We have been waiting for something new for a long time, and the Raspberry Pi Zero series was the one that needed an upgrade the most. And now, the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 is available! I received mine a few days ago, tested many things, and I’m ready to share my experience with you in this article.
The Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W was released on October 28, 2021, and brings a new SoC to the series, with a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 @ 1Ghz. The other specifications are similar, but the performances are highly increased by this CPU upgrade.
In this article, I will introduce this new model by comparing it to the older one. I will also share my first impressions, and give you some data to make your own decision. Keep reading to know everything about the new Raspberry Pi Zero 2 and to figure out if it’s a good fit for you.
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Pi Zero vs Pi Zero 2: Specifications
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Let’s start by introducing the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 by comparing its specifications to the first model. The whole idea is to boot the CPU with a quad-core SoC, which should really improve the user experience for most usages. We’ll get back to this later, here are the specs:
|Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W||Raspberry Pi Zero W|
|SoC||Broadcom BCM2710A1, quad-core 64-bit||Broadcom BCM2835|
|CPU||4x ARM Cortex-A53 @ 1Ghz||1x ARM1176JZF-S @ 1 GHz|
|GPU||Broadcom VideoCore IV @ 400 MHz (Core)||Broadcom VideoCore IV @ 400 MHz (Core)|
|USB||1 Micro-USB||1 Micro-USB|
|HDMI||1 Mini-HDMI||1 Mini-HDMI|
|Network||Wi-Fi (2.4Ghz) / Bluetooth 4.1||Wi-Fi (2.4Ghz) / Bluetooth 4.2|
|Power Supply||5V via Micro-USB||5V via Micro-USB|
|Dimensions||65 mm x 30 mm x 5 mm||65 mm x 30 mm x 5 mm|
|Price||Around $15||Around $10 (available here)|
So, when I say the main change is in the CPU, it’s almost the only change in fact, but it’s a big one. Adding multicore on this Raspberry Pi should highly improve your experience as several tasks can run at the same time. Those who had a Raspberry Pi Zero know what I’m talking about. It works pretty well once the setup is completed, but the installation part generally takes forever as everything is slow. We’ll see how this new model address this issue.
Just a quick word about the price. The Raspberry Pi Zero is intended to be the cheapest model available (except for the Pico, but it’s not really comparable). The first version was released at $5, then up to $10 for the one with Wi-Fi, and the new one is available for around $15 with official distributors.
As with any new model, you won’t find it directly on Amazon (and the first ones will probably be too expensive), so your best choice is to go to the official website and pick one of the approved resellers.
Pi Zero vs Pi Zero 2: First impressions
On the board itself, you won’t see any major difference. The one that you can’t miss is the metal shield can next to the CPU. As on all the recent models, it’s there to protect the wireless components from interferences.
But the dimensions and ports are the same, so if you had all the adapters for the Raspberry Pi Zero, you can use the same on the Raspberry Pi Zero 2. The same thing for the case. I bought my Raspberry Pi with this complete kit from Vilros, and everything is compatible with the new model.
Hopefully, you have the model reference on the back, so you won’t confuse them.
But as a whole, no major difference in the hardware, logo on the CPU, metal shield, and revision number on the back. So, is it worth it to upgrade? We’ll see that in the next sections.
Pi Zero vs Pi Zero 2: User experience
I have had it for a few days, so I haven’t tested everything with it yet. But, if you are used to the Raspberry Pi Zero (1) W, you will quickly see the difference. The idea was to install Raspberry Pi OS (with Desktop), see how it works on both, and do a few tests. I can tell you that you’ll notice a major difference, directly in the first steps :
- Updating the system took me almost 30 minutes on the Raspberry Pi Zero and less than 15 minutes on the new model. I used the same Internet connection, same SD card, and same Raspberry Pi OS image on both. So, the only explanation is the new multicore CPU.
- The user experience is also very different in the desktop environment. If you have one task running on your system, everything we’ll be very slow on the Raspberry Pi Zero. But the multi-thread management on the new model will avoid this. For example, if you are using Chromium and extracting an archive at the same time, you’ll notice a major difference between both.
- Even installing the tools for the benchmark (and to run the tests) was way better with the new model. By the way, it took me forever to do this. It works well on high-end models, but it’s a bit too heavynfor the Raspberry Pi Zero family. Anyway, it probably took more than 24h hours on the Raspberry Pi Zero, and about 8 hours on the Raspberry Pi Zero 2.
So, I think you’ll really see the difference. For example, I remember trying to install Nextcloud on my Raspberry Pi Zero. It’s possible, but you’ll often get some freezes in the interface for no reason. It wasn’t really a good experience, so I use a Raspberry Pi 3B+ for this instead.
The new Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W will probably unlock a whole list of projects you can do with this cheap version. It’s probably not the best for desktop usage but for most server-oriented projects or home automation, I think it’s a good fit for a decent price.
I’m saying that it’s not the best for computer use, but it works pretty well. For people who only check their emails once a day, for kids, or for people in poor countries, I think this new model can go beyond what we expected for the Raspberry Pi Zero series until now.
The ports available can be a limitation, as you have only one USB port and no Ethernet port available.
Pi Zero vs Pi Zero 2: Benchmarks
Ok, for the nerds reading this, I have done a few tests to show you the differences between the two models. As I told you previously, it took me forever to get this done, but I have some numbers to confirm my first impressions.
I completed the tests using the Phoronix Test Suite. I did the same tests on the Raspberry Pi Zero W, the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W, and the Raspberry Pi 4 (to have a reference). It’s the same SD card, with the same image on the two Raspberry Pi Zero models.
Here are the benchmark results:
|Test||Raspberry Pi Zero W||Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W||Raspberry Pi 4 (4GB)|
|AoBench (CPU)||655 Seconds||363 Seconds||125 Seconds|
|LAME MP3 Encoding (CPU)||206 Seconds||96 Seconds||42 Seconds|
|7zip Compression (CPU)||282 MIPS||1541 MIPS||3616 MIPS|
|FFMpeg (CPU)||1127 Seconds||109 Seconds||46 Seconds|
|Flac Audio Encoding (CPU)||1890 Seconds||939 Seconds||207 Seconds|
|HDParm Read (Disk)||22 MB/s||22 MB/s||42 MB/s|
|Memcpy (Memory)||420 MB/s||1357 MB/s||2748 MB/s|
|Memset (Memory)||1650 MB/s||1621 MB/s||3339 MB/s|
|PyBench (System)||42234 Milliseconds||19974 Milliseconds||5202 Milliseconds|
Note: I used a slightly better SD card on the Raspberry Pi 4 that may explain the difference with HDParm.
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According to the benchmark results, the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W beats the Raspberry Pi Zero in all the CPU tests, but also on some memory and system tests. As a whole, the user will experiment with a system between two and five times faster, depending on the tasks.
These results are explained by a better CPU and multi-thread support. Also remember that the new processor supports 64-bits applications, so it might also improve the performances on some operating systems and programs.
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As a whole, I think this new Raspberry Pi model will find a good place in my collection. My Raspberry Pi Zero was the one with the most uptime, as I keep it running 24/24, but it will now be replaced by the new one, and I may buy a few other ones to host some servers for backup purposes, home automation, and other projects.
If you are not certain if it’s for you, I would recommend it for anything other than desktop usage if your budget is limited. For desktop usage, a Raspberry Pi 4 or 400 will always be better. Also, the limited memory can be an issue with some server projects. In this case, I’d prefer a Raspberry Pi 3 or 4 if possible (even the Pi 3A might be a better choice).
I can’t wait to see what manufacturers and makers will do with this new model, as I think there is big potential. I’ll probably wait for new articles about it in the future, but for now, you can find some great projects ideas for it here: 16 cool projects ideas for the small Raspberry Pi Zero.
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