Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: How to Choose the Right Microcontrollers

Published:May 28, 2024

Prof. David Reynolds stands as a luminary in the field of electrical engineering, renowned for his expertise in integrated circuits. Holding a distinguished position as a Professor of Electrical Engineering, Prof. Reynolds earned his acclaim through decades of research, teaching, and industry collaboration.

The world of microcontrollers has expanded significantly, offering enthusiasts, educators, and professionals a plethora of choices to bring their projects to life. Among the most popular options are the Raspberry Pi Pico and Arduino. Both platforms have garnered a substantial following due to their versatility, ease of use, and robust community support. The Raspberry Pi Pico, introduced by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, is known for its powerful RP2040 microcontroller, dual ARM Cortex-M0+ processors, and versatile I/O options. On the other hand, Arduino, a staple in the microcontroller world, offers a range of boards like the Arduino Uno, Mega, and Nano, each with unique features tailored to different project needs. 

 

 

This article provides a comprehensive comparison between the Raspberry Pi Pico and Arduino. The purpose of this article is to help readers make an informed decision on which microcontroller is best suited for their specific projects.

 

Overview of Raspberry Pi Pico

The Raspberry Pi Pico series comprises compact, fast, and versatile boards built around the RP2040, a flagship microcontroller chip designed by Raspberry Pi in the UK.

The Raspberry Pi Pico is the foundation's first microcontroller board, offering a low-cost, high-performance solution with flexible digital interfaces.

The Pico is based on the powerful RP2040 microcontroller chip, featuring a dual-core ARM Cortex M0+ processor with a flexible clock running up to 133 MHz.

Its simple design enables easy understanding of both hardware and software, facilitating the creation of gadgets and products. The Pico board features a multi-purpose castled hole/pad design, allowing headers to be soldered onto the pads or treating the entire board as a surface-mountable module.

With its power and flexibility, the Pico is suitable for professional applications, including machine learning, smart homes, wearables, and robotics.

 

 

Overview of Arduino

Arduino stands as an open-source electronics platform renowned for its user-friendly hardware and software components.

Throughout its evolution, Arduino has powered myriad projects, spanning from mundane household items to intricate scientific apparatus.

Diverse options of Arduino microcontroller boards are available, with most employing ATmega microcontrollers as their core.

Facilitating a smooth learning curve for novices, Arduino offers intuitive IDE software. It simplifies programming by utilizing a streamlined version of C++, contrasting with more complex programming environments. Moreover, Arduino software is compatible across various platforms, including Linux, Windows, macOS, and others.

 

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Functionality and GPIO

The Raspberry Pi Pico introduces a novel form factor within the Raspberry Pi realm—a 40-pin 'DIP' style PCB. All 40 pins are neatly arranged onto standard pads, with castellations encircling the perimeter, facilitating soldering the Pico onto a carrier board akin to surface mount electronics.

While the DIP package isn't groundbreaking, Arduino boards like the Micro have long employed it. This package allows for soldering onto a carrier board, placement into a breadboard, or stacking atop compatible add-ons, offering greater convenience compared to the larger layouts of Raspberry Pi and Arduino Uno styles. Embracing the DIP design, the Raspberry Pi Pico presents a user-friendly form factor that is easily integrated into projects.

The GPIO capabilities of the Raspberry Pi Pico are extensive, featuring ample digital IO, three analog inputs, and multiple connections for I2C, SPI, and UART. Yet, what sets the Pico apart is its programmable IO (PIO) pins. These pins can be configured to emulate various interfaces/protocols, such as WS2812 "NeoPixels," and can handle complex tasks in the background. All these functionalities packed into a $4 board make the Raspberry Pi Pico a budget-friendly "Swiss Army knife" of GPIO pins.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico GPIO pins

The Raspberry Pi Pico retains the 40-pin configuration of its predecessors but with notable enhancements. Among these pins, 26 serve as versatile GPIO pins, operating at 3.3V, while the remaining pins are allocated for Ground and Power functions.

 

These GPIO pins boast compatibility with specialized communication protocols, including I2C, SPI, and UART serial ports, along with offering 12-bit ADC and controllable PWM channels.

 

Key features include:

  • 26 multi-function 3.3V GPIO pins
  • 2 SPI, 2 I2C, 2 UART ports
  • 12-bit ADC channels
  • 16 controllable PWM channels

 

8 Programmable I/O (PIO) state machines for tailored peripheral support.

Additionally, the castellated module facilitates direct soldering onto carrier boards, enhancing integration flexibility.

