You can't buy a Raspberry Pi right now

...or at least, not without a lot of patience or a fat wallet.

Scalping Prices of the Raspberry Pi on eBay

But why? And are there any signs Raspberry Pis will become available to the general public again soon?

To be clear, I'm speaking of the mainstream SBC Raspberry Pis, like the Pi 4 model B, the Compute Module 4, the Pi Zero 2 W, and even in many cases the Pi 400. The Pico and Pico W are both readily available, at least in most markets where I've looked (local shortages always exist, but typically not for months or years like with full-size Pis).

A service has even been set up since early this year just to scan different vendors to find when Pis are in stock, and alert people via Twitter and other means. Long-time followers of rpilocator.com know how short-lived Raspberry Pis are at official retailers like Adafruit and Pi-Shop, even with purchasing limitations in place.

Sadly, the only reliable way to buy a Pi immediately is to pay scalping prices on eBay or buy bundles that include often-unneeded components to pad out the price of a normally-$35 Pi to $100 and beyond.

Why?

The big question is: why?

Well, two reasons:

  1. Raspberry Pi is one of the few SBC vendors (maybe the only one) to tackle the most important feature for adoption and ongoing end-user happiness: support.

    Instead of throwing hardware at the wall, seeing what sticks, and relying on developer communities to support their hardware with distributions like Armbian, Raspberry Pi actively supports their boards, all the way back to the original Pi model B. They ship Raspberry Pi OS. They continually improve their documentation and focus on a great end-user experience for beginners and advanced users.

  2. Production limitations because of the global components shortage.

And because of the second point, Raspberry Pi can produce a limited number of Pi models based on the Broadcom BCM2711 SoC. This is the same issue plaguing car manufacturers. Even behemoths like Nvidia, Intel, AMD, and Apple are still being affected.

Raspberry Pi 4 BCM2711 SoC

Because of the shortages, Raspberry Pi have not been able to increase production to meet demand, therefore they have to prioritize where the Pis they make go... and right now they are still prioritizing OEM partners over end-user retailers like Adafruit, PiShop.us, Micro Center, and other retailers selling individual units.

This is far from ideal, and many in the maker/hacker community (myself included) feel betrayed by an organization that grew quickly based on the grassroots adoption of the Raspberry Pi since 2012.

How many of the commercial and industrial users of the Pi would be incorporating it into their products (thus depending on Pi stock for their own survival) without the huge community of individual developers, makers, hobbyists, and educators who made the Raspberry Pi as popular as it is today?

Official response from RPi

With all this in mind, and since there hasn't been an official update since Eben Upton's post on the Raspberry Pi blog in April, I asked directly about the shortage. Eben said, basically:

  • Everything in the April blog post is still valid
  • They are still supply constrained
  • They are still prioritizing OEM customers (who have built their products around the Pi)
  • They are ring-fencing some supply for customers (they did not mention how many, exactly)
  • They set up a new process to ensure the OEM's they're supplying aren't scalping the boards
  • Any OEM who is not getting the Pis they need should email [email protected]
  • Raspberry Pi's main goal during the shortage is to not let companies that rely on Raspberry Pi to die.
  • They are currently producing 400,000 Raspberry Pis per month.

And finally, they wanted to make clear their main point of differentiation in the SBC space:

We value our approach to software support, maintenance and quality over and above everything else. You can be confident that our software will run on all Raspberry Pis even those now over ten years old, and it is still being updated!

Indeed, that's why people pay double, or even triple, the MSRP for a used Raspberry Pi. For some projects, getting things running on the Pi (and knowing they'll have software updates for years) is still much easier than doing the same on another SBC.

And though the Pi 4's BCM2711 is getting long in the tooth—most competing boards are already far surpassing it in CPU, memory, and IO performance—it is still a great option for energy-efficient computing and certain edge use cases.

Raspberry Pi Alternatives

But because the Pi is now realistically a $100 computer (for the time being), people have started considering alternatives.

