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Raspberry Pi boards are tiny, incredibly versatile computers that have been put to an increasing number of practical, fun, and diverse uses by hobbyists. This exceptional flexibility has only been increased over the years by manufacturers coming out with a plethora of add-ons like sensors, touchscreens, wireless connectivity modules, and purpose-built cases.
Also: How to set up your first Raspberry Pi
All of this popularity created strong demand even before the world's supply chain was struck by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent chip shortages, the effects of which still linger. Matters were made worse by the increasing interest of hobbyists with unexpected free time over the pandemic scooping up boards for use in their various projects.
While there may be hope on the horizon for easing these supply constraints, the task of finding an in-stock Raspberry Pi board can be frustrating and sometimes, ahem, fruitless. To help you track down these elusive mini PCs, we've created this handy guide.
Also: The best cooler for Raspberry Pi power users
If you're mostly interested in the best retail sites to check for a reasonably priced Raspberry Pi boards, feel free to scroll through and check them out. But, if you're looking for more in-depth coverage of what each alternative has to offer, we've included additional info on each and which are best for specific types of projects.
This latest main-line generation from the Raspberry Pi Project includes the Raspberry Pi 4 with 1GB to 8GB of onboard RAM as well as the Pi 400 and Pi Pico, which we'll cover in separate sections below. As the latest model, the Pi 4 is among the hardest to find. It launched about two years ago with an MSRP of $35-$70, depending on the amount of RAM included.
Review: Raspberry Pi 4 Model B: A capable, flexible and affordable DIY computing platform
Unfortunately, acquiring a Raspberry Pi 4 as a bare board right now will require a lot of patience, a deep pocket book, or both. The original price range has been impacted by price increases at the Raspberry Pi Project (brought on by increasing chip costs) as well as resellers attempting to exploit the scarcity to hike prices up.
While the Raspberry Pi Project does price control the cost of the units at authorized merchants (to about $75 at the moment), those sellers frequently see their stock emptied within minutes of posting new availability, especially now that bots are being applied to the task of buying out boards for later scalping. Reliable outlets like Adafruit (one of the earliest and most trusted sources for Rasperry Pi hardware) have put buying limits and verification technologies in place to prevent being wiped out by bots. But, even then, enough legitimate, human customers remain to drain supplies rapidly.
If you need a Pi 4 board immediately, expect to pay anywhere between $125 and $175, depending on the RAM included. If you must have a main-line Pi 4 board, but simply can't stomach that level of price gouging, I'd recommend signing up for email notifications at Adafruit or Micro Center. Both companies offer retail prices far closer, if not in line with, the original MSRPs for Pi 4 boards at various memory levels.
Also: 3 must-have Raspberry Pi accessories
If you choose to purchase your Raspberry Pi 4 from a seller not listed in this article, please make sure it is a reputable, well-reviewed retailer. The scarcity of Pi boards has led to an explosion in scams surrounding them. If a seller's price for the board you're seeking seems too good to be true, it probably is. Try to have patience, or save up some extra cash, and purchase your board through a reputable retailer, or at least from a reseller offering the product via a website that provides buyer protections in the event your order is not delivered, or is not as described.
The Raspberry Pi 400 is essentially a modified 4GB model of the Raspberry Pi 4 board with additional cooling which makes it safe for the unit's CPU to run at a slightly different clock speed. Rather than being sold as a bare board, the entire Pi 4 is loaded into a compact 60% keyboard with its included I/O ports on the keyboard's top edge.
Also: Hands-on with the Raspberry Pi 400: Pleased and impressed
The inclusion of the keyboard may make this solution less than ideal for many applications one would want a Raspberry Pi 4 unit for. However, many other uses (gaming, text editing, media server applications, etc.) would have required the connection of a keyboard for control or text entry purposes anyway. Not only does the Pi 400 mean you don't have to add an external peripheral for this purpose, but its unique supply means it also tends to be in stock for MSRP slightly more often than its bare-board cousins.
The Pi 400 is also commonly offered as part of kits, frequently for the same price as the unit itself. The Adafruit option below includes a microSD card, data cable, power supply, mouse, and a beginner's guide. You may still be looking at spending over $100 on it, but if you calculate in the cost of a discrete keyboard, that price might sting a bit less.
This even tinier-than-usual board includes only a single MicroUSB port and lots of solder points for headers or components of your choice. While it's not well suited for the more advanced applications its larger brethren can handle, it's perfect for tiny projects such as wearable electronics, single-use sensors, remote monitoring devices, and other uses that require minimal processing power.
The Pi Pico can also be expanded via a variety of accessories designed to work with its headers, as well as via custom-designed breadboards, and various other add-ons capable of increasing its versatility. A newer version, the Raspberry Pi Pico W, even includes built-in wireless connectivity now, and the Pico WH comes with pre-soldered 40-pin GPIO header, making it easier to connect to other devices and components without needing to solder the header yourself.
