Today, in this article, we will talk about Raspberry Pi Pico vs ESP-32 The Raspberry Pi Pico is an all-new $4 microcontroller board that offers a variety of features. It is powered by a brand new custom build 133 Hz ARM Cortex-M0+ microchip called RP2040. Other prime features of Raspberry Pi Pico are that it has 26 GPIO pins, inbuilt memory of 2MB, 264 KB of SRAM, a variety of I2C, UART, SPI, ADC, PWM, and PIO channels. This insanely powerful microcontroller board supports codes written in C/C++ and MicroPython.

Raspberry Pi Pico vs ESP-32

The Espressif ESP32 is a very feature centric development board. It promises to provide both, Bluetooth and WiFi wireless connectivity and a sophisticated dual-core microprocessor. The microprocessor used is Tensilica Xtensa 32-bit LX6 which has a clock frequency that reaches up to 240MHz and performs up to 600 DMIPS (Dhrystone Million Instructions Per Second).

Now Since you have a basic idea about both these boards, Let us see a detailed comparison between their features:

Feature Comparison of Raspberry Pi Pico vs ESP-32

Raspberry Pi Pico vs ESP-32

Both the microcontrollers boards are extremely good on the spec sheet. Raspberry Pi Pico’s RP2040 is an ARM Cortex-M0+ Dual-core CPU and ESP32 has got a Tensilica Xtensa LX6 which is a 32-bit dual-core CPU. Though an option to get a Single-core variant of ESP 32 is also available. The clock speed of Pico’s CPU is 133 KHz whereas that of ESP32 is 240 KHz. Therefore the Arm Cortex-M0+ CPU is way too slower than 32 bits LX6 of ESP 32.

The Flash memory offered by Pi Pico is 2 MB while ESP 32 has 4MB. A flash memory of a board is the place where the program is stored. Even though ESP 32’s flash memory is twice that of Pico, it offers wireless connectivity so the 4 MB storage does not make any much of a difference. Otherwise, if we don’t have any WiFi or Bluetooth based program, 2 MB storage is more than enough. The SRAM for ESP 32 is 520 KB and for Raspberry Pi Pico it is 264 KB. Since Raspberry Pi Pico uses MicroPython projects the SRAM size is well enough. 

Raspberry Pi Pico vs ESP-32

The Raspberry Pi Pico has got 30 programmable pins and ESP32 has 38 pins. Both the boards are having an external flash. However, both the boards have got an adequate number of pins for IoT development and projects. Raspberry Pi Pico supports almost all the standard Analogue to Digital Converter (ADC) interfaces except for I²S and CAN. These 2 interfaces are usually not always needed but you get these with the ESP 32. Both the boards offer the Direct Memory Access (DMA) feature. Raspberry Pi Pico offers the typical USB support whereas the ESP 32 lacks this most basic and convenient feature. 

Raspberry Pi Pico as well as ESP 32 offers Serial Wire Debug interface for debugging. Raspberry Pi Pico does not support any wireless connectivity be it WiFi or Bluetooth. Whereas ESP 32 board supports WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. There is a sharp contrast between the power consumption of both the boards. The Raspberry Pi Pico consumes only 18mA of current in contrast to that the ESP 32 board consumes colossally 53 mA of current with WiFi turned off. Here Raspberry has done a very outstanding job.

If we talk about the input supply voltage, Raspberry Pi Pico can operate from 1.8 to 5.5 V while the ESP32’s operating voltage ranges from 2.2 to 3.6 volts. This means that a Li-Ion battery(3.0-4.2V), as well as 2 x AA(2.0-3.2V) batteries, can be directly connected to Raspberry Pi Pico but both these primary batteries will not be supported in the ESP 32. The price of both the microcontroller boards is the same i.e $4 which makes both of these boards comparatively affordable. 

This was an overview of the Raspberry Pi Pico and ESP32’s features and functions.  The table given below is a summary of the paragraphs above and compares all the major features of both, the Raspberry Pi Pico and ESP32 side to side.

Core countDual-coreSingle/dual-core
MicrocontrollerRP2040Tensilica Xtensa LX6
Clock frequency48MHz / 133MHz160MHz / 240MHz 
SRAM 264 KB in 6 banks520 KB
Interna Flash Memory2 MB 4 MB
External Flash SupportUp to 16 MBNot Supported
PWM16 16
RTC memoryNot Specified16 MB
MCU Voltage3.3 VCD3.3 VCD
Programming LanguageMicroPython, C, C++C, MicroPython with limited support
Operating Voltage3.3 VDC3.3 VDC
Temperature SensorYesYes
Touch SensorNoYes
WiFiNot Supported802.11 b/g/n
Wifi Mesh2 NodesUp to 1000 nodes
BluetoothNot SupportedV4.2 (Supports Classic Bluetooth and BLE)
EthernetNot Supported10/100 Mbps
Onboard LED1 programmable LED(GPIO 25)1 programmable LED(GPIO 2)
SD/MMC slotYesYes
Price$4$4 – $6

The above table compares all the major features of both, the Raspberry Pi Pico and ESP32 side to side. Next, let us check the uses of these two microcontroller boards below.

Uses of Raspberry Pi Pico Vs ESP-32

The Raspberry Pi Pico is designed to be a very beginner-friendly microcontroller board that offers a very warm introduction to the IoT branch and microcontrollers by using MicroPython. The RP2040 is a very expertly designed microprocessor and suitable for almost all IoT projects. It provides enough power to get the work done effectively done. The dual-core processor CPU type is ARM M0+. Providing all these features at just $4 is genuinely a great deal especially for students that require aboard for a number of projects that do not require any kind of wireless connectivity. 

Whereas the ESP 32 is a compact and featureful microcontroller board. Due to its low-cost, low power consumption and compact size, it is a very ably developed microchip that can be used in numerous IoT applications. However, with the wireless connectivity being and other cool features being offered, this microcontroller board has gained a reputation as one of the best boards for IoT developers.

Final Thoughts

Both of these microcontroller boards are praiseworthy. Your choice must depend on your personal needs and requirements. If you are a newbie and want to get started with IoT development, then you must go for Raspberry Pi Pico since you won’t be requiring those extra features and high-level coding as of now.

But if you are an experienced student or a developer, then the ESP 32 should be the right choice since all price and features being offered are astonishingly a great deal. 

I hope this review helped you in understanding the difference between Raspberry Pi Pico vs ESP-32 and which board is the best for your IoT project.

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6 months ago

Perhaps the only advantage of RP2040 over ESP32 is having USB Host/Device. But then, if you are going to use the RP2040 just to have USB, it might be better to use an Arduino with Shield or an STM32. STM32F407 has two USB ports. In short, did they make a dual-core chip similar to the STM32?

Reply to  Rrr
6 months ago

Yes, ESP32 lacks usb port but esp32 dev boards, have usb-uart converters (CP2102 chipset)to overcome this problem. In my experience usb ports are used while flashing the programs only … Unless you are looking to use it as an external-flash, instead of SD-cards. Raspberry-Pi has launched this MCU to mostly compete with Arduino, their(Pi) documentation and community support is way better than any one in the market. Infact STM products, I wanted to use, their tools for memory debugging, it was completely based on windows and tool sucked…Perhaps that’s one reason Pi-foundation waited this long to launch their microcontroller, so… Read more »

Reply to  Rrr
2 months ago

Except with current prices both RP2040 and ESP32 together can be cheaper than STM32

1 month ago

ESP32 is a clear winner, i cannot see worthy advantage for pico at the same price tag.