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What Is Raspberry Pi? Models, Features, and Uses

Posted:02:40 PM December 12, 2023 writer: Roland Pelayo


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The Raspberry Pi is a mini-computer that can run various operating systems. It is primarily designed to make computer science easier and fun for young students. Powered by an ARM-based microprocessor, it is also cheaper than full-fledged desktop or laptop computers. This article will explain everything you need about the Raspberry Pi models, features, and uses.

What Is Raspberry Pi?

The first Raspberry Pi was introduced in 2012 by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The name “Raspberry” is an ode to how early computers were named after fruits (Apple, Tangerine Computer Systems, Acorn, and Apricot Computers). Meanwhile, the “Pi” is short for the Python programming language - one of the most popular programming languages used with the RPi.

With its credit card size, the RPi is designed to be compact and handy. It has a microSD card where the operating system is installed, USB ports for connecting peripherals like mouse and keyboard, and a video and audio output port for monitors and speakers. It also has its own port for connecting the Raspberry Pi camera.

As the years go by, more models with new features have come out. Early models have RCA and 3.5 mm jacks for video and audio but are now replaced with HDMI (which combines video and audio). There are also smaller models now like the Raspberry Pi Zero. Another improvement is the higher amount of Random Access Memory (RAM) for the newer models. Finally, the old ones use a microUSB port for power while the newest models now feature USB Type C.

How does Raspberry Pi work?

Besides running an operating system like an ordinary computer, the Raspberry Pi has a 40-pin General Purpose Input/Output (GPIO) header. Here we can connect different kinds of devices and sensors that add more features to the RPi. 

The GPIO pins can be written or read programmatically. For example, you can connect a light-emitting diode (LED) to GPIO 11 (this is how the pins are named) and have it turned on then off. Another example is to connect a sensor that communicates serially. The RPi is able to read what values the sensor is reading.

You may write your code and run them directly on the Raspberry Pi. If the OS of choice is one of the Linux-based OSs such as the Raspberry Pi OS, you would write the code in a text editor like Vim and use the command line to compile and run it. 

The capability of the RPi to add a camera, either through its dedicated port or via USB, makes it popular for image processing applications. OpenCV is easily installed as well as machine learning tools like TensorFlow. The higher RAM and much-improved microprocessors of newer models have made image processing through the RPi run smoother than before. 

Finally, the WiFi and Bluetooth functionalities of the Raspberry Pi make this mini-computer suitable for wireless networking projects. Many users have used the RPi for Internet of Things (IoT) projects as well. The Raspberry Pi is well capable of reading values from temperature and humidity sensors and has those values readable on an internet browser.

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Top 6 Models of Raspberry Pi 

As of this writing, there are six top models of the Raspberry Pi that are or were available in the market. Among these top models are their respective variations. The models are the following:

  1. Raspberry Pi Zero
  2. Raspberry Pi 1
  3. Raspberry Pi 2 B
  4. Raspberry Pi 3
  5. Raspberry Pi 4B
  6. Raspberry Pi 5

Let us examine these models one by one.

Raspberry Pi Zero

The Raspberry Pi Zero has a smaller form factor than the original Raspberry Pi. It still has a microSD card for the OS, two microUSB ports for power and peripherals, a mini HDMI port for video output, a camera port, and the same 40-pin GPIO header. The W model for the Raspberry Pi Zero has added WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities.

A Raspberry Pi Zero 2 is also available in the market with the same form factor as its predecessor but with an improved processor chip.

Raspberry Pi 1

The very first Raspberry Pi board is available as Model A, B, or B+. The primary difference between these three models is that the A has only one USB port, the B has two while the B+ has four. The A also has no ethernet port while both B and B+ have. The B+ also is the first Raspberry Pi to introduce the 40-pin GPIO header. The A and B only have a 26-pin GPIO header. The original A model also has a bigger SD card slot compared to the microSD card slot on the newer models.

Raspberry Pi 2 B

The Raspberry Pi 2 Model has a better microprocessor than its predecessor; the original RPi is running on a 700 MHz single-core chip while the RPi 2 is now on a 900 MHz quad-core processor. It also now comes with a 1 GB RAM instead of 512 MB. The Raspberry Pi 2 also inherits the features of the B+ which are the 40-pin GPIO header, the four USB ports, and the microSD card slot.

Raspberry Pi 3

The Raspberry Pi 3’s major improvement is the addition of a built-in WiFi and Bluetooth chip. With it, users no longer need to plug in a WiFi or a Bluetooth dongle. The RPi 3 also has an improved processor, now clocking at 1200 MHz.

Raspberry Pi 4B

Continuing the trend, the Raspberry Pi 4B bumps its processing power higher than its predecessor. The 4th generation of RPi now boasts of a 1.5 GHz quad-core processor. Another new feature for the RPi 4 is the option to choose between different RAM models. Users can choose between 2, 4, or 8 GB RAM models.

Another obvious improvement is the change from 4 x USB 2.0 ports to 2 x USB 3.0/2x USB 2.0 ports. The USB 3.0 port offers 10 times the data rate of its predecessor. The RPi 4 now also comes with two micro HDMI ports which means you can now connect two monitors to it. The RPi 4 is also the first model to use a USB Type C for its power port.

