In today’s digital world, Raspberry Pi and Arduino are very popular boards available in the market. These boards are considered the first choice for use among hobbyists, DIY builders, and professionals. Today, both devices dominate the world of hobbyist electronics. The Arduino and the Raspberry Pi can both be found in markets across the world.
For an inexperienced individual, they might seem similar as both boards contain capacitors, resistors, and ICUs which are soldered in the circuit of the board, and connections emerging from the sides. However, if it is looked closely, it is found that both, the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi, differ from one another in both architecture and purpose. They both are quite different boards.
Arduino is considered a very good board for quick programming and circuit prototyping. On the other hand, Raspberry Pi functions as a learning tool for Computer Programming. However, Raspberry is found useful in many DIY projects as well. Each board has its own merits and demerits depending on its use and the purpose they serve.
This article is written to give you the maximum available information about Arduino vs Raspberry Pi and helps you choose the one that suits your purposes. I would like to emphasize one more important thing: Arduino is a microcontroller-based board, whereas Raspberry Pi is a microprocessor-based board. Therefore, before studying these two boards in detail, it is pertinent to understand what a microcontroller and a microprocessor are? So that further, when we will learn about Arduino vs Raspberry Pi in detail, it will be convenient for us to understand these boards more easily. So, let’s start with a microcontroller and a microprocessor.
- What is a microcontroller?
- What is a microprocessor?
- What is Arduino?
- What is Raspberry Pi?
- Arduino vs Raspberry Pi: What’s the difference?
- Which to decide between Raspberry Pi and Arduino?
What is a Microcontroller?
Even if you are new to programming and electronics, I am sure that you must have heard of microcontroller boards somewhere in the school, college, in professional life, etc. It is now a widespread name in the electronics world. A Microcontroller board is known as a small computer that is built on a metal oxide semiconductor circuit chip. One thing common in all types of microcontrollers is that they have the same main building parts, like central processing unit (CPU), input/output (I/O), memory, and peripherals (programmable).
Along with one of the most fundamental pieces of any computer, microcontrollers are very interesting things that one can not even imagine and they are also very useful in many aspects.
Microcontrollers have gained a lot of popularity because of their functionality around the world and today, they are regularly used in almost all automatically controlled products and devices, like control devices, automobile engines, remote controls, appliances, power tools, toys, implantable medical devices, and other embedded systems.
They draw the first attention of engineers, enthusiasts, and programmers and are the first choice for making DIY projects and learning.
What is a Microprocessor?
The microprocessor can be defined as a type of miniature electronic device housed on a motherboard of a computer that contains the arithmetic, logic, and control circuitry required to perform the functions of the central processing unit of a digital computer. It is an essential electronic component of a computer that enables a computer to perform its tasks efficiently.
It can be further described as a central processing unit integrated on a single integrated circuit chip accommodating millions of tiny components, like resistors, transistors, and diodes that work together.
The older versions of microprocessors, somewhere around the 20th century, required many chips to do computing tasks. Microprocessors help to do everything starting from controlling elevators to searching the Web. Everything a computer performs is described by computer program instructions. The microprocessor executes these instructions millions of times per second to accomplish the tasks of the computer.
I hope now you have understood many things about microcontrollers and microprocessors. Keeping this knowledge in mind, now we will switch our focus towards the main topic, ‘Arduino vs Raspberry Pi.’ So let’s start understanding these two boards, one by one.
What is Arduino?
Let us start with the Arduino board.
Arduino was developed by Massimo Banzi et al., co-founder of the Arduino project, an Interaction Designer, Educator, and Open Source Hardware advocate, in Ivrea, Italy.
The Arduino project was started in 2005. The aim was to serve it as a tool for students at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, Italy. The other motive was to provide a low-cost and easy way for beginners and professionals to create such devices that interact with their environment using sensors and actuators.
Arduino is known for its simple electronics prototyping tool, which has open-source hardware and software.
