Raspberry Pi Zero review: Huge possibilities and a tiny price

Price when reviewed

Raspberry Pi Zero Review: Performance

When you’ve tracked down adapters for the Pi Zero’s mini-HDMI and micro-USB ports, booting the Pi Zero is a familiar experience. With no operating system provided, it’s up to you to supply a microSD card loaded with a compatible OS. Typically, this would be the popular Raspbian Linux distribution. Unfortunately, options such as Windows 10 and Ubuntu are off the table owing to the Pi Zero’s older processor.

For someone used to the Raspberry Pi 2’s quad-core processor, moving to the Pi Zero feels restrictive. The boot time is considerably lengthened and the benchmarks clearly show the lack of power. The cross-platform SysBench suite completed a CPU test in 358.47 seconds, a result that’s significantly slower than the 74.48 seconds of a Raspberry Pi 2.


Switch the comparison to the Model A+ or B+, though, and the Raspberry Pi Zero’s new 1GHz clock-speed becomes apparent: both full-size models completed the same test in a time of 500 seconds, or 140 seconds slower than the Raspberry Pi Zero.

Raspberry Pi Zero Review: How much does it cost and where can I get one?

With the ability to outperform single-board computers five times its price, the Pi Zero certainly looks good, but there’s one fly in the ointment: availability. The Pi Zero’s price has been set by the Foundation at £4, making it an undeniable bargain, even if you need to pick up adapter cables, the GPIO header, microSD card, and a power supply separately.

Sadly, there are plenty of bargain-hunters out there. The minute stock appears at one of the official outlets, it immediately sells out again. Nearly two months since its launch, the Pi Zero is still difficult to pin down.

That leaves room for a black market of sorts. When the device was bundled on the cover of The MagPi, the Foundation’s official magazine, copies appeared on auction sites for anything up to £100.

Even now, some otherwise reputable retailers are marking the device up to ridiculous levels: one is selling the device for £36, albeit with mini-HDMI and micro-USB adapters to the value of £2 included. At £4, the Pi Zero is a bargain. At £36, the Raspberry Pi 2 is a much better choice for anyone not constrained by size limitations.

Raspberry Pi Zero Review: Verdict

It’s easy to concentrate on the negatives of the Pi Zero, and there certainly are more than one. The processor is a step backwards, the loss of camera and display interfaces will hurt many embedded projects, and the need to solder your own GPIO header will make newcomers nervous. Availability, too, is a major hurdle to the Pi Zero’s success, although one the Foundation is working to resolve.

The price, however, is what saves the Raspberry Pi Zero from disappointment. To be able to build a device that can hold its own against the Model A+ and sell it for just £4 is impressive, and it leaves plenty of room in the budget for the adapter cables and extras required to get it running – even a USB Ethernet or Wi-Fi adapter for projects that need network connectivity. If you see it on sale at £4 anywhere, snap one up. It’s one amazing bargain.

Further reading: 17 of the best projects you can try with your Raspberry Pi

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