The Raspberry Pi has long been synonymous with affordable computing, but the rising cost of their flagship device, the Raspberry Pi 5, led me to question its current value proposition, especially when compared to Intel and AMD-based mini PCs. I was fortunate to actually find one at its regular retail price the other day and it’s the subject of this video review.
The Raspberry Pi 5 features a Broadcom BCM2712 processor which has four 64-bit ARM Cortex A76 CPU cores running at 2.4 GHz. It also includes 1×1 AC Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities along with gigabit ethernet. It performs significantly better than the prior versions but also has more stringent power and cooling requirements.
My 8 GB model cost $80, a price point that, while still affordable, edges closer to the cost of some entry-level mini PCs. Additional expenses for cooling, a protective case, power supply, SD card, and HDMI cables can quickly escalate the overall investment over $100 and right into the territory of affordable Intel based Mini PCs. While it uses USB-C power, most USB-C power supplies cannot provide 5 amps at 5 volts that the Pi requires likely requiring the purchase of the official $20+ power supply.
The Raspberry Pi 5 does have its merits, especially for those engaged in the maker community. The inclusion of GPIO pins for project integration remains a strong selling point along with a very active open source development community. The new model also features a PCI header for attaching PCIe devices, a useful addition for those looking for higher performance data input and output. They also finally added a power switch!
Performance-wise, the Raspberry Pi 5 does deliver. Desktop computing, especially at 1080p, feels a lot zippier and responsive. It also handles hardware decoding of 4K video both at H.264 and H.265. But web-based streaming services may not fare as well as direct playback with VLC. In my testing YouTube was unwatchable at a 4k resolution using both of the pre-installed browsers.
The Pi 5 does much more in the realm of video game emulation vs. its predecessors, with notable improvements in running Gamecube and Dreamcast games. Projects like Retropie will undoubtedly squeeze that performance further.
This video clearly upset some folks which quite honestly is surprising. But my process in evaluating products has always been from a consumer perspective. Some commenters said that the Pi is not a general computing device. But the foundation’s own marketing states “The everything computer. Optimised.” and later they say “the newest version of our operating system delivers a superb desktop performance, making it an ideal computer for work, leisure, enterprise, and more.”
My coverage of Pi products in the past has always been based on its utility as a functional and affordable computer. It still is, but the cost of Intel/AMD based mini PCs has dropped to such a level that you can get a lot more bang for the buck with those. That wasn’t the case a decade ago when the Pi first became available to market. My baseline is always to look at a product vs. its marketing.