If you want a slightly faster and more generic computer, buying a used 'one liter' PC (one of those little PCs you see strapped to a monitor at a doctor's office) can get you something on par with—or faster than—a Pi 4 for less than $80, or cheaper if you get lucky. But these PCs lack some features like GPIO or any kind of HAT compatibility, so are only an option if you use the Pi as a generic computer.

If you want a comparable SBC with features like GPIO and a faster CPU and GPU, with native SATA ports or other more exotic features, Khadas, Radxa, OrangePi, and other vendors have made some great hardware over the past two years, with many options under $100.

But getting started with a Pi clone can be daunting—unlike the first-time experience with a Pi, where you have helpful Getting Started Guide and a plethora of blog posts, videos, and books available, you may encounter a sparse documentation page (if anything) pointing you to an ISO download and telling you to flash an image to a microSD card.

Where Raspberry Pi assumes nothing and guides you along every step, most other manufacturers assume you're familiar with SBCs, flashing ISOs, and quite possibly debugging problems over a USB serial connection!

Some Alternatives Work Fine

That's not always the case, and I was pleasantly surprised by BigTreeTech's new CB1 board (a clone of the Compute Module 4, running an Allwinner H616 SoC). Check out my experience with that board in my recent livestream:

But the CB1 is an outlier in my experience. Almost every non-Pi board I test requires more work than just 'download ISO, flash it, and the SBC boots and works'. Some images don't have basic functionality like HDMI or networking, and sometimes you can't even find an image with a modern and secure Linux OS, only Android images (which is unhelpful for general use).

I'm not saying you should avoid alternate SBCs, but don't expect the same level of user experience and support you get with a Raspberry Pi.

In the end, I will echo what I've recommended before:

  • If you need a Raspberry Pi, either be patient and keep checking rpilocator.com, or if the need is more urgent, consider emailing [email protected].
  • If you're considering an alternative, know that the experience may not be as simple, but try to get an idea of what you're getting into by finding reviews from others to make sure the board will solve the problems you have first.
  • The shortage likely won't let up this year. I'm still hopeful it will relax in 2023, but who knows what the future holds.

Comments

pimoroni.com seems to work quite well. I've been able to get 2 Pi 4b 8gb with case, power supply, 32Gb card, and a micro hdmi to hdmi cable for around $110 shipped from the UK. Both times it took about 2 days. Just put your email in and wait for the notification. Then buy immediately.

I agree though. Documentation on alternatives is not the greatest. Had a heck of a time getting one to boot.

I can't even get Pimoroni UK to let me order one. I've been back and forth with customer support multiple times and even though their site says they ship to the US - they don't ship to the US ...

I had a similar experience buying a Pi 4B 8gb kit from them a week ago for under $200 AUD which was insane considering the scarcity and inflated prices buying a similar kit locally. 3 days later it arrived to Australia where I've been having fun setting it up.

I've also been looking at some alternative SBCs yet as a relative newbie the thing that's put me off has been what Jeff rightly mentions and that's lack of community support, compatible hardware and reliable OS be it Linux based or Android as I'm excited by the RK 3399/3588 chips yet all reports indicate they're still not fully ready so I'll happily wait it out until things improve!?

Out of interest, what kit? I haven't been able to spot one that's actually available. I'm also in Australia, locally the only 8GB kit I've seen is the "Ultimate" from core electronics, but that's AU$311

I'm not sure if you've seen them but I've got some LibreComputer boards on the way to test as they seem to be heavily supporting their boards, to the point where they've even made a Raspbian conversion/compatibility tool (available at https://github.com/libre-computer-project/libretech-raspbian-portability) which lets you modify a Raspbian installation in a way to get it to also run on their hardware. The best bit is that they claim you can put the SD card back into a Raspberry Pi and have it still work. I'm looking forward to testing it as soon as they land!

The RPi foundation is not giving you the truth. According to my sources their relationship with Broadcom has become very sour, partly due to the Pi Pico. Broadcom now wants to charge them list prices. The "we prefer to ship our industrial customers" story is a lie. They have multiple million of unfulfilled orders, and according to my sources the big distributors are receiving next to nothing for their industrial customers. And just two weeks ago, their biggest manufacturing partner RS Components has given up on them, cancelled all unfulfilled orders (multiple million pieces), and now is starting to produce millions of Radxa CM3 modules instead, and are recommending their customers to move over to that.

