Raspberry Pi

What is the Raspberry Pi Zero used for?

Raspberry Pi was built to educate students about computers and teach them about programming. The Linux-based kit is complete with all the basic components of a desktop computer board despite its credit card size. Just put the tiny board in a case, load the OS in a microSD card, and connect all the necessary peripherals, and you can already boot up a computer! Surprisingly, it became popular among DIY enthusiasts and project builders too. Raspberry Pi boards are already small, but would you believe that the Raspberry Pi Foundation managed to make an even smaller board?

Raspberry Pi Zero

Raspberry Pi Zero is the smallest computer board ever created by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Released in 2015, Pi Zero only measures 6.5cm by 3cm, just half the size of the standard Raspberry Pi board. It’s equipped with the same single-core Broadcom processor used in the very first Raspberry Pi, but it runs faster with a higher clock speed of 1GHz.

The best selling point of this amazingly small board is its price. With only $5, you get a 32-bit computer that’s complete with a 1GHz ARM11 Broadcom CPU, Broadcom Videocore IV GPU, 512MB of RAM, a microSD card slot, two microUSB ports (one exclusively reserved for power), one mini-HDMI port, a CSI camera connector, and one unoccupied 40-pin GPIO header. But there’s one thing missing – network connectivity. There’s no Ethernet port nor Wi-Fi card on the board, which means you can’t connect it to a network. Because it’s designed to be a minimalist board, Bluetooth is also not included. If you need the Internet, you can connect a USB Wi-Fi dongle or a USB Ethernet port as a workaround.

As you can see, Pi Zero can only give you the bare minimum for a desktop PC. Aside from the network cards, you still need a lot of things like a USB hub to connect various USB devices and a mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter for the display to complete the setup. But for $5, you already get more than what it’s worth.

Raspberry Pi Zero W and Raspberry Pi Zero WH

Perhaps Raspberry Foundation realized the struggles that Pi Zero users go through to connect to a network. Because of Pi Zero’s popularity but lack of network support, the Raspberry Foundation released a Pi Zero variation with built-in wireless features. Introduced two years after Raspberry Pi Zero, Raspberry Pi Zero W has the same components as the original but with the addition of 802.11n wireless card and Bluetooth 4.1. Because of the additional features, it costs slightly higher than its predecessor. With a price tag of just $10, it’s still very affordable considering all the features you can get from such a tiny board. Like the Pi Zero, the W variation is power-efficient.

Now let’s get on to the next Pi Zero variation. Remember the unoccupied 40-pin header in Raspberry Pi Zero? That is no longer a free space for the other Pi Zero variation.

The Raspberry Pi Zero WH sports an integrated 40-pin GPIO header (the H stands for).  It’s everything that Raspberry Pi Zero W is but with the inclusion of a 40-pin GPIO header. This is a great additional component for people who need the GPIO pins but don’t want to go through the hassle of soldering the header.

Raspberry Pi Zero’s OS

Just like any other Raspberry Pi, the microSD card slot on a Raspberry Pi Zero is reserved for the microSD card which holds the operating system. The majority of the OSes compatible with Raspberry Pi are Linux-based, like Arch Linux and Kali Linux, but the default and widely installed OS of Raspberry Pi Zero is the Raspberry Pi OS (previously called Raspbian), downloadable for free from the Raspberry Pi website. Although it’s built for Linux, non-Linux OSes like RISC OS and NetBSD can also run on the Pi Zero.

Before installing the OS, it’s recommended to install the operating system installer Berryboot or NOOBS (New Out of Box Software) to make the installation much easier. You can also download these for free from the Raspberry Pi website. If you don’t want to go through the hassle, you can just purchase a microSD card from Raspberry Pi that’s preloaded with NOOBS. This makes things a lot easier since NOOBS provides you with a list of operating systems, and you just select the OS that you want to install.

What Are They Used For?

Raspberry Pi Zero is a great tool for people who want to start getting their hands on building computers. It has a simple and uncomplicated platform that makes learning easy for children and adults alike. Likewise, it’s a suitable tool for people who want to start cheap in learning how to code languages like Python, C, and C++.

Besides learning about computers and programming, you can also build your hobby projects using the Raspberry Pi Zero. Its small size is a big advantage in build projects because it’s easier to embed than its larger counterparts. Raspberry Pi Zero has also found favor in the IoT community, especially after integrating wireless capabilities in Raspberry Pi Zero W. There are many cool things that you can build with it, either for your home or for work. Creative DIY enthusiasts have created countless projects like portable game consoles, home network music systems, WiFi security cameras, and even weather stations using Raspberry Pi Zero.

The Raspberry Pi Zero’s flexibility, versatility, and computing power also make it an excellent tool for industry-grade projects such as robotics and electronics.

This humble board has surpassed many people’s expectations. The super-cheap board may look just like any other circuit board from the first look, but it carries more power in it. It’s versatile enough that you can learn how to assemble computers, learn how to code, and embed an entire computer in your build projects with it. With the inclusion of wireless capabilities and GPIO headers, there are many other things that you with the Raspberry Pi Zero family. Who would’ve thought that such a small board can do many great things?

About the author

Glynis Navarrete

A freelance blogger who loves to write about anything related to technology. Born and raised in the Philippines and worked in Singapore for eight years as Technical Support for a wide range of IT equipment. Took a dive into the world of freelancing and now enjoying doing what I’m passionate about while not losing touch with technology.