 

 

Arduino GPIO pins

The Arduino Uno is equipped with 14 digital I/O pins, along with 6 analog input pins, Power pins, Ground pins, IOREF pins, and an AREF pin.

 

 

Among the 14 digital pins, 6 are dedicated PWM pins.

 

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: SoC

Traditional Arduino boards predominantly feature Atmel chips, such as the ATMega328P, while newer models incorporate Arm CPUs. For instance, Arduino's Portent H7 boasts a dual-core Arm Cortex M7+M4 CPU. Though the ATMega328 may not rival the performance of an Arm processor, it remains a reliable choice for projects, evidenced by the abundance of Arduino projects available.

Arm chips are increasingly prevalent in microcontrollers, with Adafruit, Seeed, and SparkFun all offering boards equipped with Arm chips. Microcontrollers often operate efficiently with single cores and moderate speeds, as they typically handle specific parts of a process.

The RP2040 utilized in the Raspberry Pi Pico surpasses the capabilities of a typical microcontroller. Featuring a dual-core Arm Cortex M0+ clocked at up to 133 MHz, it outpaces the Uno's 16 MHz 328P. Moreover, the RP2040 boasts 264KB of SRAM, a significant increase compared to the Uno's 2KB. Additionally, with 2MB of flash storage, the Pico far exceeds the Uno's 32KB.

Comparing the Pico to Arduino's flagship board, the Portenta H7, reveals significant differences. The Portenta H7 showcases a dual-core Arm Cortex M7 + M4, capable of running at speeds up to 480 MHz, with up to 2MB of flash storage and 1MB of RAM. Furthermore, the Portenta H7 offers WiFi, Bluetooth, a camera interface, and a GPU. While the Portenta H7 outperforms the Raspberry Pi Pico in every aspect, its price is notably higher. Retailing at €89.90 (excluding taxes), approximately $109, the Portenta H7 commands a premium for its advanced technology. To provide context, $109 could purchase 27 Raspberry Pi Pico boards.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Coding

The Arduino IDE remains the primary choice for Arduino projects, although alternatives like PlatformIO and Arduino Create have emerged. However, when people think "Arduino," it's often the Arduino IDE that comes to mind.

Over the years, the Arduino IDE has undergone enhancements, now featuring built-in capabilities such as managing multiple boards and facilitating library searches and installations for various add-ons and accessories. Arduino Create, a cloud-based version of the IDE, targets IoT projects but remains versatile for tinkering with basic Arduino code. PlatformIO offers three versions:

  • A command-line tool
  • A standalone IDE
  • Integration with existing IDEs like Microsoft's Visual Studio Code

 

The Raspberry Pi Pico platform supports two officially endorsed languages: C and MicroPython. Currently, for the Pico, C/C++ workflows are recommended for advanced users, with Raspberry Pi suggesting MicroPython, especially for beginners.

For those inclined to write C code on the Raspberry Pi Pico, two main options exist: writing code in a text editor (such as Vi, Vim, Nano, etc.) and then compiling it using terminal tools or setting up Microsoft's Visual Studio Code with various extensions to establish a workflow for building and flashing code to the Pico. While both approaches are feasible, they may not be the most user-friendly. However, an update to the Arduino IDE with RP2040 chip support could provide a more accessible solution soon.

Alternatively, if Python is your preferred language, the Raspberry Pi Pico accommodates MicroPython, a variant of Python 3 tailored for microcontrollers. Initially, MicroPython can be written directly into the Python Shell (REPL) or via an IDE like Thonny, which has supported MicroPython from version 3.3.0 onward. Opting for MicroPython offers a streamlined approach: quickly writing and deploying code via the Thonny editor, utilizing a widely used and standardized language across various platforms.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Board

The Raspberry Pi Foundation's debut microcontroller, the Raspberry Pi Pico, is powered by its custom RP2040 silicon and boasts a compact design. It serves as an affordable breakout board for the new microcontroller chip, and uniquely among Raspberry Pis, it supports analog input signals.

Arduino's pioneering USB board, the Uno, offers dual power options either via a dedicated power jack or its USB port. Alongside the original variant, the Uno has seen several iterations, including the cost-effective Uno SMD and the Uno WiFi, which integrates wireless connectivity. The latest version, Rev3, maintains an open-source design for all board iterations.

