HYPE OR HYPERPOWERED?
At 65mm(w) x 30mm(l) x 5mm(h), this is he smallest device thus made by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, with this form factor likely to keep that crown for the foreseeable future. The differences between this Pi and it’s counterparts are far from small, however. The full HDMI on every Pi previously has been swapped for a mini-HDMI; and the same with the four full-size USB ports for a single Micro-USB. Though you may see two Micro-USBs on the board, one is dedicated only to power, – as with previous Pi’s.
Not that there’s much left to cover of the the tiny board, but everything else remains unchanged from the most recent Pi’s. To keep compatibility between the previous Pi’s, the 40-pin GPIO header is exactly the same – with the only significant change being that this version is pinless. Unsurprisingly, the microSD slot has changed the least, featuring the same 64GB capacity limit and push-push lock as with previous models. The Broadcom BCM2835 CPU – still with the VideoCore IV powering video and graphics – is now rated at a slightly higher 1GHz base clock. Although the RPi’s which shared this CPU could be comfortably overclocked to achieve this higher clock rate, the success and stability of this was never guaranteed, being rarely attempted for battery-dependant projects. At a significantly smaller (0.8 Watts) power draw, the RPi Zero may prove far more utilitarian than it’s predecessors, for portable computing.
DESKTOP, OR PI-TOP?
pi-top is one of the most successful crowdfunding projects to incorporate a Raspberry Pi in the design. The hackney-based team earned a healthy $192,658 through Indiegogo for the RPi 2-based laptop; 217% of their original $80,000 plan. Featuring a simple build-it-yourself approach with everything you need to assemble it and get going (including an RPi 2!) it’s no wonder to me why it’s been so successful.
As one of the stretch goals of the original Pi-Top was to make it compatible with numerous other alternate compute-boards – such as the BeagleBone Black, or Udoo – I reached out to pi-top for what they thought of the new member of the Pi family. Jonathan Prove, Head of Sales and Marketing at pi-top, had this to say:
“We are very excited about the Raspberry Pi Zero and it is a welcome addition to the Raspberry Pi family.”
In the time since I had last looked into the pi-top Indiegogo last year, they’ve been far from idle in their success.
“At this time we are working on improving our core products – the pi-top and the upcoming pi-topCEED. We’ve had an opportunity to play with the RPi Zero and it runs in pi-top as you might expect!”
What I wasn’t expecting was the nugget Jon informed me about next:
“…when we tested the RPi Zero with a pi-top we achieved over 24 hours battery life!”[with average use]
To give some sense of that achievement, the initial estimate with the pi-top’s battery life, whilst powering an RPi2 is 10-12 hours. That’s over twice the uptime! Though admittedly much slower than the RPi 2, the RPi Zero isn’t a slouch by any measure – quoted at 40% faster than the original RPi 1 officially by the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
As Jon mentioned previously, their next enterprise the $99 pi-topCeed is still currently live on Indiegogo – with less than 30 hours to go at the time of writing. The pi-topCeed is an inexpensive desktop designed for (and including in some perk tiers) the RPi 2, but uses the same modular approach behind the pi-top – this time in an AIO-like shell. You can also pre-order the pi-top on their official website.
ADOPTION RATES & PROJECT STATES
To celebrate the launch of the RPi Zero, the Raspberry Pi Foundation also released the board for free, with the paid MagPi magazine. As you can imagine with how the RPi Zero has sold out by itself, apart from a couple of technical difficulties, the Christmas 2015 issue of MagPi sold out in less than 12 hours.
Astro Designs (@AstroDesignsLtd) November 27, 2015
Thousands of people took to twitter in within minutes of acquiring an RPi Zero, with the first few completed projects already being shared amongst the community within days of Zero’s launch.
Though sales are immensely important to the success of a product, it’s how a community adopts and uses it that identifies its longevity as a product. Simple and cheap projects that offer true functionality are ones that are often attempted the most.
Out of all of these, my favourite RPi Zero mod so far, is a simple USB Hub by Frederick Vandenbosch (full blog article here). By creating a solution to one of the biggest drawbacks of the RPi Zero, Vandenbosch has made an adaptation that’s so simple, it will likely become a standard amongst hackers and tinkerers for the foreseeable future.
The RPi Zero is an unmitigated success. Alongside the near-instant sellout of both its hardware and its magazine (with free hardware attached), it’s adoption rates by not only the community at large, but companies that depend on it’s technology is astounding. I’m truly looking forward to what happens next to the foundation’s newest Hero Pi…