Raspberry Pi: The Coolest Thing a Tech Nerd Needs
Raspberry Pi: The Coolest mini computer/robot slash whatever you can imagine.
Raspberry Pi’s are single board low power computer. If you are creative this little guy can mean millions of projects
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The Raspberry Pi family of single-board computers keeps growing. This Raspberry Pi buyers guide lists what’s available and includes recommendations about which board is ideal based on the user.
There are a lot of single-board computers out there, aimed at makers, hobbyists and education. From tiny Arduinos to NVIDIA’s AI Jetsons, they can be used for almost anything you can think of. There’s one brand that stands out, though: Raspberry Pi.
Inspired by the 1980s 8-bit computers that turned a generation of Britons into developers, the Raspberry Pi Foundation was set up to deliver a low-cost computer that could do the same for today’s schoolkids. Their first device, the Raspberry Pi Model B, was launched in 2012, with 256MB of memory and a 26-pin GPIO expansion port. Over the next decade the original ARM-based device has grown into a family of devices, including a full-blown computer, a microcontroller CPU, and a series of modules that can be used to build more complex devices.
Most Raspberry Pis use a microSD card for storage. This can be slow, with a risk of hitting flash write cycles on particularly heavy workloads. More recent devices will boot from USB-connected SSDs, with third-party cases with M.2 module supports available. The option of using cheap microSD cards remains popular in schools, where students can be issued with a memory card for their programs and data, sharing the more expensive single-board computers between classes.
It’s now gained its own OS, a Debian-based 32-bit Linux, Raspberry Pi OS. Recently upgraded to the Bullseye release, it comes bundled with coding tools and the familiar LibreOffice productivity suite. As there’s no 32-bit ARM build of Chrome, the main browser is the open source Chromium release. Most extensions will work on a Pi, though some key Chrome features, like history and bookmark sync, aren’t supported.
A standard 40-pin GPIO port has allowed an ecosystem of HATs, Hardware Attached on Top boards, to develop. These allow you to quickly add new features to your device, including support for Power Over Ethernet connections for remote devices. Other hardware support includes a common camera connection, with several camera modules currently available, including a 12-megapixel device that works with S-mount lenses. If you want to use a board with a directly connected display, you have the option of using a GPIO-connected display via the device’s I2C ports or a module using the built-in display connector. Many Raspberry Pi displays support touch, allowing you to use them to support UIs for IOT projects.
Recent developments have included its own silicon, the RP2040, at the heart of the Raspberry Pi Pico board, as well as custom hardware from many maker vendors. That’s been followed by a new silicon package design, squeezing Raspberry Pi 3 hardware into a new version of the tiny low-cost Raspberry Pi Zero.
So which Raspberry Pi is right for you? We round up the whole family.
Raspberry Pi 4
Launched in 2019, the Raspberry Pi 4 remains the company’s flagship. Built around the BCM2711 microcontroller, it comes in four versions. These have 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB of RAM, respectively, with gigabit Ethernet, USB 3, and dual micro-HDMI ports. Recent releases have a new CPU revision, which allows it to run faster and cooler, so you don’t need a processor fan for most loads.
If you’re buying a Pi today, the Raspberry Pi 4 is likely to be your first choice. It has plenty of connectivity, with wireless and wired connections, and with an 8GB option, enough memory to power a 64-bit desktop Linux like Ubuntu as an alternative to its own Raspberry Pi OS. The familiar 40-pin GPIO plug works with a wide selection of HATs, including plug-in displays and the popular AstroPi educational maker board.
Raspberry Pi’s official case, mouse and keyboard let you quickly turn your Pi 4 into a desktop Linux PC, though you may prefer to use a third-party case with a built-in fan and support for SSD hard drives.
The Raspberry Pi 4 ranges in price from $35-$100
Raspberry Pi 3 A+ and B+
The venerable Raspberry Pi 3 remains a force to be reckoned with, providing a surprising amount of bang for your buck, even after all these years. If your budget doesn’t stretch to the Pi 4, then the Pi 3 B+’s 1GB of RAM and its single full-size HDMI port should work well enough for you. Four USB ports, Ethernet and Wi-Fi work alongside the standard 40-pin GPIO port to give you plenty of connectivity. If you’re building a sensor array that needs a lot of local compute, the Pi 3 is still worth a look.
However, if you don’t need Ethernet, the new Raspberry Pi Zero 2 with the same processor, for $20 less, is probably a better choice. As a result, you should expect to see the Pi 3 join the list of legacy industrial-only hardware in the next year.
Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W
The Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W is the latest member of the Pi family, and a new edition of the tiny Raspberry Pi Zero. A $15 device, it takes a familiar design and supercharges it with the same processor as the Raspberry Pi 3. Projects that used to need a full-size Pi can now be built in less than half the space, with enough power to run a desktop environment. Your only limit is memory, with 512MB of RAM.
You’ll need to solder on a header to use the GPIO port, but that doesn’t require too much soldering skill and there are solderless third-party options. Other ports include a USB power port, a USB-OTG connector, a standard CSI-2 camera port, and a micro-HDMI port. They’re all in the same place as on the previous Raspberry Pi Zero releases, so you won’t need to invest in new cases or power supplies.
The Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W is available for $45 to $55
this is the Raspberry Pi kit in the video
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