 

Component name/board name

Raspberry Pi Pico

Arduino UNO R3

Microcontroller

RP2040

ATmega328P

Input power

1.8V DC -5.5V DC

7V DC-12V DC

Operating temperature

-20℃-85 ℃

-40℃-85 ℃

Dimensions

 51.0 x 21.0 mm

68.6 x 53.4 mm

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Processor

The Arduino Uno Rev3 is powered by Atmel's single-core 8-bit ATmega328P chips, operating at a clock speed of 16 MHz. It offers a modest two kB of SRAM and 28 kB of flash memory.

In contrast, the Raspberry Pi Pico's RP2040 represents a significant advancement. Equipped with a 32-bit Arm Cortex-M0+ processor, it can dynamically operate at frequencies up to 133 MHz. Its dual-core architecture enhances software flexibility. Moreover, the processor boasts 264 kB of SRAM, 2 MB of built-in Flash memory, and the capability to access up to 16 MB of external RAM.

The RP2040's impressive features have led to its adoption by numerous manufacturers, including Arduino's Nano Connect board.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Powering Boards

 

Raspberry Pi Pico Powering Board

 

 

The Raspberry Pi Pico accepts 1.8 – 5.5V DC input power. There are two methods to power the board: via a USB port or using VBUS and VSYS.

VBUS, connected to micro-USB port pin 1, typically carries a voltage of 5V. If the USB is disconnected, VBUS reads as 0V. VSYS, the primary system input voltage pin, allows for variable voltage within the range of 1.8V to 5.5V.

For beginners without a dedicated Microcontroller, powering through the USB port is recommended. However, it's essential to familiarize yourself with powering via VBUS and VSYS, particularly for projects requiring portability.

To utilize VBUS and VSYS, various power sources are available, including Li-ion Cells, 3 AA cells in series, or any fixed power supply ranging from 2.3V to 5.5V.

 

Arduino Powering Board

 

 

Arduino Uno operates at 5V, with a recommended input voltage range of 7-12V. It's important to note that while the Arduino board's input voltage limit is between 6 and 20V, exceeding 12V is not advisable as it may damage the board.

There are three primary methods for powering the Arduino Uno:

  1. Powering via the USB port: This is straightforward—connect the Arduino Uno cable, which has Type-B and USB ends, with the Type-B end to the Arduino and the USB end to your PC or laptop. This setup also facilitates programming the Arduino Uno.
  2. Powering via the DC barrel power jack: Acquire an AC-DC power adapter with an output voltage ranging from 7-12V and plug it into the Arduino Uno board. It's a simple plug-and-play process.
  3. Powering via external power supplies, such as 9V batteries: There are two options here:

a. Utilize the Vin pin on the board: Connect the positive terminal of the 9V battery to the Vin pin and the negative terminal to the ground.

b. Utilize the 5V pin on the board: This option requires a voltage regulator, as the 5V pin is fixed. Supplying more than 5.5V can damage the board.

 

Tests have revealed that the Pico draws more current than the Arduino Uno when provided with the same power supply to operate NeoPixel LEDs. Consequently, the Arduino Uno emerges as a more efficient board in terms of power consumption and available power supply options.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Shield Compatibility

Arduino boasts a notable advantage with its expansive ecosystem of shields—additional boards that augment functionalities. These shields can bolster connectivity, introduce wireless capabilities, or integrate sensors into your project. This modularity is a crucial aspect to weigh, particularly if you envision expanding your project's capabilities through such add-ons.

Similarly, third-party manufacturers have developed "hats" for the Raspberry Pi Pico. These expansion boards can introduce supplementary functionalities like motor control, LCDs, WiFi, and more. However, the availability of hats for the Raspberry Pi Pico is considerably limited compared to Arduino shields.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Programming Language

To code the Arduino Uno and other boards in the Arduino lineup, developers utilize C++ "sketches." These sketches undergo processing, compilation, and loading onto the board as machine code with the assistance of the Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE).

In contrast to the Arduino Uno and its counterparts, the Pico is geared towards programming in MicroPython, a customized Python variant tailored for compact devices. This streamlines coding, particularly for beginners, while still allowing proficient users to engage with C/C++. Moreover, for those accustomed to the Arduino IDE, the Pico seamlessly integrates with this workflow.

However, the Raspberry Pi Pico goes beyond this functionality. It also supports CircuitPython, a widely adopted language by Adafruit, and its Serial Wire Debug (SWD) interface is highly esteemed by seasoned programmers.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: IDE (Programming Ecosystem)

The Integrated Development Environment (IDE) plays a pivotal role in the programming journey. Both Raspberry Pi Pico and Arduino offer user-friendly IDEs, with the ultimate choice often boiling down to personal preference. Arduino employs the Arduino IDE, while the Raspberry Pi Pico supports Thonny, MicroPython, or C/C++ programming via the official SDK.

