Raspberry Pi or Arduino – when to choose which?

Let’s find out which of these two electronics platforms will be the right solution for you.

May 15, 2023


Aleksandra Szczepaniak

Raspberry Pi 4 and Arduino UNO

It would seem there’s a never-ending debate regarding two widely known electronics boards – Raspberry Pi and Arduino. The battle as to which one is best is, in fact, a fallacy as they’re two different things. Choosing one over the other depends on the task at hand. This being said, let’s see where each of these devices can be just what you need.

Arduino or Raspberry Pi?

It’s worth pointing out from the get-go that, actually, it’s difficult to directly compare Raspberry Pi and Arduino since each device is a completely different platform. But before diving into differences between the two, it appears a basic grasp of each device is in order.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi 4 Model B
Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

The Raspberry Pi platform was developed at the University of Cambridge in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation as a low-cost, programmable computer to teach and enhance students’ programming skills. 

Raspberry Pi has all the features of a standard PC – dedicated processor, graphics driver and memory and even its own operating system known as Raspberry Pi OS (earlier called Raspbian OS), which is a version of Linux optimized for RPi. The device doesn’t provide storage but, fortunately, with microSD cards, you can store up to 32 GB of data. In addition, Raspberry Pi includes Ethernet, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, so you can also use it to transfer files over the Internet. 

Since it’s a full-fledged computer, you can plug a monitor, mouse and keyboard to it, connect to the Internet, add a camera and other things that you typically do to your computer. Because an entire computer is squeezed into a single circuit board, Raspberry Pi is often called a Single Board Computer (SBC).

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is constantly updating and improving the platform. Since its launch, it’s been very popular in robotics, IoT, weather monitoring and a great number of other electronic systems.

With Raspberry Pi, you can develop software using several programming languages like Python, Java, C, C++, HTML and others. Sadly, the device’s hardware design and software are not open-source.

Major features

  •   excellent software implementation,
  •   64-bit Quad-core processor,
  •   700 MHz – 1.8 GHz processor (depending on the board),
  •   large amount of RAM (up to 8 GB in Raspberry Pi 4 model B),
  •   many  input / output pins,
  •   can run all kinds of applications (including Email and MS Office),
  •   can be connected to the Internet,
  •  contains everything a standard computer does – GPU, CPU, Ethernet port, GPIO,  and power source connector.


Arduino Uno
Arduino Uno

Arduino was created in Italy. Its name comes from the bar where its creator, Massimo Banzi, a lecturer at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea and co-founders first came up with an idea of a simple prototype device for students. It quickly became popular outside educational institutions, and started to change and adapt to new challenges and needs. With its easily accessible and simple UI, the device has been used worldwide for a great variety of electronics projects. 

It provides a programmable circuit board along with software that’s called Integrated Development Environment (IDE). The boards execute code written in the C/C++ languages that’s stored in their firmware. 

This microcontroller development board can read data from sensors, buttons, and turn it into outputs, for example, controlling motors, blinking LEDs, opening doors, among other things.

The Arduino boards are open-source. This means with the design files and source code available to the public, you can work on your board and customize it to your needs.

Major features

  •  The majority of Arduino boards are equipped with an 8-bit microcontroller,
  •  32k bytes of flash memory and 2k bytes of SRAM (Static Random Access Memory), 
  •  Required input voltage: 7 V – 12 V,
  •  C/C ++ programming language, 
  •  14 digital I/O pins ,
  •  6 analog input pins, 
  •  The processor speed varies from 8 MHz to 400 MHz. The average speed of most Arduino boards is 16 MHz, 
  •  32 KB of flash memory, 
  •  Limited to IDE (Integrated Development Environment). 

Differences Between Arduino and Raspberry Pi

Now that we’ve learned a thing or two about each of the platforms, let’s compare them pointing out the major differences.

Key Differences

  • You can build a robot using either, but depending on the board, the robot will have different capabilities. Arduino is an electronic board with a simple microcontroller, whereas Raspberry Pi is a full-fledged computer. 
  • Unlike Arduino, Raspberry Pi has its own operating system and thanks to that, it can carry out complex operations like robot control, monitoring weather and many others. Arduino works based on simple instructions that its IDE (Integrated Development Environment) provides.
  • Arduino boards are less expensive than the Raspberry Pi devices. 
  • Raspberry Pi has a superb processing power – up to 1.6 GHz (depending on the board), whereas that of Arduino is up to 16 MHz (depending on the board).
  • Arduino will come in handy for controlling motors, LEDs, or interfacing sensors, whereas Raspberry Pi is good for developing software applications.
  • Arduino and Raspberry Pi have different power requirements. Although both can be powered by USB, Raspberry Pi needs more current than Arduino does. This means that you’ll need a power adapter for Raspberry Pi, but a USB port of your computer will do the job in the case of Arduino.
  • Since Arduino is a controller board, you can plug and unplug the power as you see fit. As a full-fledged computer, Raspberry Pi needs to be properly turned off before powering it down or after using it.
  • Arduino’s open-source software and hardware enables you to create your own customized Arduino board, and you can find many alternatives for it such as Teensy, ESP32, Adafruit, something that’s much harder with Raspberry Pi as it’s not open-source.
  • In Raspberry Pi, the key programming languages used to develop applications are C, C++, Python, Ruby and Scratch. As to Arduino, it can be programmed with the use of C or C++.
  • With Ethernet or WiFi, you can easily connect to the Internet with Raspberry Pi. Most Arduino boards don’t support wireless connectivity and the Internet but it’s possible with extra modules or shields.

When to choose which, then?

Both Raspberry Pi and Arduino have their pros and cons. It would seem that Raspberry Pi is a much more powerful device and hence, it should be better. But, in fact, neither is superior to the other, not in a direct comparison. They are two different things for different purposes. Comparing them in light of which one is better is not a good approach. The key to the right choice lies in the type of project you’re working on.

Arduino is fitted for repetitive tasks such as turning the light on and off, opening and closing doors, reading from sensors, and the like. Hence, if your project consists of some repetitive elements and simply needs an output based on sensory input, Arduino should do great for this purpose. 

Raspberry Pi is suitable for performing complex tasks such as running elaborate robots, monitoring the weather, among other things. If the project calls for complex functionalities and Internet connection, Raspberry Pi will be the best choice. For simple projects, it might be an overkill.

Make the right choice

Remember, you have to know your project’s needs to choose the right platform for it. To put it simply, you use the right tool for the job. Whether it’s going to be Arduino or Raspberry Pi, it depends on your project. If you decide that Arduino will work better for your needs, you might want to check out this article where we compare different Arduino boards.

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