6 Best Raspberry Pi Models
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6 Best Raspberry Pi Models

Oct 01, 2023

Are you the ultimate tinkerer? Looking to create your own media server, drone, or retro gaming console for cheap? The Raspberry Pi, a small, but mighty, single-board computer is here to spark your curiosity.

Created by the UK charity Raspberry Pi Foundation, it was designed to encourage people of all ages to code, program, problem-solve, and use their imagination to build a wide range of devices, computer systems, robotics, and more at a super low price.

We rounded up the best Raspberry Pi models for all sorts of users and projects. Scroll down for our picks, below:

The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is our pick for the best overall model—thanks to its number of ports, wide range of memory options up to 8GB, and stellar price starting at $35.

Equipped with a robust quad-core Broadcom BCM2711 Cortex-A72 chip, it's a well-rounded machine that can take on just about any project you can imagine from media streaming to robotics and complex apps to complicated coding. It also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built-in, along with an Ethernet port for a solid and steady connection to the internet.

If you’re a beginner or an experienced user, the Raspberry Pi 4 B will serve you well for your next project without breaking the bank.

CPU: Quad-core Broadcom BCM2711 Cortex-A72 at 1.5-GHz | RAM: Up to 8GB | Ports: 2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, 1 microSD card slot, 1 USB-C for power, 1 Gigabit Ethernet, and 2 micro HDMI | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 | Starting price: $35

If you’re looking to build your very own retro gaming console, then the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ is a very good option—namely for its one HDMI port to connect to a TV and its four built-in USB 2.0 ports for multiple gaming controllers. While it only caps out at 1GB of memory, that's more than enough for retro gaming emulation since most older consoles from the ‘80s and ‘90s only had up to 16MB of RAM.

In fact, Jeff Atwood, Stack Overflow co-founder, wrote in a blog post, "It's fast enough to emulate N64 and PSX and Dreamcast reasonably, all for a whopping $35."

CPU: Quad-core Broadcom BCM2837B0 Cortex-A53 at 1.4-GHz | RAM: 1GB | Ports: 4 USB 2.0, 1 HDMI, 1 microUSB for power, and 1 headphone jack | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, Ethernet | Starting price: $35

On a tight budget? The Raspberry Pi Zero W is our wallet-friendly pick with its starting price of just $15. While it's tiny and isn't the most powerful Pi, it has more than enough oomph for simple tasks—such as light-, motor-, media casting-, or camera-based projects. It's ideal for beginners who want something inexpensive in which to tinker.

CPU: Single-core Broadcom BCM2835 ARM1176JZF-S at 1-GHz | RAM: 512MB | Ports: 1 mini HDMI and 2 microUSB (input and power) | Connectivity: 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 | Starting price: $15

Starting at $70, the Raspberry Pi 400 is essentially a Raspberry Pi 4, but with one less USB 2.0 port and capped out at 4GB of memory. However, it also has a built-in full-sized keyboard, which gives it an authentic desktop experience. Now add your own monitor and mouse, install the Linux-based Raspberry Pi OS, and you have yourself a real home computer.

In fact, there are even full Raspberry Pi 400 kits available that come with a mouse, Raspberry Pi OS on a microSD card, a power adapter, an HDMI cable, and a beginner's guide for $100.

CPU: Quad-core Broadcom BCM2711 Cortex-A72 at 1.8GHz | RAM: 4GB | Ports: 2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, 1 microSD card slot, 1 USB-C for power, 1 Gigabit Ethernet, and 2 micro HDMI | Connectivity: Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0 | Starting price: $70

If you’re looking to build your own Wi-Fi-enabled home security system, then going with the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W is a good place to begin. Starting at $15, this single-board computer system is small enough to place anywhere, while it's powerful enough to run a camera—thanks to the Linux-based motionEyeOS and the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W's built-in CSI-2 camera connector.

CPU: Quad-core Arm Cortex-A53 at 1-GHz | RAM: 512MB | Ports: 1 Mini HDMI and 2 microUSB (input and power), and 1 microSD card slot | Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, and Bluetooth Low Energy | Starting price: $15

Don't let its small size fool you. While the Raspberry Pi Pico is tiny at just 21mm by 51mm (about 1 inch by 2 inches), it's a mighty microcontroller that's designed to control physical projects—such as creating heat temperature sensors, mini-drones, weather stations, and much more. It's armed with a dual-core Arm Cortex-M0+ chip, 264kB of memory, 26 I/O pins, and one USB-C port for input and the power, Pi Pico is versatile for novices and experts alike. It's also very inexpensive too, starting at just $4.

CPU: Dual-core Arm Cortex-M0+ at 133-MHz | RAM: 264kB | Ports: 1 USB-C (input and power) | Connectivity: 802.11n Wi-Fi | Starting price: $4

Let's be clear, the Raspberry Pi isn't for everyone. It's a unique computer system that requires some focus and know-how. It's not as simple as plug-and-play like one of our best MacBook options, while the Raspberry Pi's format, operating system, and expansion make it one-of-a-kind. However, since the barrier of entry is cheap—starting at just $4—just about anyone can learn how to use it. Here's what to look for in a Raspberry Pi in 2023.

The Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer (for the most part). This means there's no hard drive, no monitor, no case, and no peripherals like a keyboard and mouse. In some cases, it doesn't even come with a power supply. It's as barebones as a computer you can buy in 2023. You’d have to bring all of those things to the table. There are kits available that come with everything you need to get started—including a keyboard, mouse, cables, a microSD card, and more.

There are two main versions, standard and Zero models. The standard models have the best performance and specs, while Zero models are less powerful and less scalable, but also have a smaller price point. If you’re a beginner, look for the latest Raspberry Pi 4 B—which can be used for many different types of projects and tasks. But if you’re on a tight budget, Zero models are a good pick too.

When it comes to its operating system, the Raspberry Pi runs on Linux—which is free and open-source. If you’re an Apple macOS or Microsoft Windows user, then you’ll have to learn a new computer system with a different logic. Linux isn't as easy as launching an app, you may have to fire up a terminal and enter in some computer commands for navigations, but there are versions of Linux that are more user-friendly like Raspberry Pi OS, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and more.

Overall, you should really know what kind of projects you want to do with the Raspberry Pi before you buy one and if you have the time and patience to use it. Just remember, it's designed to empower people "to realize their full potential through the power of computing and digital technologies," according to the Raspberry Pi Foundation. And at the end of the day, it's a teaching tool and not an out-of-the box consumer-grade computer solution. If you keep that in mind, you’ll have a lot of fun making your imagination come to life.

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Rudie Obias is a contributing tech freelance writer and editor who is also interested in cinema, pop culture, music, the NBA, and science fiction.

Best Overall Raspberry Pi 4 Best Overall CPU RAM Ports Connectivity Starting price Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Best Retro Gamer CPU RAM Ports Connectivity Starting price Raspberry Pi Zero W Best Budget Model CPU RAM Ports Connectivity Starting price: Raspberry Pi 400 Best Best for All-in-One Linux PC CPU RAM Ports Connectivity Starting price Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W Best for Security Cameras CPU RAM Ports Connectivity Starting price Raspberry Pi Pico Best for Small Projects CPU RAM Ports Connectivity Starting price For Further Reading: