Is Raspberry Pi a Microcontroller or a Microprocessor?

The latest Raspberry Pi device can do most of the daily tasks that a decent computer is capable of doing. A microcontroller refers to an integrated circuit device used to control other portions of an electronic system, usually through a microprocessor unit. One question that lingers on most people’s minds is whether a Raspberry Pi is a microcontroller.

The Raspberry Pi is not a microcontroller but is a microprocessor instead. It is larger than the average microcontroller, uses more power, has a clock speed of between 700MHz-1.5GHz, and a RAM of between 1-8GB. Also, the Raspberry Pi, unlike microcontrollers, can run both 32-bit and 64-bit.

This article will have an in-depth discussion about why a Raspberry Pi is not a microcontroller. So keep your eyes glued to this piece because it is guaranteed to be an enlightening read for you.

If you are looking for quick progress on Raspberry Pi, you can check out my e-book here. It’s a 30-day challenge, where you learn one new thing everyday until you become a Raspberry Pi expert. The first third of the book teaches you the basics, but the following chapters include projects you can try on your own.

Differences Between a Microcontroller and a Microprocessor

For the most part, Raspberry Pis are generally microprocessors, except for the Raspberry Pi Pico, which is a microcontroller. This section will look at some of the differences that distinguish microprocessors from microcontrollers to understand why Raspberry Pis are not microcontrollers.

A microcontroller is a chip that is optimized to control electronic devices. It is found in a single integrated circuit that is dedicated to performing a specific task. It controls other portions of an electronic system, usually via a microprocessor unit. It contains memory, a processor, and a programmable I/O.

A microprocessor is the controlling unit of a micro-computer wrapped in a small chip, and it contains all the functions of a central processing unit of a computer. It performs Arithmetic Logical Unit (ALU) operations, and it communicates with other connected devices. In essence, it’s a single integrated circuit that combines several functions.

Some differences between microcontrollers and microprocessors include:


The overall size of microprocessors is larger than that of microcontrollers.

Raspberry Pi Bootcamp
Sale: 10% off today.
Take it to the next level.
I'm here to help you get started on Raspberry Pi.
Learn all the skills you need in the correct order.


Microprocessors have to run an operating system that is often used for complicated tasks. Therefore, the amount of memory required by microprocessors is large. The RAM for microprocessors is in the range of 512MB-32GB. The ROM, on the other hand, is in the range of 128GB-2TB.

Microcontrollers are designed for a specific task. So, the amount of memory they require is less compared to microprocessors. The RAM of microcontrollers is in the range of 2KB-256KB. The ROM, on the other hand, is in the range of 32KB-2MB.

Clock speed

Microprocessors run at higher clock speeds which are in the range of 1-4 GHz. In the case of microcontrollers, a high clock speed is not required. Their clock speed is in the range of 1MHz-300MHz.

Power Consumption

The power consumption for microprocessors is higher compared to that of microcontrollers.


Microprocessors are used where intensive processing is required. Microcontrollers, on the other hand, are used where the task is fixed and predefined.

Master your Raspberry Pi in 30 days
Sale: 10% off today.
Download the eBook.
Uncover the secrets of the Raspberry Pi in a 30 days challenge.
Learn useful Linux skills and practice multiples projects.


Microprocessors have only the CPU in the chip. Other devices such as the I/O port, memory, and timer are connected externally. Also, the structure of microprocessors is flexible. Users can decide the memory size, the number of I/O ports, and other peripheral devices.

The CPU, memory, I/O port, and all other devices are connected on a single chip for microcontrollers. Also, the structure of microcontrollers is fixed. Once designed, a user cannot change the peripheral devices.


One can alter the program of microprocessors for different applications. Compared to microcontrollers, the programming of microprocessors is difficult.
On Raspberry Pi, Python is the default language, but other programming language can be installed and used.

The program for microcontrollers is fixed once it’s designed.

Bit Size

Microprocessors are available in 32-bit and 64-bit. Microcontrollers, on the other hand, are available in 8-bit, 16-bit, and 36-bit.

MemoryOver 512 MB in generalMinimal, generally under 256 KB
Clock speedBetween 1 an 4 Ghz on averageUnder 300 MHz in general
Power consumptionHighLow
ApplicationComplex tasks requiring calculationsFixed and predefined task
Architecture32 or 64 bits8, 16 or 36 bits
Microprocessor vs Microcontroller

Raspberry Pi Pico is a Microcontroller

The Raspberry Pi Pico is a tiny microcontroller board that is designed especially for physical computing.

Microcontrollers are a different type of device than single-board computers (such as the Raspberry Pi 4 and previous versions of Pi). They don’t run an operating system and are typically programmed to do just one task.

The Raspberry Pi Pico is smaller than the average Pi, and it features a custom chip that is powerful enough to be used in machine learning projects.

Raspberry Pi Pico is a tiny, fast, and versatile board built using RP2040, a brand new microcontroller chip designed by Raspberry Pi in the UK.

Raspberry PI

Some of the specs of the Raspberry Pi Pico are:

  • It has a dual-core ARM cortex M0+ processor with a flexible clock that runs up to 133MHz.
  • 26 GPIO pins on the sides, which act as an interface with other components.
  • It has an SRAM of 264KB and onboard flash memory of 2MB.
  • It uses low power and can be powered from micro-USB, external power supply, or batteries (1.8-5.5V).

Raspberry Pi Pico is the latest in the manufacturers of Raspberry Pi. Raspberry Pi Pico is a tiny little microcontroller that lets you build hardware projects with some code running on the microcontroller.
It’s also the cheapest model of Raspberry Pi (check the current price here), precisely because it’s a microcontroller and not a microprocessor like the other ones.

The Raspberry Pi takes care of computation, network access, and storage, while the microcontroller handles analog input and low latency I/O and sometimes provides low-power standby mode.

Raspberry Pi Pico is easy to use and low cost. Using the micro-USB port, you plug the device into the computer, then boot up the Raspberry Pi Pico while pressing the button. On the computer, the device will appear as an external drive. The Raspberry Pi Pico can be used in many projects.

Like other microcontrollers, the Raspberry Pi Pico has dozens of input and output pins on the sides of the device. These pins are important because they act as the interface with other components. For example, one can make a microcontroller interact with an LED light, show information on display, and get various sensors.

In conclusion, it is now clearly evident that Raspberry Pis are not microcontrollers, except for Raspberry Pi Pico which is a microcontroller.

If you need help getting started on Raspberry Pi, I have an entire course to help you take your first steps the right way. I’ll help you use the perfect hardware, plug everything and install your first system. You’ll also do your first project with me, just to make sure you are ready for the next level. Get all the information on this page if you are interested.

You can also check this related articles to learn more about Raspberry Pi:

This tutorial doesn't work anymore? Report the issue here, so that I can update it!

Patrick Fromaget

I'm the lead author and owner of My goal is to help you with your Raspberry Pi problems using detailed guides and tutorials. In real life, I'm a Linux system administrator with a web developer experience.

Recent Posts

Master your Raspberry Pi - 10% off