From all info I have it's not unlikely that RPi will simply die in 2023.

Broadcom would have to be stupid to kill the relationship with RPi, given how much lost sales would mean. Even if the RPI <-> Broadcom relationship is soured (I did some research and couldn't find anything to corroborate this), there's no reason this would kill RPi. There are plenty of other ARM SOC vendors that would almost certainly love to work with RPi, given how popular the RPi is.

Would you care to link those sources? I'm not saying you're lying, but those are some pretty harsh accusations and some really, really big numbers to just throw around without anything to back it up.

It's fascinating watching people make up complete garbage online and calling it the truth.

Ask your sources about RS components again. I heard it was the other way around due to them abusing their license privileges. They got cancelled, they didn't cancel the orders.

I got lucky and found 4 boards(3 Pi3 and 1 Zero) while I was in the middle of a move, a junk drawer out in my garage.

postmarketOS is also an option if your phone is supported. A growing number of phones have mainline Linux support on pmOS so you can get a better "real Linux" experience than a chrooted Android OS running some stale manufacturer kernel.

Just wondering if anyone knows if the Raspberry Pi retail shop in Cambridge UK has any stock? Might be worth a trip and a day out in Cambridge.

I had a project I needed to do a few months back that called for a Pi. None to be had. I ended up getting an OrangePi 4 LTS by way of AliExpress, got it in 11 days from China (ordered July 2, delivered July 13 in NJ). It's worked out really nicely. Runs Ubuntu Jammy, built-in eMMC even. While it was still more than I was used to paying, the total was still sub-$100 including a nice metal case. Compare that vs the $150-ish I'm seeing for naked Pi4 4GB boards that are taking 6 weeks on AliExpress to get.

I have a pi 4 4gb kit for 100 dollars in stock. I have had it for over a year.

I can't,why?
I bought a zero 2 W for my prusa and a 4 model B for the Voron, one came from Holland and the other from France.

You can buy them on Alibaba. The prices are crazy but you can definitely get them.

Hi Jeff, well for me there is not rush, then I can wait for the next year. But each day I feel less interested on something that I can not get.

Jeff, first great content, keep it up sir! Understandably this could be taken as controversial, however. Having experience in US counter insurgency the Raspberry Pi would’ve been a game changer back in the day. Like DJI drones having been shipped by the thousands to Russia/Ukraine to be used as weapons, it’s equally likely Raspberry Pi’s are meeting the same fate. Any technophile knows yesterday’s top secret tech is today’s consumer tech. With Pi’s HQ being located in an allied country coupled with the need for retrofitting “dumb” artillery for > precision, it’s very probable a significant portion of those 400k pi’s are being produced for single use only. If keeping companies who require pi’s to remain in business, for example Adafruit, then more pi’s on the open market would do just that. Further evidence for this would include beagleboard shortage’s as well as the higher end Arduino boards.

It is quite clear that at least one of the OEM's being supplied is directly or indirectly reselling Pi Zero 2 W's for £64.95 on the famous auction site a particular seller has many tens if not hundreds listed as I type this! Although they also offer 10 for £520!

Just an FYI:
The german website heise.de (IT news) mentioned you and your interview with Eben Upton in an article about the chip shortage and Raspberry Pis yesterday. (Link triggers Spam-Detection)

That's some fine investigative journalism. Eben Upton says shortages... case closed. Good work Jeff.

Years of nothing. About time someone made a compatible plug and play board so we can all move on from this incompetent organisation

Wound up getting myself a Banana Pi M2 Zero a while back. Very capable board, but as noted - the 'latest' linux iso was an ancient roll of Ubuntu. Old enough that it had fallen off the back of the apt repos and couldn't even do a do-release-upgrade without having to redirect apt to archive URLs.

That said - once up and running, it works very nicely. With the Coretex-A7, more oomph than the RPi Zero W it imitates. You're right though - not nearly so "plug 'n' play" as a Raspberry.

