Arduino and Raspberry Pi: what they are and what are their differences

Alejandro Brega
Dec 19, 2018 · 6 min read

Today we are going to talk about the differences between Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Apparently, these are two devices with a similar appearance in the form of a plate similar, and both agree that one of the uses they are given is to be used to create all kinds of electronic projects. However, they are two totally different products that were designed for different things.

So, let’s start by briefly explaining what Arduino is and what Raspberry Pi is, mentioning when and for what both projects were created. Then we will mention its main differences, in which we can see for what types of use are better one or another platform.

What is Arduino

Arduino is a platform for the creation of open source electronics based on hardware and free software, which allows anyone to use and adapt them. Thanks to that, you can find in the market several types of plates, accessories and compatible applications created by different companies or developers. All of them are different, but using the same common base, which helps the community of creators to give them different types of use.

Arduino offers the Arduino IDE platform (Integrated Development Environment), which is a programming environment with which anyone can create applications for the Arduino boards and give them different utilities. Arduino also allows you to make virtual connections to check how it would behave with the code we have written.

The project was born in 2003, when several students of the Interactive Design Institute of Ivrea, Italy, came together in order to facilitate the access and use of electronic and programming. They did it so that electronic students had a cheaper alternative to the popular BASIC Stamp, plates that were worth more than a hundred dollars at that time, and that not all could afford.

The result was Arduino, a board with all the necessary elements to connect peripherals to the inputs and outputs of a microcontroller, and that can be programmed in Windows as well as macOS and GNU / Linux. A project that promotes the philosophy ‘learning by doing’, which comes to mean that the best way to learn is by messing around.

What is Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi is a simple and low cost computer developed in the United Kingdom by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It is powerful enough to facilitate learning and perform basic tasks, and also allows you to program and compile programs that run on it.

This small size and the possibility of connecting several types of accessories give it a versatility that allows it to be used for several types of tasks. Its main mission is to teach computers in the classroom. But it also serves to be used as a small basic home computer, and the community of makers also uses it as an engine for various types of projects.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation was founded in 2009 by Eben Upton, an engineer from Cambridge. However, the first designs of the first test plate were started in 2006. After 6 years of development, the first Raspberry Pi was put on sale on February 29, 2012, and by mid-May they had already sold 20,000 units. Since then, several types of computers with different powers and sizes have been launched.

Although the foundation that designs and manufactures them maintains control of the hardware platform, its operating system is open source. The official OS is an adapted version of the Debian distribution called Raspbian, but other operating systems can also be installed, which has made it possible to adapt all kinds of GNU / Linux distributions, and also versions of other systems such as Windows 10.

Differences between Arduino and Raspberry Pi

Arduino and Raspberry Pi are two totally different concepts, so it’s a bit difficult to make a comparison between the two. They are two products with different purposes, although due to their versatility the imagination of the maker community has meant that both are used to create all kinds of electronic projects.

Although both are projects whose software is code is open and anyone can review it, one of the main differences is in the hardware philosophy. The Arduino hardware is also open for anyone to create their own versions of the board, while the Raspberry Foundation maintains control over the Raspberry Pi boards, and only they create and manufacture them.

Arduino was designed specifically for anyone to create projects with their concept. That’s why its strength lies in its ability to connect with the world, thanks to its analogue and digital inputs and how easy it is to activate or deactivate them with its software. It is, therefore, a much more versatile alternative.

The Raspberry Pi was designed as a computer itself, so it has more computing power than the Arduino boards. In what can not be compared is the versatility that Arduino has, although every time it is gaining more integers in this regard thanks to the growing creation of extensions to add features.

In this sense, it is also important to talk about connectivity. The Raspberry Pi has WiFi and Ethernet connectivity already integrated in the board. And although in an Arduino you can also add Ethernet connectivity by adding an expansion board, doing so we would spend part of your ports and the total price would increase by having to buy this extension.

And as for the software, there are also differences in the operation of the plates. When plugged in, an Arduino immediately executes the task for which we have programmed it, while the Raspberry Pi requires a complete operating system to use it in one way or another, so its start is a little slower.

This has a direct impact on electronic projects. Something as simple as making an LED turn on or off is extremely simple in Arduino, since you only have to connect it together with a resistor and add a few lines of code. Meanwhile, to do the same in a Raspberry Pi you have to download and install the libraries to control the ports where you are going to connect, compile the program and run it.

On the other hand, the fact of having an operating system and more power makes the Raspberry Pi more suitable to be used as a functional microcomputer that can take you anywhere, since you can even connect keyboard and mouse with their native ports. In addition, it can also be used for small, more complex projects that need an operating system and a little more power, such as to create a multimedia center.

Two reference platforms that do not get on badly

Arduino will usually be easier to use in small projects, while the Raspberry Pi thanks to its muscle is more suitable for perhaps more complex projects or those that require a complete operating system.

We could understand these differences with a small example, such as trying to create a small vehicle. If we only want it to work and move, Arduino would be sufficient, since it is the best option for a job that requires an immediate response, such as sending electricity to the wheel motors and allowing its sensors to interpret this information.

But if what we want is for the vehicle to move autonomously, things change. To interpret the information from your sensors or the environment so that the vehicle “makes decisions” accordingly, a more elaborate processing would be necessary. It would take a computer with more computing power, so it would be more appropriate for a Raspberri Pi.

In any case, none of this means that one is better than another at the time of doing something with them, since many similar projects can be done with one or the other. In addition, Arduino and Raspberry Pi can also be complementary, since there are plates like Arduberry that allow us to connect Arduino shields to a Raspberry Pi, getting the best of each world.


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Alejandro Brega

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