Why buy the Raspberry Pi Zero W?

When you have seen the Raspberry Pi 4 with 4GB ram, you may wonder why should we even be bothered with the earlier versions.

If you have been following Seeed Studio, you would have heard that they had included Raspberry Pi Zero W in their product catalogue.

I welcome this move from Seeed Studio with open arms.

Since I live in Singapore, I will be able to shave hefty shipping costs getting the Pi Zero W from Seeed Studio instead of vendors from the west. If you are staying in countries that are nearer to Guangzhou, then the real cost of your Pi Zero W will be much closer to the 10 USD price tag.

But why buy the Raspberry Pi Zero W?

In case you are thinking of whether to trade 10-ish bucks for one, here are some reasons why you should have a look at the Raspberry Pi Zero W for your next Raspberry Pi project.

What are the specifications of the Raspberry Pi Zero W?

First, let us look at the specifications of the Raspberry Pi Zero W.

Given that, this is a hardware overview from Seeed Studio that highlights the key features of the Raspberry Pi Zero W:

hardware overview of Raspberry Pi Zero W from Seeed Studio

As shown above, the Raspberry Pi Zero W has:

  • 802.11 b/g/n wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
  • 1GHz, single-core CPU
  • Mini HDMI and USB On-The-Go ports
  • Micro USB power
  • HAT-compatible 40-pin header
  • Composite video and reset headers
  • CSI camera connector

In addition to that, the Pi Zero W is also equipped with 512MB RAM.

Using your Raspberry Pi Zero W

With such specifications, you can:

Therefore with such capabilities, you can use a Pi Zero W as an IoT gateway. You can deploy your Pi Zero W in the field with just a microUSB cable supplying power and a microSD card running a compatible operating system.

In case you need to, you will also be able to plug in a keyboard, mouse and monitor to troubleshoot your Pi Zero W without using SSH.

Raspberry Pi Zero W is much cheaper than Pi 4B and Pi 3B+

Although 10 dollars can be a big deal for some, 35 or 55 dollars is more difficult to part with.

Unless you are going to watch 4K videos on your Pi Zero, your Pi Zero can serve as a security camera or sensing device pretty decently.

Therefore, I will be more willing to leave it on my gardening rack for keeping tabs on soil moisture.

Raspberry Pi Zero W is much smaller than Pi 4B and Pi 3B+

Although the hardware specifications for the Raspberry Pi Zero W is inferior to Pi 4B or Pi 3B+, a Pi Zero W has a much smaller form factor.

Specifically, the Raspberry Pi Zero W measures 65mm long by 30mm wide with a depth of 5mm (without the conventional GPIO header pins). Indeed, that is a significant size reduction comparing to Pi 4B's 88mm x 58mm x 19.5mm and Pi 3B+'s 82mm x 56mm x 19.5mm.

In case you are not comfortable with numbers, here are some side by side photos to visualize just how small the Pi Zero W is:

Raspberry Pi Zero W in between Raspberry Pi 3B+ and Raspberry Pi 4B

Raspberry Pi Zero W and Raspberry Pi 4B depth comparison

Even with the GPIO header pins, you can significantly reduce the surface area of your Raspberry Pi project with a Pi Zero W.

Therefore, a Pi Zero W is especially useful for projects that have size restrictions.

Raspberry Pi Zero W consumes less energy than Pi 4B and Pi 3B+

Since a Raspberry Pi Zero W has less computation power, it also consumes less energy than Pi 4B and Pi 3B+.

Therefore, if you are looking for a IoT gateway that can last longer with a solar panel and battery pack, a Raspberry Pi Zero W can fit the bill.

It's all about size and power tradeoffs

In summary, we typically buy the Raspberry Pi Zero W when we have budget, space and energy consumption constraints.

Resolutions to such constraints are paid for with lower computation capabilities.

When you are cognizant about such tradeoffs, you will be able to build your next IoT project with the Raspberry Pi Zero W.

In order to get the most out of your Pi Zero W, I will recommend that you use the Raspbian Lite as the operating system. In case you need it, this is how to setup Raspbian Buster Lite for Raspberry Pi server projects.

After you had completed the setup, you will be able to have a base operating system to run customized applications on your Raspberry Pi Zero W.

About Clivant

Clivant a.k.a Chai Heng enjoys composing software and building systems to serve people. He owns techcoil.com and hopes that whatever he had written and built so far had benefited people. All views expressed belongs to him and are not representative of the company that he works/worked for.