Arduino is a type of Microcontroller development board that is used for many purposes, like accepting inputs from Buttons, Blink LEDs, reading data from Sensors, controlling Motors, and many other tasks that are related to “Microcontroller.”
The most popular Arduino Uno is one of the most common Arduino boards available in the market. It is an open-source microcontroller board that is based on ATmega328P Microcontroller and developed by Arduino.cc. Here open-source means that the design files and the source code for software and libraries are freely available, so anyone interested in programming can make use of these free of cost as a reference for making their own Arduino board.
The board is provided with sets of digital and analog input/output (I/O) pins that can be interfaced with various expansion boards (shields) and other circuits.
Its user-friendly features, like an onboard LED, large 2.54mm pitched sockets for connecting to external devices, inbuilt power handling (such as an external DC power jack), and a large USB B connector for connecting to a PC, raise its popularity.
Now let’s discuss the software part of Arduino. All Arduino boards are programmable in C and C++ programming languages, and for this, special software is used which is called Arduino IDE. The Arduino IDE includes all the toolchains that are required for editing source code and compiling and programming the Microcontroller on the Arduino board.
The process of developing applications using these microcontrollers is very lengthy, but if you are an experienced microcontroller (8051, Atmel, or PIC Microcontrollers) user, then you can probably understand it. If you are not familiar with this, let’s go through the process briefly.
The first action is to write the application software, the main source code, in a dedicated IDE, like Keil, Atmel Studio, or PIC’s MPLAB IDE.
Then, compile the code and generate a .hex file which is a form of the binary file.
With the help of special hardware known as “Programmer,” the generated .hex file is to be uploaded to the target microcontroller using programmer software.
With its plug-and-play style of quick programming, Arduino simplified this process. Using the Arduino IDE software, activities like code writing, compiling, and then uploading it to the microcontroller can all be performed. There is no need for separate hardware for program uploading. Simply connect the Arduino board to a computer through the USB Port and then press the upload button, and the Arduino board microcontroller is ready to do its tasks.
What is Raspberry Pi?
The Raspberry Pi was developed by Eben Christopher Upton, Welsh CEO of Raspberry Pi (Trading) Ltd, at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and it was launched in 2012. There have been several iterations and variations of it released since then.
Raspberry Pi is the well-known name of a series of single-board computers developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK charity. The aim behind its creation is to educate people in computing and provide easier access to computing education around the world.
One important point to be noted is that Arduino is a Microcontroller based development board, whereas Raspberry Pi is a Microprocessor (usually an ARM Cortex-A Series) based board that works as a computer.
Raspberry Pi has provisions just like a desktop computer where many peripherals, like a Monitor (through HDMI or AV Port), Keyboard and mouse (through USB), and Camera (via the dedicated Camera Interface) and Internet (through Ethernet or Wi-Fi), can be connected.
The Raspberry Pi and other similar boards are called Single Board Computers or SBC because the entire Computer components, like the Processor, storage, RAM, Graphics, Connectors, etc., are assembled on a single Printed Circuit Board.
Since Raspberry Pi is essentially a full computer, it can run an Operating System. It is the responsibility of the organization called Raspberry Pi Foundation to design and develop Raspberry Pi SBC, and it also provides a Debian-based Linux distribution called the Raspberry Pi OS, which was earlier known as the Raspbian OS.
Another important thing to note about Raspberry Pi is that it works on Linux operating systems, so the software can be developed by using several programming languages, like C, C++, Python, Java, HTML, etc.
Its original intention was to promote programming languages, like Python and Scratch, in schools, but along with this, it also gained popularity among hobbyists, DIY builders, and enthusiasts for developing several applications like Weather Stations, Robotics, Camera-based security systems, etc.
Owing to its success and popularity, its continuous updating and release of new versions can be seen on the regular basis, with the latest one being the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B. All these activities fall under the responsibilities of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
The Raspberry Pi 4 A is currently scheduled for release in 2022. However, Upton hinted that the launching of the Raspberry Pi 5 may face some delay until 2023. The chip shortfall is being considered the main reason behind this delay.
