Finding a Raspberry Pi right now is harder than ever with many vendors selling out almost as soon as they’re restocked. But if you’re like maker and developer Pi800, you can always splice together a mod using an old Pi to create a faster, more efficient model that would be otherwise impossible to find on the market. In this project, Pi800 has updated a Raspberry Pi 3A+ to use a 1GB RAM chip harvested from a broken Pi.
This mod makes the 3A+ a more viable contender for projects by doubling the RAM from it’s usual 512MB to 1GB. According to Pi800, this mod uses a chip from an old Raspberry Pi 3B+. so recreating it will require either sacrificing a Pi or using components from an out-of-commission module.
This isn’t the first time Pi800 has dabbled in modifying a Raspberry Pi. They’ve previously shaken up the idea of what it means to be an SBC by modifying a Raspberry Pi 400 with 8 GB of RAM—something reserved exclusively for the Raspberry Pi 4.
In the project thread posted by Pi800, the details of the mod process are shared with plenty of tips for anyone looking to do something similar. The chip was "reballed" and soldered into place on the 3A+ using hot air at 662 Fahrenheit (350 Celsius). Thankfully, the RAM module on both the 3B+ and 3A+ are pin compatible and able to fit without additional modification. The chips are soldered in place using 168 "balls" of solder (BGA, Ball Grid Array) which requires a steady hand to carefully transplant.
According to Pi800, benchmarks were performed to compare the upgraded model to the standard-issue edition. Pi800's tests indicated that the 1GB RAM chip made a noticeable difference in performance, noting that the 512MB model couldn’t even open a browser window. Pi800 explained that the 3A+ was too difficult to gather metric information from, however, specific performance metrics are detailed in the original thread comparing the 3A+ 1 GB module to a 3B+. The results indicated the modified 3A+ with 1 GB of RAM was slightly faster than the original 3B+.
If you want to see how this Raspberry Pi project was pulled off or maybe upgrade a Pi of your own, check out the post shared to Reddit for a detailed look at how it was accomplished and be sure to follow Pi800 for more cool Pi mods in the future.