Knowledge for the World

Arduino vs Raspberry Pi - What's the difference?

Starting a new project? Excellent! Digital creations require digital guts. But what kind of digital guts do you need? When it comes to planning out the electronics of your project, you need something that not only does the job, but does it well.

Thankfully we have plenty of options in 2018. It's not hard to find affordable, pocket sized machines made just for these types of projects. The best options today are Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards. Choosing the right one is critical to the success of your project. Hence the age old question:

Do I need a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino?

Well, lucky for you the answer isn't too complicated. Let's explore specs and use cases for each to help you decide!

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Raspberry Pi features and specs

Image Source: Raspberry Pi

SpecRaspberry Pi (3B+)
SoCBroadcom BCM2837B0 (quad-core 1.4GHz)
GPUBroadcom Videocore-IV
RAM1GB LPDDR2 SDRAM
NetworkingGigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi
BluetoothBluetooth 4.2, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
StoreMicro SD
Input/Output40-pin GPIO header
PortsHDMI, 3.5mm analog jack, 4 USB 2.0, Ethernet, CSI, DSI

What's a Raspberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi is a small, but incredibly capable machine. It was designed by The Raspberry Pi Foundation, a charity organization based out of the UK. Their goal was to create an affordable, high-performing, pocket-sized computer. The creation of the Raspberry Pi was a resounding success. The tiny computer is incredibly useful, but simple enough to make programming easy to learn.

The Raspberry Pi is designed with several standard computer features, but on a much smaller scale. You've got a GPU, USB ports, input/output pins for external hardware, and even bluetooth capability! You can find several different versions of the Raspberry Pi—some editions have more features while others have less. Overall, the Raspberry Pi is an extremely versatile computer.

Example Raspberry Pi Projects

  • Light desktop computer - Ideal for word processing, media servers, and browsing.
  • Retro gaming - Check out our guide on how to set up RetroPie!
  • Robot brain - Ideal for controlling complex, multi-feature robots.
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Arduino features and specs

Image Source: Arduino

SpecArduino Uno (Rev 3)
MicrocontrollerATmega328P
GPUN/A
RAM2KB SRAM
NetworkingN/A
BluetoothN/A
Store32KB flash memory
Input/Output14 pins (6 reserved for PWM output)
PortsN/A

What's an Arduino?

The Arduino was created back in 2005. Like the Raspberry Pi, it was designed to help anyone eager to learn programming. The team wanted to create a pocket-sized solution that was affordable for schools. Arduino boards have become very popular over the years among hobbyists and professionals alike.

Arduino boards are much smaller than Pi boards. They come with different features, hardware, and overall intention. If you're looking for a chip to control functions on a micro scale, Arduinos are perfect. They're programmable to interact with external devices—often on a loop or under certain conditions.

Example Arduino Projects

  • Servo motor control - Ideal for controlling servo motor with custom programming.
  • Custom LED patterns - Design your own light show by controlling LED variables.
  • Simple robots - Ideal for robots who do simple things like walk and dance.
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SpecRaspberry Pi (3B+)Arduino Uno (Rev 3)
SoCBroadcom BCM2837B0 (quad-core 1.4GHz)N/A
MicrocontrollerN/AATmega328P
GPUBroadcom Videocore-IVN/A
RAM1GB LPDDR2 SDRAM2KB SRAM
NetworkingGigabit Ethernet, Wi-FiN/A
BluetoothBluetooth 4.2, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)N/A
StoreMicro SD32KB flash memory
Input/Output40-pin GPIO header14 pins (6 reserved for PWM output)
PortsHDMI, 3.5mm analog jack, 4 USB 2.0, Ethernet, CSI, DSIN/A

What’s the difference between the Raspberry Pi and Arduino?

The Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer (SBC). If you're looking for a graphical user interface (GUI), this is the option for you. Raspberry Pi's are compatible with many different operating systems, including light desktops like Raspbian.

The Arduino, on the other hand, is a true microcontroller. These boards are perfect for projects that use a large number of inputs or outputs. They can handle complex hardware tasks much better than the Raspberry Pi. For example, Arduino boards are ideal for controlling things like sensors, servo motors, and LEDs.

Choosing a board

When deciding which board you need, start by taking a close look at your project. Break down your project goals by individual function. You can ask yourself specific questions like:

  • Will the project require internet access?
  • Is there a need to control multiple hardware components or just one?

Take your time when planning. In some cases, either may work but one may provide better efficiency. It also helps to research online to see how similar projects were constructed.

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The coolest part about these two devices is the creative potential in putting them together. Arduinos make great microcontrollers. They’re programmable to respond under certain conditions and can even interface with the Raspberry Pi.

For some projects, you will find that both devices are necessary. Maybe your robot needs to control a hand, but not all of the time. Perhaps your Pi powered greenhouse needs to vent a window to make airflow adjustments—an Arduino controller servo motor can open it right up! At the end of the day, you're only limited by your imagination.