This is to keep in mind that hardware design files and the firmware of Raspberry Pi are not open-source.
Arduino vs Raspberry Pi: What’s the difference?
Both the boards, Arduino vs Raspberry Pi, have been accepted globally as good teaching tools for students, beginners, and hobbyists. But they share some differences among them. Let us elaborate on these differences one by one and understand Arduino vs Raspberry Pi.
1. Technical Specification
Let us have a glance at the technical specifications of the latest available versions of both boards. You will find that they are very different from one another.
Arduino UNO Rev3
Clock 16 Mhz
Memory 32kb Flash Memory and 2 kb SDRAM
GPIO pins 14
Operating Voltage 5V
Raspberry Pi 4 Model B
Clock 1.5 GHz
Memory 4 GB eMMC
eMMC – Embedded MultiMediaCard (eMMC) is an internal data storage card that is built using flash storage.
GPIO pins 40
Operating Voltage 5V
After seeing the technical specifications above, the first thing that strikes the mind is the clock speed of both these two boards. If we look carefully, we will find that in terms of speed, the Raspberry Pi is a hundred times faster than Arduino.
Likewise, if you go more in detail, you can find out other areas too, wherein these two boards share discrepancies between them, like memory, operating voltage, GPIO pins, connectors, connectivity, etc.
Despite Raspberry Pi having the upper hand over Arduino in technical specifications of the key areas, is it not a wonder why Arduino is so popular as Raspberry Pi? What can be the possible reasons? To know the answer, let’s start exploring the reasons.
2. Working Principle
As it is already mentioned earlier that every Arduino is a type of black integrated circuit unit called a microcontroller. It is immaterial whether it’s an older 28-pin DIP (dual-inline-pin) package or a more modern SMD (surface-mounted-device) one. This small chip accommodates everything that is required for computing tasks, such as a microprocessor, a timer, memory, and the I/O ports through which the MCU communicates with an external digital medium. The microcontroller is the main component on the Arduino board that performs the main tasks of the Arduino, whereas the rest of the board, including the Arduino software, is there to help interface with it.
The working of the Raspberry Pi is very different from the Arduino; it works almost as similar as a desktop PC works. Raspberry Pi features a Broadcom CPU on a chip (SoC) with an integrated ARM-compatible central processing unit (CPU) and on-chip graphics processing unit (GPU).
The Broadcom CPU is its core element connected to RAM, ports, and external storage on the board. The Broadcom CPU is a product of Broadcom Inc., an American company having its headquarters in San Jose, California, US, working as a designer, developer, manufacturer, and global supplier of multi types of semiconductor and infrastructure software products.
The function of the Broadcom CPU is to run an operating system that manages the computer’s basic functions, runs programs, controls the HDMI, USB, and RJ45 ports, and provides a graphical interface to display to the user.
This architecture enables Raspberry Pi to do things that are beyond the capacity of Arduino and its microcontroller. But there are some applications where a full-fledged computer of this type is not needed. Think about the circuitry in a computer keyboard. It is used to monitor a set of switches for activity and to report keystroke events happening to your computer. Like this, there are several microcontroller-controlled devices that can be found around the home that do their jobs cheaply and efficiently.
3. Operating System
In comparison with the Raspberry Pi, Arduino boards are microcontrollers boards, not full-fledged computers. Arduino lacks a full operating system, but it can run a written code that is interpreted by its firmware. In the computing field, firmware is defined as a specific class of computer software that allows low-level control for a device’s specific hardware. A bootloader, which is a special type of firmware, is used in Arduino boards. Around 2KB of the Arduino’s flash storage is allocated to it. Since it is not a complete computer, it doesn’t run the program in the same way as Raspberry Pi.
It works differently. It boots the system and performs the instructions provided with the help of Arduino IDE, which is an open-source Arduino Software (IDE) used to write code and then upload it to the board. It is compatible to run on Windows, Mac, or Linux-based machines such as the Raspberry Pi.
