Raspberry Pi versus Arduino: Which is best suited to my project maker?

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For a long time, programming has been available for all of us. Especially thanks to languages like Scratch the and boost of IT in schools with projects like the Raspberry Pi Foundation. When talking about hardware, there’s a sentence that is totally true: “hardware is the new software”. It’s never been easier to take components, compile them and make something completely new out of them with little programming.

On the Internet, we can find so many projects to make that it’s hard to choose one. But if we want to create something from zero, should we start with a Raspberry Pi or with an Arduino?

Raspberry Pi and Arduino, two different philosophies for our projects.

First of all, I should state clear that I’m not going to compare Antes Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Basically, because they can’t be compared. They are two different products with different goals. Thanks to the imagination of the maker community they are tools to create new projects. Projects as diverse as how to make a browser for the car, a ·D printer, a quadrocopter or sending a system to the stratosphere with a balloon up to no less than 40 km up to take some pictures and measurements.

In our entry dedicated to Arduino I explained how Arduino is both hardware and software. Thanks to this and to the existing emulators that require no work on hardware, we can simulate a project on our computer. We can program it and make virtual connections to see how it would behave. Arduino is a simple platform dedicated precisely to this. It helps us mounting the necessary elements on it to make the projects. But, as we also have seen, there are two big projects to make with Arduino, those where we use the microcontroller as the sole “intelligent” element of the project, and those where we use Arduino as an interface.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has created a computer to teach IT in the traditional way. Raspberry Pi is an affordable computer powerful enough to facilitate learning and to make basic tasks at schools. Even programming and compiling programs that run int he Raspberry Pi. And all of this in a minimum size, powered by a cell phone charger of 2 amps and gives considerable scope to all kind of projects.

The Raspberry Pi model B would amount to a computer with an Intel 386 in terms of performance. You should not forget those were the desktop computers used not so long ago. The capacity has increasingly improved (x6 depending on the use) with an ARM Cortex-A7 four cores processor in the Raspberry Pi model 2. This is a graphics processor that allows smooth HD video playback, 1 GB RAM and four USB ports The Raspberry Pi also comes with an ethernet connection (it’s not gigabit, for those means we have other boards like the Odroid C1 or the recently launched Odroid-C1+for a similar price). If we don’t need so much power or we need to reduce consumption, the Raspberry Pi model A+ could be useful. Some features won’t be there, like the before mentioned network connector or the number of USB ports.

Raspberry Pi and Arduino’s pros and cons

Arduino’s main strength isn’t its computing power, nor the board memory or the processor frequency. Then why should we even consider those boards to create something? Arduino’s strong point is how easy it is to connect with the worldthanks its both analogue and digital inputs. It’s easy to activate or deactivate one of the inputs/outputs thanks to its software.

An Arduino UNO R3 has fourteen digital input/output pins. Six of them can be used as output PMW to control, for example, the motor speed. It also comes with six analogue inputs, a 16 MHz frequency, a USB connector and a ICSP. An Arduino Megacomes with no less than 54 analogue input/output pins (15 can be used as PMW output), 16 analogue inputs, 4 UART. As we already commented, there are many types of Arduino boards, and each of them comes with its pros and features.

The prototype easiness is also there. And, of course, the Shields or expansion boards that come with several features like Wi-Fi connectivity, GPS, long range radio connectivity, touchscreens, etc. Most of them have a low cost, like, for example, an Arduino Uno R3 board with a touch 2.4” LCD display for around $10.

On the other hand, the Raspberry Pi can be proud of a good computing power compared to the Arduino boards. Especially when it comes to memory and multimedia features, from HD video playback to audio output (not a high quality one, that is to say, although there are some alternatives) , and a composite video output. Even though it doesn’t come with all the interconnection options and shields of Arduino, there are increasingly more add-ons to the board as shields. All of this thanks to the Raspberry Pi connectors like GPIO, I2S, etc.

If we also mention the proprietary camera (or better said, cameras, because there’s even a model for infrared images), slowly you get the idea of how a Raspberry Pi can be a substitute for a computer in simple tasks. And we can also use the connection ports to interconnect our project with the world just like we would do in Arduino.

Both Raspberry Pi and Arduino are great platforms to project creation.
They are cheap, versatile, and there’s almost unlimited information about them online.

So what are the tips to start using and getting one of both?

A philosophy teacher once told me that it’s not important where you get the idea. Of course someone had the same idea first, and it has been probably already executed. It’s not entirely accurate, as there are already plenty of inventors and genius. But when it comes to making a project more or less complicated, the Internet is there with its search engines. Try looking for a similar project and see which platform it uses. Sometimes the answer will be Raspberry Pi and other times it will be Arduino.

For example, when talking about robots, we could think that the Raspberry Pi is a better option. There are shields like the BrickPi which make the most out of the sensors and the LEGO Mindstorms actuators. They also substitute “LEGO’s programmable brick” for the Raspberry Pi, so that there’s a big range of possibilities. As we recently commented, there are also other excellent alternatives based on Arduino like Makeblock. This one brings a huge professional level. So there’s a tie here.

The second tie will be drones. Both boards are useful to work with them. And a 3D printer? The number of Arduino controlled ones is higher, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to make the same thing with a Raspberry Pi.

Here is where Arduino clearly wins. It’s in those projects where Arduino works as an interface. That’s where you want to use Arduino. Generally speaking, because there are no absolute truths when it comes to makers. If we want to control some LEDs, that’s also the case. With a few line codes and Arduino the issue will be solved, and we don’t have to worry which OS to install on the Raspberry Pi. Arduino also wins in wearable solutions, as there exist micro boards that can make wonders.

If we want to have computing power that’s where Raspberry Pi is the winner. An example for this would be to create a high-fi and low-cost media player that can play not only FLAC files but also DSD. The best model for this is the Raspberry Pi B model 2 and a board like the Pi-DAC+ or HifiBerry. However, Arduino shouldn’t be overshadowed as there are big possibilities when it comes to audio processing. Or also, of course, a multimedia player with Kodi. We burn the image into an SD card and in the blink of an eye our media player is working.

Before concluding

This entry is about the capacities to make projects with Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Both platforms are great for our projects. They are also cheap and have some advantages and disadvantages. That doesn’t mean that one is better than the other when it comes to creating something with them. Arduino and Raspberry Pi are complementary, and there are boards like Arduberry that allow connecting Arduino shields to a Raspberry Pi, getting the most out of both.

But there are also boards like the UDOO Neo which combine in the same hardware both Raspberry Pi and Arduino. We don’t even have to choose which platform to use. Now we just need to make it work.

More information | Raspberry Pi and Arduino

Originally published at www.xataka.com.

Xataka es la publicación líder de tecnología en español. Apasionados por la tecnología.

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