Raspberry Pi Pico vs Arduino – Which Board to Choose?

Raspberry Pi Pico and Arduino are two well-known brands in the microcontroller development field that have caught the interest of hobbyists and professionals alike. The way we approach open-source electronics projects has been revolutionized by these two little but mighty development boards.

This article will show you a detailed comparison between the Raspberry Pi Pico and Arduino development boards. You will learn about the similarities, the differences, and which development platform will suit your needs.

By the end of this article, you should have a thorough understanding of both boards’ strengths and limitations, enabling you to choose the best one to realize your creative ideas.

Overview Of Raspberry Pi Pico & Arduino

The Arduino ecosystem comprises several development boards and the Arduino IDE. Among the development boards, Arduino UNO, Arduino Nano, and Arduino Mega are popular in the hobby community.

Arduino IDE is a beginner-friendly IDE that helps newbies get started easily with development boards. Boards from other manufacturers such as Espressif(e.g. ESP32), Nordic Semiconductor, and many more can be programmed with the Arduino IDE.

Raspberry Pi Pico and Raspberry Pi Pico W are 40-pin development boards developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It has good documentation, a supportive community, and is an alternative to Arduino and Espressif boards.

The RPi Pico W has Wi-Fi & Bluetooth on-board which makes it a suitable choice for IoT development.

GPIO: Raspberry Pi Pico vs Arduino

The General Purpose Input/Output(GPIO) pins in development boards can be configured as either input or output to connect and communicate with external devices or peripherals.

The table below shows the number of GPIOs available for Raspberry Pi Pico and various Arduino boards against different functions.

BoardDigital I/O PinsPWM PinsAnalog Input Pins
Raspberry Pi Pico/ Pico W26163
Arduino Nano RP2040 Connect20208
Arduino UNO R31466
Arduino Nano2268
Arduino Mega 2560 Rev3541516
Arduino Nano 33 IoT14118
Arduino Nano 33 BLE14148
Arduino DUE541212
Arduino MKR 1000 WiFi8127
Arduino Portenta H778108
Table-1: GPIO Comparison

In most development boards, we need to rely on the PWM output pins for analog output. Analog output is useful to produce waveforms.

But some boards such as the Arduino Nano 33 IoT and Arduino MKR 1000 WiFi feature an analog output pin with a 10-bit DAC(Digital-to-Analog converter).

The Arduino DUE has 2 analog output pins. Arduino Portenta H7 also has 2 DAC channels of 12 bits.

While most Arduino boards provide 6 or more ADC(Analog-to-Digital Converter) pins, Raspberry Pi Pico W has only 3 easily accessible analog input pins for ADC.

Onboard Microcontroller Comparision

The development boards have different microcontrollers whose specifications decide their usefulness. Raspberry Pi Pico W features an RP2040 microcontroller which has a dual-core ARM Cortex-M0+ processor. Arduino boards use various microcontrollers based on AVR and ARM architectures.

The Arduino UNO, which is the most popular board, is based on the AVR 8-bit architecture.

The table below shows the differences between Raspberry Pi Pico & different Arduino boards in terms of CPU and memory differences.

ArchitectureFlash MemorySRAMEEPROM
Raspberry Pi Pico/ Pico WRP204032-bit ARM 2MB264KBNone
Arduino Nano RP2040 ConnectRP204032-bit ARM 16MB264KBNone
Arduino UNO R3ATmega328P8-bit Modified Harvard(RISC)32KB2KB1KB
Arduino NanoATmega328P8-bit Modified Harvard(RISC)32KB2KB1KB
Arduino Mega 2560 Rev3ATmega25608-bit Modified Harvard(RISC)256KB8KB4KB
Arduino Nano 33 IoTSAMD21 Cortex-M0+32-bit ARM256KB32KBNone
Arduino Nano 33 BLEnRF5284032-bit ARM1MB256KBNone
Arduino DUEAT91SAM3X8E32-bit ARM512KB96KBNone
Arduino MKR 1000 WiFiSAMD21 Cortex-M0+32-bit ARM256KB32KBNone
Arduino Portenta H7STM32H747XI Dual Cortex-M7 and Cortex-M432-bit ARM2MB1MBNone
Table 2: Details of microcontrollers in Arduino & Raspberry Pi Pico boards.

