Raspberry Pi

Powerful Single-Board Computer Running Various Operating Systems

Raspberry Pi is a computer that typically runs a Debian-based Linux distribution but can run basically any operating system, including specialized versions (like Home Assistant OS). A graphical user interface can be included.

Why Not Use Windows Or Apple?

Windows and Mac computers run perfect general purpose consumer operating systems that are simple to use, and most of us own at least one.

For specialized use cases, these computers and their operating systems are much too complex, heavy, and limiting.

With Raspberries, you have all the (technical) freedoms to implement just about anything you want. Consumer operating systems are locked down so consumers do not shoot themselves in the foot.

Raspberry Pis are not designed to compete against or replace conventional PCs. They are just efficient and flexible computers for lab and scientific/engineering projects.

Here are the benefits of using a Raspberry Pi:

  • Powerful: the latest Raspberryx Pi 5 with 8GB RAM may not outperform the latest Intel or iMac hardware but provides excessive computational power for even the most demanding dedicated technical tasks. At the same time, it uses extremely little energy and can run continuously as a server without busting the bank on energy bills.
  • Dedicated: it can use a wide variety of storage media that are easily switchable. While the primary operating system is best installed on a SSD drive (although not required), simple SD Cards can be used as alternate boot media to set up temporary environments or tool chains and boot from these on demand.
  • Fast: depending on the set up, a Raspberry Pi starts in seconds and reboots in a snap.
  • Small and Quiet: its form factor is very small and runs noiseless. Although a fan-based active cooler is recommended, the fan doesn’t run very often as the Raspberry Pi 5 isn’t easily pushed to its limits.
  • Flexible: Raspberry Imager is a tool that runs on your classic PC and lets you easily select the operating system and environment you need. It can apply your initial configuration (passwords, WiFi access, language settings, etc) and write it as an image to your storage medium. A Raspberry Pi then directly boots into this environment without any complex setup.

In a nutshell, although a Raspberry Pi 5 isn’t always as computationally powerful as the latest Windows or Mac computer, it often still outperforms them:

  • Since your environments and operating system setups can be tailored to exactly meet your needs, the Raspberry Pi can focus all of its capabilities on just your requirements. It does not need to waste power on consumer bling and default features that you don’t actually need and never asked for.
  • Less unneeded work requires less energy and produces less noise and heat.
  • Less unwanted features lower the security risks as they limit attack surfaces.

Thin Client PCs

Recently, it became a trend to use refurbished Thin Client PCs as servers and put the free Proxmox virtualization software on them.

This works very similar to a Raspberry Pi which also is a host and runs some operating system on a storage medium.

With a thin client and Proxmox, you can run multiple operating systems and use multiple server environments at the same time.

Unless you really need this, using a thin client puts the original concept behind Raspberry Pis upside down: their whole idea is simplicity and energy-efficiency.

With thin clients, here is what you really get:

  • Wasting Energy: Most thin client PCs require significantly more power that a Raspberry Pi. That is ok provided you really need their power. Running Home Assistant continuously 7/365 does not require this power, and the power bill will become a considerable part of TOC (total cost of ownership).
  • Complex: forums are filled with threads about fixing problems that did not exist in the first place when using a Raspberry Pi. Configuring Proxmox and setting up virtualizations, plus running systems in unsupported or non-official configurations adds many layers of unwanted complexity.
  • Unnecessary: The majority of users requires one continuously running server, at most two. Specialized tool chains, i.e. to run Cloud Cutter, are required only temporarily and can be easily set up and run off an SD card.

There may be users that really benefit from running a virtualization server because they need to run more than two servers all the time.

All other reasons for using thin clients and Proxmox over Raspberry Pi 5 are not solid: neither is it cheaper (especially when adding energy cost), nor faster (Raspberry Pi 5 idle most of the time anyway for what they need to do), and certainly not easier to use.

I am using one dedicated Raspberry Pi 5 for Home Assistant, and another one as a general pürpose tool. The latter runs Raspberry Pi OS, and I am booting from various SD Cards whenever I need specialized tool chains. The overall hardware cost of both Raspberries is comparable to buying a used Thin client and refurbishing it, and with every new electricity bill, this changes more in favor of Raspberries.


Raspberry Pi was released 2012 and targeted primarily towards educational use. It soon was adopted by the community for robotics, automation, and many other use cases requiring a backend server with sufficient performance.

Version Processor Remarks
1 700MHz 32-bit Single-Core ARM11 Raspberry Pi Model B in 2012: The simpler and cheaper Raspberry Pi Model A followed later the same year. An improved Raspberry Pi Model B+ was released in 2014.
2 900MHz 32-bit Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A7 Raspberry Pi 2 B in 2015: featured a 900MHz 32-bit processor and came with 1GB RAM. Revision 1.2 switched to a 64-bit A53 processor that would continued to be used in version 3. It was clocked at 900MHz.
3 1.2GHz 64-bit Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A53 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B in 2016: changed clock speed from 900MHz to 1.2GHz, added 802.11ac WiFi and USB-Boot capabilities. In 2018, Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ surfaced: clock speed was raised to 1.4GHz, Ethernet speed was tripled to 300Mbit/s, dual-band 100 Mbit/s WiFi was added. This was followed by Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ with similar enhancements.
4 1.5GHz 64-bit ARM Cortex-A72 Raspberry Pi 4 Model A/B in 2019: it added Bluetooth 5.0, throughput-unlimited full Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, from 1 to 8 GB RAM, dual-monitor support via Micro HDMI (Type D) ports with 4K Resolution, plus USB-C power supply. Raspberry Pi 400 was added in 2020 as a keyboard computer: a Raspberry Pi 4 with 4GB RAM and a 1.8 GHz clock was integrated into a keyboard housing.
5 2.4GHz 64-bit ARM Cortex-A76 Raspberry Pi 5 in 2023: 4 or 8GB RAM, VideoCore VII GPU, supporting Vulkan 1.1, for better performance (graphics-intensive tasks, 4K video playback), four USB 3.0 ports, Bluetooth 5.2, 802.11ax WiFi 6, faster MicroSD card slot, better USB boot capabilities, can be powered via USB C, Power over Ethernet (PoE), improved power efficiency, real-time clock (RTC)

If you own an older model, there is typically no need to immediately upgrade. Given the significant performance boost found in Raspberry Pi 5 and marginal price differences, I would not recommend to buy an older model. Raspberry Pi 5 is future proof with guaranteed support until 2036.

Assembly Required

Typically, Raspberry Pi is sold either as bare board or as starter kits (containing all required parts such as housing, fan, etc.).

While there are vendors offering pre-assembled devices that are ready to run, this is a niche market.

Assembling a Raspberry Pi is part of the intended educational aspect and does not require much special knowledge. A typical assembly takes a screwdriver and 10 minutes of time.


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(content created Jun 02, 2024 - last updated Jul 08, 2024)