Visual Studio Code (VS Code) stands as a widely used open-source code editor, catering to an array of programming languages and frameworks. Both Arduino and Raspberry Pi Pico can be programmed using VS Code through extensions that offer customized support for their development environments.

 

 

Arduino with Visual Studio Code

Utilizing Arduino with Visual Studio Code involves the following steps:

  1. Install the PlatformIO Extension: PlatformIO is a robust open-source ecosystem tailored for IoT development, boasting support for over 950 embedded boards. The PlatformIO extension seamlessly integrates Arduino development into VS Code. Download and install the extension from the VS Code marketplace.
  2. Arduino Framework: PlatformIO furnishes a user-friendly environment for Arduino development within VS Code. Here, you can effortlessly create and manage Arduino projects, write code, upload firmware, and monitor serial output directly from the VS Code interface.
  3. Library Management: PlatformIO streamlines library management for Arduino projects. With the extension, you can effortlessly search, install, and update libraries, enhancing the efficiency of your development process.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico with Visual Studio Code

Get the C/C++ Extension: When working with Raspberry Pi Pico, coding is commonly done in C/C++. To prep VS Code for Pico programming, add the "C/C++" extension from Microsoft.

Install Pico-SDK and CMake Tools: For Pico development, you'll require both the Pico-SDK and the CMake Tools extension in VS Code. The Pico-SDK equips you with essential libraries and tools.

Set Up CMakeLists.txt: Craft a CMakeLists.txt file within your Pico project, outlining build configurations. VS Code, alongside CMake Tools, will utilize this setup to compile your project.

Compile and Deploy: Utilize the VS Code interface to compile and flash your Pico project onto the Raspberry Pi Pico. This extension simplifies the process, making compilation and deployment a breeze.

Visual Studio Code offers a wealth of features beneficial for both Arduino and Raspberry Pi Pico development, including code highlighting, autocompletion, and integrated terminal support. With the right extensions, developers can enhance their workflow and enjoy smooth programming, be it with Arduino microcontrollers or the Raspberry Pi Pico.

Although the Arduino IDE is commonly linked with Arduino boards, it's also feasible to program the Raspberry Pi Pico via the Arduino IDE, thanks to the backing provided by the Arduino community for the RP2040 microcontroller. Here are the steps to configure and code the Raspberry Pi Pico using the Arduino IDE:

To set up the Arduino IDE, follow these steps:

 

  1. First, head to the official Arduino website to download and install the Arduino IDE.
  2. Once installed, launch the Arduino IDE.
  3. Now, let's add support for the RP2040 Boards Package:
  4. In the Arduino IDE, navigate to "File" and then "Preferences."
  5. Within the Preferences window, locate the "Additional Boards Manager URLs" field.
  6. Insert the following URL into this field.
  7. After adding the URL, click "OK" to save and exit the Preferences window.
  8. Proceed to "Tools," then "Board," and finally, "Boards Manager."
  9. In the Boards Manager, search for "RP2040" and install the "Raspberry Pi Pico" boards package.
  10. Once installed, you're ready to select the Raspberry Pi Pico board for your projects.

 

Once you've installed the board's package, locate "Raspberry Pi Pico" under "Tools" and then "Board." From there, select the appropriate Pico board variant, such as Raspberry Pi Pico, from the dropdown menu.

Next, designate the programmer by navigating to "Tools" followed by "Programmer." For Raspberry Pi Pico, "Raspberry Pi RP2040" is the typical selection.

 

Now, for writing and uploading your code:

Begin by composing your Arduino code within the IDE. Arduino code for the Raspberry Pi Pico is commonly scripted in C/C++.

 

  1. Connect your Raspberry Pi Pico to your computer via a USB cable.
  2. Under "Tools" and then "Port," select the correct port.
  3. Click the "Upload" button to compile and transfer your code to the Raspberry Pi Pico.
  4. To monitor the serial output of your program:

 

Access the serial monitor in the Arduino IDE by navigating to "Tools" and then "Serial Monitor."

Utilizing the Arduino IDE to program the Raspberry Pi Pico offers a familiar platform for Arduino enthusiasts, streamlining the process of coding, compiling, and uploading. Additionally, it facilitates access to the extensive Arduino library ecosystem while working with the Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller. It's important to note that this support is a result of the collaborative efforts within the Arduino community and may undergo updates and enhancements over time.

