But wait, there’s already more than a dozen models of Pi to choose from. What makes this one interesting?

It’s a souped up model Zero W: The new Zero 2 W. As a Pi Zero model, it’s under half the size of the common Pi (model A or B), so it fits in smaller gizmos. It’s a third the price of the full-sized Pi, which adds up fast if the thing you’re making isn’t a one-off. It has more horsepower, by far, than the original Pi Zero, and like the Pi Zero W, has Wi-Fi onboard. 

At its heart, the Zero 2 W IS a Raspberry Pi 3: The RP3A0 chip the board is built around contains the same processor as the Raspberry Pi 3, bundled together with its memory, so the two appear to be a single chip from the outside (more on that later). It’s down-clocked ever so slightly from the full-size Pi model 3: 1GHz instead of 1.2GHz. Otherwise, it’s the same processor inside.

Who’s this for? The prime candidate is a Maker Pro, or a serial inventor. You want to turn out your first batch of a new connected gadget. Size matters, cost matters, easy prototyping matters.

The Raspberry Pi foundation does have another product that’s very close to the Zero 2 W: The Compute Module 3 is also small, with the processing power of a Pi 3. Where these two boards differ is that the Computer Module is designed to plug into another board with a single edge connector: No HDMI cable, no USB cables, no SD card slot. You can get those peripherals back by plugging it into a development board, but by the time you’ve done that you’ve paid far more than the price of a Zero 2 W.

If you’re a corporation with the expertise, head count, and minimum order size that the very first version of your gizmo is a manufactured circuit board, the CM3 or CM4 might be the choice for you. 

For the rest of us, the Zero 2 W is going to be a better fit.

You want to get your idea into a working prototype ASAP, and know you can turn out a batch without needing to change anything before cranking out dozens more. Down the line, once you’ve had time to iron out the kinks, you might consider swapping in a different board. 

You might step back to the classic Pi Zero, if it’s fast enough. That would save some bucks. But it’s sure nice not to be waiting on a slower chip while you’re debugging that first prototype. Or maybe once you’ve made a few hundred of your gizmo, it makes sense to swap in the Compute Module 3, saving labor when you’re cranking out large batches of your invention. Starting with the Zero 2 W will get you there.

O.G. Pi Zero (top) and the new Pi Zero 2 W (bottom)

How Fast Is It?

In my testing, it was remarkable how the Zero 2 W was a drop-in replacement for the classic Zero, only faster. I was able to run comparative speed tests simply by pulling the cables and SD card from one board, plugging them into the other, and waiting a few moments for it to boot up.

In those speed tests, the Zero 2 W completed its tasks so much faster than the classic Zero that swapping back was a little painful. The new Zero booted in under 30 seconds, compared to almost 2 minutes for the classic Zero. Programs opened in less than half the time. The multi-core processor seems to get most of the credit for these speed boosts: Benchmarking showed less than a 50% speed boost when run for single-threaded tasks, but was more than 5x faster when running a multi-threaded benchmark.

Speedy though it is compared to the classic Zero, this is still a board you build a gizmo around, not a spare computer for human users. The full-size Pi 4 can manage things that make this little board strain, like opening complex web pages with hundreds of MB of Javascript under the hood. This little board struggles to load heavy pages like or

At $15/board, versus $5 for the classic Zero, or $10 for the classic Zero W, the Pi Zero 2 W takes its place as the top performer in the Pi line-up for cost- and size-conscious makers. It’s also noteworthy as the carrier of the second chip that bears the Pi logo: Less than a year after the release of the RP2040 microcontroller chip, the RP2041 joins it as a Linux-capable processor. This little board is already impressive, and we’re excited to see what comes next now that the Raspberry Pi foundation has doubled down on making their own silicon.

Other features:

  • Micro SD card slot
  • Mini HDMI and USB On-The-Go port
  • Micro USB power
  • HAT compatible 40-pin header
  • Composite video and reset pins via solder test points
  • CSI camera connector