It shows that the actual programming is being done on a separate machine, and in this way, the cost factor comes under consideration.
Raspberry Pi runs an operating system called Raspbian, which is a standard and specialized version of Linux. Raspbian is specially optimized for Pi to take out the best output from the architecture of the board and deliver the slickest possible user experience. With that said, nothing prevents ingenious Pi owners from installing completely other operating systems onto their unit.
There are plenty to choose from, including Ubuntu, OSMC, and RetroPie; each Raspberry Pi unit is only a fresh distro (a Linux distribution) away from becoming a games console or a media center.
4. Data Processing Unit
One of the main differences between these two boards is that Arduino is a microcontroller board (a physical programmable circuit board), while Raspberry Pi is a microprocessor (used to perform ALU operations – Arithmetic Logic Unit) based mini computer (SBC).
On the Arduino board, CPU, RAM, and ROM are housed in the Microcontroller unit. All the additional hardware available on Arduino Board is utilized for power supply, programming, and IO Connectivity. On the other hand, the Raspberry Pi SBC board offers all features of a computer, like a processor, memory, storage, graphics driver, and connectors.
Raspberry Pi needs an Operating System to run because it is more complex, with a microprocessor, memory, and GPU. Since it’s like a full-fledged computer, it needs an OS to manage everything. Linux is preferred by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. On the other hand, Arduino doesn’t need any operating system because it is a microcontroller-based board, and microcontrollers don’t have the same amount of computing power or resources as most single-board computers. All you need is a binary of the compiled source code to perform the task. In other words, the microcontroller just needs a firmware that instructs it on what task to do.
5. Clock Speed
The clock speed of Arduino is 16 MHz or 48 MHz, and it depends on the type of microprocessor used on board. The Micro, UNO, and Mega are slower Arduino boards that run at 16/MHz, whereas the Portenta H7 is the fastest Arduino board available which can run up to 480 MHz.
In the Raspberry Pi, newer chips offer power management and power gating, and in addition, it also offers a clock speed of 1.8 GHz, which is much better in comparison with Arduino boards. For reference, Raspberry Pi 4 runs at a 1.5 GHz clock speed, whereas Raspberry Pi 400 offers a clock speed of 1.8 GHz.
6. Power Management
Raspberry Pi and Arduino operate on a different power. They both are powered by USB, Raspberry Pi requires micro-USB or USB Type C, and Arduino needs USB Type B. As the Raspberry Pi requires a higher current to operate, it needs a power adapter, whereas a computer USB port is sufficient to feed power to Arduino.
In terms of power management, power interruption is another important factor. In the case of Raspberry Pi, sudden or frequent power interruption, there is a possibility of damage to the hardware, software, or application. Therefore, utmost care should be taken. Standard operating procedures need to be followed for switching ON and switching OFF the system. The utilization of UPS (uninterruptible power supply) is the best practice to save the system.
Whereas Arduino doesn’t get affected by the power interruption. Whenever the power is restored, it just restarts and starts working without any hassle. But, it doesn’t mean that using UPS here is not a good practice. To get rid of many unexpected troubles, I would recommend that it be used.
With the use of Python, Raspberry Pi functions exceptionally for developing software applications, while Arduino is considered good for interfacing Sensors and controlling LEDs and Motors. But, this doesn’t mean that Raspberry Pi can not be utilized for the same purpose. This can also be utilized to encourage learning programming by controlling hardware, and for this, it is provided with a 40-pin GPIO. GPIO stands for General-purpose input/output. Further, it can be explained as a digital signal pin that is assembled on an integrated circuit for input and output which is controlled by software. Different electronic components, like Buttons, LEDs, Motors, Sensors, etc., can be connected to the board through GPIO pins.
Some dedicated features or functionality, like a Motor Driver, Touchscreens, Ethernet Connection, SD Card Reader, Cameras, Wi-Fi, etc., can be added to Arduino boards by using Arduino Shields. These Arduino Shields are plugged into the Arduino Pin headers.
