Raspberry Pi computers are among the most popular products in the single-board computer market. These miniature computers can make excellent foundations for electronic tasks such as digital signage or retro gaming machines. However, there are many different models of Raspberry Pi computers, and it can be difficult to tell them apart from one another.
Several signifying elements of Raspberry Pi computers can be examined to distinguish one from another. These elements include the number of USB ports, camera ports, and other physical elements. Additionally, you can run a CPU command that informs you which version of Raspberry Pi you are using.
While this may seem like an uncomplicated task, the varying models of Raspberry Pi computers can differ significantly regarding their SD card capacities, which can be crucial to their effectiveness. Keep reading to learn more about the various models of Raspberry Pi computers, their differing qualities, and how to tell each model apart from one another.
What Are the Primary Differences Between Raspberry Pi Computers?
As is evident when observing each Raspberry Pi computer’s characteristics listed below, the main differences between Raspberry Pi computers tend to pertain to their processing power, ports, and additional hardware. Older models of Raspberry Pi computers tend to possess fewer ports, less processing power, and no additional hardware.
In contrast, newer models of Raspberry Pi computers tend to possess more ports, variety in their ports, and processing power. Still, other characteristics are worth considering. For one, the number of GPIO pins can be highly relevant in distinguishing models of Raspberry Pi computers from one another.
Additionally, the size of the SD card your Raspberry Pi utilizes can be a major indicator as to which model of Raspberry Pi you are using. Older versions of Raspberry Pi tend to utilize larger SD cards, whereas newer versions are built for micro-SD cards.
Ultimately, there are plenty of physical and intangible differences between the various models of Raspberry Pi computers that can help you discern which model of Raspberry Pi you own.
Every Model of Raspberry Pi Computers: The Definitive Comparison
Raspberry Pi computers were first introduced to the world in 2012 and have since grown immensely in popularity, becoming one of the best-selling British computers of all time. As the brand has expanded, they have released more products to satisfy their consumer base’s varying needs.
There are a variety of models of Raspberry Pi computers that serve many needs. Here is a list of some of the various purposes one might use Raspberry Pi computers for:
- PC Gaming
- Building a Web Server
- Digital Signage
- Take Photo, Video, or Live Stream with Camera Module
- Build a Stop Motion Camera
- Power a Retro Gaming Machine
- Control a Robot
- Create a Local Network Drive
- Learn How to Code
While many Raspberry Pi computers can serve several of these purposes, some Raspberry Pi computers’ functionality can be much more limited compared to others. This is why it is so important to know which type of Raspberry Pi computer you have. Thus, let’s take a look at each type of Raspberry Pi computer and its distinctive qualities.
Raspberry Pi Zero
The Zero generation of Raspberry Pi computers was not the first generation of Raspberry Pi computers to be released to the general public. However, they were – upon initial release – the cheapest Raspberry Pi computers on the market. This is because they are also the most simplistic and rudimentary.
Here is a list of the two models of Raspberry Pi computers in the Zero generation with a brief description following each one.
Raspberry Pi Zero
The Raspberry Pi Zero is a $5 single-board computer that utilizes a micro-SD card and micro-USB power supply. The Raspberry Pi Zero computer’s technical specifications include a 1GHz single-core CPU and 512MB of RAM. Additionally, the Raspberry Pi Zero computer possesses features such as a mini-HDMI port and a CSI camera connector.
Raspberry Pi Zero W
The Raspberry Pi Zero W is relatively similar to the original Raspberry Pi Zero. It also requires a micro-SD card and micro-USB power supply. Additionally, it possesses the same basic technical specifications. However, it differs in regard to its additional connectivity features, such as Bluetooth 4.1, an 802.11 b/g/n wireless LAN, and Bluetooth Low Energy, or BLE.
Raspberry Pi 1
Generation One of Raspberry Pi computers was the first generation of Raspberry Pi to be released to the public. The first two models released in Generation One were the Model B and the Model A computers. However, both of these models have since been succeeded by “Plus” versions of themselves, which have rendered the originals obsolete.
