Rumours that something new was coming from the Raspberry Pi team have proved true - a $5 computer the Raspberry Pi Zero is here to give the BBC micro:bit and other low cost devices some competition.
While the original Raspberry Pi line of devices provides a remarkable amount of hardware for very little money it seems that things can be even cheaper. The BBC micro:bit is so cheap it is being given away to school children and Codebug costs around $15 and these prices made the Pi look expensive.
The new Pi Zero however offers quite a lot of hardware for $5:
A Broadcom BCM2835 application processor
1GHz ARM11 core (40% faster than Raspberry Pi 1)
512MB of LPDDR2 SDRAM
A micro-SD card slot
A mini-HDMI socket for 1080p60 video output
Micro-USB sockets for data and power
An unpopulated 40-pin GPIO header
Identical pinout to Model A+/B+/2B
An unpopulated composite video header
form factor 65mm x 30mm x 5mm
1x Micro USB Data port
comes with Micro USB ‘On the Go’ adapter and Mini HDMI to HDMI adapter
At the price, this spec is amazing. Most of the jobs you could have done with the original Pi, you will be able to do with the Zero.
It also runs Raspbian including Scratch, Minecraft and Sonic Pi. The GPIO is the same as all of the previous Pis but it doesn't come with a 40-pin connector soldered into place - so some assembly is required if you want to use it as an microcontroller. The same is true if you want to make use of the composite video output to drive older display devices.
What are the negatives?
For the customer, very few and very reasonable ones. The processor is single core and the Ethernet port has been removed. You can get network connectivity with a USB WiFi dongle or even a wired USB network port.
There is also no camera and display interface so you won't be able to use the Pi camera with the Zero and there is no separate stereo audio output - it goes via the micro-HDMI connector.
Unlike the other low cost educational devices, this one comes with full video output and can be used with a keyboard and mouse. This is a full computer for $5. There is even a Zero-based retro games console on offer.
There is an obvious downside for the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Only demanding applications will actually need one of the other models. This might see a fall off in sales of the original Pi. But as it is a non-profit success in terms of reaching a wide market is probably more important than income.
To emphasize how low cost this device is, it is being given away free with this month's MagPi, the magazine published by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which claims, probably correctly, that this is the first time a computer has been given away as a covermount.
This really is a revolution - disposable computing is here.
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