Once again, the Raspberry Pi foundation surprised the world. They just announced the Raspberry Pi Zero. But don’t let the name fool you. It’s essentially a stripped-down Raspberry Pi, with a price to match: each costs just $5. And no, it not typo.

So is it good? What can it do? What compromises were made to get it at such a low price. And more importantly, how can you get one? Read on to find out all these things and more.

What is inside?

While there are some fairly significant differences from the mainstream Raspberry Pi line, it feels deeply familiar.

In terms of cold hard performance, very little stands out compared to earlier models. It comes soldered with 512MB of RAM, as well as a slightly wheezy 1GHz ARM processor and 40 GPIOs (general purpose input output). ports . It can work with Scratch and Minecraft and supports a wide range of Linux distributions, including Fedora, NOOBS (Linux distribution for beginners). ), and Raspberry Pi fan favorite, Raspbian. It’s even made in the same factory as the Raspberry Pi B+ and Raspberry Pi 2 in Bridgend, Wales.

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Basically, it’s a Raspberry Pi. But there are some really important differences that make it stand out. I’m not only talking about its low price, although in itself it innovative .

Admittedly a bit obvious, it’s worth emphasizing how incomprehensibly the tiny Raspberry Pi Zero is. It measures 30mm (3cm) by 65mm (6.5cm), roughly the size of a box of matches. It’s hard to believe that a fully Linux-compatible machine can take up such a small physical footprint.

Regardless, it is compatible with most Raspberry Pi based Internet of Things (IoT) projects. Make Magazine tested it on their Pirate Radio Project, and it worked with a minimum of modifications.

Of course, it goes without saying that a number of compromises have been made to make the Raspberry Pi Zero so small and so affordable.

What is missing?

Perhaps the most notable absence is the lack of wired network and analog audio output. If you want to connect to the Internet, you’ll need to connect a USB Wi-Fi dongle via the built-in MicroUSB connection. Similarly, if you’re hoping to listen to music on your Raspberry Pi Zero, you’ll need to stream it through the mini-HDMI port. This means that your monitor must have built-in speakers.

The official Raspberry Pi store sells a kit consisting of a mini-HDMI and MicroUSB adapter. This will set you back £4 or around $7. While you can easily get each of these products on Amazon separately for roughly the same price, give or take a few dollars.

But these are minor inconveniences. Especially when you put them next to a decision to use a Broadcom BCM2835 processor.

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This is the same processor that came with every model prior to the Raspberry Pi 2. although it operates at 1 GHz rather than 700 MHz. The Achilles’ heel of this processor is that it uses the same legacy ARMv6 instruction set, which is only supported on a small number of Linux distributions. Ubuntu, unfortunately, is not one of them. This also means it cannot run Microsoft Windows 10 for IoT Core

Are there competitors?

I call it: Raspberry Pi Zero almost certainly the cheapest Linux computer on the planet. However, there are similar inexpensive alternatives that are equally worth considering.

Perhaps the most obvious of these is the CHIP computer, which bills itself as the world’s first $9 Linux computer.

CHIP was a kickstarter phenomenon raising $2,000,000 in just one month. It shares many similarities with the 40mm (4cm) by 60mm (6cm) Raspberry Pi Zero and boasts similar specs including a 1GHz Allwinner CPU, 512MB RAM, and 4GB internal storage. Unlike the Pi Zero, it comes with built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, making it more appealing to those looking for an everyday computer.

If you’re planning on using your Raspberry Pi Zero for teaching coding or in the classroom, you should check out MicroBit BBC for yourself.

This miniature computer clearly resembles the Raspberry Pi Zero form factor. It comes with plenty of GPIOs and support for the Python programming language, though it’s by no means a general purpose computing platform. Only those applications that are written for it by the user are supported. Every 7th grade student in the UK will be given one free before it is eventually made available for purchase by the general public. When it comes out, it will most likely compete with the Raspberry Pi Zero on price, though definitely not on features.

That’s not to mention the astonishing number of Linux single board computers on the market right now, from PandaBoard to Banana Pi to ODROID. But none of them are as affordable as the Raspberry Pi Zero. This piece of kit is truly in a class of its own.

Where to get one

You shouldn’t have too much trouble getting a Raspberry Pi Zero. In the UK it can be purchased from element14, The Pi Hut and Pimoroni. If you live in the US, you can get it from Adafruit and Micro Center.

Even better, if you live in the UK, you can get a free device with the December version of The MagPi, which is available in stores right now. You understood me correctly. Free computer with magazine .

Will you get one?

The Raspberry Pi Zero is an irresistible piece of kit that offers a lot of money for your (five) dollars. But do you plan to get one? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat.

Photo: Raspberry Pi Zero GPIO Soldering Project (Gareth Halfacre), Raspberry Pi Zero GPIO Soldering Project (Gareth Halfacre)

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