Author: Darhan Saami
Arduino and Raspberry Pi board have long been contested against each other within the community of engineering and DIY tech projects enthusiasts. While one may think that both are substitutes for one another, the reality is not so simple. This article will compare Arduino boards with Raspberry Pi boards and relearn what makes them similar yet unique. We start with the common superficial differences leading onto the complex, unique qualities of each board.
Arduino is an open-source company popularly known for developing software and microcontroller unit (MCU) boards, also known as development boards. MCUs manufactured by Arduino has the capacity of running one program at a time, iteratively. They are designed to read inputs and send the output they are programmed to generate. Arduinos are incredibly easy-to-use and suitable for beginners as a starting base. They run on Arduino’s programming platform Integrated Development Environment (IDE), a basic but limited operating system. Their simple usability makes them ideal candidates for simple projects, such as sensing light, powering motors, switching on an LED, etc. Being open-source, all Arduino boards allow users to gain firm control over the microcontroller and adapt it for their specific needs. Unique stackable add-on boards, known as Arduino shields, enable users to add particular functionalities like LCD screens, buttons, Bluetooth, etc. This side-aspect adds invaluable flexibility to the Arduino boards, allowing them to perform simple and more complicated tasks for advanced users.
RASPBERRY PI BOARDS
On the contrary, Raspberry Pi boards are essentially single-board microcomputers (SBCs). One can safely think of them as an all-in-one computer in the size of a credit card. They offer almost all components we find in our typical computers, including a processor, a sound card, memory, GPU, SD card slots, etc. They are made ready to be connected to hardware through GPIO pins, analog pins, and USB ports. What made Raspberry Pi boards famous was their undeniably affordable prices. While these boards are compatible with lower-end operating systems, including the Windows 10 IoT core, they usually run on a Linux-based operating system. Unlike the Arduinos, any Raspberry Pi has the prized capability of running multiple programs at once. They are powerful enough to perform complex tasks and intense calculations like operating a robot, calculating Bitcoin value, depicting changes in stocks, etc.
Why are then Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards rivaled so much when they are various technologies with different capacities. A simple answer would be because of an overlap in their usage. Both these boards have General-Purpose Input Output (GPIO) pins. These pins can be used as input or output to control and monitor the outside world by being connected to electronic circuits. With a common feature such as this, the Arduinos and Raspberry Pi’s overlap in functionalities.
WHICH IS ONE SHOULD I CHOOSE?
When working on a project, people get riled upon which machine they should use. The answer is again simple: use the one that suits you and your project the best. Let us dive deeper to understanding the intricate yet vital differences between an Arduino and a Raspberry Pi board. We have put the two against each other in seven different comparison tests. We recommend you understand and enlist your project’s requirements before reading on, as it will help you assess your options efficiently.
The first and most crucial test on our charts is GPIO comparison. As mentioned earlier, GPIO pins are the key enablers of the vast electronic applications these boards offer. Each GPIO pin can be used for one or more functions/protocols. The GPIO integrated into the Raspberry Pis consists of 40 to 120 pins, depending on the boards’ model. Meanwhile, the maximum number of pins in the Arduino family is 70 pins found on the Arduino Mega. While Arduinos have lesser GPIO pins, they are packed with a unique feature of analog inputs. Despite having far fewer pins, analog inputs in Arduino boards open them to a massive range of electronic devices and inputs the Raspberry Pi boards are closed to. With the option to be connected to joysticks, humidity sensors, rheostats, etc., Arduinos offer invaluable comprehensiveness your project may seek.
An abundance of add-ons is a vital aspect to consider when looking for any board. Just like the Arduino Shields, Hardware Attached on Top (HATs) are standard add-ons for the Raspberry Pi boards. Add-ons and accessories enhance a board’s usability by extending the range of tasks it can perform. Arduino’s analog input and third-party Raspberry Pi accessory developers, both boards, offer an increasing range of add-ons designed for specific uses. However, being a single-board computer, Raspberry Pi and its accessories provide more complex services than the Arduino family.
