Which Raspberry Pi Should I Buy?

Pick the right Pi for your next project

 

If you're thinking of buying a Raspberry Pi, you'll find that there isn't just one Raspberry Pi model. There are older models, newer models, smaller models, models with fewer ports, and one that came free with a magazine.

It can be a bit tricky working out which Pi to buy, so we put together this list of the main models released to date to help you make an informed purchase.

This article includes descriptions of the older models. These older Raspberry Pi models are available second-hand through online auction sites. However, the exotic specials (such as special color editions and the Compute Module) are not available.

01
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The Model B Revision 1

Raspberry Pi Model B Revision 1

This is the original Raspberry Pi. It has been succeeded many times since its release, but the Rev 1 Model B can handle code, LEDs, sensors, and many other projects. It has 14 fewer GPIO pins than the latest models. Still, it has the usual HDMI, Ethernet, camera connections for a camera module, and micro USB power.

This model isn't sold as an expensive collectors' item yet, and you won't find any new examples of these for sale anywhere. Second-hand examples found on online auction sites are your best bet. However, consider a later model of the Pi before rushing out for one of these. There shouldn't be much difference in price.

Should I Buy This Pi?

The original Model B is dated, and hard to find one for sale. It's probably only worth buying one if you want to own the full collection of Pis. The lack of mounting holes makes it awkward for some projects.

02
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The Model B Revision 2

Raspberry Pi Model B Revision 2

The second revision of the original Model B is similar to its predecessor. However, it has double the RAM (on boards produced after October 15, 2012) and mounting holes (as well as some other subtle changes).

Should I Buy This Pi?

The Rev 2 is a little easier to find than ​the Model B Revision 1, but still not likely to be sold new in shops.​ Online auction sites are your best bet.

The increased RAM and addition of mounting holes make the Rev 2 Model B a little more useful. Unless it's going very cheap, look for a more recent Pi.

03
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The Model A

Raspberry Pi Model A

The first Raspberry Pi Model A maintained the same shape PCB as the Model B. However, it came with fewer components and reduced hardware specifications. RAM was halved to 256 MB, the Ethernet port was removed, and only one USB port was installed.

These changes created a cheaper Raspberry Pi with a slightly lower profile. With some users not requiring the full performance and connectivity of the Model B, the Model A was designed to reduce the cost and power consumption of the board.

Should I Buy This Pi?

The original model A truly isn't ideal for beginners. The lack of an Ethernet port makes it difficult to download packages and update Raspbian (without setting up a Wi-Fi USB adapter manually). Having only one USB port leaves you to choose either a mouse or keyboard (or a USB hub if you want both).

However, if you own a Model B, the Model A is a cheap way to dedicate a Pi to a project. You're unlikely to find a new model in the shops, but online auction sites are bound to produce some from time to time.

04
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The B+

Raspberry Pi B+

The Raspberry Pi B+ was big news in the Pi world. The microcomputer had undergone a massive upgrade with 14 more pins added to the GPIO, two more USB ports, a move to a micro SD card, rounded PCB edges, lower power consumption, and more.

Despite the A+, Pi 2, Pi 3, and Pi Zero being released since this model came out, it's a relevant board because it shares the same layout and footprint of the latest models.

Should I Buy This Pi?

The B+ is a good choice for the beginner. It shares its layout and form factor with the Pi 3, so many newly released cases and HATs will fit. You'll also benefit from the additional USB ports and GPIO pins, as well as the use of micro SD cards, which you can use in a newer Pi if you want to upgrade.

The B+ should also be cheaper than recent models due to stock clearance sales. Still, this may make it difficult to find new examples in the shops. Failing that, online auction sites should have plenty going cheap as existing users choose to upgrade.

05
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The A+

Raspberry Pi A+

The Raspberry Pi A+ was released four months after the B+. It's an updated version of the lighter Pi and brings all models up to the new 40-pin GPIO standard.

Following a similar trend to the original Model A, the A+ came with no Ethernet, 256 MB of RAM, and one USB port. The board is the first Pi to have an almost square shape, smaller than the original Model A and the newer B+.

Should I Buy This Pi?

If you're wondering why you would buy an A+ over a model A, it mostly comes down to the additional GPIO pins, smaller form factor, ​and reduced power consumption.

It's no better for a beginner than the original Model A, due to the continued lack of an Ethernet port and only holding one USB port. It's compatible with all the latest 40-pin HATs, which edges it over the original Model A.

It hasn't been replaced with a revised version following the Pi 2 and Pi 3 releases, so you may be able to find some new examples in the shops.

06
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The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B

Raspberry Pi 2

The Raspberry Pi 2 was another big release from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, this time due to the move to a quad-core processor and 1 GB of RAM. Other than the overall increase in processor power, the board size, layout, and connections didn't change much from the B+.

The updated processor also allows the use of new operating system distributions such as Windows 10 IoT (not the desktop Windows OS on a PC).

Should I Buy This Pi?

The Pi 2 is available to buy and competitive in terms of performance. If you can find one for a good rate cheaper than a Pi 4, it's a good choice for beginners and experienced users.

However, with the Pi 4 released and selling for a similar price to the Pi 2 at most retailers, it's not worth looking at unless you get a decent discount.

