For many electronics projects, a Pico microcontroller could be a better option if you don’t require a lot of computing power.
The Raspberry Pi firm makes a number of single-board computers, although only the Raspberry Pi Pico is a microcontroller.
This little board has a special combination of capabilities that make it more suited for some applications, but it is not meant to be a replacement for the more potent SBCs.
In this article, we’ll look at a number of reasons why you might choose using a Raspberry Pi Pico over other Raspberry Pi models for your electronic projects.
1. Microcontroller Architecture
The Pico is a straightforward, unobtrusive microcontroller board with no other purpose than to assist you in realizing your electronics projects, unlike the other Raspberry Pi models that make grandiose attempts to replace your primary computer or at least act as a respectable substitute.
Although this lowers its overall capability compared to the other Pi models, it also has a number of benefits, which are covered in the following sections.
The Raspberry Pi Pico utilizes a lot less hardware than a conventional Raspberry Pi to do the same activities, which is a result of its considerably simpler architecture.
Additionally, it is considerably simpler to set up and has none of the single-board computer’s security problems. Additionally, the Pico has no SD card and only offers 2MB of non-volatile flash memory.
In contrast to having a corrupted SD card, this flash memory will keep your data even if there is a brief power loss.
The cheapest Raspberry Pi item is the Raspberry Pi Pico, with base models beginning at $4. This costs substantially less than the cheapest Raspberry Pi 4 and approximately a fourth as much as the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W.
With the Raspberry Pi Pico, you can experiment with electronics with a low entrance barrier and a little initial outlay.
Even in the realm of microcontrollers, the Pico’s pricing is still quite competitive, and it’s rare that you’ll find a board at that price that has comparable functionality, usability, and documentation.
The Pico comes in three different versions, each with a different pricing. The stated cost of the entry-level model is $4, although it includes unsoldered
3. Power Efficiency
Even while it may not be the most energy-efficient microcontroller board in the Raspberry Pi family, the Raspberry Pi Pico serves its purpose well enough.
One of our suggestions for reducing power consumption in your Raspberry Pi projects is to use a Pico instead.
The two low-power settings it gives are sleep and inactive. The inactive mode consumes the least amount of power, but it needs an external trigger to activate again.
On the other hand, sleep mode consumes more power because the chip’s clock infrastructure is still functioning to wake the Pico if necessary.
Although the Raspberry Pi Pico lacks the ESP32’s sophisticated sleep modes, it uses less power when it is active.
Less than 100mA were used during
4. Programmable Input /Output
The General Purpose Input/Output (GPIO) pins on the 40-pin header of the Raspberry Pi Pico are 26 multipurpose GPIO pins. Similar to previous Raspberry Pi models, the Pico supports a variety of communication protocols, including 2 x I2C, 2 x SPI, and 2 x UART channels.
You should absolutely look at our in-depth guide to the Pico’s pinout.
The Raspberry Pi Pico, however, stands out for its capacity to design customized digital interfaces and communication protocols.
The eight PIO state machines on the Pico allow for this. These essentially function as processing units that can manage data entering and leaving the microcontroller.
They can relieve the CPU of some time-sensitive activities, allowing the microcontroller to manage resources more effectively.
5. Analog Input
Analog signal reading is only possible with the Raspberry Pi Pico model. An analog-to-digital converter (ADC) would be required to take signals from an analog device and deliver them to the Raspberry Pi in a digital format that it can understand.
Contrarily, the Raspberry Pi Pico’s included 12-bit ADC allows it to directly accept analog input. On the board, three of the 26 GPIO pins may be set up as analog inputs.
So, for instance, you could read a potentiometer using a Raspberry Pi.
6. Compact Size
The Raspberry Pi Zero (2.6 x 1.2 x 0.2 inches), which is closely behind the Pico in terms of size (2 x 0.8 x 0.04 inches), is the smallest Raspberry Pi.
The Pico would probably be a far better match than most other Raspberry Pi models if you were making a portable gaming console, smart glasses, heart rate monitor, or any other wearable electronics project.
Overall, the Pico’s small size expands its variety of application scenarios and makes it a useful tool for projects where space considerations are a key factor.
7. Real-Time Applications
the operating system must first boot.
Though technically viable on other models, bare-metal programming is more difficult to use and is best suited for experienced developers.
Therefore, the Pico is more suited for time-sensitive projects like gaming controllers, home security, robotics projects, and even applications for home automation.
8. Supporting Raspberry Pi Silicon
Unlike the single-board computers and Compute Modules from Raspberry Pi, the Pico sets the trend for being the first microcontroller board and the first product based on the company’s very own in-house chip, the RP2040.
The low-cost but high-performance chip also powers several alternatives to the Raspberry Pi Pico.
Buying a Raspberry Pi Pico means that you are supporting Raspberry Pi Silicon and making it more likely that we will see even better chips than the RP2040 in the future.
The Raspberry Pi Pico Is a Cheap Alternative for Your Electronics Projects
What the Raspberry Pi Pico lacks in power and storage space, it makes up for in real-time capability, size, and affordability. It is perfect for projects where a fully-fledged Raspberry Pi computer would be overkill.
If the I/O pins on the Pi are all you need to bring your project to life, you may be better off with one of the variants of the Raspberry Pi Pico.