Already supported by a strong community, The Raspberry Pi Foundation sold out of the initial batch of $5 Pi Zeros — all 20,000 of them — within the first 24 hours of its launch. Zero is a stripped-down version of the Raspberry Pi B+, but don’t let that fool you. This is one powerful little board at a price that’s hard to beat.
The foundation, a U.K.-based nonprofit with the mission of getting more people familiar and literate with computers, has been a favorite for Makers since 2012, when the first Raspberry Pi came out. Since then, demand and fervor over the boards has not waned; in just three years, the foundation has released six different boards: Pi 1 models A, B, A+, and B+ and the compute module; and the Raspberry Pi 2, Model B. The Zero is the seventh iteration, and much of the design harkens back to the original line of boards, but its price point also represents a renewed initiative by the foundation to get the board in more hands.
The first thing to notice about Raspberry Pi Zero is that it is the smallest Raspberry Pi ever, just 30mm×65mm and only 6mm tall. Its size lets you fit a tiny computer inside even the most compact project. To achieve that, the large, bulky HDMI and standard size USB ports are replaced with mini HDMI and two micro USB ports, respectively. Absent are Ethernet, TRRS audio out, and composite video — though that can be added later by soldering two pins to pads labeled “TV.” Also missing, without the potential to breakout from unpopulated pads, are the CSI and DSI plastic ribbon connectors, which are used on other Pis to interface camera and touchscreen display.
Due to the shrunken form of the connectors, Zero requires two specialized USB cables — a micro USB to standard USB and a USB on-the-go (OTG) cable — as well as a mini HDMI to standard HDMI cable. That’s not a huge detractor from using the Pi, but it is something to be aware of when ordering the board. Make sure to get these accessories. What the Pi Zero retains is the Broadcom BCM2835, which is the same processor as in all previous Raspberry Pi 1 boards (every board except the Pi 2, Model B). The processor clock speed on Zero is bumped up to 1GHz from its first-gen cousins, which operate at 700MHz. With 512MB of RAM, there is plenty of room for running most applications and computing tasks without lag. Multitasking with the Pi Zero is not as snappy as it is with Pi 2, Model B, but that’s because the Zero doesn’t have a quadcore architecture. Provided that spending money on cabling isn’t an issue, then the Pi Zero is a great board for the price.