Raspberry Pi 5

The Raspberry Pi 5 adds more important features to its already impressive predecessor, the RPi 4. First off, the RPi 5 now has a 2.4 GHz, quad-core processor. Next, The GPU is now improved from a clock speed of 800 MHz to 1.1 GHz.

Another improvement is that the RPi 5 can now play 4K video in both of its micro HDMI ports. In contrast, only one of the two micro HDMI ports of the RPi 4 can play in 4K resolution. 

The RPi 5 also now has a PCI express port for connecting a slew of peripherals, an RTC battery, fan, and UART connectors, and, for the first time ever, an on-off switch. 

Features of Raspberry Pi

Many features have been added as newer Raspberry Pi models have arrived. But there are common features among all models which are listed below:

Processor (CPU): As already mentioned, Raspberry Pi models use ARM-based processors. Each generation has its own CPU and corresponding improvements. All models use Broadcom processors and typically have the prefix “BCM” (e.g. BCM2835, BCM2836, BCM2837, or BCM2711).

RAM (Memory): The amount of RAM on a Raspberry Pi varies across models. Older models have lower RAM compared to newer ones. The lowest is 256MB while the newest has 8GB.

GPIO (General-Purpose Input/Output): Raspberry Pi boards include a set of GPIO pins that allow for interfacing with external devices and components, making it a versatile platform for hardware projects.

USB Ports: Raspberry Pi boards typically come with multiple USB ports for connecting peripherals such as keyboards, mice, external storage devices, and other USB-compatible devices.

Video Output: Most Raspberry Pi models have an HDMI port for connecting to monitors or TVs. Older models may have composite video or other types of video output.

Audio Output: Raspberry Pi boards usually have a 3.5mm audio jack for audio output. HDMI also supports audio, so sound can be transmitted through an HDMI connection as well.

Ethernet Port: Many Raspberry Pi models include an Ethernet port for wired network connectivity. However, some models rely solely on Wi-Fi for network connectivity.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth: Some Raspberry Pi models come with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, enabling wireless network connectivity and communication with Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Storage: Raspberry Pi boards do not have built-in storage but support microSD cards for primary storage. Newer models might also support booting from USB storage.

Camera and Display Ports: Certain Raspberry Pi models have dedicated ports for connecting the Raspberry Pi Camera Module and the Raspberry Pi Touchscreen Display.

OS Support: Raspberry Pi supports a variety of operating systems, including Raspbian (now called Raspberry Pi OS), Ubuntu, and other Linux distributions. It can also run a special port of  Windows 10. Additionally, there are community-supported projects for running different operating systems.

Power Supply: Raspberry Pi boards typically use a micro-USB or USB-C connector for power. The power requirements vary depending on the model. The latest RPi 5 requires 5V and 5A while the oldest ones only required 5V and 500 mA.

Form Factor: Raspberry Pi boards are compact, credit card-sized single-board computers, making them suitable for a wide range of projects.

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Uses of Raspberry Pi

As with any desktop or laptop computer, the Raspberry Pi has a lot of uses. Here is a list of possible applications for the RPi:

Learning to Program: Raspberry Pi is an excellent tool for learning programming languages such as Python, Scratch, and others. It provides a hands-on experience for beginners to develop their coding skills. If you’re using a Linux-based OS, then the RPi is a great tool for learning C/C++ or web programming languages as well.

Home Automation: Raspberry Pi can be used to create a home automation system. You can control lights, appliances, and other devices using the GPIO pins or by connecting them to other home automation platforms.

Media Center: With software like Kodi or Plex, Raspberry Pi can be turned into a media center. It can stream and play media content, making it an affordable alternative to dedicated media players.

Desktop Computer: Although not as powerful as traditional desktop computers, Raspberry Pi can be used for basic computing tasks such as web browsing, word processing, and programming.

Web Server: Raspberry Pi can host simple websites or web applications using server software like Apache or Nginx. It's a great way to learn about web hosting and server management.

Network-Attached Storage (NAS): By connecting external hard drives to the Raspberry Pi, you can turn it into a personal cloud storage system for sharing and accessing files on your local network.

Robotics and DIY Projects: Raspberry Pi is widely used in robotics and DIY projects. Its GPIO pins allow you to connect and control sensors, motors, and other components for building custom projects.

Security Camera System: Using the Raspberry Pi along with a camera module, you can set up a DIY security camera system. There are various software options available for motion detection and recording.

Educational Tools: Raspberry Pi is used in educational settings to teach computer science, programming, and electronics. It provides an affordable platform for hands-on learning.

VPN Server: Raspberry Pi can be configured as a VPN (Virtual Private Network) server, allowing you to secure your internet connection and access your home network remotely.

Weather Station: With the addition of sensors, Raspberry Pi can be turned into a weather station to measure and log temperature, humidity, and other environmental data.

Gaming Console: Retro gaming enthusiasts use Raspberry Pi to build DIY gaming consoles using software like RetroPie, allowing them to play classic games on emulators.

These are just a few examples, and the versatility of Raspberry Pi means that it can be adapted for a wide range of creative and practical applications.


If you are looking to learn about computer science including hardware interfacing and programming without the need to go to a university, then go buy a Raspberry Pi now. Over the years, a large community of RPi users has grown where you can read about or ask for help in whatever project you want to build. The possibilities are endless with the Raspberry Pi!


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