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Raspberry Pi Pico W is an Inexpensive MCU with Wi-Fi

Written by Stephen Vicinanza

Over the summer of 2022, Raspberry Pi introduced a new Pico, the W, at $6 instead of $4. But the Pico W is sporting an 802.11n Wi-Fi radio, giving it a boost over the earlier model. It can run more Internet of Things (IoT) projects, over the network.

The hardware is basically the same as the Pico model from last year. The Pico microcontroller runs an RP2040 chip of the company’s own design. The Pico W is more expensive and the jump up to 50% increase over the earlier model can run costly if your company is buying a mountain of these little workhorses.

It is not lost on most makers that the W cost more to make, and not a pittance either. In a statement, the Raspberry PI CEO Eben Upton said that adding radios is an expensive proposition.

“Just the radio conformance for a modern Raspberry Pi product is the best part of half a million dollars,” he said. In the event that the cost increase from the $4 Pico is too much for the wallet, the earlier Pico is not going anywhere, customers can still purchase the original Pico.

The company stated that they used an Infineon CYW43439 chip to add wireless to the Pico. An interesting aside is that the CTW43439 also supports Bluetooth, but the company says its not enabled. There is a hint of confirmation that Bluetooth might be enabled down the road.

There are standard Pico accessories that can enable wireless and wired access to a network. These were in general bulkier and much more expensive than the new Pico W with Wi-Fi built in. There is the fact that the other accessories needed to utilize the pins on the Pico, and now they don’t need the accessory at all. That opens the Pico W to many more interesting and exciting uses for its GPIO pin set.

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The power of the Wi-Fi in the Pico W is light, its a 2.4GHz 802.11n, which is ancient in the world of Wi-Fi 6E. The truth is the Pico W is designed to run and control other hardware devices and electronics. It is not necessary to be able to run as a desktop computer and surf the web.

An example of how the Pico W can work back and forth with data over a network is the Pico could control an array of LEDs with a switch or a button. While the Pico W can still run the array of LEDs but now it can be controlled from a laptop, over the network.

To enhance the offering of a new Wi-Fi enabled Pico W, and the original Pico, there is a now a Pico H and Pico WH. Both of these offer the same basic hardware as the Pico and the Pico W, but with the pin headers attached. The H costs $5 and the WH cost $7.

While the convenience of the pin headers is something many people would find an enhancement, many might stick with the original Pico and Pico W, and just get in more soldering time.

With the chip shortage over it is easier to find all the Raspberry Pis, including the Pico and Pico W. There are still some delays but those should end by mid-Q1 2023.

Find more information on the Raspberry Pi PIco and Pico W at the Pico Family Page

Raspberry Pi | raspberrypi.com

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For the past 8 years, I have been writing about embedded technologies, added to my technical, academic, and medical editorial experience, with companies like Elsevier and Cambridge University Press. I tell people to read what I write, not try to pronounce my last name. I am always available for comments and suggestions you can reach me at product-editor@circuitcellar.com and I promise I will take the time to reach back out to you. I live in the North East with my wonderful family.

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Raspberry Pi Pico W is an Inexpensive MCU with Wi-Fi

by Stephen Vicinanza time to read: 2 min