Arduino vs. Raspberry Pi

What sets these two popular boards apart?

If you've ever wanted to learn how to code or build a robot or other electronic device you can control, using an Arduino or Raspberry Pi board are both great ways to start. But which one is best for you and your goals? Here's a closer look at the differences between Arduino vs. Raspberry Pi boards, including their respective technical specs and the kinds of projects you can make with each of them.

For the purposes of this guide, we'll be comparing the latest versions of each kind of board: the Arduino Uno Rev3 and the Raspberry Pi 4.

Arduino vs. Raspberry Pi: Overall Findings

Arduino
  • Not a computer. It's actually a microcontroller board.

  • Has no discernible processing cores and limited I/O ports and options.

  • Can be charged via USB or power jack.

  • Can be programmed via Arduino Web Editor or Arduino IDE software.

Raspberry Pi
  • It's a computer. Though it's known as a microcomputer.

  • The latest version has 4 processing cores and a wide variety of I/O ports and options.

  • Can only be charged via USB-C port.

  • Can be programmed with any one of 9 possible operating systems. The recommended one is called Raspbian and it's based on Linux Debian.

The main difference between Arduino and Raspberry Pi is that Arduino is not a computer and Raspberry Pi is a computer. But they can both program and control other devices to perform certain tasks and they can both teach you how to code.

Arduinos don't really have any true processing cores, and can be programmed via an online web editor or the Arduino IDE software. Raspberry Pi 4 has four cores and there are nine possible operating systems that can be used to program it, depending on the project you're working on.

The recommended operating system for a Pi is called Raspbian. Because Arduinos aren't computers, they're better suited for simpler tasks like controlling lights. Raspberry Pis can do more complex things like make games, mobile apps, or websites.

Arduino vs. Raspberry Pi: Number of Cores and I/O Options

Arduino
  • Doesn't appear to have any processing cores since it's not a computer.

  • Has a limited variety of I/O options. Most are just digital I/O pins.

  • Has 1 USB connection.

Raspberry Pi
  • The Raspberry Pi 4 has four processing cores.

  • Has a wide variety of I/O ports and options much a like a regular computer.

  • Has two micro-HDMI ports which can support two 4K displays.

When discussing the number of cores each board has, it's worth remembering an Arduino board isn't a computer, it's a microcontroller board, and so it appears to not have anything resembling a true processing core like the one your laptop's processor might have. And when it comes to cores, Arduino boards don't seem to have any.

The Raspberry Pi on the other hand, is a computer, albeit a very small one. According to the Raspberry Pi website, the Raspberry Pi 4 has 4 processing cores.

As far as input/output (I/O) options are concerned, the Arduino Uno comes with 14 digital input/output pins, 6 analog inputs, a USB connection, and a power jack. The Raspberry Pi 4 has a wide variety of I/O ports and options, including 2 USB 3.0 ports, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 2 micro-HDMI ports, and a Micro SD card slot, just to name a few. The two micro-HDMI ports can support two 4K displays.

Arduino vs. Raspberry Pi: Energy Consumption

Arduino
  • Can be charged using a USB connection or power jack.

  • Needs 5 volts of power to operate.

  • Recommended input voltage ranges from 7 - 12 volts.

Raspberry Pi
  • Can only be charged via USB-C port.

  • Generally needs 3 amps and 5 volts of power to work.

  • Can also accept 2.5 amps of power if there aren't too many devices hooked up to it.

The Arduino Uno has a power jack and a USB connection and so it can be charged by either connecting it to a computer via the USB connection or via the power jack with an AC-to-DC adapter or battery. The operating voltage for the Arduino is 5V and the recommended input voltage ranges from 7-12V.

The Raspberry Pi 4 charges via a USB-C port. According to Tom's Hardware, this microcomputer requires at least 3 amps of power and 5V (volts). It can also accept 2.5 amps as longs as there aren't too many peripherals hooked up to it.

Arduino vs. Raspberry Pi: Programmability

Arduino
  • Can be programmed via open source, downloadable software, called Arduino IDE.

  • Can also be programmed using online Arduino Web Editor.

  • IDE runs on Windows, macOS X, and Linux.

Raspberry Pi
  • You can choose from 9 operating systems to program your Pi with.

  • Raspbian is the recommended operating system and it's based on Linux Debian.

  • The other operating systems seem to be project specific, such as LibreELEC, which is for a Kodi Entertainment Center.

Programming an Arduino can be done with the Arduino IDE software. You can also use the Arduino Web Editor. The IDE software is open source and allows users to write code and then upload it directly to the board. The Arduino IDE environment is written in Java but based on other (unnamed) open-source software and a language known as Processing. IDE can also run on Windows, macOS X, and Linux.

When you first get your Raspberry Pi 4, you'll be expected to use an operating system installation manager known as NOOBS (New Out of Box Software). This manager will let you pick an operating system for your Raspberry Pi that you can use to program it. There are currently 9 operating systems you can choose from, but the recommended one is called Raspbian, which is based on Linux Debian. Notably, one of the other possible operating systems you can use is Windows 10 IoT Core.

Final Verdict: Each Board has a Different Purpose

Arduinos and Raspberry Pis are both great for learning how to code and how to work with electronics. But each of them are best suited for only certain kinds of projects. Since Arduinos are simple boards and aren't computers, they're better suited for simple programming tasks like controlling lights, adjusting thermostats, or controlling appliances.

And because Raspberry Pis are actual computers, you can take on more complex tasks like developing mobile apps, making games, or designing websites. And with Raspberry Pi 4 you can even hook it up to a monitor and keyboard and use it to replace a desktop computer.