Rachel Tang
Researcher, Maker, Blogger

The classic Arduino platform and the newer Raspberry Pi architecture each have their own unique strengths, capabilities and weaknesses. In order to make a good choice about which one is better for your robotics project, you first must understand the basic differences between the two.

Robotics projects require using certain resources that support running multiple programs at once. Whether the running of various programs simultaneously is required or not is also dependent on the number of tasks that we expect the robot to do. Thus, before we pass a verdict on whether Arduino or Raspberry Pi is better for a particular robotics project, we must first understand the basic differences between the two platforms.

Comparing the Arduino and Raspberry Pi Platforms

The Arduino (left) and Rapsberry Pi (right) are both low-cost, open-source computing platforms but they are optimized for very different types of applications. Image: Digi-Key

An Arduino can be better understood as a microcontroller motherboard having limited ability to run one program in a single instance repeatedly. It is very easy to use and does not demand much in terms of in-depth knowledge about microelectronics.

On the other hand, a RPi is a miniature computer for general purposes. It comes with the Linux operating system and is multi-functional in nature because it supports running multiple programs simultaneously. The user may find it a bit more complicated to use than Arduino.

Both of these have their own utility bases and are considered for use after analyzing the requirements of a robotics project and its outcome. 

Uses of Arduino and Raspberry Pi Models

When you want your robot to do simple but repetitive tasks, you can consider using Arduino. For example, this project using robots for picking a material and keeping on processing platform is a simple act but requires the task to be done repetitively. Another important project is to record temperature on a daily basis and flash it on any social media network. The Raspberry Pi models may not be required for such simple projects, which can easily be completed with an Arduino board. If you prefer to have large community support, have less time and want something to support your project that does not have as many functions, it is advisable to pick Arduino.

Raspberry Pi projects are more complicated than the activities mentioned above. You may require the RPi if you need to do encryption programs, which are difficult as well as complicated. The Raspberry Pi, being a full-fledged mini-computer with slots to support external devices, is quite useful in multi-media projects and can be of great use in making small, multi-functional gadgets.

How to Decide Which One to Pick

You can simply follow this rule of thumb to make a decision faster and more easily. Ask yourself what you want your project to do. If the reply can be made with using just one ‘and’, then Arduino can fit the bill easily. For example, if the project objective states, ‘I want to know the temperature outside and get it displayed on my screen’, this project can be well-supported by Arduino.

But if there are many conditions to fulfill and multiple tasks to perform, such as, ‘I want to know the temperature outside and also need the forecast for coming days and to decide whether to put the irrigation system in my garden on or not, and to see if the water for the plants is sufficient as per weather conditions’, then you need to make a visit to the Raspberry Pi store to get the requisite model.

RPi is quite self-explanatory and there is a lot of software available for Raspberry Pi boards for creating projects including miniature versions of the gadgets used in day-to-day life. But it certainly is an over-expenditure and under-utilization of resources if Raspberry Pi is chosen for a robot performing only a single activity.

Who Should Prefer Arduino?

So, looking at the kind of projects where Arduino proves its utility better, one can safely say that this board is good for beginners. When, as a beginner, you need to create simple but realistic projects using robotics, Arduino provides all the necessary resources and support for doing so. This microcontroller board helps in decision-making projects and helps perform single functions effortlessly. Arduino is the best option for prototyping boards when the project is to be run on a tight budget and people with little experience are working on the project. It is less expensive than Raspberry Pi and offers great support for low-power applications. As a Arduino beginner, there are many chances of busting or breaking the board, out of negligence or frustration, and thus, getting started with Arduino does not hit the pocket that badly.

Who Should Use Raspberry Pi?

The beauty of Raspberry Pi lies in the fact that it can be enriched with various slots for using external devices. For example, it can have a microSD card slot, a USB drive etc., that can be used for storing information or for making the whole set-up more receptive to external additions. These full-fledged single-board computers can enhance gamers’ abilities by giving them more options to experiment with their ideas. The advantages of virtual memory abstraction and the ability to abstract hardware to their core functions make Raspberry Pi a desirable addition to the ingredients that make a great robotics project.

To conclude, both of the boards are marvelous in their own leagues. They are studded with pros and cons of their own and it requires reaching to the core of the theory of designing to decide which tool will be the best choice. Because of its user-friendliness and price, Arduino is a reliable tool for beginners, while on the other hand Raspberry Pi is gaining huge popularity amongst users who want to improve the quality of applications such as games because of its functional ease and enriched structure.

About the Author

Rachel Tang has been engaged in electronics hardware development and making for about four years after graduating from Faculty of Information & Electronics in China. She works at Elecrow as a researcher. With a lot of practical experience in electronics, Rachel has also kept writing articles to share her insights and skills to help understand and address the issues related to electronics projects.