Raspberry Pi Models Comparison: Which Pi is Right for My Application?

There are many different types of Raspberry Pi models available. Before choosing a specific model, you should know what kind of project you’re going to do.

It can be a little daunting selecting the right Raspberry Pi for you- especially if you are new to the Raspberry Pi scene! With that in mind, we are going to be taking a look at the different models of Raspberry Pi and see which ones are best used for various applications.

Let’s get started. The first thing we need to do is look at all of the different kinds of Raspberry Pi’s currently available.

Raspberry Pi Models Comparison

Raspberry Pi Models

Raspberry Pi

  • Raspberry Pi Model A: Model A uses a 700MHz ARM1136JZF CPU that can run at up to 900Mhz It also comes with 512MB of RAM, however, it lacks Ethernet and MicroSD card slots.
  • Raspberry Pi Model A+: Model A+ utilizes a 700MHz ARM Cortex-A7 processor that can run up to 600Mhz. It also includes 256MB RAM, but no Ethernet ports.
  • Raspberry Pi Model B+: Model B+ utilizes a 750MHz ARM Cortex-A7 processor running up to 600Mhz. It also features 512MB RAM, but it has no MicroSD card slot.

Raspberry Pi 2

  • Raspberry Pi 2: The second generation of the Raspberry Pi computer uses a 400MHz ARMv7 processor running at up to 900Mhz, but it lacks Ethernet and MicroSD card sockets.

Raspberry Pi Zero

  • The Raspberry Pi Zero: The tiny Raspberry Pi Zero is a small credit card size computer based on the Raspberry Pi board. It has a 700MHz ARMv6 processor and 512MB RAM, but it lacks Ethernet ports and a MicroSD card slot.
  • Raspberry Pi Zero W/WH: The Raspberry Pi Zero W/WH is an upgraded version of the original. It has a 700MHz ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and 512MB RAM. It doesn’t have Ethernet ports, nor does it have a MicroSD slot.
  • Raspberry Pi Zero 2W: The Raspberry Pi 2W is a second-generation Raspberry Pi Zero. It runs at 800MHz and has 768MB RAM. It has two USB slots, an SD card slot, and an Ethernet port.

Raspberry Pi 3

  • Raspberry Pi 3 A: The Raspberry Pi 3 A is a low-cost single-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU variant of the Raspberry Pi 3. It has a 700 MHz clock speed, 512 MB RAM, and a 40 pin GPIO header. This chip is also used in the Raspberry Pi 3 Model.
  • Raspberry Pi Model 3: Model 3 has an 800MHz ARM Cortex- A9 processor running at up to 550Mhz. It also has 128MB RAM, but features no Ethernet port.
  • Raspberry Pi 3 B+: Model 3B+ has an 800MHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor running at up to 550Mhz. It also comes with 128MB RAM and a MicroSD card slot.

Raspberry Pi 4

  • Raspberry Pi 4: The latest iteration of the Raspberry Pi family. It has a quad-core ARM Cortex A72 processor that runs at up to 1.2GHz. It also has 1GB RAM and a microSD card slot.
  • Raspberry Pi 4 B: The Raspberry Pi 4 B is a new revision of the Raspberry Pi 4. It has a quad-core ARM Cortex-A72 processor that can run up to 1.4GHz. It has 1GB RAM and a microSD slot.
  • Raspberry Pi 4 400: The 400 is a new model that uses a 400MHz Cortex-A73 processor rather than the 1.4GHz processor found in the original Raspberry Pi 4. It has 1GB RAM and a microSD card slot.

Raspberry Pi Pico

  • Raspberry Pi Pico: Pico is a miniaturized version of the Raspberry Pi. It has a 700MHz ARM Cortex A8 processor, 512 MB RAM, and a 40 pin GPIO header. It can be plugged directly into a computer and connected to an LCD screen.

What Is the Difference Between Raspberry Pi Models?

You can see from the specifications that each model of the Raspberry PI has something a little different to offer, with the newer models offering more than their predecessors. Let’s take a look at some of the key differences between the different Raspberry Pi models.

Processor Speed

The speed of the processor between the model of each Raspberry Pi is a significant factor depending on what you plan to use the device for. In fact, this is probably one of the most substantial elements to consider when buying a Raspberry Pi.

If you are looking for a speediness, then the Model A is probably the best choice. All of the Raspberry Pi’s use Broadcom BCM 2835 ARM 1176 JZF-S 700MHz CPUs. The Model B has only 1 GB RAM, making it one of the slower models.

Model A+ has slightly better performance than Model B+ The Raspberry Pi 2, 3, and 4 are all much faster than the other models. The Raspberry Pi 3 has twice the processing power of the Raspberry Pi 2 and the Raspberry Pi 4 has even more power and speed.

Processor Type

Depending on which model of Raspberry Pi you’re using, the processor used in it may vary. For instance, Model B+ uses an ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz CPU, but Model 3B uses an ARM Cortex-A7 1 GHz CPU.