Also: How to solder: Tip, tricks, and tools you need to get started
It's also, by far, the cheapest option available right now, and is generally more readily available at or around its MSRP. Even at double the original $4 price point for the wired model or $6 price point for the Pico W, it's still an excellent value for the right project.
The Raspberry Pi Zero line has been around since 2015 to offer a lower-cost option for users that don't need the full computing power and I/O port selection of the full-sized Pi. Over the years, it's been revised to add improved processors, new wireless connectivity options, and other improvements.
Review: Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W: Low-cost single-board device gets a quad-core upgrade
The latest version in the line is the Pi Zero 2 W. Launched in late 2021, this model includes a system in a package (SiP) design based on the previous-generation Pi 3. This means it's very close in capability (for the right project) to the Pi 4, and is often more easily acquired due to being a slightly less versatile option than its top-of-the-line siblings.
You should definitely check to see if the project you have in mind can be handled by the less powerful Pi Zero 2 W. But, if it can, you can generally purchase the units for something closer to their original MSRP than you'll ever find a Pi 4. It may be the most cost-effective and readily available option for the right buyer.
One of the most well-liked entries on our Best Raspberry Pi alternatives list, the NDVIDIA Jetson Nano aims to fill many of the same roles as the Raspberry Pi 4. It provides a similar set of I/O ports, 2GB of RAM, and a fairly identical set of extremely diverse applications.
While its close resemblance to the Raspberry Pi 4 means the Jetson Nano is also being bought up at an alarming rate, it unfortunately had a starting price that was already in excess of what the Pi 4's inflated pricing was. This means you can expect to pay several hundred dollars for it today. Of course, given the scarcity of the Pi 4, it may just be the only option for some hobbyists that need a solution right now. Just make sure whatever plans you have for the NVIDIA Jetson Nano are compatible with its included chipset and I/O.
The NVIDIA Jetson Nano Developer Kit isn't the only alternative available. Also consider these options below if you need something right now.
As I hinted at in the opening, there's hope for the first time in a few years that supply constraints may be easing. This is because of blog post made by Raspberry Pi chief Eben Upton in which he predicted that "supplies in Q2  should recover to pre-pandemic levels." Going on to deliver the long-awaited news that "supply will be 'unlimited' in the second half of 2023."
Of course, it will take some time for this additional supply to reach consumers. Even then the pent up hunger for units is likely to mean sell-outs will happen fast. But, for the first time in several years, we at least have a timeframe, albeit a loose one, for when we might reach the end of this very dark tunnel.
You might expect there to be an updated model waiting in the wings since the Pi 4 is the longest serving flagship board in the series' history. However, it doesn't look like that will be the case any time soon. Eben Upton has confirmed that his team is currently focused on recovering from the supply chain shortages for their existing models, rather than creating entirely new SKUs.
Also: 5 best Raspberry Pi kits: Top starter and pro kits
Upton said in a late 2022 interview that 2023 will be a "recovery year," and "don't expect a Pi 5 next year." Of course things could change, and new revisions of existing Pi 4 variants could make an appearance. But, it looks like we'll have to wait until at least 2024 for a Pi 5 to make its debut.
This depends largely on the types of projects you'd like to pursue.
If you're aiming for something simple, like teaching kids about coding and electronics, something as cheap as the Pi Pico is more than enough to create many fun and educational projects ranging from wearable devices to simple games and even interactive PC peripherals.
Also: Raspberry Pi 4: How I built a twitterbot to track planes passing overhead
If you want something a bit more complex but still affordable, consider the Pi Zero family, which offers a much wider array of add-ons such as digital and LCD displays, wireless communication modules, speakers, microphones, and more.
If you think this is likely to be a long-term hobby for you or the intended recipient, it might be worth going through the extra effort or cost of buying a full-on Pi 4. This will offer the maximum amount of power, versatility, and flexibility to grow alongside the user as they become more experienced and adventurous. Everything from basic smart-home devices, to remote camera setups, and even retro gaming consoles can be created with just a bit of extra hardware connected to the Pi 4.
The answer is a very qualified yes. While the I/O ports of a Pi 4 and its onboard processor can indeed replace a PC for basic computing needs, it does not have anywhere near the power required for more advanced operations.
For example, simple web-browsing, video playback (even at 4K resolutions), retro gaming (think Playstation 1 era and older), and a multitude of other activities you could normally get up to on a PC are completely possible.
Also: Raspberry Pi: The tiny computer with a giant impact
However, more advanced things like video editing, modern gaming, and advanced productivity tasks will tend to run into some walls. Whether those limitations come from a lack of computing power, incompatible peripherals, or a lack of required I/O, the Pi 4 cannot replace a PC in all situations. But, it can get pretty dang close in a shocking number of them.
This is subtle, but it's important to know the difference.