 

 

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Packaging & Connectivity

As we've previously noted, the Arduino and Raspberry Pi Pico vary in size, each with its unique advantages and drawbacks.

The Arduino's larger size and integrated connectors make it a breeze to connect peripherals using jump leads. Additionally, each pin is clearly labeled to prevent inadvertent connection errors. When paired with a breadboard, it easily interfaces using extra jump leads. Furthermore, the Uno includes a separate power connector and a USB (Type-B) port, offering convenient serial connectivity.

Conversely, the Raspberry Pi Pico, with the addition of appropriate header pins, is "breadboard-friendly," proving invaluable in numerous prototyping scenarios. It also boasts castellated terminals along its edges, simplifying soldering to circuit boards. Through a Micro-USB connector, the Pico effortlessly switches between host or device modes, simplifying USB applications. Its form factor also facilitates the straightforward addition of stacked peripherals and dedicated add-on hardware, such as robotics project controllers. However, the Pico's need for a built-in reset button can prove frustrating in various testing situations.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Input/Output

At the core of most microcontroller projects lies the crucial ability to interface with physical devices like sensors, motors, and displays. Both the Uno and Pico microcontrollers are well-suited for this purpose.

Concerning general-purpose input/output (GPIO), the Uno operates at 5 V and boasts 6 analog input pins and 14 digital pins, with 6 of them supporting pulse-width modulation (PWM) output. Conversely, the Pico operates at 3.3 V and offers 26 GPIO pins, with 3 functioning as analog inputs and 16 as PWM outputs. Additionally, the Pico holds an advantage in analog-to-digital conversion (ADC), boasting higher resolution (12-bit vs. 10-bit) and a quicker sampling rate (500 kHz vs. 125 kHz).

As peripheral devices increasingly rely on serial communication, both the Uno and Pico facilitate UART, I2C, and SPI functionality. Nevertheless, the Pico gains an edge with twice the number of channels for each of these communication protocols.

What distinguishes the Pico is the inclusion of eight programmed input/output (PIO) "state machines." These independent channels enable custom control of external hardware, offering a broad spectrum of tasks, including additional serial communication or even video processing.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Power Consumption

The Raspberry Pi Pico stands out as an efficient choice for embedded projects. In contrast to a typical Raspberry Pi, the Pico draws significantly less current due to its nature as a microcontroller, devoid of the overheads associated with a full-fledged computer.

Similarly, the Uno offers the convenience of powering via its USB port, yet it boasts a versatile input voltage range spanning from 7 to 12V. Conversely, the Pico operates on a nominal power supply of 5V through the micro USB connector and accepts external inputs within the range of 1.8 to 5.5V.

During sleep mode, the Pico exhibits lower power consumption (6mW) compared to the Uno (15mW). However, comparing their power consumption during normal operation presents a slightly more nuanced picture. Theoretically, owing to its increased power and higher clock rates, the Pico may consume more electricity. Furthermore, as Python is an interpreted language, it tends to draw more power compared to its C++ counterparts. Typically, the Pico consumes up to 100% more energy, yet strategic hardware utilization can mitigate this discrepancy.

Both devices are viable for battery-powered applications, yet for scenarios demanding ultra-low power consumption, alternative boards may offer a more suitable solution.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Board Variants

Arduino enthusiasts enjoy a plethora of board variants tailored to diverse needs. From the iconic Arduino Uno to the compact Arduino Nano and the robust Arduino Mega, there's a wide array of options to choose from. This diversity empowers users to select the board that perfectly suits their project requirements, ensuring optimal performance and scalability.

Currently, there are only two Raspberry Pi Pico boards available: the W and the H. The Raspberry Pi Pico W variant includes wireless capabilities such as WiFi and Bluetooth. The advantage lies in the affordability of the W version compared to any Arduino board with similar wireless features. However, in terms of board variants, Arduino remains unmatched in its versatility and range of options.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: IoT Application

Both Raspberry Pi Pico and Arduino have established themselves in the realm of the Internet of Things (IoT). Connectivity to the internet and communication with other devices are pivotal for IoT applications. Raspberry Pi Pico has showcased its prowess in this domain, while Arduino boards like Arduino Uno R4 WiFi and Arduino Nano RP2040 Connect are tailored to fulfill IoT requirements.

