Best Raspberry Pi for 2021: Which board should you buy?

The Raspberry Pi household of single-board computer systems retains rising. This Raspberry Pi consumers information lists what’s accessible and consists of suggestions about which board is right primarily based on the person.

There are loads of single-board computer systems on the market, aimed toward makers, hobbyists and training. From tiny Arduinos to NVIDIA’s AI Jetsons, they can be utilized for nearly something you possibly can consider. There’s one model that stands out, although: Raspberry Pi.

Impressed by the Eighties 8-bit computer systems that turned a technology of Britons into builders, the Raspberry Pi Basis was set as much as ship a low-cost pc that might do the identical for at this time’s schoolkids. Their first gadget, the Raspberry Pi Mannequin B, was launched in 2012, with 256MB of reminiscence and a 26-pin GPIO enlargement port. Over the following decade the unique ARM-based gadget has grown right into a household of gadgets, together with a full-blown pc, a microcontroller CPU, and a collection of modules that can be utilized to construct extra complicated gadgets.

Most Raspberry Pis use a microSD card for storage. This may be sluggish, with a danger of hitting flash write cycles on significantly heavy workloads. More moderen gadgets will boot from USB-connected SSDs, with third-party circumstances with M.2 module helps accessible. The choice of utilizing low-cost microSD playing cards stays common in colleges, the place college students could be issued with a reminiscence card for his or her packages and knowledge, sharing the costlier single-board computer systems between lessons.

It is now gained its personal OS, a Debian-based 32-bit Linux, Raspberry Pi OS. Lately upgraded to the Bullseye launch, it comes bundled with coding instruments and the acquainted LibreOffice productiveness suite. As there is not any 32-bit ARM construct of Chrome, the principle browser is the open supply Chromium launch. Most extensions will work on a Pi, although some key Chrome options, like historical past and bookmark sync, aren’t supported.

A typical 40-pin GPIO port has allowed an ecosystem of HATs, {Hardware} Hooked up on High boards, to develop. These mean you can shortly add new options to your gadget, together with help for Energy Over Ethernet connections for distant gadgets. Different {hardware} help features a frequent digital camera connection, with a number of digital camera modules at present accessible, together with a 12-megapixel gadget that works with S-mount lenses. If you wish to use a board with a instantly related show, you could have the choice of utilizing a GPIO-connected show through the gadget’s I2C ports or a module utilizing the built-in show connector. Many Raspberry Pi shows help contact, permitting you to make use of them to help UIs for IOT initiatives.

Latest developments have included its personal silicon, the RP2040, on the coronary heart of the Raspberry Pi Pico board, in addition to customized {hardware} from many maker distributors. That is been adopted by a brand new silicon package deal design, squeezing Raspberry Pi 3 {hardware} into a brand new model of the tiny low-cost Raspberry Pi Zero.

So which Raspberry Pi is best for you? We spherical up the entire household.


Raspberry Pi 4

Picture: Raspberry Pi

Launched in 2019, the Raspberry Pi 4 stays the corporate’s flagship. Constructed across the BCM2711 microcontroller, it is available in 4 variations. These have 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB of RAM, respectively, with gigabit Ethernet, USB 3, and twin micro-HDMI ports. Latest releases have a brand new CPU revision, which permits it to run sooner and cooler, so you do not want a processor fan for many hundreds.

Should you’re shopping for a Pi at this time, the Raspberry Pi 4 is prone to be your first selection. It has loads of connectivity, with wi-fi and wired connections, and with an 8GB possibility, sufficient reminiscence to energy a 64-bit desktop Linux like Ubuntu as a substitute for its personal Raspberry Pi OS. The acquainted 40-pin GPIO plug works with a big selection of HATs, together with plug-in shows and the favored AstroPi academic maker board.

Raspberry Pi’s official case, mouse and keyboard allow you to shortly flip your Pi 4 right into a desktop Linux PC, although chances are you’ll want to make use of a third-party case with a built-in fan and help for SSD laborious drives.

The Raspberry Pi 4 ranges in value from $35-$75.

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Raspberry Pi 3 

Picture: Raspberry Pi

The venerable Raspberry Pi 3 stays a power to be reckoned with, offering a shocking quantity of bang to your buck, even in any case these years. In case your price range does not stretch to the Pi 4, then the Pi 3 B+’s 1GB of RAM and its single full-size HDMI port ought to work properly sufficient for you. 4 USB ports, Ethernet and Wi-Fi work alongside the usual 40-pin GPIO port to present you loads of connectivity. Should you’re constructing a sensor array that wants loads of native compute, the Pi 3 remains to be price a glance.

Nonetheless, in the event you do not want Ethernet, the brand new Raspberry Pi Zero 2 with the identical processor, for $20 much less, might be a better option. In consequence, you must anticipate to see the Pi 3 be a part of the checklist of legacy industrial-only {hardware} within the subsequent 12 months.

The Raspberry Pi 3 A+ is $25, and the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ is $35.

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Raspberry Pi 400

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Whereas the Raspberry Pi 4 was the primary Pi that might actually run a Linux desktop, the Raspberry Pi 400 went a step additional and have become the primary true house pc from the group. Primarily based on the acquainted Raspberry Pi keyboard, the Raspberry Pi 400 makes use of a brand new circuit board to embed a variant of the 4GB Pi 4. With a lot of the identical ports as a Pi 4, it is easy to make use of the Raspberry Pi 400 as a improvement PC or to run a lot of the instruments you may discover on a Linux desktop—and with common distributions like Ubuntu accessible, it makes an efficient various to a Chromebook with out resorting to locked down {hardware}.

