The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B was a special bit of hardware for many reasons. Not only did it finally solve the networking bottleneck caused by the USB 2.0 bus speed, but it also introduced multiple options for the amount of RAM (random-access memory). The Raspberry Pi 4 thus potentially had more RAM than was ever seen on a previous model. It shipped with up to 8 GB of RAM, while the Raspberry Pi 3 maxed out at a measly 1 GB.
With that much RAM at its disposal, combine with a more powerful SoC, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B made for a perfect mini server to host Home Assistant as well as a few add-ons. The problem was that Home Assistant OS, on top of which Home Assistant Core runs, never officially supported the 8 GB Raspberry Pi 4. At least not in any of the previously stable builds. While there were workarounds and the ability to use development releases, using an official and stable solution always feels a bit safer. Especially if that device is controlling your whole smart home.
A couple of days ago, that all changed. With the release of Home Assistant OS Release 5, the 8 GB Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is officially supported, and it can be used to power your smart home without having to rely on any workarounds. This places the 8 GB Raspberry as the top recommendation for those wanting to do more than just running Home Assistant on their board.
Why support for the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B took so long
The 8 GB Raspberry Pi 4 Model B was released just over half a year ago and yet wasn’t officially supported until now. The reason for that is the bootloader, U-Boot, Home Assistant OS uses. The first development release of Home Assistant OS Release 5 changed this by bumping U-Boot to version 2020.07 for the 64-bit Raspberry Pi 4 Model B build. That’s the reason you previously had to use the unstable 64-bit version of Home Assistant OS to get it to boot on the 8 GB Raspberry Pi 4.
With the final and stable release of Home Assistant OS Release 5, U-Boot was once again updated to version 2020.10. Combined with the fact that all Raspberry Pi models now use Linux Kernel 5.4, just like Raspberry Pi OS, meant that the 8 GB model could finally be considered as officially supported and stable.
No more 32-bit
With the testing done before releasing Home Assistant Release 5, the developers are now confident in recommending the 64-bit releases for all the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B options. Though do keep in mind that only the 32-bit version supports GPIO.
Even more Raspberry Pis to choose from
With Home Assistant Release OS Release 5, the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4, which is intended for consumer electronics vendors to use in their products, is supported. Along with the Raspberry Pi 400, which is built in to a keyboard, making it a mini desktop PC.
While it is nice to see more devices supported, I’m predicting that both models won’t be used much in the community. The Compute Module 4 isn’t as easy to set up as Model B (the former uses a 200-pin DDR2 SO-DIMM interface) and Home Assistant OS is headless so paying extra for an added keyboard doesn’t make much sense.
New boards from ASUS and Hardkernel at your disposal
This release didn’t just bring support for the 8 GB Raspberry Pi 4 Model B with it, but it also allows you to use a few more boards from other vendors. You can now install Home Assistant OS on the ASUS Tinker Board, which uses a microSD card for storage, and the Tinker Board S, which has 16 GB of fast eMMC storage onboard. Both versions of the ASUS Tinker Board have a four-core CPU, which should boost multithreaded performance.
- SoC: Powered by 6-core Rockchip RK3399 system on a chip (SoC) with the new 64-bit Armv8 architecture, plus multi-core Mali-T860.
- Memory: Dual-CH LPDDR4 2GB / 4GB
- Storage: 16GB eMMC
The ODROID-C4 is another alternative to the Raspberry Pi Model B which has better storage options thanks to an onboard eMMC connector. Just as with the ASUS Tinker Board, the SoC comes with a little heat sink, which should help with keeping everything running smoothly and prevent it from throttling. According to their benchmarks, the ODROID-C4 outperforms the Raspberry Pi 4 partially due to a more powerful CPU and DDR4 RAM.