Both models utilize a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC with a Video Core IV GPU, but Model 2 has a Broadcom BCM2708 500 MHz CPU without a GPU. 

Connectivity Options

Each Raspberry Pi model has varying connectivity options. Model A has only one Ethernet port, whereas Model B+ and 3B both have two Ethernet ports. All the Raspberry Pi models have USB ports, but the more recent models have much stronger connectivity options.

Check the specifications to see exactly what each model offers in terms of connectivity so that you can use the one that will suit your uses best. 

Power Supply Requirements

All Raspberry Pi models need 5V DC power input (either from a wall outlet or battery). They also require access to a microSD card slot, but they don’t need an SD card reader. Make sure you have access to the right power supply with your chosen Raspberry Pi.

Memory Size

Each Raspberry Pi model has varying amounts of memory. The Model A has just 512 MB RAM, the B+ has 256 MB, the Model 3B comes with 128 MB, and the Model 2 doesn’t come with any RAM.

This means that your applications will run slower if you choose a Raspberry Pi without enough RAM.

The Raspberry Pi 4 B model is probably the best option if you require something particularly spacious, as it offers different levels of RAM, from 1GB up to 8GB.

You will want to opt for more memory if you plan on doing more with the device, especially if you want to use files that can be large, such as video games or movies. 

Ethernet Ports

If you plan on connecting your Raspberry Pi directly to another device via Ethernet, then the Model A, B+, B, or 400 of the Raspberry Pi 3 are the best choices, as well as the Raspberry Pi 4 models B and 400. These models all offer Ethernet ports for such connections.

MicroSD Card Slot

Each Raspberry Pi model includes a microSD card slot, so you can add additional memory as needed. However, this can be difficult because the capacity of the micro SD card depends on how much RAM you have.

For example, the first Model A requires a 16GB microSD, the second Model B+ requires a 32GB microSD, and the third Model 3B requires a 64GB microSD.

HDMI Port

If you want to be able to connect your Raspberry Pi up to other screens- or capture HDMI video input- you will need to opt for a model that has an HDMI port. 

USB Ports

Much like with the HDMI and Ethernet ports, a USB port increases the amount of physical connectivity that you can achieve with your Raspberry Pi.

Not all models offer this, so check which ones have one incorporated if this is something you need from your device.

Raspberry Pi Features

Which Raspberry Pi Should I Buy?

So now that we’ve covered some of the basic distinctions between the different Raspberry Pi boards, let’s take a look at which one would be best suited for your application.

Each model has its strengths and weaknesses. We will go over the different types of models available and explain why they are best suited for certain applications.

The Original Raspberry Pi Model (B): This early model comes with 512MB RAM and a 1GB flash drive. This model is perfect if you’re just starting out when it comes to electronic projects, but you don’t want to spend too much money.

It is also great if you want to teach kids how to code because you don’t need any additional hardware such as a keyboard, mouse, screen, etc. On the other hand, the Raspberry Pi B does not include Wi-Fi connectivity, so you will need to buy a separate adapter.

If you plan on doing anything besides just playing around with your Raspberry Pi, you might want to consider upgrading to one of the higher-end models.

The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B: This is one of the more popular Raspberry Pi models. It has twice the processing power of the first Raspberry Pi model, can support many programs simultaneously, and supports multiple displays.

You can even plug an external hard drive into the Raspberry Pi 2 and turn it into a fully functioning PC!

If you’re looking for a simple way to create a web server, this model is perfect. The downside to this Raspberry Pi is the high cost. It is definitely not cheap at $40 USD. If you decide to buy this model, you should know that it takes up a lot of space.

It needs at least five inches by ten inches to fit everything inside, The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B does not come with a case either, so you must be careful when handling it.

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+: This is another highly popular Raspberry Pi model and one of the fastest available. It has a quad-core Cortex A53 processor clocking at 1.2 GHz, and runs at 900 MHz (1.2 GHz). It has twice the computing power as the Raspberry Pi 2.

Furthermore, it also has twice the amount of RAM as the Raspberry Pi 2, and can support up to eight USB ports. The Raspberry Pi 3 is very powerful, but is also relatively affordable. You can get one at a price of less than $50.

It’s best to get the version with an Ethernet port, since it will make connecting to the Internet easier.

The Raspberry Pi Model B3: This is another relatively new Raspberry Pi model. It has an octo-core processor clocked 1GHz and has four times the processing power of a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. It also has more storage capacity than the previous two models, so you can store more files.

The Raspberry Pi 3 is the only model with an integrated Wi-Fi card. Other models include a USB Wi-Fi dongle. If you plan on using your Raspberry Pi for anything other than just messing around, then you should consider buying this model.

That being said, it is an expensive model. The prices can range from $70-$100 depending on where you buy them.

The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B: This is another recent release of the Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi 4 is the smallest version of the Raspberry Pi yet. It has a quad-core ARMv8 CPU clocking at 1.4 GHz and runs at 1.2 GHz.

It has twice the memory capacity in comparison to previous models and includes a Gigabit Ethernet port. This is a handy feature that allows you to connect directly to the Internet.

