What are the Differences Between Arduino and Raspberry Pi?

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Electronics have the potential to play a stimulating, rewarding and practical role in anyone’s life. A really educational and fun way to learn to program is to get stuck into your own electronics project – and the central component of any electronics project is a DIY electrical board, the device that you program to control the other components.

However, it’s basically a rite of passage into the world of electronics to find yourself completely lost in the countless, baffling, seemingly meaningless and sometimes contradictory numbers and letters strewn over-specification pages! This article aims to take some of the work out of deciphering the information on two of the most popular and affordable electrical boards. So what are the differences between Arduino and Raspberry Pi?

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Arduino Uno vs Raspberry Pi 3 at a Glance

We’ve put together a handy table of the features and specs flaunted by each electrical board.

Arduino Uno vs. Raspberry Pi 3
Best for Beginners
ARDUINO UNO R3 [A000066]
Intermediate/Advanced
Element14 Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Motherboard
Name
Arduino Uno
Raspberry Pi 3
Setup
Plug in and code runs immediately
Long setup process
Size
Similar to a credit card
Similar to a credit card
I/O Pins
14 I/O pins including 6 analogue pins
40 general purpose I/O
Features
LED light
Audio and HDMI output and camera port included
Required components
Only needs the USB cable to function (comes provided)
Extra components required such as monitor, keyboard, mouse, HDMI cable
Compatibility with hardware
Sensors, actuators, electronic components can interface easily with Arduino
Library and software installation required to enable sensor reading
Ability
Can only run a single program at a time
Can run multiple programs simultaneously
Power
Can be powered by battery pack
Requires more power than a battery pack generally supplies
Connectivity
Requires additional hardware to connect to internet
Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability, as well as Ethernet port
RAM
~0.002MB
~1 GB
Flash
Storage space provided (~32KB)
SD card must be used in conjunction with Raspberry Pi to provide storage (features an SD card port)
Speed
~16 MHz
1.4 GHz
Customer Rating
Prime Status
Best for Beginners
Arduino Uno vs. Raspberry Pi 3
ARDUINO UNO R3 [A000066]
Name
Arduino Uno
Setup
Plug in and code runs immediately
Size
Similar to a credit card
I/O Pins
14 I/O pins including 6 analogue pins
Features
LED light
Required components
Only needs the USB cable to function (comes provided)
Compatibility with hardware
Sensors, actuators, electronic components can interface easily with Arduino
Ability
Can only run a single program at a time
Power
Can be powered by battery pack
Connectivity
Requires additional hardware to connect to internet
RAM
~0.002MB
Flash
Storage space provided (~32KB)
Speed
~16 MHz
Customer Rating
Prime Status
More Information
Intermediate/Advanced
Arduino Uno vs. Raspberry Pi 3
Element14 Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Motherboard
Name
Raspberry Pi 3
Setup
Long setup process
Size
Similar to a credit card
I/O Pins
40 general purpose I/O
Features
Audio and HDMI output and camera port included
Required components
Extra components required such as monitor, keyboard, mouse, HDMI cable
Compatibility with hardware
Library and software installation required to enable sensor reading
Ability
Can run multiple programs simultaneously
Power
Requires more power than a battery pack generally supplies
Connectivity
Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability, as well as Ethernet port
RAM
~1 GB
Flash
SD card must be used in conjunction with Raspberry Pi to provide storage (features an SD card port)
Speed
1.4 GHz
Customer Rating
Prime Status
More Information

What’s the difference between the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi?

Despite the misleading similarity in appearance, size and price, the Arduino and Raspberry Pi are designed for completely different purposes. The Arduino is an open-source microcontroller, whereas the Raspberry Pi is a single-board microcomputer – making the Arduino comparable to a single component found in the Raspberry Pi.

For a simpler system, such as a sensor activating a light or a motor (think “Wallace and Gromit”-style automation of household objects), you’d be better off with the Arduino. Alternatively, if you’re envisioning more of a gaming emulator or anything requiring internet connectivity, then the Raspberry Pi is your best choice here.

How does this affect the speed and ability of each board?

Because of the difference in processing power and due to the sequential nature of the code used by the Arduino, it is generally more useful for executing single tasks while controlling external peripheral equipment, as tasks will iterate through one after another on the Arduino. Comparatively, the Raspberry Pi has no trouble with running multiple programs simultaneously, allowing a more complex system to be created. The speed of the program is entirely dependent on its nature for each board.

Surely the Raspberry Pi is a better investment, then?

