Feb 7, 2019

Arduino vs Raspberry Pi: How to Choose the Right Board

If you are looking for a small, affordable single board computer, there are two popular choices: the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi. But which one should you pick? Here‘s a handy guide.

Arduino or Raspberry Pi? Both are single board computers, both are in the same price range, both have open and helpful communities. Still, they are very different. Read on if you want to know more about which of them you should choose for your projects – and why.

Arduino versus Raspberry Pi What is an Arduino?

The Arduino Uno is one of the most popular Arduino boards (source: Arduino)

Arduino is the name for a family of open-source microcontroller boards. This means an Arduino is a basic computer that can run one program iteratively. Arduino boards can read inputs – i.e. pressing a button, sensing light, receiving a Twitter message – and react to it by whatever they are programmed to at their output – activating a motor, turning on an LED, publishing something online.

Its easiness of use and the open hardware for other manufacturers to create their boards are key benefits distinguishing Arduino from a single-board computer (SBC) like a Raspberry Pi.

Most Arduino boards are not as powerful as a single-board computer. Therefore, Arduinos are preferred often for handling one task only. Think of it as the brain for your DIY programming projects. Additionally, their quick setup is a great advantage if you just have a specific task in mind.

All Arduino boards are open-source, which allows users to fully adapt the microcontroller to their own needs. The great advantage is that it is relatively easy for beginners and flexible enough for more advanced users, who have more sophisticated tasks in mind.

Arduino versus Raspberry Pi Types of Arduino

The Arduino Uno is one of the most popular Arduino boards (source: Arduino)

The Arduino family offers a variety of boards serving different purposes. Amongst them, they have been grouped in:

1. Starter Kids for Beginners

If you want to learn how to program Arduino, you can just buy a board and then get started with some online documentation… but if you want to drill down deeper and learn by doing some DIY experiments, the Arduino market has got you covered. There are several beginners kits that not only will provide you with the actual Arduino but also with sensors, wires, breadboards, batteries, plus – and that’s important – proper documentation. This will make subsequent Arduino experiments much easier.

2. Standard Arduino Boards

This includes Arduino Uno Revision 3, Arduino Micro, and Arduino Nano. This is a great place for beginners. The boards in the entry-level category are easy to use and ready to power, together with tutorials that will help you to achieve your goal in no time.

Arduino Uno & Alternatives

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3, Arduino Boards with Enhanced Features

These include the Arduino Mega 2560, the Arduino MKR Wifi 1010 or the Arduino MKR FOX 1200. Comprised of more advanced boards, with better and faster functionalities, this category is thought for more complex projects.

Single Board Computer

Arduino Mega 2560

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4. Arduino Shields

One highly interesting side-aspect of the Arduino family is its “Shields”. These add-on boards can be bought separately. They will add a specific functionality like an LCD screen, a button or a joystick, Bluetooth, Ethernet, GPRS or sensor capabilities. Shields are stackable, so you can add more functions to one board if you need them.

Find out more about the Arduino shields here.

Arduino versus Raspberry Pi What is a Raspberry Pi?

Add keyboard and a mouse, hook it up to a monitor, choose an OS - the Raspberry Pi is a versatile machine (source: Wikipedia)

The Raspberry Pi was the first successful single-board microcomputer under $50. Built for education, it was embraced by the DIY and the PC community alike. Overall, there were more than 14 million units sold until 2017.

One of the reasons for its unbeatable price is its comprehensive PCB layout. The Raspberry Pi offers all the components a computer needs: A processor, memory, GPU, inputs, SD card slot, and outputs on a credit card sized board.

Any Raspberry Pi it is capable of running multiple programs or tasks. Also, you can chance different operating systems by just swapping the SD card that holds the operating system. In 99 percent of the cases, a Raspberry Pi will run on a Linux derivate as an operating system (like Raspbian or Ubuntu), but the little machine can even run Windows 10 IoT Core.

Unlike an Arduino, it already comes with a set of USB ports, sound card, and integrated graphics for its HDMI output.

