What Is The True Cost Of Running a Raspberry Pi?

muo rasppi intro   What Is The True Cost Of Running a Raspberry Pi?The Raspberry Pi – a small, compact and versatile computer, capable of processing HDMI and MPEG-2 being the central component of any number of weekend projects from retro gaming stations and media centres to smart TVs, Internet radios and low budget space programs.

Since its release in 2012 the Raspberry Pi has proved something of a phenomenon. We’ve featured it at length here on MakeUseOf, and even chatted with its creator, Eben Upton. Costing less than $40, the Raspberry Pi is a hugely successful computer, largely due to its low price. But is it really as low-budget as you think? Could it be that the true cost of a Raspberry Pi is in fact much more?

I decided to take a look at just how much I had spent on this mini-computer since purchasing it – and the results came as something of a surprise.

The Basic Raspberry Pi Package

Perhaps the real reason why the Raspberry Pi costs more than you think it will is because of what you get in the box.

The basic Raspberry Pi is a small 3.370 in × 2.125 in motherboard consisting of a 700 MHz CPU, a 250 MHz GPU, 512 MB RAM, and various USB, Ethernet, HDMI, RCA, audio, powered USB and GPIO connectors, topped off with a single SD card slot.

muo raspbmc closeup   What Is The True Cost Of Running a Raspberry Pi?

Costing $35 for the 512 MB version in the USA and under £25 in the UK, the Raspberry Pi comes as the barest of bare bones kits, requiring you to purchase power cables, storage, a case, and perhaps more.

This is where things can get a little more expensive…

What You Need to Get it Working

It’s a useful piece of kit, but the Raspberry Pi is next to useless on its own. To get mine up and running, I purchased the following items:

  • Micro-USB power adaptor
  • USB keyboard
  • USB mouse
  • 8 GB SD card
  • Ethernet cable
  • HDMI cable

muo rasppi sd   What Is The True Cost Of Running a Raspberry Pi?

Some of these items were not bought initially, I might add. For instance I had a USB keyboard but this died. Similarly, I gave my old USB mouse away, so had to pick up a new one. I also used a microSD card with an SD card adaptor to start off with, resorting to the full card when I decided to find something more resilient and robust for storage.

Other Hardware You Might Need

The collection of hardware above should be all you need for basic use of your Raspberry Pi – ideal for using the device as a means for learning how to program (after all, that was the original idea…!).

However as time progresses and you decide to start trying a few projects, you might just find that you need to start adding a few more pieces of hardware into the mix.

muo rpi overclock box   What Is The True Cost Of Running a Raspberry Pi?

For instance, I’ve bought a pair of Nintendo Entertainment System game controllers with USB connectors, a webcam, a USB card reader for “burning” Raspberry Pi operating systems to SD card and even a case. I’ve also added an external hard disk drive to my collection as well as a couple of strips of adhesive hook-and-loop fastener to keep the device secure when in use.

So, how much have I spent on my Raspberry Pi so far?

Totalling it Up

Let’s list the items noted so far and their current prices (via Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk):

  • Micro-USB power adaptor – $9.91 or £3.54
  • USB keyboard – $8 or £4.99
  • USB mouse – $4.11 or £1
  • 8 GB SDHC card – $8 or £11.99
  • Ethernet cable – $1.87 or £2
  • HDMI cable – $3.99 or £3.99
  • 2x game controllers – $14.52 or £15.98
  • USB webcam – $22.49 or £14.99
  • USB card reader – $6.73 or £3.99
  • Raspberry Pi case (although there are free alternatives) – $13.49 or £7.99

That comes to a total of $93.11, or £70.46 if you’re in the UK. Add the price of the Raspberry Pi itself and you’ve spent just $128.11 (or £95.46).

Conclusion

Now, I’ve seen a few discussions online that feature people getting a bit angry about the price of the full Raspberry Pi setup. But really, under $130 and less than £100 for a versatile computer that can be used for anything from managing a micro-brewery to a carputer is fantastic value.

muo rpi mediaready 580   What Is The True Cost Of Running a Raspberry Pi?

