Ever wondered what is a Raspberry Pi? In this article, we take a look at what this incredibly cool little computer is and also briefly what you can do with one.
We also cover all the current iterations of the Pi currently out there and what you can expect to get out of them. Each version is slightly different and one may better suit your needs over another.
The Basics of a Raspberry Pi
To put it simply, a Raspberry Pi is a tiny computer about the size of a credit card. The board features a processor, RAM, and the standard hardware ports that you find on most computers.
The features a Raspberry Pi has means you’re able to do most things a desktop computer can do. Tasks such as document editing, playing HD video, playing games, coding, and so much more.
Obviously, the Pi won’t have as much processing power as a desktop PC, but since it is a lot cheaper, they make for great little computers you can play around with. If you happen to break one, they’re not going to cost you a fortune to replace.
A Pi is also great at doing a lot of things that you don’t need an expensive computer. You can do stuff such as run as a home NAS (Network Attached Storage), web server, media center, TorrentBox, and much more.
Even though the main supported operating system is Raspbian, you can install other operating systems. Some examples of operating systems you can install include Ubuntu mate, Ubuntu Core, OSMC, RISC OS, Windows 10 IoT, and much more.
If you’re looking for Raspberry Pi projects, then head over to our main page as we have an ever-growing list of fantastic projects.
There are quite a few different models of the Pi that you will see on the market. I will go into the features of each and why you might choose a certain model over a different one.
You can check out my video explaining what is a Raspberry Pi right below. It also goes into some topics that you should know if you’re thinking about getting one.
As there has been some time since I put together the video, there is some more recent Raspberry Pi’s missing from it.
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Raspberry Pi A+
The Raspberry Pi A+ is the low spec and cost version of the Pi. You will find that this version only has one USB port, lower power consumption, no Ethernet port, and only 256mb of ram. The latest version has 512mb RAM.
This version of the Pi is better suited for projects that don’t require a considerable amount of processing power and will benefit from the lighter weight and smaller size.
You can do a ton of things with this board such as robotics, remote control planes, remote control cars, and embedded projects. To name a few examples, it would make for a great robot brain, touch screen car dashboard, motion-sensing camera, and much more.
Raspberry Pi B+ & Model B
Raspberry Pi B+ and B are old versions of the Pi that has now been replaced by the Pi 2.
The B+ version features a single-core CPU, 4 USB ports, microSD card slot, and lower power consumption.
This model improves on the previous model B that only had two USB ports, higher power consumption, full-sized SD Card slot, and a few other things.
You can still find the B+ model on for sale but will be slowly replaced by the newer and better versions of the Pi.
Raspberry Pi 2
The Raspberry Pi 2 is the second major generation of the Pi. This Pi and the version B+ is one of the most popular versions you will find around due to the processing power and amount of ports you get on with it.
The Pi 2 is the replacement of the B+ and features a 900MHz quad-core CPU and 1GB of ram. The rest of the specs remain the same as what you will find in the previous model.
I have listed the specs below:
- 40 pin extended GPIO
- 4x USB 2.0 ports
- Stereo out and composite video port
- HDMI Port
- CSI (Camera Interface Interface) and DSI (Display Serial Interface) ports
- Micro SD card slot
- Micro USB power source
This version of the Pi has now be replaced by the more powerful Pi 3 and 4.
Raspberry Pi 3 & 3 B+
The Raspberry Pi 3 is the second latest version of the Pi and beats version 2 in performance and features. This version offers a few extras that make using a Pi so much easier.
This version of the Pi brings with it a new CPU that clocks in at 1.2Ghz and is 64 bit, however, you’re likely to be only installing a 32bit operating system onto the Pi 3.
The Pi also has onboard Wi-Fi (802.11n) and Bluetooth 4.1. These new features will enable you to do some pretty cool stuff while freeing up more of your USB ports.
Now the rest of the board remains pretty much the same, but the new features I mentioned above are a great addition to the Pi.
To summarize the new features, I made a list that you can see below.
- Broadcom BCM2387 chipset
- The 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU
- Integrated 802.11n wireless LAN and Bluetooth 4.1
You can also get the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ which has a few slight upgrades but not as many as the new Pi 4.
If you’re interested in picking up the Pi 3, you can find it at most major retailers such as Amazon.
Raspberry Pi 4
The Raspberry Pi 4 is the latest version of the Raspberry Pi family and is by far the best board yet. It’s had quite a few upgrades to the hardware which makes it far superior to the previous generation.
This version brings with it a 1.5GHZ quad-core ARM Cortex-A72 which is much better than it’s predecessor.
There are also more RAM options for this Raspberry Pi. For example, you can choose between the classic 1gb version, 2gb, and 4gb.
Many more improvements make this a board super appealing for enthusiasts and casual users. The 4gb makes it a very viable desktop computer replacement.
A full list of all the new bits and pieces in the Raspberry Pi 4 is listed below.
- A 1.5GHz quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A72 CPU (Roughly 3× performance)
- 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB of LPDDR4 SDRAM
- Full-throughput Gigabit Ethernet
- Dual-band 802.11ac wireless networking
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports
- Dual monitor support, at resolutions up to 4K
- VideoCore VI graphics, supporting OpenGL ES 3.x
- 4Kp60 hardware decode of HEVC video
- Complete compatibility with earlier Raspberry Pi products
I talk much more about the Raspberry Pi in our dedicated article, so be sure to check that out if you have the time.
Raspberry Pi Zero and Zero W
The Raspberry Pi Zero is the smallest and cheapest of all the Pi’s currently available. Unfortunately, it’s also incredibly hard to get your hands on one.
This board is priced at $5 USD and features the bare bones of the Pi on a super small board.
While this Pi won’t be able to handle a massive amount of processing, it is perfect for embedded projects. It is also great for anything that doesn’t require huge amounts of processing power or RAM, much like the Pi A+.
You can see below the summary of the features of the Pi Zero.
- 1Ghz, Single-core CPU
- 512MB RAM
- Mini HDMI
- Micro USB Port
- Micro USB power
- Micro SD Card Port
- HAT-compatible 40-pin header
- Composite video and reset headers
The Raspberry Pi Zero W has wireless capabilities which is extremely handy on a board so small. You will be able to utilize WiFi and Bluetooth using the Pi zero W
If you already own a Pi and haven’t already installed NOOBs (New out of the box software) then check out our guide to installing NOOBS onto the Raspberry Pi.
I hope this article has helped you be able to understand what is a Raspberry Pi and what you can do with one.
Feel free to drop us a comment below if you have a question, feedback, I have missed something or anything else related to this article.