Last year, it was about as easy to get a Raspberry Pi as it was to find an ATM in the Australian Outback. After being sold out for months, you can now get one of these little ARM-based computers for $35. Soon you’ll be able to buy a $25 model, but it has half the memory and only one USB port. I prefer mine a double.
It arrived last week from ModMyPi.com and I paid around $40 for the “bare bones” board. Prices are still a bit higher because of the demand. But before you can see anything on a screen from your RPi, you’ll end up forking over a lot more dough, because you’ll also need to pick up the following “necessary accessories”:
- Storage: Any decent 4GB SD card will work, but why not grab a 32GB class 10 SDHC card like I did? $20 at newegg.com The SD-card holds your operating system (Linux) files and any other tiny files you might normally keep on a tiny computer. But if you want more storage you can always plug in a USB thumb drive or an external hard drive.
- Power Supply: Your puny cell phone charger won’t deliver enough power for this monster of a tiny computer. You need at least 0.7A, but I got myself another iPad charger for around $13 (newegg.com), which delivers up to 2A. You’ll need the extra power when you start plugging in USB accessories, like dancing USB monkeys.
- Power Cable: Oops, your cell phone’s mini-USB cable won’t work either, you need a micro-USB cable. Did you catch that difference? $4 from ModMyPi.com Because you can never have enough types of cables in your house.
- HDMI cable: 6″ cable is $3.50 at monoprice.com, and comes in a variety of fantastic colors. I picked orange because it reminds me of my cat, Arthur, who I had before I left home for college. He ran into traffic because he missed me so much that he couldn’t go on without me. I expect your cable color to be equally sentimental…and tragic.
- WiFi Adapter: Sure, you could hook it to a dusty old ethernet cable, but who wants to be told where you have to put your Pi? Edimax EW‑7811Un costs about $10 at newegg.com
- Case: ModMyPi sells a great little plastic case for around $10, and you can even mix colors together. It’s durable and solid case, with slots and panels that can be removed if you want to insert gadgety-things into your Pi. I ended up also ordering a Ninja PiBow, which I haven’t yet put together. That one will cost you about $20, but the added coolness-factor is sure to end up being worth more than the $10 in additional cost. I’m kind of regretting not going rainbow on the PiBow, though. I didn’t want anyone to think I was fruity or something, but I’m kind of secretly rainbow-philic.
- Mouse/Keyboard: If you’re like me, you probably have lots of these lying around. Unfortunately, they were lying around in places where they we being used with other computers, so I had to order a new one for the Pi. $10 gets you a working keyboard from monoprice.com, or just go down to your local Goodwill and get one with greezy fingerprints for $1.
OK, that’s the basics. So let’s see… carry the one… about $120 – $150, depending on how cool your “mods” are (or factor in shipping). That’s kind of a long way from $35, but still pretty cheap for a computer that can play 1080p movies and Quake III.
Still, don’t expect to be able to “work” on it in the same way you would on your Windows or Mac machine. The Graphical User Interface is rather slow. Browsing your favorite web sites will require some patience. But that’s not what I’m using it for. I want a low-power system that can sit on the network and talk to my home automation devices (light switches, garage door, etc.) I also hope to have it act as an AirPlay device and run an XBMC media server for my home theater. “How can a slow computer play movies,” you ask? Well, the same way it can run 3D games: its GPU can decompress movies and render 3D graphics, even though the CPU is not powerful enough to browse a web site.
If I end up just using it as a computer on the network (using an ethernet cable), then the core cost is only about $60-$70. If you downgrade to a 4GB SD-card and use old legos for a case (or no case), then you could probably get it down to around $55. Not bad. Even if you just used AirPlay, that’s a lot less than Apple’s $99 Airport Express.
Hopefully I’ll have time to post more about my future experience with this teeny-tiny computer.