I had started this article thinking that I had perhaps spent a lot more than expected. Could it have been more cost effective to have bought a tablet or a netbook?

Thankfully I was wrong. Yes, the full Raspberry Pi kit costs a bit more than the initial price of the computer, but you can still create a desktop computer, a retro gaming station, a media centre and a motion-detection home security system for less than the cost of a quality budget tablet.

Forget about dedicated media centres and retro gaming machines built from old desktop PCs. The low price of the Raspberry Pi keeps project costs affordable.

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19 Comments -

0 votes

KyleTaylored

I’ve been working on turning my Cubieboard into a retro arcade with my X-Arcade tankstick, but it’s starting to be a pain to boot from an external hard drive due to power consumption. But eventually, I’ll get there!

0 votes

Darryl

I’m no tech head but with the specs that Pi has why can’t say a Pentium 3 (800 mhz) machine run hd…..barring the hdmi connection of course

0 votes

JeffD

good luck running an old Pentium 3 PC in under 10 watts…

0 votes

Mike

I love the Pi, want one (or maybe more). I’ve just lost my excuse to keep old PCs lying around, although it looks like keeping the peripherals might be handy. In Australia you have to shop around to get even an HDMI cable for less that the price of the Pi itself… And the Pi is *quiet* and low-power, unlike my old AthlonXP from 2003…

0 votes

dirk

You need an USB keyboard, and USB mouse, and a HDMI cable for making it run? Never heard of SSH?

And why do you need game controllers, an USB webcam, an USB card reader and a Raspberry Pi case for running this thing?

0 votes

Christian Cawley

What a curious comment.

If a computer doesn’t have a card reader then the owner of the Pi needs a USB card reader in order to flash the OS.

As for SSH, yes, it’s useful but not for all Raspberry Pi projects.

0 votes

TechnoAngina

I think he’s going for absolute need versus what was described as needed in the article. Is everything needed? Probably not, you definitely don’t need an HDMI cable with the video out, but it sure is nice.

For me personally my costs were only for a microSD converter, I had everything else just lying around or easily obtainable at no cost to me.

To be terribly honest. I’m having a harder time finding something useful to do with it than anything else.

0 votes

Thomas Milham

Personally, I would dish out that amount of money for extra accessories for a Pi, but since most of us have spare keyboards, mice, etc It shouldn’t be a big problem…which it seems to be…

0 votes

Vennroxx

36$…running in market in India.

0 votes

Vennroxx

why can’t say a Pentium 3 (800 mhz) machine run hd

0 votes

N. O. Comment

CPU != GPU.

0 votes

EgoAnt

I am just wrapping up my first project with the Pi and it was a joy to work with. If you shop carefully a lot of the parts can be obtained cheap (or you might already have them lying around)

0 votes

Onaje Asheber

Nice! I have everything but the Raspberry Pi. Going to pick up one next week.

0 votes

Dostadawg

Would like to see how it would work as a thin client.

0 votes
0 votes

gewg_

USB mouse – $4.11 or £1
Ethernet cable – $1.87 or £2
HDMI cable – $3.99 or £3.99

Your arithmetic is interesting.

0 votes

Jack Cola

It just goes to show different countries have different prices for products.

0 votes

Christian C

Nothing to do with arithmetic.

As Jack Cola sagely observes, these pieces of kit have wildly differing prices in the UK and USA.

0 votes

Jack Cola

If you don’t have the equipment, then yes, it will cost this amount. But most of the equipment you steal from other things you have at home

-Micro USB Power adapter –> Stole from Android phone charger
-USB keyboard/mouse –> purchased a portable one for my laptop to control the TV
-SD Card –> Stole from my Camera
-Ethernet Cable –> Used a spare that came with my modem
-HDMI cable –> borrowed from another device connected to the TV
-Game controller –> only required if you want to play games on it. If you are a gamer, you’d likely already have one
-Web Cam –> Stole from computer
- Card reader –> Inbuilt into my laptop.

All I paid for was my case, because I didn’t want to break the electronics.