Speed Comparision

In a microcontroller, the clock is used to synchronize the processor, data bus, address bus, memory, peripherals, and I/O. The clock speed determines how fast instructions execute in a microcontroller.

Development BoardRaspberry Pi Pico/ Pico WArduino Nano RP2040 ConnectArduino UNO R3Arduino NanoArduino Mega 2560 Rev3Arduino Nano 33 IoTArduino Nano 33 BLEArduino DUEArduino MKR 1000 WiFiArduino Portenta H7
Clock Speed133MHz133MHz16MHz16MHz16MHz48MHz64MHz84MHz48MHz480 MHz
Table 3: Clock Speeds of Arduino & Raspberry Pi Pico boards

In Table 3, we see that Arduino UNO is limited by its clock speed of only 16MHz. While such a speed is often enough for many applications in embedded systems, a higher clock rate may be required for advanced projects such as audio processing.

Among the boards manufactured by Arduino, Arduino Potenta H7 has the highest clock speed of 480MHz on the Cortex-M7 core. The RP2040 microcontroller on Raspberry Pi Pico has a decent clock speed of 133 MHz which should be enough for hobbyists.

Communication Peripherals

Both Raspberry Pi Pico & Arduino development boards provide several communication interfaces such as I2C(Inter-Integrated Circuit), UART(Universal Asynchronous Receiver / Transmitter), SPI(Serial Peripheral Interface), 1-Wire, Wi-Fi & Bluetooth. While Raspberry Pi Pico W has all these interfaces, not all Arduino boards support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth natively.

Below are the names of Arduino boards that support Wi-Fi & Bluetooth Low Energy(BLE).

  • Only BLE: Nano 33 BLE Sense, Nano 33 BLE, Nicla Sense ME.
  • Only Wi-Fi: Uno WiFi.
  • Both Wi-Fi & BLE: MKR VIDOR 4000, MKR WiFi 1010, Nano 33 IoT, Portenta H7, Portenta H7 Lite Connected, Portenta X8, UNO WiFi Rev 2, Nano RP2040 Connect, Nicla Vision.

Also read: Raspberry Pi Pico W Bluetooth(BLE) Using MicroPython | Point-to-Point Communication

Programming Raspberry Pi Pico Vs Arduino

Raspberry Pi Pico can be programmed using the Pico C/C++ SDK which has official documentation. The RPi Pico can also be programmed using Arduino IDE, MicroPython, and CircuitPython. MicroPython and CircuitPython usage is gaining popularity in the RPi Pico community. MicroPython is an implementation of the Python programming language, optimized to run on microcontrollers. Here is an example program to blink the onboard LED of Raspberry Pi Pico W using MicroPython.

from machine import Pin
import time

#initialize pin connected to onboard LED as output.
led = Pin("LED", Pin.OUT)

while True:
    time.sleep(1)Code language: Python (python)

In MicroPython, code is interpreted line by line by the MicroPython interpreter in runtime. Visit our article on programming Raspberry Pi Pico using MicroPython where LED blinking is also discussed in detail.

Arduino development boards are generally programmed using the Arduino IDE. A popular alternative is to program Arduino using PlatformIO. Below is an example code to blink the onboard LED of the Arduino UNO board.

void setup() {

  pinMode(LED_BUILTIN, OUTPUT);      // initialize digital pin LED_BUILTIN as an output.

void loop() {
  digitalWrite(LED_BUILTIN, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
  delay(1000);                       // wait for a second
  digitalWrite(LED_BUILTIN, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
  delay(1000);                       // wait for a second
}Code language: C++ (cpp)

The code inside setup() function will execute only once at startup. Thereafter, the code inside loop() function will continue to execute indefinitely. The loop() function resembles while(1) in C++. In code written in Arduino IDE, we do not have to include any libraries to blink an LED because the Arduino IDE takes care of necessary libraries required for I/O and compiles them even if they are not explicitly called in our program.

