When did Raspberry Pi get so expensive?

Raspberry Pi 5 and N100 GMKtec Nucbox G3

I just bought this N100-based Intel x86 mini PC (brand new), and it was cheaper than an almost equivalent—but slower—Raspberry Pi 5.

This GMKtec mini PC is called the Nucbox G3, and it comes with an Intel Alder Lake N100 4-core CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256 GB M.2 NVMe SSD, and Windows 11 Pro—and mine cost just $131, after a couple coupons.

That's... a lot of computer for a very good price. But the Raspberry Pi—the famous "$35 computer", should be well below that... right?

Well, I bought all the parts required to build a Pi 5 to the same spec—including the adapters and parts to assemble it into one small unit—and it turns out... the Pi is more expensive. And slower.

The Pi 4 still starts at $35 (for a 1 GB model), but the Pi 5 starts at $60 (for 4 GB) and climbs to $80 for the maximum 8 GB model.

But if you want to use an NVMe SSD, add on $20 for a HAT to adapt the new PCIe jack to an M.2 slot. And to power it, you need a $12 5v 5A power adapter (though the slightly-cheaper 3A adapter works in most circumstances). And throw in a $7 Active Cooler since the fan included with the official Pi case won't fit if you add an M.2 HAT to the top. Plus, you probably need a $5 micro HDMI to HDMI adapter if you want to plug the Pi into a monitor.

Raspberry Pi 5 GMKtec Nucbox G3
4x Arm Cortex A76 CPU cores 4x Intel Alder Lake CPU cores
Broadcom VideoCore VII GPU Intel UHD Graphics
8 GB LPDDR4x RAM 8 GB DDR4 RAM
128 GB 2242 M.2 NVMe SSD 256 GB 2280 M.2 NVMe SSD
Pineberry Pi HatDrive! M.2 HAT required (Additional 2242 slot available)
Extra 27W power supply required Power adapter included in box
Extra micro HDMI to HDMI cable required HDMI cable included in box
Extra case + cooling solution required Prebuilt, fully assembled
$147 $131

The Pi works fine as a tiny Linux desktop, but add everything together—and in my case, the total runs up to around $140-150! More expensive than the prebuilt N100 PC with Windows 11 Pro!

I made a video comparing the entire process of purchasing, setting up, and using the Pi and the N100 tiny PC, and you can view it below:

The Pi does have some redeeming values, which offset the sticker shock:

  • It exposes 40 GPIO pins for easy interfacing with tons of pre-built HATs or electronics projects
  • It has two CSI/DSI connectors for high speed display and camera interfaces (not just USB for webcams or expensive HDMI transcievers)
  • The volume of the Pi build is less than 1/4th that of the PC
  • The Pi runs on 3-4W idle, or 8-12W maximum, with a measured efficiency of around 130 'geekbenches per watt' (compared to about 95 for the mini PC, burning through 28W of power maximum)
  • The Pi can be adapted to run on PoE+ power, so you can provide networking and power over one cable (though... there are a couple N100-based mini PCs that have this feature now!)

Besides, Raspberry Pi still includes a 1G and 2G space on the Pi 5 board—if we see variants with less RAM, the Pi 5 may yet push down towards a $40 starting price (I really hope they can release a 2 GB Pi 5 for $40, once they get through their initial production batches).

Raspberry Pi 5 and N100 GMKtec Nucbox G3 - Side

But even accounting for all that, you will likely have to pay shipping on at least two or three separate orders, because not everything is available through one retailer right now. So if you really want the best Raspberry Pi 5 desktop setup, realistically you're going to pay over $150.

The Pi 4 is still around, and in vast quantity now, starting at $35. And if you don't need much horsepower, it makes a fine little server for small tasks—running Home Assistant, monitoring a garden, setting up a remote sensor. Or you can probably put an ESP32 or Pico W on the task, if you don't need full Linux support.

So the Pi 5—it's in a smaller niche currently. It's faster than a Pi 4, at the expense of a little more power draw, and a lot more money. It's priced out of many 'tiny homelab' or 'mini desktop' scenarios, at least when compute efficiency and total build volume aren't your primary concerns. And it's lack of faster Ethernet means it has more limited networking uses compared to a tiny PC like the Nucbox G3 with it's 2.5 Gbps chipset.

I don't think the Pi 5 will become a smash hit like the Pi 4 was1 until they release a lower-cost variant at $40. A potential Compute Module 5 has more legs, as it will make integrating a tiny, energy-efficient computer into more exotic and unique use cases that much easier.

The big question is whether Intel will continue designing better low-end chips like the N100—they've certainly upped their game, but they're still not quite as efficient or easy to cool as Arm SBC equivalents like the RK3588 or BCM2712.


  1. Well... besides the fact they've probably sold over half a million units so far! ↩︎

Comments

My concern with these cheap PCs is how long the BIOS and firmware upgrade will be provided (if any) ?
how about any security issue ?

