Before delving into the meat of this interesting contest, it is important to state that both devices were built for different applications. That been said, I will endeavour to define both devices using their technical definitions as well as a non-technical approach to get first time users of microcomputers to appreciate their abilities.
The Arduino board is a microcontroller motherboard. This means that it is a simple computer at is core which can be used to run one selected program at a time, over the duration of time set by the user. This along with other features to be discussed below makes it easy to use. On the other hand, the Raspberry Pi is an all-purpose computer which comes with its own native operating systems—Linux—which gives it the ability to run multiple programs. Thereby making it a bit more complicated to use than the Arduino board and herein lies the first difference between most microcomputers.
In layman’s terms, the Arduino board can be viewed as a blank slate which only becomes readable when you write a set of information on it to serve as directions for its readers while the Raspberry Pi is a slate that comes with a set of information written on it. This information is clear enough for a reader to understand and use as directions to get things done. Now comparing and contrasting between both devices—with emphasis laid on contrasting features—I intend to make use of different criteria to simplify the process.
Criteria for Explaining the Difference between the Raspberry Pi and Arduino
- Functional capabilities: this criterion focuses on the base functions both devices were built to handle. Here we will discuss the major reasons they were built for.
- Operational Features: although both devices are basically microcomputers, they function differently using diverse features. Here, these features and their functions will be discussed in-depth.
- Exploring Usability issues: this criterion will discuss which of these devices was made for you and the situations or project the use of each can be best applied to.
The Arduino board is basically a microcontroller, not a full computer. This is made clear by the fact that they do not run using a complete operating system but simply execute imputed code interpreted by its firmware. The Raspberry Pi as stated earlier functions primarily through Linux operating systems which makes it a more advanced system than the Arduino.
In terms of purpose, the main purpose of an Arduino board is to serve as an interface between the program you write and the sensors or devices it is intended for. This factor gives it its popularity in electronics circles as it is great for hardware projects. The Raspberry Pi is the whole package needed to handle complex or more repetitive tasks which make it a favorite in the advanced robotics community.
In terms of the power supply; these two devices or microcomputers required different power element to function optimally. The Raspberry Pi is built to work on a constant power supply of 5V to stay on and function optimally. It can also be shut down through the use of an application like every other full-blown computer. An Arduino board on the other hand, is powered by the application of energy wires directly onto the pins on the board or stack chips—shields—on its base unit. When turned on, the Arduino board starts executing your imputed codes and stops only when you cut off its energy supply.
The power feature means that users of the Raspberry Pi may encounter portability issues if you need to work with this device on the go. The requirement of a 5V power supply makes simply plugging in a good old AA battery won’t cut it as a power source. Meanwhile, the Arduino board simply needs a battery pack to provide your pins with the required energy to keep its voltage above a certain level. Lastly, it is important to note that if the power goes out on a Raspberry Pi, the possibility of software errors occurring is quite high. While for an Arduino board, an interrupted power supply simply stops the running code which will promptly resume once power is restored.
The next criterion to consider in contrasting both devices is the features they exhibit when in use.
An operational feature which must be considered is the networking ability of both options. This is due to the fact that you may require easy access to the internet for the electronic devices you intend to build. Therefore, in terms of networking capabilities; the Raspberry Pi has a built-in Ethernet port which provides access to LAN networks. The Pi also supports wireless connections and all you will need is a USB Wi-Fi dongle to install the needed driver. Once this is completed, users can simply connect to wireless networks via its operating system. Interestingly, you can also process HTML, post to the internet or use dedicated printer server to print.
Sadly, the Arduino offers no such inbuilt capabilities. It microcomputers were built as simple execution devices, not full-blown computing systems. Although this may be some source of discouragement to aspiring Arduino users, more experienced electrical gurus have successfully integrated Ethernet ports to Arduino boards. This is done through the integration of an extra chip with an Ethernet port. Also, a good amount of re-wiring and coding must be done to get everything working according to your needs. It is also important to note that the need for Arduino boards with networking features has created a market where 3rd parties sell modified boards with the Ethernet chip integrated into it for public use.
