In January of 2021, the Raspberry Pi Pico module was unveiled and released with an MSRP of $4 USD. This marks the first official microcontroller to come from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It’s extra small, about the length of your thumb, and is powered by the RP2040 processor mentioned above.
We adore the Pico and its creation has led to some really cool projects that we never even considered possible. But thanks to its small size and low power demands, it’s proven to be a useful little board with loads of potential and 26 GPIO to take advantage of.
In October, the Raspberry Pi Foundation team announced the release of a new Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W board. This is a successor to the Raspberry Pi Zero W, offering more processing speed than its predecessor, with measurements capping in at 1GHz. The biggest drawback to the new module is its lack of memory. Despite the upgrades, it uses only 512MB of SDRAM.
The coolest part about the new Pi Zero 2 W is how easy it is to replace the old model with the new one. The form factor is identical, meaning your biggest hurdle will be software-related. You definitely want to back up any current project build before trying to switch to the new board.
As far as official accessories go, the LEGO Build HAT was launched in October. It’s made to work with the Raspberry Pi 4 and has connectors that are compatible with LEGO Technic kits. This HAT is most optimal for students who’ve taken the time to play with LEGO robotic kits in the past. It bridges a gap that makes it easier to grasp real-world applications of the Raspberry Pi.
The PicoSystem was a long-awaited accessory from Pimoroni. It wasn’t immediately available, but was hyped up early in 2021. It has a small display, 4 buttons, a D-pad, and is powered by the RP2040. To keep things mobile, it has a nook for clipping onto keychains and can be recharged using its LiPo battery. This system isn’t intended for emulation, but rather programming original games with Python.
The Pimoroni Pico RGB Keypad Base may be the 4x4 glowing input device of our dreams. It features 16 programmable keys with a silicone cover on top. You will need to purchase a Pico separately to set up and use the keypad. It’s designed for USB input, so your keypad project can be plug-and-play.
If you want to add power to your Pico project, the Pico LiPo board from Pimoroni is an easy way to get started. It’s built around the RP2040, offers 30 programmable GPIO pins, and features a JST connector (sometimes referred to as STEMMA QT) for attaching LiPo batteries without the need to solder.
One of the most popular modules to come from Pimoroni this year is the Pico Display Pack. It requires a Raspberry Pi Pico to operate and features a small LCD display for video output. In addition to the cool little screen, it has four buttons around the perimeter that can be programmed with custom functions. It’s an excellent board—especially for young makers who want to tinker.
If you’re looking to build your own keyboard, you need to check out Adafruit’s KB2040 RP2040 Kee Boar Driver—an RP2040-based driver board. It’s been so popular that it’s already sold out on the official Adafruit website. It has 30 GPIO to use and 8MB of SPI flash.
This RGB keypad from Adafruit offers a few extra modules than the Pico RGB Keypad from Pimoroni. With the MacroPad RP2040 Starter Kit, users have a small LCD screen and rotary encoder to program, as well. These extra design elements make it a bit more exciting, but also raise the price. You won’t need to supply your own Pico as the board is built using the RP2040 processor.
This board is an excellent choice for the education field as well as makers who want to experiment with robotics. Developed by Cytron, the Maker Pi RP2040 features the RP2040 processor and a variety of tools for controlling things like motors for custom robot projects.
Want to make things even smaller? Adafruit’s QT Py RP2040 board is so small it makes the Pico look huge. It’s build on top of the RP2040 processor and features a Qwiic JST connector along with a USB Type-C port. It has a form factor of just 21.8mmx 17.8mm.
The release of this RP2040 board was long awaited. It’s a hair smaller than the Raspberry Pi Pico, but offers both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support. This wireless support sets the Nano RP2040 Connect apart from other RP2040 boards, but also bumps the price up to around $12 when the Pico goes for $4.
SparkFun also got in on the RP2040 action with this thing—or should we say SparkFun Thing Plus? It has a JST qwiic connector, a couple of buttons, a USB Type-C port, and 30 GPIO. This board is a lot easier to power with the JST port while reserving the original form factor as close as possible. This module also has a mounting hole in each corner to help make it easier to attach to whatever fun project you're working on.
Teeny boards mean teeny components! The Arducam 5MP Plus OV5642 Mini Camera Module is made to connect with boards as small as the Pico. It can capture images at 5MP and store them as JPEG files. If you've got a Pico project in mind that needs a camera, this is the module you need to consider.
The Pibow case is a classic rainbow-striped Raspberry Pi case and with the release of the Pi Zero 2 W, Pimoroni made a new special edition. The Pibow Zero 2 W model fits the Zero 2 W perfectly and is incompatible with previous Pi Zero models. It exposes the GPIO and ports for easy access, so you don’t have to remove it from the case to tinker when using it for projects.