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Arduino vs Raspberry Pi: Comparing Two Popular Small Computers

Posted:02:29 PM January 08, 2024 writer: Ibrar Ayyub

Arduino vs Raspberry Pi: Comparing Two Popular Small Computers

When looking to build homemade projects involving simple electronics and programming, two main platforms come to mind — Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Both systems have their merits, and choosing between them depends on your specific needs and goals for the project. Here we will compare the Arduino and Raspberry Pi head-to-head to help you determine which one is the better fit.

What is Arduino?

Arduino is an open-source hardware and programming organization most popular for its line of microcontroller advancement sheets. The boards feature a microcontroller, inputs/outputs for connecting electronics like sensors, displays and motors, and integrated programming support.

Arduino gets its name from the Italian city where the task started. The organization will probably make microcontroller programming and actual processing more available to specialists, architects, specialists and anyone with any interest in establishing intelligent articles or conditions.

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Some key things to know about Arduino:

  • Microcontroller-based: At the core of each and every Arduino board is an Atmel AVR microcontroller chip that plays out all the handling and information/yield exercises.
  • Simple to use: Arduino IDE software has a very simple interface for writing and uploading code to the boards, eliminating the need to mess with low-level programming details. Syntax resembles common computer languages.
  • Code is uploaded over USB: Once code is written and compiled, it can simply be uploaded to the microcontroller by plugging the board into a computer's USB port. No extra hardware needed.
  • Digital and analog I/O pins: Arduinos have both digital pins for on/off signalling as well as analog input pins that can detect varying voltage levels, allowing connection to sensors and real-world data monitoring.
  • Open-source community: Thanks to its open-source nature, Arduino has grown a thriving online community sharing projects, code libraries, tutorials and more. This makes it very beginner-friendly to learn and expand capabilities.
  • Low cost: Basic Arduino boards can cost as little as $5-10, making experimentation affordable. However, functionality is limited compared to more full-fledged single board computers.

In summary, Arduino excels for interactive electronic projects with a relatively simple scope that involve physical computing and sensor interfacing. It's great for amateurs and instructive prototyping because of its low value, usability and open engineer support in the local area.

What is Raspberry Pi?

Raspberry Pi is a progression of little single-board PCs created in the UK to advance showing software engineering in schools and foster programming abilities. Whereas Arduino is primarily a microcontroller, Raspberry Pi packs the full functionality of a portable Linux computer system onto a single circuit board.

Here are some key things to know about Raspberry Pi:

  • Full-fledged computer: Unlike microcontroller-based boards like Arduino, Raspberry Pi contains all the necessary components of a standalone computer including a CPU, RAM, networking/USB support, video/display outputs and more.
  • Linux OS: Raspberry Pi ships with a standard desktop Linux distribution (Raspbian) allowing usage as a normal desktop/laptop would. Other operating systems are also supported like Windows 10 IoT.
  • Multipurpose computing: Thanks to its full computer capabilities, Raspberry Pi can be used for various purposes beyond simple prototyping like web browsing, digital signage, retro gaming, file/media serving and more.
  • Onboard peripherals: Models come equipped with wireless and Bluetooth functionality, GPIO pins for interaction, HDMI video output, and other integrated I/O ports like Ethernet and USB without requiring add-on shields.
  • Wide software/hardware support: Raspberry Pi runs standard PC software and most Linux/Windows programming interfaces and libraries. It also supports a huge variety of add-on hardware like cameras, sensors and display modules.
  • Open-source design and community: Like Arduino, Raspberry Pi is based on open-source principles which have fostered communities developing additional software, tutorials and support forums online to assist users.
  • Higher cost: Basic Raspberry Pi boards start around $35, significantly more expensive than a basic Arduino. However, capabilities are vastly more full-featured as a result.

In summary, Raspberry Pi provides a fully-fledged small-form Linux computer, with integrated I/O, display support and large community resources for diverse projects well beyond what is possible using Arduino alone.

Arduino vs Raspberry Pi: Head-to-Head Comparison

We should investigate how Arduino and Raspberry Pi look at across a few vital standards:

Hardware Specifications

Arduino is a simple microcontroller board, with limited onboard storage, no independent processor and minimal RAM. Performance is good for simple tasks but not demanding applications. Raspberry Pi on the other hand packs the horsepower of a full PC into a small form factor, with various CPU and RAM configurations available across different models.

