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Raspberry Pi 2 and a NodeMCU board

What is the difference between an Arduino/ESP and a Raspberry Pi?

You can use Raspberry Pi's and an Arduino/ESP8266/ESP32 for a wide variety of different home automation projects, but do you know the difference between an Arduino and a Raspberry Pi?

They're both small devices that you can use for your home automation projects, but they all have their own uses, opportunities, and limitations.

In this guide, we're going to look at both types of devices, what you can use these devices for, and which one is the right fit for your next project.

Let's find what the biggest differences are and which one you should use for your next home automation project!

What is a Raspberry Pi?

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Raspberry Pi 2 from the top

The Raspberry Pi is a complete computer with an operating system, it's just much smaller than what you're use to from a desktop computer or laptop. You can install an operating system, like Ubuntu or Pop! OS on your Raspberry Pi and use it as if it were a normal desktop computer.

The strength of the Raspberry Pi is that it's very small, which means you can put it anywhere you want and have a working computer or Home server.

A Raspberry Pi is a little machine with a lot of computing power compared to an Arduino or the ESP-based boards. You can use this power to host services to make your home automation life easier and more enjoyable, like Home Assistant or NodeRed.

You can't use the Arduino or the ESP boards for these more complicated (web) services, because these boards don't have a normal operating systems and aren't powerful enough to run software like this.

When should you use a Raspberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi is a powerful device that has a wide range of uses for home automation. You should use a Raspberry Pi for your next project if you want to use a complicated application, like Home Assistant or NodeRed.

Another reason to use a Raspberry Pi is if you need to collect data from multiple sources or sensors. This generally takes quite a bit of CPU power, so the Raspberry Pi is perfect for this task.

What is an Arduino or ESP8266/ESP32 board?

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ESP8266 from the top

The Arduino, ESP8266, and ESP32 are single-board chips that run machine code. You usually use these devices for 1 thing at a time: like a moisture meter or thermometer. These small devices aren't very powerful and have limited memory to perform actions with.

You can use the ESP8266 and others for small tasks, such as: - Measuring the temperature - Measuring the humidity

You can send all of this information over the internet (or preferably in your own house) to see what the humidity and temperature is in your house. I've combined these type of actions with my Raspberry Pi, where my Raspberry Pi collects the temperature for a lot of different ESP8266's in one place.

Making the Arduino or ESP8266/ESP32 do something

The Arduino or ESP devices don't have an operating system on which you can install applications, like the Raspberry Pi. So how do you make it do something?

When you want to install new code on these chips, you'll have to flash the device. Flashing a device means you completely remove everything on the device and reprogram how it works. This sounds complicated, but it's surprisingly simple when you use the Arduino IDE to flash your device. This program helps you to write code and does all the hard work to get it to work on your device. All you have to do is find or write the code you need, connect your device with a USB cable to your computer, and press "Upload".

There are quite a few different types of single board computers out there: the Arduino is one of them. The ESP8266 and ESP32 have Wi-Fi built-in, which is amazing for small IoT (Internet of Things) devices in your home. These Wi-Fi capabilities help you to integrate your small device with Home Assistant or other services. Services you can put on your Raspberry Pi.

When should you use an Arduino or ESP8266/ESP32?

The Arduino or ESP8266/ESP32 devices are amazing devices if you want to use sensors and send this sensor data to somewhere. These devices are very reliable, because their only task is to collect this sensor data and send it somewhere. If you need to perform a small task and do so very reliably, the ESP boards or Arduino are perfect for this. These devices are also perfect if you're working with any type of sensor, both analog and digital.


In this post, we've looked at the differences between the Arduino + ESP8266/ESP32 and a Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi is the perfect option to pick when you want to work with more complex applications or data, because it has the power to do this. The Arduino and ESP8266/ESP32 are perfect when you want to perform simple tasks and when you're working with analog and digital sensors. I hope you have a better understanding of which of these devices is right for your next project.

Posted on: Dec 16, 2021