Read our article Arduino vs MicroPython vs CircuitPython which provides valuable insights into the differences among the languages.

IoT Applications

Arduino ecosystem provides cloud support through Arduino Cloud. There are well-documented tutorials for connecting sensors and devices to the cloud, using webhooks, integrating Node-RED, and much more. While Raspberry Pi does not have its own IoT platform, Raspberry Pi Pico W can be easily used for IoT applications using platforms such as Blynk or ThingSpeak.

Community & Shields

The Arduino community has grown exponentially since its inception and has become a driving force behind the open-source hardware and software movement. Various workshops, events, and hackathons organized by the community have pushed the boundaries of DIY electronics. Online forums, such as the Arduino Forum and Reddit communities, serve as platforms for discussions, troubleshooting, and project showcases. The Raspberry Pi Pico forum also has a vibrant community of DIY enthusiasts.

Arduino has many shields available to expand its functionality. Both official and third-party shields are available for many Arduino development boards. Motor driver shields, Ethernet shields, and relay shields are some of the popular ones.

Raspberry Pi Pico has also many shields and kits available from third-party manufacturers such as Seeed Studio, Waveshare, and Pimoroni. These shields help beginners to get started with DIY electronics easily.

Ease Of Use & Beginner Friendliness

MicroPython which is usually used with Raspberry Pi Pico is a beginner-friendly platform. MicroPython is an implementation of Python, one of the most popular programming languages.

Arduino has the advantage of being an early entrant in the field of open-source electronics platforms. Due to the numerous tutorials available and its large community, beginners might find it easier. Also, if you are familiar with programming languages like C, C++, and Java, the Arduino programming language will be easier to understand.

The RP2040 in Raspberry Pi Pico comes in a QFN-56 package so we will have to de-solder the microcontroller if we wish to use it in a custom-made PCB.

The Arduino UNO board has the ATmega328-PU microcontroller in a DIP package, so we can easily take the microcontroller out of the development board and use it in a custom PCB or a breadboard. This is another reason why hobbyists might prefer Arduino over Raspberry Pi Pico as it becomes easier to develop advanced projects on a custom circuit board.

Cost Comparision

The Raspberry Pi Pico W is a lot cheaper than the official Arduino boards. For example, at the time of publishing this article, Arduino UNO R3 is priced at $27 while Pico W cost just $6.

Although a lot of cheap Arduino clones are available, their quality may not be satisfactory. The official Arduino boards with on-board Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are significantly more expensive than a Raspberry Pi Pico W.

Raspberry Pi Pico W provides excellent value for money with its faster clock, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth capabilities onboard, making it a cost-effective choice.

Raspberry Pi Pico Vs Arduino – Which Board Should I Use?

Is Raspberry Pi Pico better than Arduino? If you are wondering whether you should use an Arduino board or the Raspberry Pi Pico, your decision must depend on the following factors:

  • Features and functionality offered by the development board, such as the number of GPIO pins, onboard sensors or displays, communication interfaces (e.g. Ethernet, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi), and additional modules or shields that can expand its capabilities.
  • Consider the programming language and integrated development environment (IDE) that you are comfortable with.
  • Consider the scalability and potential for future expansion. If your project requirements may change or grow over time, ensure that the chosen development board offers the flexibility and expandability to accommodate those needs.
  • Evaluate the power requirements of the development board and ensure they align with your project’s power source and consumption capabilities.
  • Finally, consider any specific requirements or constraints of your project, such as size, form factor, specific communication protocols, or hardware interfaces. Ensure the chosen development board meets these specific needs.

Hope this article on Raspberry Pi Pico vs Arduino development boards was useful to you. Thank you for reading.

Also read: Getting Started With Raspberry Pi Pico & Raspberry Pi Pico W – Using MicroPython





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