Bit of a deep-dive into some of the alternatives might make for a good vid, though ;)

Where are the RISCV folks? Isn’t it their moment to shine?

They're at allnetchina The starfive 2nd gen board looks like it might be pretty good - I did try to direct link but it seems Jeff thinks it's spam ;)

Try searching for starfive-visionfive-2nd-generation-single-board-computer you should find it okay.

I'm done with Raspberry Pi. The foundation did the exact OPPOSITE of what they should of done, given their initial mission statement. To hell with the small businesses that are gobbling up Raspberry PI's to run their companies, that is counter to what the Raspberry Pi was intended to do in the first place. As a result of Raspberrypi.org's betrayal of the educational and hobbiest market, I very much hope they go under.

Unfortunately I am in the same boat and have started investigating alternatives. I hate to say it but I think there is some deeper problem at Raspberry Pi. Plus they really aren't providing any meaningful updates.

The sad fact is, China's government is weaponizing their insane lockdowns to do exactly this - exacerbate the cost of living and supply crisis in the west, as well as extend their power over their own people. No one wants to talk about it, but I think we can all see this can't we? It's going to take years to first wake up to this, and put in place robust local manufacturing to remove the dependency. None of this is going to be easy, and I don't see it happening for a very long time indeed. Still, it kind of serves us right doesn't it?

I am gradually transitioning to to compute sticks, bit pricier but not by that far after discounting 8GB memory, proper casing for embedded use, internal storage with really good i/o for the os, hdmi cable, and power supply. Plus none of gimicky heat dissipation solutions to be wasting time over. After an arduino connected, there is nothing left to be missed.

If they are so short on stock, how come, Chinese electronic companies have thousands in stock.
Of course, they sell it to a price that you drown, but they must get it from somewhere or not?
PI org is just bullshitting all around.

Well, I definitely consider the Pi Foundation as actively hostile to the DIY/maker community since at least mid-2021. They knew very well back then and they know now there is zero chance of this "issue" resolving in 2023 or in 2024. How are they hostile? They know they will never be able to provide the same value they did before, but still by claiming "the solution is right over the corner" they string everyone along. Open source projects don't migrate to alternative hardware, people don't choose other solutions because they are being told it is just few more weeks... No, it is years. And when they do provide, those chips will be a decade old tech. The situation we're in has nothing to do with a "chip shortage", but all with price gouging by certain well established manufacturers. It is simply a result of too little competition. The only thing that will resolve this is some old fashioned competition, but with China essentially shooting itself in the foot with their hyper-idiotic industry-killing covid lock downs still continuing and entire competition of those price-gougers being located there it takes time to build fabs and the whole alternate supply chain elsewhere. My prediction for when this is "resolved" is 2028 at the earliest, 2030 more likely. Look at the fpga industry for an example how it might happen. For last few years if you wanted xilinx or altera/intel fpgas (unless you're military) you couldn't get them at reasonable prices. Now we have Trion,right from a new fab located in USA. Is xilinx and altera more available? Nope, they are happy to give the low end market to Trion. They weren't making much money on low end devices anyway. Would you rather sell a thousand pieces for a dollar, or one piece for $1k?(with ability to provide better service and all that). This whole "chip shortage" is nothing else, but an opportunity to restructure their profit ratios for manufacturers.

Coming back to the pi foundation, its ability to deliver a product that was pretty fast and well supported was tightly linked to the industrial environment that existed at the time. This is gone and it is not coming back. We have to move forward. If we want cheap hardware, there is cheap hardware, and some of it is even well documented (but on a very low level). Open source community is involved in a lot of work to improve Linux support on rockchip socs for example. I think we sooner will have everything working out of the box on radxa, orange pi, rock Pro, pine64 etc than have rpis back in stock. A lot of stuff is already doable on those boards. If you're developing your own software and you're willing to run Linux kernels that are slightly older you can get advanced features like video encode etc working. If you just want gpio this is fine even on latest kernel. There is however an issue with hdmi. That is much better on android. However, none of my current Raspberry pi uses involves hdmi so for me this doesn't matter. To anyone who considers using RPi product now (unless it is pico based) I say don't. Save yourself some trouble and choose something else.