Raspberry Pi makes its first ever price increase, global chip shortage to blame

Raspberry Pi 4 with 2GB RAM and Pi Zero are in short supply today, but older Pi boards built with 40nm silicon will be hard to find in 2022.

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The British maker of the Raspberry Pi computer has raised the price of its 2GB RAM Raspberry Pi 4 by $10 due to the global semiconductor shortage.  

The price hike, though temporary, is yet another example of how much the chip supply chain has changed since the pandemic struck. Raspberry Pi dropped the price of the 2GB Pi 4 by $10 in February 2020 to $35, but as of today it's back to $45. 

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"Unfortunately, cost increases caused by the current shortage mean that this product is not currently economically viable at this reduced price point. We are therefore moving it back to $45 on a temporary basis," writes Raspberry Pi Ltd CEO Eben Upton, noting that in the entire history of Raspberry Pi, it had never – until now – had to increase the price of a product.

SEE: Hunker down: The chip shortage and higher prices are set to linger for a while

Raspberry Pi, of course, isn't alone. Automakers can't shift cars because they lack key chips, while gaming fans have found it difficult to buy Sony's Play Station 5 and Microsoft's Xbox Series X consoles.  

The supply shortage has not surprisingly also restricted production at Raspberry Pi. Upton says it will only make seven million units in 2021 – almost exactly the number it made in 2020, which was also its best year to date, in part due to higher sales during the first wave of pandemic lockdowns. 

This year's flat growth bucks its history of otherwise consistently increasing production at a Sony factory in the UK, which has assembled the Pi since 2012. The 2020 lockdown also caused problems for engineers building the 2020 Raspberry Pi 400.  

Upton said products in short supply this year included the Raspberry Pi Zero and the 2GB variant of Raspberry Pi 4. So, despite increased demand, a shortage of these products put a cap on production numbers.

In 2022, Upton expects the supply challenges to fall most heavily on older products with chips built on older 40nm silicon. These products include the Compute Module 3, Compute Module 3+, and Raspberry Pi 3B, and Raspberry Pi 3B+ – essentially everything that isn't a Raspberry Pi 4, Raspberry Pi 400, or Compute Module 4, which use 28nm silicon.

1GB Pi 4 returns for industrial customers

Due to the 2GB Pi 4 price rise, Raspberry Pi is also bringing back the 1GB Pi 4 for $35. It cancelled the 1GB variant when it cut the price of the 2GB variant. The return of the 1GB variant is to support industrial customers that use the 2GB variant in their products, according to Upton.

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Upton outlined the migration path for industrial customers who use the Raspberry Pi 3B+, recommending they move to the 1GB Pi 4, which uses 28nm silicon.

SEE: Chip manufacturers' revenues are reaching a historical high as global shortage continues

"Users of Compute Modules will of course have made investments in carrier board designs and inventory. Raspberry Pi 3B has a single-band radio, without a shield can; many industrial users will have made significant investments in compliance testing. In contrast, Raspberry Pi 3B+ uses the same wireless chipset as Raspberry Pi 4, with the same FCC modular certification; we expect this similarity to translate into a lower migration cost," he notes.

"Our guidance to industrial and embedded users of Raspberry Pi 3B+ who wish to optimise availability in 2022 is to begin migrating your designs to the 1GB variant of Raspberry Pi 4.

"We expect to have enough 28nm silicon over the next twelve months to support both our existing Raspberry Pi 4 and Compute Module 4 customers, and customers migrating from Raspberry Pi 3B+; and that we see early signs that the supply chain situation is starting to ease."