 

 

Arduino Uno R4 WiFi

The Arduino Uno R4 WiFi stands out in the Arduino family, offering inherent WiFi connectivity. This feature streamlines the integration of IoT functionalities into projects, facilitating seamless communication with other devices or online services. It's a versatile microcontroller board that merges the classic Arduino Uno design with built-in WiFi connectivity. Powered by the ATmega4809 microcontroller, it strikes a balance between processing power and energy efficiency. With 14 digital input/output pins, 6 analog inputs, and various communication interfaces, the Arduino Uno R4 WiFi retains the familiar Uno form factor while incorporating the convenience of wireless connectivity, making it an appealing option for projects necessitating both Arduino compatibility and internet connectivity.

 

 

Raspberry Pi Pico W

The Raspberry Pi Pico W, an upgraded iteration of the Pico, boasts integrated wireless connectivity, positioning it as a strong contender for IoT applications. Its native support for MicroPython further simplifies rapid and effective programming. At its core lies the RP2040 microcontroller, a dual-core ARM Cortex-M0+ processor clocked at 133 MHz. The inclusion of wireless capabilities, including WiFi and Bluetooth, renders the Pico W well-suited for projects requiring wireless communication and control. With 26 general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins, MicroPython support, and internet connectivity, the Raspberry Pi Pico W offers a potent and flexible platform for a broad spectrum of applications, from IoT endeavors to prototyping.

The compact dimensions of the Pico W, coupled with its wireless features, unlock avenues for remote monitoring, control, and data exchange. Whether you're a novice delving into electronics experimentation or an adept developer tackling intricate projects, the Raspberry Pi Pico W furnishes a convenient and capable solution for integrating wireless connectivity into your creations.

 

 

Arduino Nano RP2040 Connect

The Arduino Nano RP2040 Connect is a feature-rich microcontroller board that amalgamates the power of the RP2040 microcontroller with supplementary components to deliver enhanced functionality. Driven by the Raspberry Pi Foundation's RP2040 chip, the Nano RP2040 Connect houses a dual-core ARM Cortex-M0+ processor operating at 133 MHz, offering ample processing prowess for myriad applications. What sets this board apart are its built-in features, including a 6-axis IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) for motion sensing, a microphone for audio input, and a secure element for bolstered security in communication protocols. This amalgamation of advanced sensors and security features positions the Nano RP2040 Connect as a fitting choice for projects necessitating a blend of connectivity and advanced functionalities.

Engineered to cater to the requisites of contemporary projects, the Arduino Nano RP2040 Connect offers connectivity avenues through its onboard WiFi and Bluetooth modules. This connectivity, coupled with the additional sensors, renders it an ideal candidate for applications spanning from IoT ventures and wearables to robotics. The compact form factor of the Nano RP2040 Connect lends versatility in design, making it a potent tool for both novices and seasoned developers endeavoring to craft innovative and connected devices.

 

 

Arduino Nano ESP32

The Arduino Nano ESP32 is a compact yet potent microcontroller board that amalgamates the adaptability of the Arduino Nano form factor with the advanced features of the ESP32 chipset. At its heart lies the ESP32 microcontroller, furnishing both WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, rendering it an exemplary choice for projects necessitating wireless communication. Equipped with a dual-core processor, abundant GPIO pins, and diverse communication interfaces, the Arduino Nano ESP32 presents a robust platform for a broad array of applications, spanning from IoT devices to robotics.

The integration of WiFi and Bluetooth in the Arduino Nano ESP32 unlocks avenues for remote control, data exchange, and connectivity with other devices. This board caters to both Arduino lovers and those seeking the specific advantages of the ESP32 chipset. Its diminutive size and compatibility with the Arduino IDE render it a convenient choice for developers and enthusiasts seeking a balance between compact design and robust wireless capabilities in their projects.

 

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Ease of Use

While other Raspberry Pi boards function as computers once the OS is installed on the SD card, the Raspberry Pi Pico introduces a different workflow.

Regardless of the programming language chosen, flashing the Pico with an image specific to that language is necessary. This allows for writing and saving code directly onto the board. The preferred image format is UF2, a USB flashing format advocated by Adafruit for their CircuitPython range of boards and supported by Microsoft. By pressing the BOOTSEL button while plugging in the micro USB cable and dropping the UF2 file onto the RPI-R2 drive, we can start coding in just a few seconds. This simplicity is particularly evident in the MicroPython workflow, where after loading the MicroPython UF2 file onto the Pico, coding can begin by connecting through Thonny.

The C/C++ workflow is more complex and may deter newcomers due to the significant "hoop jumping" involved in creating a final product. From a terminal, the project code needs to be written in a text editor. Additional applications and dependencies must be downloaded before "building" the project into a UF2 file, which is then manually copied to the Pico.

