The premise of this post is a tough one: Arduino vs Raspberry Pi. The one to choose depends entirely on one’s technical know-how and what they want to achieve with it.
The two boards have only one thing in common: the fact that they can be customized and programmed exactly as the user wants. There are fundamental differences, though; while one is a full-fledged computer, the other is a blank slate. The question, therefore, isn’t Arduino vs Raspberry Pi but rather, barebones vs functionality.
Let’s get in-depth on that. Arduino and Raspberry Pi are two sides of the same coin; both are an incredible tool for anyone who wants to build something from scratch, but there are differences.
Is Arduino for You?
Arduino can do anything you want to do with it – as long as you know how to program it for that purpose. That’s where the difference lies.
It’s a microcontroller, not a computer; but on the other hand, you get access to the hardware – down to the metal. There is no overhead for the operating system, which allows your code to utilize the entirety of the Arduino chip for whatever you want.
Raspberry Pi is a computer that can rest in your palm – while it’s on (we don’t recommend doing that).
A Raspberry Pi runs Raspbian – that’s its own flavor of Linux; running a Linux distro means that this little DIY board is capable of anything a regular PC is capable of, and that’s important.
Raspberry Pi has everything a computer does – a processor, some memory, an integrated graphics processor, and a few ports to connect all the peripherals a computer needs.
Most important, Raspbian; an operating system makes things easier – most of the work is done for you. The foundation of Linux is capable of running anything – a game, a media streaming service, a web server, the possibilities are endless.
Difference between Arduino and Raspberry Pi
The summary above should be enough for anyone on the fence, but there are plenty of other nuances to consider.
The disparity of power requirement between the two boards is quite significant, and so is their behavior.
As mentioned, the Raspberry Pi is a full-fledged computer; it turns on like a computer and goes through an entire process to shut down. The power requirement is also higher than an Arduino, at 5V of constant current, it’s like charging a mobile phone all the time.
The Arduino, on the other hand, has no overhead. It starts executing its code when it turns on, and the shutdown process is as simple as cutting the power out.
Arduino and Raspberry Pi both can be extended by simply plugging in the extensions; while the Raspberry Pi supports various accessories via its GPIO pins, it’s not quite as simple as Arduino.
The GPIO pins on a Raspberry Pi require basic knowledge of soldering for the connections. These pins can be controlled via some basic code in the Raspberry Pi, but their possibilities are quite limited, as they are merely a physical representation of 1’s and 0’s. They can either be on, or off, and that’s how they interact. They can also detect the amount of voltage received, which can be (sometimes) used for more nuanced tasks.
Arduino, on the other hand, comes with “shields.” There are hundreds of these boards, each with its own set of features and sensors that can be stacked on top of an Arduino.
Some shield boards can even be stacked on top of each other; it’s essentially like LEGO. Do you want a temperature sensor? Just add a shield with one to the Arduino board. Need to fetch the weather forecast? Add a network shield on top of it.
That brings us to our next section.
The difference between the Raspberry Pi and Arduino becomes clear one when it comes to networking.
The Raspberry Pi has a 100 Mbps LAN Ethernet jack built into it. It also has 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 Ghz WiFi; users can use the wired connection or the wireless – Linux handles everything, and everything is quite simple. It just works, like a computer would.
Arduino, on the other hand, isn’t built for networking; it’s isolated and doesn’t come with wireless or wired connectivity.
It’s possible to add networking in an Arduino with a shield board – as discussed – but networking is a lot more than just the hardware. Connecting to a website, for example, requires several layers of protocol – Arduino has none of it, and so users must build the entire network stack from the ground up.
There is some pre-made code available to do this, but it’s not easy, and it certainly doesn’t work all the time.
The Choice – Arduino vs Raspberry Pi
So, Arduino vs Raspberry Pi; the question should rather be Arduino or Raspberry Pi.
The two DIY boards aren’t competing, but complementing each other; in fact, some projects require Arduino and Raspberry Pi working in conjunction.
If your project needs you to read a lot of sensor data and do some task at a certain threshold – Arduino is the way to go.
If the project requires you to read some sensor data, then compare it with data available online, process it through a complicated algorithm, and then perform a task – Raspberry Pi is the way to go.
If your project handles both sides of the coin, then you need an Arduino and a Raspberry Pi – they represent both sides of the same coin.
In the end, it boils down to what we said earlier: barebones vs functionality. The Raspberry Pi offers a lot more than Arduino in terms of the foundation and complexity; however, the Arduino is barebones, has no overhead, and is a lot simpler to program – as long as the task is simple.
Hopefully, this comparison of Arduino vs Raspberry Pi helped you decide what you really want. If it didn’t, perhaps consider using both boards in the project. Arduino can collect the data and interact with any sensors or physical actuators, while the Raspberry Pi can process the data and be the “brain” commanding an Arduino – or a whole bunch of Arduinos.