What Is The True Cost Of Running a Raspberry Pi?

Christian Cawley 27-06-2013

true cost of raspberry piThe Raspberry Pi – a small, compact and versatile computer, capable of processing HDMI and MPEG-2 How To Add MPEG 2 To Your Raspberry Pi Media Centre Cueing up some videos to enjoy on my Raspberry Pi yesterday, I made a startling discovery – it wouldn't play MPEG videos! Has this happened to you? Are you running a RaspBMC media centre on... Read More 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 Raspberry Pi's Father Speaks: Eben Upton On The Future of Technology And More Enthusiasm radiates from Eben Upton. He's the driving force behind the Raspberry Pi, that small computer that has been revolutionising hobbyist computing since its launch in 2012. Tall, and dressed casually, the founder of the... Read More . 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.

true cost of 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

cost of 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.

cost of 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 and

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).



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.

true cost of 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 How to Install Game Emulators on the Raspberry Pi Desktop computer, media center, an integral part of a budget space program - is there no end to the versatility of the Raspberry Pi? Seemingly not – because it also does games. Read More , a media centre The Hardware You Will Need To Build A Raspberry Pi Media Center With so many ways of using it, you shouldn't be surprised to find that the Raspberry Pi has sold over 1 million units. Although designed for one key purpose (programming) this small credit card-sized computer... Read More 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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  1. Daniel Bain
    January 3, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    I was really excited when I first heard of the raspberry pi, but having read this article I have my doubts. I was hoping for a small computer to run off a car battery with cigar lighter USB adapter down to 5v, to use in my camper van for internet wi-fi and viewing video from SD card, but despite the advertising , I realise all is not what it appears. I have limited PC knowledge and realise that to use one of these devices requires far more PC knowledge than I have, so it's hardly suitable for a child to learn programming from, and I still haven't figured out how you see what you're actually doing without some sort of monitor.
    I wish someone would set down clearly and concisely exactly what it can do and what it can't and what extras would be needed to allow it to perform different functions

  2. Jack Cola
    July 2, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    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.

  3. gewg_
    July 1, 2013 at 4:56 am

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

    Your arithmetic is interesting.

    • Jack Cola
      July 2, 2013 at 1:48 pm

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

    • Christian C
      July 2, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      Nothing to do with arithmetic.

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

  4. Dostadawg
    June 28, 2013 at 6:29 pm

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

  5. Onaje Asheber
    June 28, 2013 at 6:15 pm

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

  6. EgoAnt
    June 28, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    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)

  7. Vennroxx
    June 28, 2013 at 1:58 pm

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

    • N. O. Comment
      October 10, 2013 at 9:41 pm

      CPU != GPU.

  8. Vennroxx
    June 28, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    36$...running in market in India.

  9. Thomas Milham
    June 28, 2013 at 6:59 am

    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...

  10. dirk
    June 28, 2013 at 6:58 am

    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?

    • Christian Cawley
      June 28, 2013 at 9:16 am

      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.

      • TechnoAngina
        June 28, 2013 at 3:11 pm

        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.

  11. Mike
    June 28, 2013 at 6:39 am

    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...

  12. Darryl
    June 28, 2013 at 4:55 am

    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

    • JeffD
      June 28, 2013 at 3:00 pm

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

  13. KyleTaylored
    June 28, 2013 at 4:00 am

    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!