Thus, here is a list of the two “Plus” versions of Raspberry Pi 1 computers, although it is worth noting that if you purchased your Raspberry Pi computer between 2012 and 2013, then you likely own the standard version of these models:
Raspberry Pi 1 Model A+
The Raspberry Pi Model A+ is the “Plus” version of the original Model A, which is the simpler, more affordable version of the Raspberry Pi 1. This model also utilizes a micro-SD card, although the USB connector is of standard size.
The Model A+ also possesses several distinctive features, such as 40 GPIO pins, lower power consumption, and a low-noise power supply. The Model A+ additionally contains four mounting holes and is roughly 2 centimeters shorter than the original Model A.
Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+
The Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+, like the Raspberry Pi Model A+, is the “Plus” version of its original counterpart. This model possesses a number of distinguishing features, such as 4 USB 2.0 ports and 100 Base Ethernet.
The Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ also possesses several characteristics similar to the Model A+, such as its low-noise power supply, micro-SD card socket, and four mounting holes.
Raspberry Pi 2
The year following Generation One’s “Plus” upgrades, Generation Two of Raspberry Pi’s single-board computers was released to the general public. Raspberry Pi 2 consists of only one computer model, the Model B. Most other generations feature at least a Model B and Model A, which is generally the more simple, rudimentary version of the Model B.
However, the second generation of Raspberry Pi computers chose not to expand upon the initial product. Here is a little more detail regarding this singular entity in the second generation of Raspberry Pi computers, the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B:
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B
The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B is the sole model within the second generation of Raspberry Pi computers. It has substantial improvement in its CPU and RAM compared to the Raspberry Pi 1, with a 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU and 1GB of RAM.
However, the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B is also fairly similar to the Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+. Both models possess a camera interface, display interface, an HDMI port, 4 USB ports, and 100 Base Ethernet.
Raspberry Pi 3
In 2016, just one year after the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B release, the third generation of Raspberry Pi computers began its distribution campaign. Unlike the generation it succeeded, Generation Three created both A and B models of their computer. Additionally, Raspberry Pi 3 includes both standard versions and “Plus” versions of these models.
While the A+ Model rendered the standard A Model obsolete, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B did not suffer the same fate. In fact, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is still sold through Raspberry Pi’s website. Thus, let’s take a closer look at the three models within the third generation of Raspberry Pi computers that are still sold to this day.
Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+
The Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ is the “Plus” version of the original Raspberry Pi Model A, which is the simpler, more affordable version of the Raspberry Pi 3 computer. This model possesses several features that distinguish it from previous iterations of Raspberry Pi computers, such as a full-size HDMI port, 4-pole stereo output, composite video port, and 5V/2.5A DC power input.
Additionally, this computer’s technical specifications are greatly improved, including Broadcom BCM2837B0, Cortex-A53 (ARMv8) 64-bit SoC @ 1.4GHz, and 512MB of LPDDR2 SDRAM.
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+
The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ is the “Plus” version of the original Raspberry Pi Model B. This model possesses several features that differentiate it from its original model and its Model A+ counterpart.
These features include Gigabit Ethernet over USB 2.0, 4 USB 2.0 ports, and Power-over-Ethernet support. This model also possesses superior technical specifications, such as its 1GB of LPDDR2 SDRAM.
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B may not feature the same technical or physical improvements as its “Plus” version or its A+ counterpart. Still, it stacks up against each model quite well, even surpassing the A+ Model in some categories. Some of these categories include RAM, which the Model B possesses 1GB of, and USB 2.0 ports, which the Model B possesses four of.
Still, this model cannot match up regarding its CPU, which is a Quad-Core 1.2GHz Broadcom BCM2837 64-bit CPU.
Raspberry Pi 4
While the release of the second and third generation of Raspberry Pi computers occurred in back-to-back years, the release of the fourth generation of Raspberry Pi computers did not occur until three years later, in 2019.
The fourth generation of Raspberry Pi computers is also arguably the most significant leap concerning the specifications and features included with the computer. Let’s take a look at the unique models that make up the fourth generation of Raspberry Pi computers:
Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Unit
The fourth generation of Raspberry Pi computers saw the introduction of more unique variations of Raspberry Pi computers. One of the more unique examples of this is the Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Unit. The Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Unit is a full desktop computer kit, far different from the simple, single-board motherboards sold prior to this generation.