Now when considering each microcomputer and their compatibility with sensors, here are the important details to note. Both the Pi and Arduino are built with a diverse amount of interfacing point for your use. But, it is easier to connect and use an analog sensor with the Arduino board due to the fact that it can easily read and respond to a variety of data coming from integrated sensors. Although this ease of use depends on the code you input on the Arduino, it is still a great way to set a series of command to control the servos and other devices in your projects.
As stated earlier, the Raspberry Pi works with a dedicated operating system which means it requires the use of specific software applications to interface with sensors and the like. This means that more work will be needed to be done if you intend to use a Raspberry Pi to handle projects such as watering plants or keeping a steady temperature using sensors. Do not be mistaken, Raspberry Pi’s can work well with sensors but you will need the help of an Arduino or other microprocessors—working as a control board—to execute the commands issued by the Pi software.
Programming on both devices is also a feature that must be touched on so first-time users get the full picture on what it takes to run both microcomputers. The nice thing about Raspberry Pi’s use of a dedicated operating system is that you can program immediately using the languages—C++, Java, Python etc.—you already know. You could even take an old application you have already created and get it to run on the Pi without the need to make more or too many changes.
On the other hand, for the Arduino board, you will need to create a sketch using its Arduino language—which is not too hard, due to its similarities with C—which is something you may have to spend some time learning. On the flipside, there is a multitude of libraries and classes for Arduino floating on the web due to its rather large user base. This means you may not need to learn much about Arduino programming if handling domestic projects. Simply dust-up your research skills and surf the web for excellent hacks you can copy for use with your Arduino board.
Lastly, in terms of operational features, the Raspberry Pi is what it is. A microcomputer with its own inbuilt ecosystem while the Arduino board comes with a lot of diverse input/output configurations you can work creatively with.
Exploring the Usability of the Arduino Board and Raspberry Pi
The Arduino board and the Raspberry Pi are microcomputers that can be used independently or simultaneously to achieve diverse types of tasks. But the fact remains that each of these options are better applied in some situation than their counterpart. So this is the area dedicated to exploring the areas better suited for each.
- Reading Data and Fluctuating Values
when the task or project you require a microcomputer to keep tabs on requires reading changing data values, the Arduino board’s capabilities makes it a better microcomputer to handle this task. The Pi’s capabilities mean that you will have to do more integration work to get it ready for handling such tasks.
- Handling constantly running procedures
if your project requires keeping track of a running procedure on a constant basis, the Arduino board is definitely the better option to consider. This is due to its really low power requirements and upkeep that requires little interaction. On the other hand, the Raspberry Pi must be fitted with a dedicated power source and in some cases external accessories to get the job done. Therefore, if you need to monitor your plants and get them to notify you when in need of water on a constant basis, the Arduino board is definitely the perfect option for your use.
- Handling multiple operations
when tasked with multiple operations you need to handle simultaneously such as connecting to the internet to read and write data, the sophistication of the Pi is your best bet. The Raspberry Pi is basically a micro personal computer which will make more advanced tasks simpler for you to accomplish. Therefore, if your task is to monitor your plants, have them tweet at you about when they need water while also checking the weather forecast on the possibility of rain occurring, the Raspberry Pi is definitely the microcomputer needed to get such complex tasks done seamlessly for you.
- Available Support
Arduino boards were the first microcomputers to be widely accepted in the electronics community for personal and domestic use. This ‘first mover advantage’ gives it the edge of the Pi in terms of support. There are definitely more libraries, classes, case studies and examples on the web covering the use of Arduino boards than you will ever find for the Raspberry Pi
- Cost of External Accessories
the Pi is a more advanced system which means it is cheaper to add external features to it than the Arduino board. For example, with $35 you can get a Raspberry Pi fitted with Video, audio, Ethernet and USB with it while you may have to pay almost a $100 to get these features on the average Arduino board i.e. the Arduino Uno.
- To further simplify the usability issue from which to choose, this universal rule should be applied; the Arduino board is a system designed for beginners while the Raspberry Pi is a more advanced system designed for intermediate or expert level users.
In conclusion, it is important to note that the Arduino board is compatible with the Raspberry Pi. Therefore, you can integrate the use of both to simplify certain tasks and projects you hope to accomplish. The release of more advanced Arduino boards such as the Arduino Zero and Pro are also set to blur the lines separating both microcomputers which will definitely make the future of microcomputers and interesting field for everyone to participate in.