In this article, I'd like to explain what different Raspberry Pi models are available, to give you a recommendation on which model might be best for you.
Raspberry Pi models
Raspberry Pi models in a quick overview:
Raspberry Pi 4 with 4GB RAM (Link)*.
Raspberry Pi 4 with 2GB RAM (Link)*
Raspberry Pi 4 with 1GB RAM (Link)*
Raspberry Pi 3B+ with 1GB RAM (Link)*
Raspberry Pi Zero with 1GB RAM incl. WIFi (Link)*
Raspberry Pi Model 4
This is the latest Raspberry Pi model, introduced in July 2019. The Raspberry Pi 4 has two micro-HDMI ports, instead of one regular HDMI port like the previous Raspberry Pi 3B+ predecessor models.
The difference between the previous models is mainly in the processor and RAM (working memory). The Raspberry Pi 4 is available with 2GB, 4GB and 8GB RAM. The processor is also new and clocks at 1.5Ghz instead of 1.4Ghz like the Raspberry 3B+ model.
Raspberry Pi Model 3B+
The Raspberry Pi model 3B+ is the second most powerful Raspberry Pi after the 4 model with a good CPU performance. The Raspberry Pi 3B+ version has the following ports on the board.
-DSI camera port
-Broadcom BCM2837BO SoC - System on a Chip
-CPU: 64bit, 4 cores, 1.4GHz up to 70 degrees
-up to 80 degrees 1.2GHz
-above 80 degrees clocking down automatically
-GPU: 400MHz Video Core IV
-3.5mm audio connector
-A/V & 5V Power
-Standard Pi 40 Pin GPIO
-4 pin improved PXE Ethernet booting / Power over Ethernet (PoE)
-Wifi chip 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.2
-4x USB 2.0 ports + Gigabit network port
-Gigabit Ethernet internally connected via USB, so "only" 300MBit/s
-microSD card slot
-Power consumption: 3W under full load
-Tip: Audio connector is also composite video connector
Raspberry Pi Model 3A+
The third Raspberry Pi model currently available is the Raspberry Pi 3A+. The Raspberry Pi 3A+ was released in December 2018. The Raspberry Pi 3A+ model is the evolution of the Raspberry Pi 3A model. The Raspberry Pi model 3A+ has similar values as the Raspberry Pi 3B+.
It is also 1.4 gigahertz fast on the processor and has a total of four CPU cores on it. However, the Raspberry Pi 3A+ has significantly fewer ports. For example, there is only one USB port on the board. There is also an HDMI output and a micro USB port for the power supply. There are the same interfaces as on the Raspberry Pi Model 3B+ for the displays and cameras.
The PINs that can be used to connect additional sensors are also present on the Raspberry Pi 3A+. The two Raspberry Pi models 4 and 3B+ are currently the two standard models on the market, both in similar price ranges.
Raspberry Pi Model Zero
Since a few years there are still the "Zero" Raspberry Pi models of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The Raspberry Pi Zero is especially special because it has an incredibly small size and therefore takes up much less space. For example, if you want to hide it in self-built device boxes.
The Raspberry Pi Zero only has 1 gigahertz on a total of one core in the processor. There are also significantly fewer ports. There is only one mini-HDMI port, for which you also first need a suitable HDMI adapter.
There are also two micro-USB ports, which can be used to connect a few things. There are no other interfaces on the Raspberry Pi Zero. There is still the possibility to connect PINs via adapters. This means that you really have the simplest Raspberry Pi model, but it also offers some possibilities for Raspberry Pi projects.
Actually, the Raspberry Pi Zero was originally designed to make programming for young people accessible to regular computer users. However, nowadays the Raspberry Pi Zero model is also used for many other purposes and enjoys a great popularity among users.
Raspberry Pi Compute Module
Meanwhile, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has also released an industrial model. The so called Raspberry Pi Compute Module. These Raspberry Pi models for industry are intended for installation in various devices and therefore have significantly different technical values. The Raspberry Pi Compute Module only has 1.2 gigahertz, which is a bit less compared to the 1.4 Ghz of the Raspberry Pi 3B+ and 3A+ model.
The Compute Module nevertheless has a quad-core processor integrated like the larger Raspberry Pi models. The special feature of this Raspberry Pi model is that the memory is not on an SD card, but directly soldered on the board. That means you don't need to buy an additional memory unit here. However, we will not deal with this Raspberry Pi model further in this article, due to its rarity among home users.
Raspberry Pi Models Conclusion:
Let's once again keep an overview of the raspberry Pi models. We have the Raspberry Pi models 4, 3B+, 3A+, which differ only slightly in USB ports and processor clock. We have the Raspberry Pi Zero (without WLAN) and Zero W (with WLAN & Bluetooth). And we have the Raspberry Pi Compute Mudul for industrial use.
Which model is the best for you now? The best model to start with is the Model 4 or 3B+. These are currently the standard models. With this you have all the possibilities to start right away. With the Raspberry Pi model 3A+, even though it has about the same performance, you just have the problem that the missing USB ports can lead to problems sooner or later. Especially if you want to connect a mouse and keyboard.
That said, the Raspberry Pi 3A+ model is more for running it remotely and without a monitor. Therefore, for the Raspberry Pi beginner, the Raspberry Pi model 4 or 3B+ model is the best model.
* = Affiliate Link (raspi-config.com) is participant of the affiliate program of Amazon USA, which is designed to provide a commission for websites to earn advertising fees by placing ads and links to Amazon.com).