While Raspberry Pi is a self-contained board, it facilitates the addition of external hardware like Touchscreen, GPS, RGB panels, etc.
The Raspberry Pi Hardware that is inspired by Arduino Shields and is attached on Top or HAT Expansion Boards can be used to add additional functionality to Raspberry Pi. They are normally connected to the GPIO Pins.
When it comes to the cost, the two devices are comparable. As per the available data, the cost of Raspberry Pi boards ranges between $35 to $75, and this cost variation entirely depends upon the type of models being purchased. The RAM capacity plays an important role in the cost factor; cost increases with the increase in the RAM capacity of the models. However, the smallest Raspberry Pi, the Raspberry Pi Zero, costs only $5.
Relatively the cost of Arduino boards also ranges somewhere near to Raspberry Pi boards meaning $18 to $65, and this depends upon the type of model purchased. For example, the Arduino UNO may cost around $20. Though the cost of both the boards is almost comparable, then also, you may find slight differences on different purchasing sites.
The investment cost, particularly in the case of Arduino, sometimes is not in your hand. It depends on your ambition, which means, at some point, according to the requirements, it becomes necessary for you to purchase certain things, like a stackable shield or two or a collection of resistors, sensors, patch cables, and IC units. This raises its cost.
Moreover, once you have finished one project and started expecting another one, it might be possible that you’ll probably order more and more components, along with the tiny little drawers in which to conveniently store them. In addition to this, the cost of a device capable of hosting the Arduino IDE is also included. All these factors influence the cost of the board.
Whereas, in the case of the software-driven approach of Raspberry Pi, what else do you require? Just a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse along with the cables necessary to connect everything, that’s all.
Which to decide between Raspberry Pi and Arduino?
To opt one between these two boards, you should be well cleared of your project and what you want to do. So far, we have understood what these two boards can serve.
Arduino is mainly used for doing repetitive tasks such as controlling the motor as required, opening the main gate, switching the lights on and off, controlling the water overhead tank, reading from temperature sensors, and likewise many other tasks.
Raspberry Pi is considered the best tool to perform multiple tasks, like playing video games, operating complicated robots, connecting to the internet, interface cameras, etc.
For example, there is a need to develop an application where monitoring humidity and temperature readings from DTH11 sensors and displaying the results on an LCD screen is possible. Here, you can think about the Arduino board, which is the best option to complete this project.
But, in case there is a requirement to add some more functionalities to this project, for example, with monitoring humidity and temperature readings from DHT11 Sensor and displaying results on an LCD, in addition, it is required that the system send an email with the results, compare the collected readings online with the weather report and then display the final results on an LCD, then Raspberry Pi is the right choice than Arduino.
In simple words, Arduino is used for beginners projects and where quick electronics prototyping is required, whereas Raspberry Pi is mainly used in some complicated projects wherein multitasking is considered an essential element.
There are some sparkling differences between Arduino vs Raspberry Pi, which are considered subtle and significant. Both boards have considerable pros and cons, but they work exceptionally if used rightly. But these differences don’t matter in such a scenario where they both are used to maximize the output of the project.
In terms of working, the Arduino board can be compared with the spinal cord of the body, which means to say that the Arduino is used to make small-scale decisions such as lighting an LED or taking the temperature of a liquid, or displaying results on an LCD. In contrast, the Raspberry Pi board is considered the brain. It is truly invented for making complex decisions, such as the prediction of future values based on analysis of the past values, controlling robots, etc.
Based on the article, we can conclude that Arduino is an ideal board for a beginner who has a desire to learn electronics and for someone who has some basic knowledge about electronics and is interested in taking up some simple electronics-based projects. Raspberry Pi is perfect for one who knows Linux and wants to develop Linux-based complex networking electronic projects.
At last, we can say that you have been provided with enough knowledge and information by us about Arduino vs Raspberry Pi. Now, we can believe that you can choose the right board according to your requirements.