As they use a current model of the Raspberry Pi 4 firmware, all Pi 400s can boot from SSD drives over USB. That is useful when utilizing them as academic computer systems, when all you want is a monitor and USB mouse to shortly package out a small classroom. With budgets constrained, delivering a full desktop expertise for round $200 is an efficient deal, particularly when the software program it runs is identical as you may discover on any Linux PC.

The Raspberry Pi 400 sells for $70.

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Raspberry Pi CM4

Picture: Raspberry Pi

Not all initiatives want a full-size Raspberry Pi 4, particularly in the event you’re constructing {hardware} for resale or designing compact programs for deployment on the sting of the community. Raspberry Pi’s compute modules are designed to be on the coronary heart of customized {hardware}, with commonplace socket connections to ship the complete suite of Raspberry Pi connectivity.

The CM4 is the most recent compute module, constructing on the Raspberry Pi 4, utilizing the identical processor and reminiscence choices. Constructed-in eMMC storage choices means there are 32 variants of the CM4, together with a number of that take away the wi-fi connectivity options. A typical board pin-out makes designing {hardware} simple, and Raspberry Pi and companions make a collection of improvement boards.

One massive change between the Raspberry CM4 and the Pi 4 is the removing of the USB 3.0 ports. As a substitute they’re changed with a PCIe interface, appropriate to be used with storage, networking and even graphics playing cards. Compute Modules are perfect for compact edge {hardware} and can be utilized to construct small Kubernetes clusters.

The Raspberry Pi CM4 sells for $25-$90.

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Raspberry Pi Pico

Picture: Raspberry Pi

The RP2040 is Raspberry Pi’s first silicon, a microcontroller-class gadget primarily based on the ARM Cortex M0 core design. Two cores and 264KB of RAM give it most of what you could construct all types of initiatives, and the Raspberry Pi Pico provides 2GMB of flash storage. 26 GPIO pins join your code to the world, with packages loaded over the identical USB port that powers your gadget. An on-board temperature sensor helps you get began.

You possibly can write code in C++ or MicroPython, making it preferrred for each consultants and newbies. Code hundreds over USB and runs as quickly as you restart your gadget. A partnership with Microsoft ensures that plug-ins and tooling are prepared to be used with the free cross-platform Visible Studio Code improvement software.

The Raspberry Pi Pico is probably finest considered Raspberry Pi’s Arduino equal. It is designed to change into the guts of {hardware} initiatives, with a board that may solder into different {hardware}. The RP2040 is being utilized by third-party distributors to drive customized keyboards and programmable lighting amongst different {hardware} initiatives.

The Raspberry Pi Pico sells for $4.

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Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W

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The Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W is the most recent member of the Pi household, and a brand new version of the tiny Raspberry Pi Zero. A $15 gadget, it takes a well-recognized design and supercharges it with the identical processor because the Raspberry Pi 3. Tasks that used to want a full-size Pi can now be in-built lower than half the house, with sufficient energy to run a desktop setting. Your solely restrict is reminiscence, with 512MB of RAM.

You may must solder on a header to make use of the GPIO port, however that does not require an excessive amount of soldering ability and there are solderless third-party choices. Different ports embody a USB energy port, a USB-OTG connector, a regular CSI-2 digital camera port, and a micro-HDMI port. They’re all in the identical place as on the earlier Raspberry Pi Zero releases, so you will not must spend money on new circumstances or energy provides.

The Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W is on the market for $15.

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Raspberry Pi Zero W

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Designed to ship an entry-level Pi expertise, the Raspberry Pi Zero took the essential Pi software program and {hardware} and constructed it right into a small kind issue board. Whereas reminiscence is restricted, it is an efficient low energy system appropriate for a lot of initiatives. The fundamental Raspberry Pi Zero has no connectivity, solely a set of USB ports. You’ll need so as to add your individual header for the GPIO ports.

A second model, the Raspberry Pi Zero W, added wi-fi connectivity for an additional $5. This was adopted by the WH model, which added a pre-soldered GPIO header to be used with HATs. The Raspberry Pi Zero WH might be your most suitable option for a low-cost PI at present, because it’s appropriate for many initiatives and wishes little or no work to arrange.

The Raspberry Pi Zero is on the market for $5-$15.

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Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3+

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Raspberry Pi’s compute modules flip the acquainted Pi into pluggable boards. The Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3+ is predicated on the acquainted Pi 3+ and makes use of the identical processor and has the identical connectivity choices, all accessed through a single edge connector. Plug it into an acceptable provider board and you may take Raspberry Pi 3 code and run it on customized {hardware}. Fashionable choices embody provider boards for community hooked up storage and the Turing Pi high-density compute programs.

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3+ is on the market for $25-$40.

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Legacy Raspberry Pis

Whereas the unique Raspberry Pi and Raspberry Pi 2 (and the early fashions of the Raspberry Pi 3) are nonetheless in manufacturing, they don’t seem to be beneficial for many customers. As a substitute, those who come out of the manufacturing facility are supposed for merchandise which can be constructed round Raspberry Pi’s {hardware}, and if you could purchase them, you may must go to digital element distributors. Manufacturing for these will finish someday after January 2026.

Our suggestions for which Raspberry Pi to purchase

  • For training: The Raspberry Pi 400 is a low-cost and succesful desktop Linux pc. Add a mouse, a USB SSD and a display screen… it is a twenty first century ZX Spectrum!
  • For hobbyists: The assorted Raspberry Pi 4s are a strong and succesful improvement system for all of your maker initiatives. Select the 4GB or 8GB variations.
  • For enterprise: The Raspberry CM4 is a straightforward approach to construct embedded pc {hardware}, with pre-certified modules that drop into your individual circuit boards.
  • For the newbie: The Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W is a $15 pc that does all the pieces you need.

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