Raspberry Pi enters microcontroller market
The beginning of 2021 brought many Raspberry Pi fans quite a surprise with the release of the smallest module yet produced - the Raspberry Pi Pico. Unlike all previous Raspberries, RPi Pico is based not on a powerful application processor, but on a dual core ARM Cortex M0+ microcontroller. The good news is the high clock frequency - the Raspberry Pi 2040 (RP2040) processor can operate at up to 133 MHz, which is several times higher than many competing microcontrollers based on this architecture. Everything seems to indicate that The Raspberry Pi Foundation's latest offering will cause quite a stir in the small embedded systems segment.
"Raspberry" microcontroller with excellent features
A huge advantage of the new player in the ARM microcontroller market is the RP2040 chip's rich peripherals and excellent baseline performance. As with all microcontrollers, the size of the Flash memory (up to 2MB) and SRAM (264 kB) largely determine the application capabilities, although this is just the beginning of the advantages of this dual-core processor. The user of Raspberry Pi Pico can use two UART interfaces, two I2C blocks and two SPI controllers, while up to 16 PWM channels can be used to control motors, lighting or other actuators. Three GPIO lines also provide access to the on-board ADC.
Wide range of power supply methods
Interestingly, so far in the Raspberry Pi Pico vs Arduino duel, the latter platform has offered wider possibilities in terms of power supply methods and acceptable input voltage range. However, it was the RPi Pico that established another breakthrough in terms of the approach to powering embedded modules - a built-in buck-boost DC/DC converter allows a small board to be powered directly with voltages ranging from 1.8V to 5.5V, allowing even... a single cell lithium polymer or lithium-ion battery to be used as a power source. Of course there is no problem to power the module with micro USB cable through the socket on the PCB. Incorporating the inverter directly into such a small sized board (just 51 x 21mm) is an excellent step taken by the Raspberry Pi Pico designers towards "making life easier" for electronics engineers involved in embedded systems projects.
Additional information about Raspberry Pi Pico board
Those interested in the new Raspberry Pi Pico will be pleased to know that its retail price is significantly lower than most comparable evaluation boards and modules with ARM microcontrollers. Another big plus of the new platform is the strong (and intensively developed) software support for Raspberry Pi Pico. Micropython - an implementation of the popular Python, created with small microcontrollers in mind - is the primary platform dedicated to developing applications based on the RPi Pico, but announcements of integration of the new board with the Arduino IDE ecosystem are already available online. What's important, you can successfully use a Raspberry Pi 4B minicomputer to program the module - on our website you will find instructions on how to get started in a few minutes and upload your first test program.
Electronics engineers involved in programming and designing embedded systems are by now used to the fact that core module manufacturers, as well as many companies around the embedded market, offer quite a selection of dedicated overlays and expansion modules. Despite the short time that has passed since the Raspberry Pi Pico was released, the first extensions are already available - including the Pico Audio Pack, Pico RGB Keypad or Pico Explorer Base overlays. While there is currently no ready-made Raspberry Pi Pico WiFi overlay on the market, you can easily connect one of the WiFi modules we offer (such as the ESP8266) to the board. The situation is similar for the Raspberry Pi Pico - Ethernet connection. In the Botland store you can also find ready-made Ethernet modules, controlled using the SPI interface.