THERE’S A NEW RASPBERRY PI !
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.
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.
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.
- 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