A slightly more streamlined process is offered by Microsoft's Visual Studio Code, allowing project code to be written and built with just a few clicks. While not the most user-friendly option for beginners, this is expected to change with the introduction of an Arduino core for the RP2040, announced by the Arduino team. This core will enable the use of the Arduino IDE with the Raspberry Pi Pico and other RP2040-based boards.

The Arduino IDE workflow has been refined over the years, requiring minimal user interaction within the app. Advanced users can adjust the board, ports, and libraries used in a project, features that have seen a significant enhancement in recent Arduino IDE releases.

Alternatives to the Arduino IDE include Arduino Create, a cloud-based version of the IDE that offers limited free use but requires a paid plan for more advanced functionalities. The Arduino Create IoT Cloud allows the creation of applications based on the Arduino ecosystem and functions effectively, albeit requiring some time investment to learn the process.

In terms of physical usability, a notable difference is that the Raspberry Pi Pico comes unsoldered, although it's relatively easy to solder your pins with a soldering iron. In contrast, Arduino boards typically come pre-soldered, except for DIP-based boards like the Arduino Nano Every and Nano 33 IoT, allowing for immediate hacking straight out of the box.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Cost

The original Arduino Uno Rev3 typically sells for around $23 and is readily accessible for online purchase. Nonetheless, being an open-source initiative, there's a plethora of clone boards available at a lower price point. However, the reliability and quality of these clones might not match that of the original model.

On the other hand, the Pico is remarkably budget-friendly, with prices starting as low as $3. This affordability is a standout feature of the board, especially given its outstanding performance relative to other microcontrollers available in the market.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Pros and Cons

 

Raspberry Pi Pico Pros and Cons

 

Raspberry Pi Pico Pros

  • Affordable Pricing: The Raspberry Pi Pico is very cost-effective, making it accessible for hobbyists and educational purposes.
  • Powerful Microcontroller: Equipped with the RP2040 chip, it offers dual ARM Cortex-M0+ processors, providing substantial processing power for various applications.
  • Versatile I/O Options: The Pico features a wide range of I/O pins, including 26 GPIO pins, which support numerous peripherals and interfaces.
  • Flexible Programming: Supports multiple programming languages like MicroPython and C/C++, catering to both beginners and experienced developers.
  • Compact and Lightweight: Its small form factor makes it suitable for compact projects and space-constrained applications.
  • Strong Community Support: There is a growing community and extensive documentation available, making troubleshooting and project development easier.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico Cons

  • Limited Built-in Connectivity: Unlike some Arduino boards, the Pico lacks built-in WiFi or Bluetooth, requiring additional modules for wireless communication.
  • Lower Ecosystem Maturity: The ecosystem around the Raspberry Pi Pico is still developing, with fewer available accessories compared to the extensive Arduino ecosystem.
  • Learning Curve: For beginners, especially those new to MicroPython, there might be a steeper learning curve compared to Arduino's more beginner-friendly environment.

 

Arduino Pros and Cons

 

Arduino Pros

  • Wide Range of Boards: Arduino offers a variety of boards (e.g., Uno, Mega, Nano) tailored for different project needs, from simple to complex applications.
  • Robust Ecosystem: A vast array of shields, modules, and accessories are readily available, enhancing the versatility and scalability of projects.
  • User-Friendly IDE: The Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is intuitive and widely used, making it easy for beginners to start coding and building projects.
  • Extensive Community Support: Arduino has a large, active community with abundant resources, tutorials, and forums, facilitating easy learning and troubleshooting.
  • Built-in Connectivity Options: Many Arduino boards come with built-in WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, simplifying wireless communication in projects.

 

Arduino Cons

  • Higher Cost: Some Arduino boards and accessories can be more expensive compared to the Raspberry Pi Pico.
  • Less Processing Power: Most Arduino boards have less powerful microcontrollers compared to the RP2040 chip in the Raspberry Pi Pico, which may limit performance in more demanding applications.
  • Limited Programming Languages: Arduino primarily supports C/C++, which might be restrictive for users wanting to program in other languages like Python.
  • Form Factor Constraints: Some Arduino boards are larger and may need to be more suitable for more compact projects or wearable applications.

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: What's the Difference?

