Last updated: July 1, 2020

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The modern world of technology is more varied than we think. On one hand, there are people who prefer to have the best, integrated equipment, such as computers, laptops, tablets, among others. But on the other, there are also those who follow the “do it yourself” or maker movement. They prefer to assemble their computer their own way, for example, with a Raspberry Pi.

If you had ever heard of this device, don’t worry. You’re not alone. This article was prepared with special care and attention to detail for you to know everything about Raspberry Pi and all the advantages it can offer its users. You don’t believe it? Well, read on and discover an unknown world.

Key Facts

  • The Raspberry Pi is like a low-cost computer. It is so small – the size of a credit card – it fits in the palm of your hand. Even so, it has all connection possibilities for TV, keyboard, other devices and peripherals, so you can virtually use it as if it was a computer.
  • This device consists of only one component: the motherboard. There are no integrated peripherals (factory default). It was invented in the United Kingdom for educational purposes, became more popular than expected and today has become a super versatile machine that opens the doors of learning and experimentation in computer science.
  • Most manufacturers sell the Raspberry Pi in packages with other components or peripherals to pave the way for the user who wants to start experimenting. To choose the right model, it is necessary to watch the radio frequency, RAM, connection ports and network possibilities of the board.

Our Selection of the Best Raspberry Pi on the U.S. Market

Perhaps you are new to the world of Raspberry Pi and you would like to experiment with the range of possibilities they offer. Or maybe you know already know a little about them and would like to dig deeper into this technology. Either way, you should be familiar with the options on the market, and so we’ve put together a list of the best products available.

Best Raspberry Pi Starter Kit

Canakit Raspberry Pi 4 is unique microcomputer. It runs at a frequency of 1.5 GHz, on a 4GB RAM. It has a 32GB MicroSD that is pre-loaded with all the NOOBS you’ll need to start your coding journey. It also has a premium case which has a low-noise micro fan as well as a heat sink to keep it cool. You can connect Canakit to other devices through it Micro HDMI to HDMI cable and USB-C. All in all this is a great microcomputer and an ideal starter kit.

Best Rasperry Pi Complete Kit

ABOX Raspberry Pi 3 B+ is an exhibition of technical mastery. These microcomputers boast of a 64-bit Quad-core CPU at 1.4GHz, Bluetooth 4.2 and PoE compatibility. It has a 32GB MicroSD with pre-loaded NOOBS to get you started immediately. This device has USB-C port that is compatible with all devices. It is powered through a micro USB port, via a cable that has on it, an on/off switch. It also features an HDMI port, a CSI Camera port and, a DSI touch screen connection port.

Best Raspberry Pi Value Kit

This kit includes a Raspberry Pi 3 B Plus motherboard that features a 1 GB RAM. This motherboard is super fast. With a 64-bit Quad-core CPU and, consumes less energy. It comes with a 32GB MicroSD that is pre-loaded with operating systems you need. The kit contains a full-color 7 inches, touch screen display. Besides, it also has an HDMI port and cord that allows you to connect it to a larger screen, monitor or TV. Neggo Pi 3 has a standard qwerty keyboard. It also comes with a premium case and an aluminium heat sink that protects and keeps it fresh when you use it respectively.

Best Raspberry Pi Motherboard

Element 14 Raspberry Pi B+ Motherboard is a powerful device for those who only need a Raspberry motherboard. It runs at 1.4 GHz on a 1GB RAM. It features an 802.11 wireless LAN that runs at 10/100 Mbps. It also features low energy Bluetooth 4.2 and connectivity USB ports, a four-pole audio jack and composite video port and a full HDMI port. It also has a CSI camera port and a DSI display port for connecting cameras and screens.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Raspberry Pi

If you are about to buy your first Raspberry Pi, you are probably wondering which model or version to choose. On the other hand, if you are a frequent user already, you may like to go deeper into the potential offered by this motherboard. Whatever the case, you will find the most common questions about these devices in this section.

Raspberry Pi can be used in robotics projects.
(Source: Luchschen: 34147375/ 123rf.com)

What is a Raspberry Pi exactly?

Raspberry Pi is a brand of stripped-back computer, also known as a single-board computer (SBC).  It is characterized by its small size and low cost. According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, more than 5 million models were sold in February 2015, making it the best-selling British computer.

When did the Raspberry Pi arise?

The history of these single-board computers dates back to 2009, when the Raspberry Pi Foundation decided to encourage children to learn programming and computer science in schools. They went for motherboards instead of distributing traditional computers, laptops or tablets, in order to stimulate experimentation and take advantage of their versatility.

