like an Intel offering after making a big thing about all the previous versions not been effected. They released it with other design flaws like over heating and non-standard USB-C that suggests they rushed it out the door and then either failed to understand who would buy one or threw away the idea of just catering to your project.

        For my part I would have preferred that they stuck with a SPECTRE safe CPU design with faster I/O outside of the SOC and more RAM plus the same old connectors. They didn't go my way perhaps because Broadcom didn't make a cheap SOC like that and is the rub.

        So here we are with lots of people who purchased the Pi4 for things other than what the project envisaged and whilst you might feel that they are outsiders they still spent their money and have the right to feel grumpy when people like you say their opinion does not matter'

        1. James Hughes 1

          Re: Forget the 'Osborne Effect':focus on the "Upton Effect".

          Of course people buy them for 'other things'. And that is entirely the plan. All the profits from selling Pi;s go to the Foundation. So selling to as many people of possible is the right choice to make. And for example, making a cheaper desktop, increases the market hugely. As for hurrying out of the door, no, not really. Some issues with over heating that we eventually figured out, although all they do is throttle when hot (just like phones), the USB mistake has been fixed. Spectre? Not seen that exploited yet, I expect the dangers are somewhat overblown.

          I reckon just three flaws on launch, 2 quite minor, isn't too bad.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Forget the 'Osborne Effect':focus on the "Upton Effect".

            @ "No you don't. You do have the right to buy a different product though."

            So you are saying that if you bought an original Pi4 you gave up your consumer rights and should suck it up because well you and the foundation don't care about your needs only their's?

            That will certainly effect who buys a different product in the future but doesn't change the fact that in the UK products have to be fit for purpose. If you advertise that a product does something and people buy it for that reason and then discover it was a lie then they can have their money back and the advertiser can face fines.

            So far no country has ruled that being grumpy is against the law thus it is still a right held by every citizen.

            So in the UK, you are completely wrong

  11. Mikel

    Not worried

    Got the psu in a package deal with my launch pi4 because of this issue. But power it by the pins now.

    It's a fun little computer. Am enjoying it a lot.

    I wonder what Pi5 will bring.

  12. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "silk screen tweaks to reduce solder bridging in manufacture"

    Shouldn't be using the silk screen (ident) to prevent solder bridging. That's what the resist layer is for (and why it's called "resist").

    BTW, resistance was originally "useless" ( as stated by the Vogon guard in the Adams' Hitch Hiker's Guide). The Borg weren't paying attention.

    1. JulieM Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: "silk screen tweaks to reduce solder bridging in manufacture"

      It's all the fault of these modern photoplotters, supporting more than 24 apertures in a single design!

  13. Archivist

    I think he meant solder mask

    "silk screen tweaks to reduce solder bridging in manufacture"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I think he meant solder mask

      or perhaps he just didn't understand what he was supposed to be talking about anymore.

      No one can actually remain an expert unless they keep doing the job, the longer you are away from it the more mistakes you make.

  14. tygrus.au

    RPi4 2GB now the same price as the 1GB

    RPi4 1GB has now being replaced with the 2GB version at the same price.

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