Arduino versus Raspberry Pi Types of Raspberry Pi

Add keyboard and a mouse, hook it up to a monitor, choose an OS - the Raspberry Pi is a versatile machine (source: Wikipedia)

There are several models available, mostly distributed through the official Raspberry Pi store and Amazon. Still, currently only two models really stand out.

1. Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+

At the time of writing, the most popular (and powerful) is the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. It was introduced in March 2018 and should set you back roughly $35. The microcomputer comes with a 1.4GHz 64-bit quad-core processor, dual-band wireless LAN, Bluetooth 4.2/BLE, faster Ethernet, and Power-over-Ethernet support (with separate PoE HAT).

Small but Powerful

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+

Explore your creativity with this credit-card-sized computer, with onboard 2.4-GHz Wi-Fi, integrated Bluetooth 4.1, and a more powerful system-on-chip.

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2. Raspberry Pi Zero W

The designers crammed a whole Raspberry Pi on a tiny board. The Raspberry Pi Zero is half the size of the old Model A+, while sporting twice its computing power. Still, when it comes to sheer power, it can’t compete with the Model 3 B+. If you are looking for a tiny all-in-one machine that’s affordable enough for any project, you should take a look! The “W” indicates it is ready for Wifi.

Single Board Computer

Raspberry Pi Zero W

The Raspberry Pi Zero W extends the Pi Zero family and comes with added wireless LAN and Bluetooth connectivity.

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3. Raspberry Pi Alternatives

Other models are outdated or offer less functionality. Still, there are dozens of interesting and compatible alternatives, some which are even more powerful than the latest model. Just look at the alternatives here:

Arduino versus Raspberry Pi The Shootout

As a basic rule, it should be noted that in tasks where the processing is vital, Raspberry will outperform Arduino. For simple, repetitive tasks, Arduino will beat Raspberry in the time setting the working space and easiness of use and options available.

Depending on the difficulty of the task a cheaper and therefore simpler Arduino version can be considered. For beginners, Arduino would offer a great start if you want to program something.

If you are just looking for a highly very affordable computer that runs a full-blown Linux OS, the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ and its derivates are the best choice.

Arduino and Raspberry Pi each serve their own purpose, but their main difference lies in the processing power. Yet, the defining factor should not exclusively rely on the processor, but the relation to simplicity and price for a given project should also be taken in account.

1. By Application

Your first consideration should be what you want to do with it! If you need a full-blown OS and want to run multiple programs on a single computer, the Raspberry Pi is the right choice. If you just want to get one job done and also need to control external periphery, the Arduino is the superior machine.

And the winner is: … it’s a draw. Choose either a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino.

2. By Price

Raspberry Pi 3 model B+ costs around $35. The price for Arduino Mega 2560 R3 Microcontroller rounds the same numbers. Nevertheless, a large number of boards on both sides (but exponentially larger in Arduino, though) are available on the market. Therefore, cheaper boards might be preferred, starting below $10 for both Arduino and Raspberry Pi. So if you don‘t need to buy by the dozen, both systems are affordable.

And the winner is…: Again, it’s a tie for the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino.

3. By Operating System

As for the operating systems, Arduino’s Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is very basic, limited to the programming interface. You will need a computer to program it.

On the other hand, Raspberry is compatible with many programs and programming languages, including C++ and Python. Again, one or the other might be more beneficial/easier to handle depending on the current skills of the user.

And the winner is…: The Raspberry Pi .

4. Is Speed Important?

Speed is be an important factor… but it is tightly coupled to the programming. Both lines offer nearly the same computing power.

And the winner is…: It‘s a draw: BothRaspberry Pi or an Arduino win.

5. Community and Resources

When comparing the support, tutorials and compatible leads, Arduino takes the lead by an inch. Yet, many helpful forums and resources are also available for Raspberry Pi.

And the winner is…: Arduino wins.

License: The text of "Arduino vs Raspberry Pi: How to Choose the Right Board" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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