Valid concerns — many of the mini PCs use identical base hardware, but the support for the 'platform' may be lacking. One of the good reasons why these little PCs aren't deployed in enterprise fleets like in hospitals or large offices. They're best for a little PC you throw behind a TV or set up for extremely basic desktop use.

In that sense, the Pi 5 does have a leg up in terms of support and longevity. Raspberry Pi's still supporting the original Raspberry Pi from 2012!

Another concern is that these mini PCs very likely come with pirated software, especially when they cost less than a legitimate license of Windows Pro.

GOWIC. Go Wylie Internet Computers. They disappeared shortly after my family bought our first Windows 95 computer from them. Turns out they were installing Windows 95 from the same CD on every computer they sold.

The Pi has long been not worth it for anything not needing the GPIO when one can buy a used, low-power HP EliteDesk G-series SFF or equivalent for well under $100. Mountains of them coming out of enterprises, and refurbishers are clogging evilBay, Woot, and other cheap outlets with truckloads of them.

HP is generally evil and makes lots of trash so I don't buy their stuff new. But their EliteDesk PCs are built like brick outhouses. I've bought and deployed a half dozen across a couple households as desktops and servers and they just quietly get the job done.

For an i3-8100 or better cheap little 2nd hand SFF like from HP I still pay a minimum of €250.

A quick look for €100 all I get is Intel 3000/4000 CPU's.
Guess it really depends on the local market.

Early on, you could use a phone charger as a power supply, and you didn't really need a heatsink. I'd stock up on pi3's when they were on sale for like $20 or $25. Now, I just ordered a fancy case with a M.2 slot that was $61 after shipping. But man, is it better than the previous ones.

The Raspberry Pi is not interested in being a desktop replacement. Their niche is the "hacker" enthusiasts looking to do more IOT projects leveraging the GPIO connections to "unorthodox" devices using I2C and SPI types of interfaces rather than a PC running Windows as an office productivity tool. That is where the cost differential lies

Agreed, it would be nice if this point was articulated in the article. Realistically, users searching for a PC for generic user tasks would not really benefit from a raspberry pi. Similarly, a user looking to get into programming IO would not even look at a windows PC (unless needing something to run an IDE to program a SMB etc)

But that was the objective at the very beginning over a decade ago. The hacker enthusiasts came later, which I think derailed Raspberry Pi from the original goal.

Well you don't realistically need Pi5 power to make use of that. So yes, it is trying to be a desktop also. A jack of all trades, master of non (and certainly not price, nowadays)

Lets see apples and apples comparison. What power does the PC idle at ? Can you purchase or assemble a kit barebones without the Microsoft tax (or can you sell your MS license somehow)?

But agree. My 4GB pi5 with official case and cooler and power supply came in around $100 which is too high no matter how fast it is compared with the pi4. In retrospect I should sell the pi5 at list to somebody who will use it.

Microsoft sells Windows licenses extremely cheap to OEMs (think <$10) with sufficient scale. But there’s usually a couple of conditions to get that price. 1) The license is only valid for that hardware (no resale) and 2) they MUST include it with every device sold.

Ultimately that means the sale price without a Windows license would be more than with, as if any decent % of their sales wanted that license they would either lose the sale to a competitor that took the deal, or have a higher cost per unit because they had to pay higher prices per license to have it optional which they’d have to spread across both licensed and unlicensed units.

Back in the days of absolute MS dominance this would be a good anti-trust case by the US seems to have stopped doing those.

Anyway that’s why you never see many of the cheapest of these sold without a license.

Raspberry pi has always been expensive. Even with the 3B+, it was much cheaper to buy an AMLOGIC tv box, which could be bought for the same price but came with 2 to 4 GB of RAM, quadcore 2Ghz CPU, USB ports, wifi, Ethernet, android 8 (upgradeable to Linux), an 8GB emmc, HDMI cable, and a power adapter.

For some, the included Mathematica license for personal use might count.

For me the cheap, base model Pi was always about embedded use. For $35 you got the board, add common 5V power supply and small SD card, done! Even better if you can get by with the $5/$10 Zero. That's really affordable if you count all the free, open source software, community, documentation, and official long term support.

Generic PC style use where you don't even use the GPIO is a special case. You don't need to use ARM or Linux for that, used mini PC is just fine and nowadays you get more RAM for cheap.

Nice video.
In your video, you said: "The fan on the active cooler is nice", the active cooler is a blower.

The pi 5 is marketed as "the everything computer". The product website says "The newest version of our operating system delivers a superb desktop performance, making it an ideal computer for work, leisure, enterprise, and more."

Well, previous versions of the pi have made a name for themselves as great products for tinkerers and as learning tools. They found many uses in embedded scenarios as documented on this channel. I always felt the step to desktop computer (pi 400) was a bridge too far at the time - considering the competition.

