The Raspberry Pi Goes to Zero

If you thought the legendary Raspberry Pi or RBPi was the smallest single board computers could get, well, you need to think again. Not only has the famous SBC shrunk in size, it has become a lot cheaper as well. The charitable Raspberry Pi foundation that launched the best selling computer in the UK is now offering their next model, the RBPI-Zero and in the US, it costs just $5.

RBPi-Zero comes with a 512MB RAM and a core that boasts of being 40-percent faster than what the RBPI-1 came with. The miniaturized SBC sports a Mini-HDMI port and two Micro USB ports, one of them for power. While comparing the RBPI-Zero with the first RBPI, the Raspberry Pi Foundation says the RBPI-Zero is equally revolutionary. They explained it would be manufactured in Wales, run the full Raspbian, while including other applications such as Minecraft and Scratch.

Similar to the requirements for the RBPi, the RBPi-Zero requires the user to attach their own power supply, keyboard, mouse or any other input device and the display screen. The cost of the new board is low because several components from the RBPi board are no longer present or have been simplified for the RBPi-Zero. According to Uben Upton, the founder of Raspberry Pi, all components on the new board justify their existence.

However, cutting features was not the sole process of getting the RBPI-Zero down to the bare-bones pricing of $5. The major contribution comes from the grand success of its predecessor, the RBPi, being the most successful computer in the UK for decades. The massive sales have enabled the Foundation to cut costs to unimaginable levels. The sheer numbers in sales have given them the economies of scale.

One of the processes in reducing the cost of the RBPi-Zero was keeping all components on one side of the board instead of two – it simplified manufacturing by removing half the assembly costs. According to Upton, they have moved the physical product around and the cost of metal connections has made an impact.

By redesigning the RBPi-Zero, the engineering solution to the necessities of space and cost has resulted in an extraordinarily aesthetic board. The precision and beauty of Zero comes out in its compactness and its symmetry. Just like its predecessor, nothing is hidden and all its inner workings are exposed to anyone with an interest. As Upton says, it is nice when things look attractive because they are functional.

The small form factor of the RBPi-Zero makes it simple for the board to be used in many more projects, whether it is robotics or Internet-connected devices. The easy to use board massively increases creative possibilities. You can use the RBPI-Zero in places where the RBPi would be difficult to fit. Presently, the Zero, a full-featured computer, will provide raw power somewhere between the first generation of the RBPi and its second generation.

The launch plans for the Zero are massive, with tens of thousands ready to ship. Raspberry Pi magazines such as the Magpi will feature a freebie RBPi-Zero with its 10,000 issues. Upton is expecting five such launch partners.