Raspberry Pi 3 vs. Raspberry Pi 4

You might be wondering why our kits include the Raspberry Pi 3B instead of the recently released Raspberry Pi 4.

Here is a quick list of the high points:

  • The Pi 4 uses over twice as much power as the Pi 3, which makes it an inferior choice for a mobile robot platform when compared to the Pi 3. Electronics projects and robotics projects typically need to be moved around so the Pi 4 is problematic as it requires a large battery pack or (ideally) to be plugged into a wall outlet.
  • The increased power consumption of the Pi 4 also increases its cooling requirements over the Pi 3. At this time, the Pi 4 really needs external cooling and generally that means attaching a fan. Unfortunately there is only one port available so you can attach either a fan or a GPIO header but not both. Without a fan, there is significant risk the device will overheat (the Pi 4 will degrade its performance to avoid damage caused by overheating). But without a GPIO header, the device isn't very useful for electronics or robotics projects.
  • The new hardware in the Pi 4 means that many existing Pi 3 software packages will need to be rewritten for the Pi 4. Many packages have already been updated but some are still not Pi 4 compatible. This is likely to be fixed eventually but it's hard to say when that will happen.
  • Most of the tutorials that you find online will be applicable to the Pi 3. Some will apply directly to the Pi 4, but many will need extra steps or workarounds to work with the Pi 4, which can make for a frustrating experience for beginners. Our Intro to Robotics course is designed for beginners and our priority is for you to work with a device that will allow you to learn and grow your skill set. So for the foreseeable future, the Pi 3B is a better choice.

But there is good news...

Even taking into consideration the points mentioned above, the Pi 4 is a great choice for a desktop computer replacement. The power, heat, and software issues can easily be minimized if the Pi 4 is being used as a desktop computer. But these issues can present significant challenges when attempting to use the Pi 4 on a mobile platform, so we recommend a Pi 3B for electronics and robotics projects.


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