Raspberry Pi

It’s natural to be inclined to believe that the Raspberry Pi is “better” due to its greater processing power, but this isn’t the case. The Arduino may be less powerful than the Pi, but the relative simplicity of the internal structure of the Arduino lends itself to tasks requiring a fast response time – eg, an Arduino would be more suitable for programming a drone, while the Pi’s internal process would take longer to run due to its complex nature. 

The Arduino is best suited to use in a project built using hardware components such as actuators, LEDs, and sensors, to create basic robots, motion detectors or thermostats, whereas the Raspberry Pi is designed to be used as a basic computer for software applications.

What programming language does the Arduino use?

The Arduino uses a variation of the popular language C++ that is creatively and efficiently named ”Arduino”. You can download the Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for free from the Arduino website. Alternatively, you can make use of Arduino Web Editor, which lets you access the most up-to-date version of the IDE with all the contributed libraries and support for the most recent boards.

What programming language does the Raspberry Pi use?

Python is the “official” programming language of the Raspberry Pi – the “Pi” in the name actually refers to the “Py” in Python! The Raspberry Pi uses a version of Linux as an operating system, called Raspbian, and when this is installed on the Pi you can start programming using a variety of different languages, such as C++, Java, and Python. Another language called Scratch is also compatible with the Pi and provides a block-based visual interface which is really useful as an option to introduce children to programming.

What features do both boards come with?

Arduino Uno

The Arduino comes with some pretty handy features for automation – it possesses a real-time element that is lacking in the Raspberry Pi. It’s more robust and durable – perfect for accompanying a hardware project. It’s not really designed to run an operating system (OS), so your code will be simpler, and will run as soon as it is connected to power, stopping when the power is disconnected. Comparatively, the Pi runs on the well established Linux OS, which is more likely to experience software problems and corruption of files if proper shutdown procedure is not carried out.

The Raspberry Pi features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet connectivity, whereas this is more difficult to implement on an Arduino. The Pi also features several USB ports.

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Arduino vs. Raspberry Pi – Which One Should You Get?

Generally, the most important part of your decision should be to consider the type of project you’re planning to carry out.

And ultimately, the main thing to consider is what you want your project to do. If it’s hardware-based, you’d be better off buying the Arduino, and if you’re looking to program software, your best bet is the Raspberry Pi. Hopefully, this article has made the decision making the process less “hard-duino” and more “easy as Raspberry Pi”! (And hopefully, this terrible pun hasn’t made you give up on the whole endeavor in disgust.)

Sale
ARDUINO UNO R3 [A000066]
ARDUINO UNO R3 [A000066]
  • This board is your entry to the unique Arduino experience: great for learning the basics of how sensors and actuators work, and an essential tool for your rapid prototyping needs
  • Arduino Uno is the most used and documented board in the world
  • "Uno" means one in Italian and was chosen to mark the release of Arduino Software (IDE) 1.0, now evolved to newer releases
  • It has 14 digital input/output pins (of which 6 can be used as PWM outputs), 6 analog inputs, a 16 MHz quartz crystal, a USB connection, a power jack, an ICSP header and a reset button
Sale
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Kit with Premium Clear Case and 2.5A Power Supply (UL Listed)
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Kit with Premium Clear Case and 2.5A Power Supply (UL Listed)
  • Includes Raspberry Pi 3 (RPi3) Model B Quad-Core 1.2 GHz 1 GB RAM
  • On-board WiFi and Bluetooth Connectivity
  • CanaKit 2.5A USB Power Supply with Micro USB Cable and Noise Filter - Specially designed for the Raspberry Pi 3 (UL Listed)
  • Premium Clear Raspberry Pi 3 Case

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which DIY electrical board is best for beginners?

If you’re just getting started with electronics, the Arduino is best for you due to the range of fun, practical projects that can be created with relatively little experience. The Raspberry Pi requires at least a little knowledge of programming to be able to use it.

I’m on a budget. Which board is best for me?

Both products are similar in price, so the main distinction here comes from the type of components you’ll be buying. The Pi requires a monitor, SD card, and keyboard to be able to begin to program, which is likely to be more expensive than the actuators or sensors you might want to use with the Arduino.

What could I make using each board?

An Arduino would be perfect for a motion-activated alarm, a robot, or a hydroponic system. A Raspberry Pi would be better to add web browsing to a monitor, as a wireless W-Fi extender, or a gaming emulator.

Mark Coster, BSc(Hons) PhD MRACI CChem

Last update on 2020-07-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API