07
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The Pi Zero

Raspberry Pi Zero

The Raspberry Pi Zero was the first time a computer was given away on the front of a magazine.

The Zero is the smallest Raspberry Pi available without much compromise. It runs the same processor as both of the Model A Pis but clocked at a faster 1 GHz. It also offers 512 MB of RAM, double that of the Model A options.

It's perfect for small embedded projects and comes at the low price of $5, although you do have to buy and solder a 40 pin header. It's equipped with a single micro-USB port for data, which you'll need to use an adapter with if you want to connect a normal USB device.

Should I Buy This Pi?

If you're buying your first Pi, steer clear of the Zero until you've owned a Model B. Setting one up without Ethernet could be tricky for updates, and having to solder the header might not be the easiest introduction to the world of Raspberry Pi.

Then again, at a $5 price point, maybe you can afford a soldering mistake or two.

08
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The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

Raspberry Pi 3

The Raspberry Pi 3 changed the game again and in more than one way. The new quad-core processor offers 1.2 GHz and was the fastest Raspberry Pi by a long shot, at the time. Alongside this are new onboard connectivity options, offering Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. All of this came for the same price as the previous version.

Once again, the size and shape remain the same, with 40 GPIO pins, four USB ports, and an Ethernet connection.

Should I Buy This Pi?

With the Pi 3 being sold for less than $35, it might be a reasonable choice. Still, newer and more capable versions are available. The only reason to choose the Pi 3 is budget, but that doesn't mean it isn't capable.

09
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The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+

Raspberry Pi 3 B+

Raspberry Pi Foundation

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ is similar to the Model B that preceded it, with a few key enhancements. The Model B+ has a slightly faster CPU, at 1.4 GHz, and an upgrade to Wireless AC Wi-Fi. The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ also offers a faster Ethernet connection at 1 Gb/s, as opposed to the Model B's 100 Mb/s. For more embedded applications, the 3 B+ introduces power over Ethernet (PoE) capabilities.

Should I Buy This Pi?

That's a tough question. If you want to upgrade from the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is probably a better bet, at the same price. That said, if you can find a Model B+ at a lower price, it's powerful enough for plenty of applications.

10
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Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+

Raspberry Pi 3 A+

Raspberry Pi Foundation

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ is similar to the previous Model A+ in that it's a basic version of the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. It features the same processor and Wi-Fi capabilities, but it's missing the Ethernet port and three of the four USBs. It fits into a smaller form factor and comes at a lower price.

Should I Buy This Pi?

If USB ports and Ethernet get in your way more than help, and you want a smaller form factor, the Pi 3 Model A+ is a great option. It's less expensive than the other newer Pis, and it's ideally suited for Wi-Fi enabled embedded applications.

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The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

Raspberry Pi 4B

Raspberry Pi Foundation

If the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B changed the game, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B rewrites the rule book. The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B marks a jump in power and performance from previous versions of the Pi. It features a quad-core 64-bit CPU running at 1.5 GHz and offering more computing power than older versions.

The Pi 4 also features more RAM than any other Pi, with the option for 2 GB, 4 GB, or 8 GB of RAM. This makes it ideal for memory-intensive applications, including acting as a server or a desktop PC.

The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B features a new graphics processor capable of outputting video at a 4k resolution with a 60 Hz refresh rate. Additionally, the Pi dropped the old HDMI port in favor of two micro HDMI ports with the ability for simultaneous output.

With this Pi, you get Wireless AC networking and Bluetooth 5.0 support. It features a gigabit Ethernet port with the option for PoE.

The Raspberry Pi 4 B is also the first Pi with USB 3.0 ports, which allow for greater bandwidth than the USB 2.0 counterparts. The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B has two USB 3.0 ports, with two of the older 2.0 ones available.

Should I Buy This Pi?

This version of the Pi is more powerful than previous ones, and there aren't many situations where you'd want to choose something else. The choice of RAM allows you to choose the right amount of power and the right price point. The 2 GB version starts at $35, so price shouldn't be a barrier. This Pi is built to handle nearly everything, and it certainly delivers.

Take Your Pick

Depending on your reason for buying a Pi, your wallet, and local availability, there are a number of models from which you can choose. It isn't only a case of buying the latest model.

General Interest

If you want to casually try out the Pi, make some projects, and see if it's for you, go for the 4B.

You should be able to find the 2 GB version for $35 online. If, for some reason, you're low on cash or can't find the 4B, save some money and go for the older model. If you decide to upgrade later on, most of the add-ons you buy will fit the latest Pi 4.

On a Budget

If you're feeling the pinch, get a Pi Zero for $5. It's not going to be the easiest way to get started if you're a beginner, but the money savings may be worth it.

Nervous Beginner

If you're worried about your ability to use the Raspberry Pi, save yourself some headaches and grab a Pi 4 with a bit more RAM, like 4 GB.

The onboard Wi-Fi makes it easy to connect to the internet without messing around with cables or adapters. Plus, you'll also benefit from the full complement of USB ports for a keyboard and mouse. The extra memory allows you to use the Pi like a desktop PC and slowly acclimate to the technical side.