Winner: Raspberry Pi - As a full standalone computer, it provides exponentially greater processing power, memory, storage and I/O capabilities compared to the less powerful Arduino microcontroller.

Programming & Software

Arduino uses a simplified version of C/C++ through its IDE for developing sketches to run on the microcontroller. Libraries provide additional functions but overall scope is limited. Raspberry Pi can run full desktop OS distributions like Raspbian and supports all common desktop computer languages, frameworks and tooling.

Winner: Raspberry Pi - The ability to use full-featured programming languages and versatile desktop operating systems allows vastly greater potential for complex software projects compared to Arduino's simplified programming model.

I/O & Expansion

Arduino offers digital and analog I/O pins as well as USB/serial for sensor/actuator interfacing using shields. Options are somewhat limited. Raspberry Pi has 40 GPIO pins along with built-in wireless, Ethernet, HDMI, USB and Camera/Display ports. Countless add-on boards further extend its capabilities.

Winner: Raspberry Pi - The extensive built-in I/O and compatibility with myriad compatible expansion boards provides much broader scope for sensor integration, display control and connectivity compared to relying solely on Arduino shields.


Basic Arduino Uno R3 or Nano boards can be found for under $10. However, to duplicate Raspberry Pi capabilities requires additional shields/components. Raspberry Pi Model B boards start around $35 but include all computer essentials. Low-cost clones of some models can go as low as $25.

Winner: Draw - Arduino is lower cost for very basic uses, but Raspberry Pi offers better value overall proportionate to its greater functionality out of the box without add-ons.

Use Cases

Arduino excels at interactive desktop installations, wearables, robotics and basic IoT/home automation. Raspberry Pi has more potential in large digital displays, security cameras, file servers, media centers, basic desktops, and tasks requiring serious processing horsepower.

Winner: Draw - Both platforms are great depending on the specific application needs.

Community Support

Online communities for both are very active, sharing project ideas, troubleshooting, tutorials and more. Arduino likely has a slight edge given its focus on education and beginners. However, Linux desktop roots of Raspberry Pi lend to strong communities as well.

Winner: Draw - Both platforms offer thriving support communities that have contributed to their success and adoption.

In summary, while Arduino may be sufficient for basic interactive projects and learning, Raspberry Pi opens many more doors by providing a full-featured mini PC. It can fulfill much broader roles requiring serious processing power, connectivity and compatibility with standard desktop technologies. For most complex hobbyist/commercial applications, Raspberry Pi is the better long-term choice.

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Real World Examples: Comparing Arduino vs Raspberry Pi Projects

Let's examine a few example applications to better understand the comparative strengths and suitable uses of Arduino versus Raspberry Pi:

Use Case #1: Home Automation

A home automation system to control lights and appliances from a web interface:

  • Arduino: Can interface relays and sensors but lacks wifi/ethernet for internet access. Would require additional wiring of external shields/modules.
  • Raspberry Pi: Built-in wifi/ethernet support makes it ideal for directly connecting devices to home network and hosting a web UI on the Pi itself in a simpler setup.

Winner: Raspberry Pi provides an out-of-box solution without extra components needed by Arduino.

Use Case #2: Digital Photo Frame

A frame to display photos from a USB drive or online album:

  • Arduino: Can interface to an LCD screen via shield/modules but lacks onboard graphics, memory for images. Programming it would be more complex.
  • Raspberry Pi: Built-in HDMI interface, multitasking OS, memory/processing power make it much simpler to load images and directly drive the display.

Winner: Raspberry Pi is a far simpler and robust platform with integrated graphics.

Use Case #3: Retro Game Console

An emulator console to play classic games from different systems:

  • Arduino: Lacks the power for 3D/HD emulation. Programming individual games would also be challenging.
  • Raspberry Pi: Powerful enough to play most 8 and 16-bit console emulators at full speed. Linux enables installing popular packages like RetroPie which bundles emulators and front-end for a turnkey retro gaming experience. The Pi is a far more suitable platform for implementing an emulator-based retro console compared to the limitations of Arduino.

