Raspberry Pi Pico – would you bother?

Friday Rant: The New “Raspberry Pi Pico” trades on the name “Raspberry Pi” which many of us find to be a cost-effective home controller, thankfully widely supported by lkots of third parties. But this is not a Raspberry Pi – it is a small controller – the price touted on their website is “Now on sale at $4” – REALLY?

Let’s take a look at this? More marketing bull or is this the actual price in the USA?? I took a look at the three available suppliers in Spain. The cheapest was €4.84 + €3.18 post. Give me a break – an ESP32 board from AliExpress costs far less than that, delivered. The Pico has 2MB Flash and 26 IO pins. ESP-32-based boards have 4MB of Flash, a large user base, lots of software already and have 39 usable pins, 34 of which are GPIO, the rest are inputs.

I nearly fell for this when the Raspberry Pi Zero came out but when it turned out to be far less useful than RPi2 and even than than the many RPI clones out there, I gave it a miss after actually getting one at the claimed $5 while on holiday in the USA. It ended up as a door-stop.

I read the online introduction PDF which contained such exciting stuff as “Blinking a LED in C” and “Saying hello world in C”.

I also took a look at the “free Pico” available with a HackSpace magazine subscription £5 per issue in the UK. Well, that’s possibly nice for the UK but £80 (€90+) for 12 issues in Europe. £90 ($123+) elsewhere. I don’t think so.

How about an alternative no matter where you live? Buy ESP8266-based boards such as the Node-MCU-like boards I reviewed here – indeed for €20 all-in, get TEN of them – drop in the free and supported Tasmota which is trivial to do and within minutes you can be running any of dozens of supported sensors, any of several OLED or LCD displays, updating via OTA (over-the-air), talking to the device by webUI, MQTT or serial (or all three), running a shedload of serial RGB LEDs in real time (high speed RGB sequencing and fading), toggling several relays at once and far more. On my desk I have one of the above boards running a LED, a RELAY, a 60-LED clock which demands high speed real time processing (I hope soon to add in an SSD1306 128*32 i2c OLED to that mix), an ultrasonic sensor and a DHT22 sensor all at the same time – all using Tasmota commands – I didn’t write a line of code. When it comes to doing something useful with the above, I’ll drop a few simple commands into Node-Red including the MQTT commands (my choice).

If extra power and IO is that important, for the same €20 you could get FOUR ESP-32-based boards with almost the same support as the ESP8266 boards.

Tell me what sounds like more fun or “bang for the buck” as our USA friends might say. I’d be happier to see Raspberry Pi Foundation sticking to improving what they already have (as an example, control over which RPi4 USB port to boot from would be nice for SSD and SSD backup).

Rant over.


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