When the first model, the Raspberry Pi A, came out in 2012, the foundation noticed how the project exceeded the educational field and grew in popularity in homes and in different countries. The uses given to this device started growing together with its demand, resulting in the development of new models, with better performance and more connection possibilities.

One of the uses of a Raspberry Pi is rebuilding retro gaming consoles.
(Source: Kanawee Kittikorn: 44661542/ 123rf.com)

After the Raspberry Pi 1 B was launched, the foundation created Raspberry Pi Trading, with Eben Upton as CEO, to develop the third model, the Raspberry Pi 1 B +. Raspberry Pi Trading is responsible for developing technology, while the foundation is an educational organization to promote computer education in developing countries. 

How does a Raspberry Pi work?

Being a board of a simple computer, the Raspberry Pi is composed of a SoC (computer chip system), CPU, RAM memory, entry and exit ports, network connection,  SD slot for storage, clock, power connection and peripheral connections. In short, the same as we would find at the back of a normal desktop computer.

In order to use the board, you need to connect input and output peripherals. When you buy a Raspberry Pi, it does not include a screen, keyboard or mouse, although complete kits are also available. Use you have connected peripherals, all you have to do it connect the board to a power source and it is ready to use.

What power supply does a Raspberry Pi use?

A Raspberry Pi board is powered through a micro USB power supply, similar to the majority of standard smartphones. You therefore need a good quality power supply which can supply sufficient amps for each model. Check the following table for more.

Version Current capacity of the recommended power supply Normal current consumption
Raspberry Pi A 700 mA (megaamp) 200 mA
Raspberry Pi Model B 1,2 A 500 mA
Raspberry Pi Model A+ 700 mA 180 mA
Raspberry Pi Model B+ 1,8 A 330 mA
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B 1,8 A 350 mA
 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B 2,5 A 400 mA
 Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ 2,5 A 350 mA
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ 2,5 A 500 mA
Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 3,0 A 600 mA
Raspberry Pi Zero W/WH 1,2 A 150 mA
Raspberry Pi Zero 1,2 A 100 mA

Does the Raspberry Pi have free hardware and software?

The official website of the Pi Foundation explains that they have distribution and sales contracts with different companies, although it didn’t indicate expressly if the hardware is free or if trademark rights apply. But at the same time, anyone can become a Raspberry Pi reseller or distributor, suggesting it is a product that claims copyright.

Software, on the other hand, is open source: the official operating system is an adapted version of Debian, called Raspbian, although it allows you to use other operating systems, including Linux and a Windows 10 version. The foundation supports the downloading of many systems and particularly promotes learning the Python programming language.

What does the motherboard of a Raspberry Pi include?

In all its versions, the Raspberry Pi includes a Broadcom processor, RAM, GPU, USB ports, HDMI, Ethernet (other than the first model, which did not have it), 40 GPIO pins (Raspberry Pi 2 and later models) and a camera connector. Memory is not included in any version; in the first one, the memory was an SD card and a MicroSD card in later editions.

Jamie MolaroNASA scientist

“We believe that we can use a Raspberry Pi seismometer to see how earthquakes reflect signs of a thermal fracture that breaks down lunar boulders. We can run experiments on earth which imitate this process and use what we learn to help us to understand lunar seismic data”.

What are the differences between the different Raspberry Pi models?

Since the launching of the first Raspberry Pi, the project has been growing according to the different uses given to the boards. Most of the components are kept in all Raspberry Pi versions, but they have been improving in power and extension with time. The following table compares all models exhaustively.

Version SoC Speed RAM USB Ports Ethernet   Bluetooth
Raspberry Pi A+ BCM2835 700 MHz 512 MG 1 No No
Raspberry Pi B+ BCM2835 700 MHz 512 MG 4 100 base T No
Raspberry Pi 2 B BCM2836 900 MHz 1 GB 4 100 base T No
Raspberry Pi 3 B BCM2837A0/B0 1200 MHz 1 GB 4 100 base T 4.1
Raspberry Pi 3 A+ BCM2837B0 1400 MHz 512 MB 1 No 4.2
 Raspberry Pi 3 B+ BCM2837B0 1400 MHz 1 GB 4 100 base T 4.2
Raspberry Pi 4 B BCM2711 1500 MHz 1 GB 2 USB-2

2 USB-3

100 base T 5.0
 Raspberry Pi 4 B BCM2711 1500 MHz 2 GB 2 USB-2

2 USB-3

100 base T 5.0
Raspberry Pi 4 B BCM2711 1500 MHz 2 GB 2 USB-2

2 USB-3

100 base T 5.0
Raspberry Pi Zero BCM2835 1000 MHz 512 MB 1 No No
Raspberry Pi Zero W BCM2835 1000 MHz 512 MB 1 No 4.1
Raspberry Pi Zero WH BCM2835 1000 MHz 512 MB 1 No 4.1

What can I use a Raspberry Pi for?