The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is the best choice if you are looking for a low-cost but high-performance model, as you can get one for as low as $35.

The Raspberry Pi Zero W: This is another rather contemporary addition to the Raspberry Pi family. The Raspberry Pi Zero is essentially a stripped-down version of Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, with a single-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU clocked at 700MHz and runs at 500MHz.

It has half the memory and storage capacity as the new Raspberry Pi 4 Model, but it has all the same features as the previous model, including HDMI output, micro SD card slot, and network connectivity, but it costs $100 less. It’s designed for use in embedded systems such as IoT devices.

Common Uses for a Raspberry Pi

There are several common applications for a Raspberry Pi. Let’s check out some examples.

Gaming

One of the best ways to use a Raspberry Pi (or any computer for that matter) is to play video games on it. With a Raspberry Pi, you can basically create your own gaming console. There are many different types of games you can play from across a wide range of consoles across the years.

Education

Raspberry Pi’s can also be an excellent way to teach kids about computers. There are many educational resources available online that allow children to learn computer programming by building robots, and these can be used with a Raspberry Pi.

Home Automation

Many home automation projects involve using a Raspberry Pi. You could build a home monitoring system that monitors the temperature and humidity inside your house, as well as a wide range of other useful projects. They can also help save energy, which is always a bonus!

Security

A Raspberry Pi can be used to protect your data. They’re used by many people to secure their homes against burglary. They can be used to remotely open doors and turn lights on and off.

Now that we know all of the Raspberry Pi models- as well as some common uses for the device and why you might want to consider investing in one- let’s take a look at some operating systems that you can utilize with the device and some essential accessories that you will definitely want to consider! 

Raspberry Pi Operating Systems

Linux: Raspbian is the default operating system for all models of the Raspberry Pi. Raspbian is a version of Debian Linux based on Debian GNU/Linux 7 (wheezy).

Windows 10 IoT Core: is yet another common operating system for certain Raspberry Pi models. It is designed for smaller embedded devices, such as the Raspberry Pi. It is available only if you have a 64-bit processor.

Android: Android is an open-source software platform for mobile devices. It is based on Linux and designed primarily for use on touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

OpenELEC: OpenELEC (Open Electric Community) is a lightweight distribution for Raspberry Pi computers. It includes Kodi media center software and is an open-source project.

FreeBSD: FreeBSD is an open-source Unix-like operating system. It is based on BSD, a software distribution system. It is mainly aimed at server and workstation users.

Other distributions include Ubuntu MATE, Fedora, Arch Linux (also known as Arch), Gentoo, and PCLinuxOS.

What Accessories Will You Need for a Raspberry Pi?

You’ll need some of these items to get started with the Raspberry Pi (depending on how you are planning to use it):

Power Adapter: If you don’t already have an external power supply for your Raspberry Pi, you can buy one separately. However, most people would rather buy one than two because it saves time and costs less.

MicroSD Card: You will need to have a microSD card with at least 1GB of storage space in order to install Raspbian OS on your Raspberry Pi. If you have a 64GB microSD card, you may not be able to store all the apps that you want to install onto your Raspberry Pi.

HDMI Cable: If you plan to use your Raspberry Pi to display content on an HDTV or monitor, then you will definitely need to buy this accessory as well.

USB Wi-Fi Dongle: To use a Wi-Fi connection on your Raspberry Pi with a model that doesn’t have a built-in connection, you need a USB wireless dongle.

Plugging this device into your Raspberry Pi and connecting it to your router wirelessly allows you to use your computer without having to be connected to a power source.

USB Keyboard & Mouse: A keyboard and mouse are essential accessories for your Raspberry Pi, particularly if you want to use the device for gaming. They let you type text into the terminal window and move your mouse around the desktop environment.

HDD: To store data permanently onto your Raspberry Pi, it requires an HDD (hard disk). The size of the hard drive depends upon how much data you wish to store on your Raspberry Pi. For example, if your Raspberry Pi has a hard disk, then you should use a smaller SSD instead of a larger one.

Case: A case is essential when it comes to protecting your Raspberry Pi from damage. Cases come in various shapes and sizes. There are cases designed specifically for Raspberry Pi boards, but there are also cases that can accommodate other boards as well.

Monitor: If you want to see what’s happening on your Raspberry Pi screen, then a monitor is another essential piece of equipment. A monitor allows you to see the desktop environment of your Raspberry Pi.

Cables: There are many types of cables available in the market and if you are planning on connecting up your Raspberry Pi to various devices, you are going to need some!

Some of them are HDMI, VGA, DVI, DisplayPort, etc. Once you know exactly what you are using your Raspberry Pi for, you should be able to decipher which cable you are going to require (if you require one at all).

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, our guide has helped you decipher which Raspberry Pi model does what!  Each Raspberry Pi has its strengths and weaknesses, but with some research- and with a bit of help from our guide- you are well on your way to making the choice that is perfect for you and your chosen application.

Melanie Nilsen
Latest posts by Melanie Nilsen (see all)