Why Raspberry Pi is Better than Arduino for a Retro Game Console Project

  • Processing Power: Raspberry Pi has enough horsepower to smoothly emulate 2D pixel-based games from older systems like NES, SNES, Genesis etc. Arduino simply doesn't have the CPU/GPU resources required for complex emulation.
  • Video Output: Raspberry Pi's native HDMI port allows it to directly drive a high-definition TV or monitor for big screen gaming. Arduino would require additional circuitry to output composite or other video signals.
  • Controller Support: Given its computer-like design, Raspberry Pi can easily interface with USB game pads, joysticks or custom circuitry. Arduino would need to integrate controller support through analog pins and custom firmware.
  • Plug-and-Play Experience: With RetroPie, systems, games and controllers just work out of the box on Raspberry Pi. Arduino would require programming everything from input handling to individual game emulation.
  • Customization: Raspberry Pi's full OS lets users easily add on games, tweak emulator settings, overclock for improved performance, etc. This ongoing flexibility helps extend the life and customizability of a project.
  • Multimedia Potential: If desired, a Raspberry Pi retro console could be adapted to stream movies/shows or serve other home entertainment roles beyond just gaming. Arduino offers fewer possibilities beyond its core function.

So in summary, the Raspberry Pi provides a far more cohesive, powerful and user-friendly solution for building an all-in-one retro game console compared to the programming challenges and limitations one would face trying to replicate this with an Arduino.

Further Advantages of Raspberry Pi for a Retro Game Console

  • Storage: Raspberry Pi has onboard SD card storage that can hold hundreds of game ROMs and media files. Arduino would require connecting external storage like USB drives.
  • Operating System: Running a full Linux OS on Raspberry Pi allows multitasking between emulators, front-ends and other programs. Arduino requires dedicating the whole microcontroller to a single application.
  • Software Support: RetroPie and other retro gaming software packages are developed specifically for Raspberry Pi's hardware. Adapting such full-featured software for Arduino would require extensive new programming.
  • Community: Raspberry Pi has a huge following of retro gaming and emulation enthusiasts constantly improving software. The Arduino community focuses more on controls/sensors than entertainment apps.
  • Expandability: Future extensions like adding WiFi, Bluetooth or network play are much simpler on Raspberry Pi thanks to its built-in features and Linux environment.
  • Aesthetics: Raspberry Pi is small enough to neatly integrate into custom enclosures resembling classic consoles. Arduino needs bulky shields which make compact form factors difficult.
  • Manufacturability: Mass producing professional quality game consoles based on Arduino is challenging given its limitations. Raspberry Pi is better suited for commercialization if desired.
  • Longevity: Raspberry Pi has ongoing support from its creators, while Arduino may be unsuitable for future HD/4K era emulation as game requirements increase over time.

So in summary, Raspberry Pi provides a clear advantage not just in terms of raw emulation performance, but also the complete platform and ecosystem required for a polished retro gaming appliance.


In this article, we have compared the Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms across various criteria like hardware specifications, programming capabilities, I/O and expansions options, pricing, use cases and more.

While Arduino excels for basic interactive prototyping and education due to its low cost and ease of use, Raspberry Pi provides a much more robust and versatile solution for complex hobbyist and commercial projects.

As a full-fledged miniature computer, the Raspberry Pi is better suited for applications requiring serious processing power, connectivity, compatibility with standard software and programming languages. It allows building multifunctional devices that go beyond Arduino's interactive electronic limitations.

In application examples like home automation, digital photo frames and retro gaming console emulation - Raspberry Pi delivers a simpler and more user-friendly experience out of the box compared to what would be possible with Arduino alone.

For most complex DIY and professional applications, the Raspberry Pi opens many more doors through its ability to function as a normal desktop PC. While Arduino fills an important role in education and basic prototyping, Raspberry Pi provides a far stronger long-term platform for ambitious technical projects.

This conclusion successfully summarizes that while both boards have value, Raspberry Pi offers broader capabilities making it generally superior to Arduino for serious hobbyist and commercial applications beyond basic interactive builds. Let me know if you need any part of the comparison article modified or expanded on further.


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