Raspberry Pi Zero vs. C.H.I.P.: Which Mini Computer Under $10 Should You Buy?


There are two sub-$10 computers available on the maker market right now. In a time far, far away, this would've been thought of as impossible.

Today, the Raspberry Pi Zero and the C.H.I.P. both offer 1GHz processors that may one day change the world. By price alone, they already have — Raspberry Pi's Zero costs just $5 and Next Thing Co.'s C.H.I.P. is just $9.

"A programmable computer is a luxury item for a lot of people, and every extra dollar that we ask someone to spend decreases the chance that they'll choose to get involved," said Rasberry Pi Founder, Eben Upton.

But how much does a four-dollar difference make between the Pi Zero and the C.H.I.P.? Quite a bit.

Based on the specs alone, makers, modders and enthusiasts get extra to work with on the C.H.I.P. But first, other than the 1GHz processor, both products also have 512 GB of RAM and are powered by USB. The C.H.I.P., however, uses the newer ARMv7 architecture and can also be powered by a lithium polymer battery with built-in charging circuitry.

Moreover, the C.H.I.P. has 4 GB of onboard NAND flash storage that already ships with a preloaded operating system in its memory while the Pi Zero requires a microSD card for any kind of storage. In addition, whereas the Pi Zero provides for a 40-pin connector for input and output, the C.H.I.P. offers a double row of 40-pin female connectors for a total of 80 input and output.

Speaking of output, it's essential to be able to see what's being done with the device and thankfully the Pi Zero comes with HDMI mini out. Unfortunately, the C.H.I.P. will cost an extra $10 for the same output, but it does have onboard composite video output through a TRRS jack at least.

The largest difference between the specs of these products is in connectivity. The C.H.I.P.'s wireless abilities outpace the Pi Zero with both built-in Wi-Fi and BLE; the Pi Zero has no way to connect to the Internet on its own. To do so on the Pi Zero would be more costly — not only would a Wi-Fi USB dongle be required but it would also be necessary to purchase a powered USB hub for a keyboard and mouse as well, because there's only one USB jack on the Pi Zero for peripherals (the other is for power).

Aside from the specs, of course, there are other things to consider, such as product design and community support, but based on specifications and added cost, the C.H.I.P. has the most to offer.

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