This desktop computer kit consists of the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, a keyboard and mouse, 2 micro-HDMI cables, a 15.3W USB-C power supply, a case, a beginner’s guide, and a 16GB new out-of-box operating system.
Raspberry Pi 4 Model B
The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is the most traditional Raspberry Pi computer in the fourth generation. This computer possesses several defining features that differentiate it from preceding models, such as:
- 2 micro-HDMI ports that support both 2k and 4k displays
- 2 USB 2.0 ports and 2 USB 3.0 ports
- USB-C power supply
Additionally, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B possesses immensely greater technical specs, including a choice between 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB of RAM.
Raspberry Pi 400 Unit
The Raspberry Pi 400 Unit is one of the more easily discernible models of Raspberry Pi computers. This is due to the fact that the Raspberry Pi 400 Unit is built into a keyboard. This keyboard features comparable specifications and features to that of other models in the fourth generation, such as the possession of both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports and micro-HDMI ports.
Raspberry Pi 400 Personal Computer Kit
The Raspberry Pi 400 Personal Computer Kit is also one of the more easily discernible models of Raspberry Pi computers for the exact same reason, it is built into a keyboard. However, the Raspberry Pi 400 Personal Computer Kit differentiates itself because it comes packaged with other hardware.
This hardware includes a power supply, a micro-HDMI to HDMI cable, an SD card with Raspberry Pi OS built into it, and a mouse.
Raspberry Pi Pico
Finally, Raspberry Pi released its latest generation of computers in 2021, with the Pico Generation. The Raspberry Pi Pico surpassed the Raspberry Pi Zero models as the cheapest Raspberry Pi computers on the market. At this point, there is only one model that has been released within the Pico Generation.
Here is a closer examination of this computer, the Raspberry Pi Pico:
Raspberry Pi Pico
The Raspberry Pi Pico is the cheapest and smallest motherboard currently sold by Raspberry Pi. Despite its minuscule stature, the chip possesses a solid dual-core processor with 264KB of internal RAM. Ultimately, this is one of the most straightforward Raspberry Pi computer models to identify because it is the smallest and possesses a memorably low price point of just $4.
Other Ways to Tell Which Raspberry Pi You Have
While there are plenty of noticeable differences between the various models of Raspberry Pi computers, it may still be difficult to distinguish some of the more similar models from one another. Fortunately, there are other methods to do this.
Here is a list of some of them and a more detailed explanation pertaining to how you may apply these methods:
Run a Command to Display the Version of Your Raspberry Pi
First, the most straightforward method for identifying which version of Raspberry Pi you have is simply running a command that tells you exactly that information. There are several commands that have been suggested online for this exact concern. One of which is “grep Revision /proc/cpuinfo“.
This command will present the user with a code consisting of numbers and letters, which corresponds to a specific version of Raspberry Pi. You can find out which code pertains to which specific version of Raspberry Pi on Raspberry Pi’s website.
You can also run the command “cat /sys/firmware/devicetree/base/model;echo” which will simply show you the version of Raspberry Pi you are currently using.
Examine Photos that Compare Each Version of Raspberry Pi
Additionally, you may choose to simply look up a photoset of each version of Raspberry Pi. Then, you may use your skills at matching to identify precisely which version of Raspberry Pi you have. There are photo sets like this available here.
Use Contextual Clues to Narrow Down the Search
Finally, you may choose to use contextual clues to narrow down your search. These may include the year that you purchased the Raspberry Pi computer. If you purchased the computer before 2016, then the computer could only be one of the Generation One or Generation Two models.
If you purchased the computer fairly recently and it does not come in the form of a desktop kit or keyboard, you are likely to have either purchased the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B or the Raspberry Pi Pico.
By the end of this article, you should hopefully know a bit more about the various models of Raspberry Pi computers, their differing qualities, and how to tell each model apart from one another. It can be important to get a sense of these nuances because different Raspberry Pi computers can be better suited to different purposes.
Older versions of Raspberry Pi may not be best suited for digital signage, photography, or videography-related tasks, as they may not possess a suitable camera port. However, they may be perfect for tasks like learning how to code.
Ultimately, you will get a good sense of which Raspberry Pi you will need simply by looking at each model’s specifications and features.