As we have explained, the popularity of the Raspberry Pi has been growing over the years due to the new uses that have been found. Reasonably speaking, a motherboard can be used for almost anything. Precisely, this was the idea pursued by the Pi Foundation: create a space for experimentation. We can mention the following uses.

  • As a media center, that is, to convert a TV into a smart TV, with LIBRELEC or OSMC software.
  • To build a retro game console to play great classics that are no longer available in the new formats.
  • As a computer with Linux operating system, through distributions such as Ubuntu, Raspbian or Pidora.
  • For a home automation purpose, for example through Windows 10 IOT Core. This way, our homes become smarter and it is possible to carry out projects such as weather stations or smart hubs.
  • For robotics projects: drones, wireless converters, 3D printers and even a homemade Roomba. Raspberry Pi boards, programmed withsoftware like Arduino, can give surprising results.

What do GPIO pins mean on a Raspberry Pi?

Is it the acronym to General Purpose Input Output. This refers to a general purpose input and output system, that is, a system consisting of a set of pins or connections that can be used as inputs or outputs for multiple uses. These pins are included in all Raspberry Pi models, with some differences.

We find a number of different pins depending on the model of the Raspberry Pi. In Raspberry Pi version 1 there are 26 GPIO pins, while since version 2 the number increased to 40. However, it is completely compatible, since the first 26 pins keep their original function.

GPIO pins have specific functions (although some share functions) and can be grouped as follows:

  • Yellow (2): Power at 3.3 watts.
  • Red (2): Power at 5 watts.
  • Orange (26): General purpose inputs and outputs. They can be configured as inputs or outputs.
  • Gray (2): 
  • Black (8): Connection to GND or ground.
  • Blue (2): To communicate with peripherals using I2C protocol.
  • Green (2): For UART connection for conventional serial port.
  • Purple (5): To communicate with peripherals using the SPI protocol.

Shopping Criteria

Raspberry Pi can become a new challenge for you to explore more deeply the computing and programming world. Or even for you to learn how to build computers or consoles. If you are starting on these devices or if you want to know other versions, it is better to consider some aspects before making your purchase.

Processor

If we consider that a Raspberry Pi is a minicomputer (and it is), we must pay attention to the processor: how many cores it has, what is its radio frequency (speed). The higher these values are, the higher the power of the motherboard. This will allow you to experience more computing possibilities and also support the connection with different peripherals.

A Raspberry Pi can be used to convert a television to a smart TV.
(Source: Andriy Popov: 44589454/ 123rf.com)

Bluetooth

When it comes to wireless connections, the best technology for transmitting all types of data (except for Wi-Fi, of course) is Bluetooth. Regardless of the use given to the Raspberry Pi, it is very likely that at some point you’ll need to send or receive data or link to another device. Make sure you have a recent Bluetooth version.

Connection and Peripheral Ports

A Raspberry Pi by itself is not enough for all the applications it is capable of. You need to connect it to different peripherals, from mouse and keyboard to monitors and TV. Make sure your motherboard has a large number and variety of connection ports. The most important are USB, HDMI, Ethernet and VGA.

Software Compatibility

When learning, you must explore different programming languages and experiment with different operating systems other than the one of your motherboard (Raspbian). You may go for a version of Windows if you are more traditional or maybe you are a regular Linux user. Whatever it is, you should check that your Raspberry Pi works with the one you are looking for.

Summary

The Raspberry Pi is like a minicomputer, the size of a credit card, shaped as a simple board and at a very low cost. It was developed by the Pi Foundation a decade ago in order to stimulate the teaching of computer science and programming in schools. Models grew in popularity and today are used for games, robotics and home automation, among other uses.

Raspberry Pi can be sold by itself or in kits with other peripherals to properly operate. The board does not have an on/off switch, instead it depends on the electrical current to start up. Different models came up since the launching of the first version and the latest ones have evolved with respect to processor power and connection ports. 

If you liked the article, share it among your contacts so others know in depth everything about Raspberry Pi. For sure, many people can take advantage of this information before making their purchase. Also, if you want, you can leave us a comment and we will answer you as soon as possible. Thank you!

(Source of Featured Image: Handmadepictures: 44508891/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Brett Holmes Technology Geek
Brett is a keen observer of the latest technology trends and knows his way around the industry because he runs an electronics store. He writes about it in his spare time and wants to help others learn more about the technology industry.