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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.