Everything you need to know about Raspberry Pi
Not to be confused with Grandma’s homemade raspberry pie, the popular single-board Raspberry Pi models went from being an educational tool to promote computer-based learning in developing countries to one of the most popular tinkering devices on the planet. Not only are they affordable, but they are amazing for virtually any DIY project involving electronics.
Like other technology, there is constant innovation with Pi models, but the Raspberry Pi Model 4B remains the best option for most people due to its stronger processor and extra functionality compared to its predecessors. The Canakit bundle includes everything you need to get started, including an SD card and a case.
What is a Raspberry Pi?
A Raspberry Pi is a functional PC that runs on a single board. To the uninitiated, it will look like a naked computer component, but it’s actually using something called “system on chip,” which runs the CPU and GPU off a single board. That very same board also has USB ports and an HDMI port as well as other connecting pieces, pins and soldering.
The single board is a self-contained computer with one exception: it is missing internal storage. Instead, you must use a micro SD card to add programs and store the operating system required for the Pi to run.
Why was the Raspberry Pi made?
The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK-based educational charity that worked with Broadcam to make the very first Raspberry Pi in 2012. Its goal was to make an affordable and compact PC that could be programmed and tinkered with by people in the developing world to learn computer skills and figure out how to solve problems that might help raise their living standards.
The Raspberry Pi became a sensation and people all around the world began buying them to learn more about computing, to begin DIY projects and to own an affordable PC. Since then, multiple models and revisions have been released, and there are even less powerful models made — like the Raspberry Pi Zero — for less intensive tasks.
What are the most popular Raspberry Pi projects?
There are many different projects that can be accomplished with a Raspberry Pi. There are too many to list, but there are some go-to projects that many Pi enthusiasts are gaga for.
- Build your own computer: Raspberry Pi units can run programs, stream videos, play games and run just about any program that can run on a normal PC.
- Build a retro game library: Many people like to use a Pi to build a retro video game library via emulation.
- Make a custom jukebox: You can create a classic jukebox interface with all your favorite songs, old and new.
- Use a Pi as a security camera: The Pi can be used as a Wi-Fi-based security camera with special software and a physical camera.
- Turn your Pi into a Network Attached Storage device (NAS): You just need the Pi and a disc drive.
What comes with a Raspberry Pi?
A typical Pi runs for less than $50 and comes with just a circuit board. The circuit board itself is the motherboard with the CPU and GPU running off of it. Most Pi units will also come with heatsinks to prevent the board from overheating, though some may not include these. There will always be an HDMI input as well as USB slots. It may come with a power supply, which will either be a micro USB power adapter or a type-C cable depending on your Pi model.
Some bundles will include everything you need with your Pi, but there are a few things that won’t be included with a basic Pi unit. You will not usually get a case for the Pi, which means you will receive a naked board. You won’t usually get an SD card or an SD card reader either.
What you need to know before buying a Raspberry Pi
Knowledge of Linux or willingness to learn
By default, the Raspberry Pi uses Linux as its operating system. There is a stripped-down version of Windows known as Windows IoT Core, but in general, Windows is too intensive for Pi boards.
Linux will be foreign to most people who don’t actively engage with electronics and computers. It isn’t hard to learn per se, but it will take some time to get used to, and you will have to be comfortable working with command prompts. Luckily, the internet is filled with amazing tutorials for most of the popular Raspberry Pi projects, meaning you can learn as you go without feeling overwhelmed.
The Pi is a self-contained computer, so having some knowledge of electronics, computer parts and functions will go a long way. There are tons of great books and YouTube channels that can help you out, and the Raspberry Pi 400 even comes with a beginner’s guide to using the Raspberry Pi. The more you know about each component of the Pi board, the more you will be able to do with it.
Troubleshooting and patience
The Raspberry Pi is a tinkering device. Stuff can go wrong, and amateur programmers will likely make a few mistakes along the way. Google is your best friend, as well as forums and dedicated communities for Pi users. Don’t be afraid to tinker with the Pi and the settings for whatever purpose you are using it for. It will take some time to get used to everything.
What you need to buy for a Raspberry Pi
This is the newest, most powerful Raspberry model, the Pi 4 Model B. It comes with everything you need to get started, including a case, a 128GB SD card and an SD card reader. Choose between the 4-gigabyte and 8-gigabyte models and get started on your favorite creative project.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
For those who want to get started immediately, the Raspberry Pi 400 is a keyboard with a Pi board inside. Just plug it into a monitor and begin using your Pi. For those new to this technology, this bundle includes a beginner’s guidebook, and the SD card comes with NOOBS pre-installed.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Stephen Morin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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