The functionality comparison test is next on our list. The Arduino is a simple single task board suitable for simple and repetitive tasks. It can serve as a robust assistant to take care of the easy daily processes and even automate them. Arduinos have an attribute of immediacy, which has played an enormous role in the board’s success. The Raspberry Pi functions like any other Linux computer, plus the access to GPIOs. The Raspberry can perform numerous complicated tasks that the Arduino fails to execute, from flashing LEDs to machine learning. Nevertheless, it is dependent on HATS and add-ons as it lacks a few features like analog-to-digital conversion. The winner here depends on your project needs. For example, if you use a Raspberry Pi instead of an Arduino to power a few LEDs, you will be overkilling it.
Our next test will be the performance test. Starting with a single-core 700MHz model back in 2011 to a quad-core 1.5GHz model in 2021, Raspberry Pi boards are known to be powerful machines in the single-board microcomputer world. Meanwhile, Arduino boards usually range below 100MHz. Despite being significantly less than the Raspberry Pis, these specs are sufficient for the simple tasks Arduinos are expected to fulfill. Regardless, the Raspberry Pi boards upright outmatch the Arduino family. Therefore, if your project needs mighty powerful processing, the Raspberry Pi models should be a clear choice.
Programming language support options will be our next metric of comparison. Running a standard Linux OS, the Raspberry Pi enjoys compatibility with mainstream programming languages, including C++, Python, and Scratch. Once you connect your Raspberry Pi with a mouse, monitor, and keyboard, you can code programs onto it like you would on your standard computer. Meanwhile, the Arduino family is not directly compatible with mainstream programming languages. It only takes instructions from the C/C++ based Arduino IDE. Not only does the Arduino IDE have its learning curve attached, but it also cannot write complex codes due to storage limitations. Therefore, the Raspberry Pi is a far viable option for users with high regard for programming language support.
Like any project, every electronic assignment or project has budget constraints. Therefore, assessing our two boards in terms of price is crucial. In the Raspberry Pi family, the cheapest board model is the Raspberry Pi Zero W, available for only ten dollars. In contrast, the priciest model is the Raspberry Pi 4, which retails for roughly seventy-five dollars. On the contrary, the cheapest Arduino board costs between five to ten dollars, even cheaper if it is a clone. Portenta H7, Arduino’s most expensive model, retails at one hundred dollars today. With such varying prices, it is more important to note the cost of add-ons necessary for your project. Therefore, we advise you to manage your budget by accounting for the add-ons alongside the mainboards. Draw up multiple project plans and see which is more feasible. With many cheap Arduino clone boards out there, we suggest you think of them as a viable option.
The Arduino and Raspberry Pi board also have different power consumption scales. To operate a range of computer components, the Raspberry Pi boards are understandably power-hungry. For instance, the Raspberry Pi 4 is supplied up to 3A through its USB C connector and power supply unit and could well run up to 15W. On the contrary, Arduinos come out as flexible power consumers. The Arduino Uno draws up to a maximum of 500mA and can operate on a range of voltages varying around 5V. Ultimately, the Arduino requires less fuel for simple tasks, while the Raspberry Pi needs more power to accommodate its components. While power consumption may not be a major concern for most projects, it could be a tiebreaker for your project.
By now, you should have a clear understanding of which of the two boards is suitable for you and your project. Let us make a rule of thumb for simplicity. The simpler and repetitive your task is, the more favorable it is for you to opt for an Arduino. The more complex or code-savvy your project is, the better it is for you to choose a Raspberry Pi.
A FEW POPULAR CHOICES
We have compiled the most popular Arduino and Raspberry Pi board models with their specifications and suggested uses to aid your decision further.
Entry-level Arduino boards for DIY projects include everyone’s favorite, the Arduino Uno Revision 3. For a bit more complex jobs, like 3D printing, simple robotics, etc., we suggest you search up the Arduino Mega 2560. Coming last are the Nano 33 IOT, the MKR Wi-Fi 1010, and the MKR GSM 1400 Arduinos, suitable for IoT uses with built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GSM connectivity.
On the Raspberry Pi side, the Raspberry Pi Zero models are the go-to models for beginners with DIY projects. This board also comes in a Wi-Fi model, called Zero W. The latest addition to the Pi family is the Raspberry Pi 4. This board comes in different RAM sizes with a faster CPU, USB 3.0, and two HDMI ports compatible with 4K video. Finally, the more budget-friendly substitute would be the 3 Model B+. With a 1.4-GHz 64-bit quad-core processor, built-in dual-band wireless LAN, Bluetooth, and Ethernet, this board is Pi’s most popular board today.
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