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino Comparison Table

Feature Raspberry Pi Pico Arduino Uno
Microcontroller RP2040 Dual-core ARM Cortex-M0+ ATmega328P
Clock Speed Up to 133 MHz 16 MHz
Flash Memory 2MB 32KB
SRAM 264KB 2KB
GPIO Pins 26 14
Analog Inputs 3 6
PWM Channels 16 6
Communication UART, SPI, I2C, PIO, USB UART, SPI, I2C
Operating Voltage 3.3V 5V
Programming Language MicroPython, C/C++ Arduino IDE (C/C++)
Cost Low High
Development Tools Raspberry Pi Pico SDK Arduino IDE, Libraries
Power Consumption High Low
IDE Compatibility Thonny, VS Code, Others Arduino IDE, PlatformIO

 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs. Arduino: Which Microcontroller is Better?

Priced at $4 and boasting an impressive array of GPIO pins, along with user-friendly features and comprehensive documentation, the Raspberry Pi Pico stands out as the top choice for microcontroller projects. Despite its low cost, you can rely on official hardware and seamless functionality, distinguishing it from other clone boards.

Currently, MicroPython presents the optimal route to initiate projects with your Pico swiftly. However, once the Arduino IDE incorporates support for the Pico, the C/C++ workflow will significantly enhance, potentially enticing even Arduino enthusiasts to explore the Raspberry Pi Pico as an alternative to their usual favorite.

Nevertheless, the well-established Arduino Uno remains a steadfast and beginner-friendly option, offering extensive documentation and robust support.

 

Arduino vs. Raspberry Pi Pico vs. ESP32

 

 

Feature Raspberry Pi Pico Arduino Uno ESP32
Microcontroller RP2040 Dual-core ARM Cortex-M0+ ATmega328P Xtensa LX6
Clock Speed Up to 133 MHz 16 MHz Up to 240 MHz
Flash Memory 2MB 32KB 4MB
SRAM 264KB 2KB 520KB
GPIO Pins 26 14 36
Analog Inputs 3 6 18
PWM Channels 16 6 16
Communication UART, SPI, I2C, PIO, USB UART, SPI, I2C UART, SPI, I2C, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Operating Voltage 3.3V 5V 3.3V
Programming Language MicroPython, C/C++ Arduino IDE (C/C++) C/C++, Arduino IDE, MicroPython
Cost Low Low Low
Development Tools Raspberry Pi Pico SDK Arduino IDE, Libraries Arduino IDE, ESP-IDF
Power Consumption Low Low Low
IDE Compatibility Thonny, VS Code, Others Arduino IDE, PlatformIO Arduino IDE, PlatformIO, Others

 

For those just starting, the Arduino Uno offers an excellent entry point. However, if you're seeking a more comprehensive exploration, the Raspberry Pi Pico presents an ideal option. Conversely, for projects centered around the Internet of Things (IoT), the ESP32 stands out as unparalleled. Ultimately, your decision should reflect your project's objectives and financial considerations.

 

Conclusion

In summary, choosing between the Raspberry Pi Pico and Arduino hinges on your project's unique demands. Opt for the Raspberry Pi Pico if you value processing prowess and adaptability. Alternatively, Arduino's array of boards and shields makes it a dependable choice for those desiring a modular and scalable environment. Evaluate your project's requisites, compatibility, and feature availability to pinpoint the ideal microcontroller for realizing your innovative concepts.

 

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FAQ

  • Can Pi Pico run Arduino code?

    Yes, the Pi Pico can be programmed using MicroPython or C/C++, similar to the Arduino.

  • Can Raspberry Pi Pico run an OS?

    No, the Raspberry Pi Pico does not run a full desktop operating system.

  • What is the Raspberry Pi Pico good for?

    The Raspberry Pi Pico is ideal for IoT applications and projects that need wireless communication.

  • Which programming language is best for Pi Pico?

    MicroPython.

  • Can Pi Pico run Python?

    MicroPython is a comprehensive version of the Python 3 programming language designed to operate directly on embedded hardware such as the Raspberry Pi Pico.

  • Which is better for beginners, Raspberry Pi Pico or Arduino?

    Arduino is often considered the better choice for beginners due to its extensive community support, straightforward IDE, and abundance of beginner-friendly tutorials. Arduino boards are designed to be simple and intuitive, making it easier for newcomers to start basic projects and understand fundamental electronics and programming concepts.

  • Which microcontroller has better community support?

    Arduino has better community support. There are countless forums, tutorials, and resources available for Arduino users.

  • Which microcontroller is better than Arduino?

    NodeMCU offers built-in WiFi and a larger memory capacity.

  • What is Raspberry Pi?

    The Raspberry Pi, a compact computer the size of a credit card, seamlessly connects to your TV or monitor alongside a keyboard and mouse.

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