Raspberry Pi Zero W
Always hungry for more Pi, this time Les Pounder gets a smaller portion but new features, and still with Zero calories.
The Pi Zero was a surprise in late 2015. It introduced a new type of Raspberry Pi, one that eschewed high specifications for a cheaper, smaller board. The original Zero was just missing one thing, but then so was the then flagship Raspberry Pi 2. What it lacked was wireless connectivity.
With the release of the Pi 3 in early 2016 we saw Wifi and Bluetooth added to the Pi, and now these features have trickled down to the Pi Zero W.
The Pi Zero W is almost identical to the previous models of Zero. It comes with the same camera (CSI) port that was introduced with V1.3 of the Zero and the same unsoldered 40 pin GPIO (General Purpose Input Output) interface to connect your Pi to electronic devices and add on boards. But for the Pi Zero W the board layout has changed ever so slightly. The Raspberry Pi logo is no longer present on the Zero W, and in its place is a small silver chip. This is the BCM4343A wireless package, the same package as found on the Pi 3. But rather than use the same surface mount antenna as the Pi 3, the Pi Zero W has a “resonant cavity” etched into the copper of the board that acts as an antenna. This is licensed technology from Proant and not something the Raspberry Pi Foundation created. The BCM4343A enables 802.11n Wifi and Bluetooth 4.1 and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for this tiny board, thereby making it ideal for the Internet of Things (IoT).
The market for IoT has seen many different boards, but none with the same level of support as the Raspberry Pi, which has now sold over 12 million units around the world. The Zero W is
ideally placed as the entry point for many more people to take their first steps with IoT, and as a sustainable ecosystem for future products.
But the real strength of the Pi Zero W is as a cost-effective embeddable machine that can enable wireless connectivity to projects. By using the Pi Zero W as a headless device, accessed via SSH or via a serial console interface, we can access the true power of the Pi Zero W, as a barebones jack of all trades for robotics, nature cameras, and as a sensor processing platform. The Pi Zero W is also exceptionally power efficient: in our recent interview with Eben Upton (which you can find a few pages further on) he said that a 600mA USB power supply is more than ample to power the Pi Zero W, even with active WiFi. Much less than the 2.5A power supply needed for the Raspberry Pi 3.
So what can we expect for £10? A rock solid platform that once again breaks the rules of what a cheap single board computer can do. The Raspberry Pi has been instrumental in bringing down the price of development platforms, and the Pi Zero W does it again. Sure, it may not have a quad core CPU, 1GB of RAM and lots of USB ports. But what you do get is a cheap platform to build your own embedded projects for IoT and wearable technology. And for just £10 you can afford to take a chance and push yourself to make something amazing.