This article seems to test the marketing promise of the pi 5 and ends up reading like a veiled criticism.

Has anybody tried to load Linux or proxmox on this computer? Usually the NICs are a problem.

Me! I have a Beelink EQ12, an N100 mini PC with dual 2.5GbE

I run Proxmox on it and replaced all my other larger and smaller systems. Runs OPNsense with PPPoE to bypass my Bell Canada home modem. Runs Pi Hole, my TP Link Wi-Fi controller and so much more

So wait, you compared the pricing for initial Pi4 and Pi5, but then you put the full starter kit for M.2 and PoE and case for the Pi5 up against a crappy whitebox mini PC. Yes the Pi4 *starts* at $35 but watch how fast that goes up when you try to add PoE and M.2 capability to that, as well as the power supply to ensure it works properly. $100 with shipping, easy (that's the Argon40 aluminum m.2 case with cooling fan btw).

The base Pi5 is more expensive because it's faster and can do more, but ALL of them will have a higher total cost if you expand them to have the capabilities you describe for your Pi5 build. It's not like the PoE hat or M.2 support hardware is really any different from what's needed on Pi4.

The complaint that the Pi5 is too expensive rings hollow when your main point of comparison is a crap off-brand mini PC that probably comes with state-sponsored spyware at worst, or with an unlicensed copy of Windows at best.

What do you intend to do with a Pi5 that it requires those expansion options anyway? You don't *have* to have the PoE hat if you're getting the premium power supply. You don't *have* to get that HDMI converter dongle if you get the right case and cooling solution (The Argon case adapts to full HDMI ports out the back).

What do you need 128GB for? Media server? Retro gaming box? Okay, Pi5 will still do it better than that crappy mini PC because the overhead of Windows on that processor leaves very little for other architecture emulation. Trust me, been there done that.

Bottom line: this is not a fair comparison when you're bringing two different devices intended for two different purposes into the ring. One is a great little flexible platform that can do a lot of things very well because it can be tweaked and tuned and accessed so many different ways. The other is a me-too Chinese knockoff that's taking advantage of a trend by tossing in the cheap stuff they can easily procure (I'll bet the boards are built almost literally next store, after all), overselling what their product is actually capable of, and just relying on sheer volume to make some easy money.

Pimoroni has released a $9 NVMe hat for the Pi5. No need to spend $20 for the pineberry pi top or bottom hat, and the pimoroni had actually had a slightly higher transfer rate in Gen3 mode than the Pineberry pi units

Absolutely nailed it, new reader here but you are putting into better words what I've said from the first minute Pi 5 was announced. Kudos. It's not worth it.

If you really want to compare the N100 box to a Raspberry Pi 5, then you should at least ditch the Windows O/S and load the x86 version of the Raspberry Pi desktop on it. Now let's see if the N100 can run 2 displays in 4k at 60 FPS as standard with out any extra expensive mods. Let's see if it can interface with the real world, let's see if you can over clock as much as the Pi. Until a proper comparison is made, the statement that the N100 is faster and cheaper than the Pi 5 isn't worth the paper it's written on. I have a Dell i7 running Win 11 pro with a GTX 1030 graphics card that can only run 1 monitor at 4k let alone 2, my Pi 5 has a 1Tb m.2 SSD and is almost as fast booting up as the i7. Plus the Pi 5 cost me less than 1/4 the price of the i7. If you want to do run of the mill daily desktop stuff, then the Pi 5 will do it just as well as any pc. One of the main advantages of the Pi 5 or any other Linux based machine is fact that the software is open source, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

What are you even talking about.

1) Intel N100 eats RPi 5's SoC for lunch, no matter if it runs Windows or not. Just look at some benchmarks and reviews.

2) What are 2 displays at 4k 60Hz good for when it can barely playback 1080p 30fps on Youtube, and that in windowed mode at lower resolution too? And to answer the question, yes, N100 can totally do it lol.

3) The open-source software argument with RPi is always funny. You are aware it's one of the most closed-down Arm SoCs in the world, are you? When everybody else uses open bootloaders, they're still clinging onto their proprietary Broadcom blobs running at all times on separate cores.

And yes, it does cost an Arm and a leg compared to x86 boxes.

We might be seeing side effects of deflation and other serious problems in the economy of China. We are living in interesting times.

Hello all,

i like the Pi 5 because of the tinkering with it, i spent way over 200 EUR for the Pi and all Parts that i need , and you know what ? im very happy with it. Yes maybe a GMKtec Nucbox G3 or another mini pc ist better in perfomance and cheaper in price but come on for windows the most people inucluding me have a much more powerfull system than a N100.

A bit disingenuous as the full price of the box pc is $180.

If you watch the video, I show the screenshot—on Amazon, shipped, I bought it for $131 total. It seems like whatever batch they had of that model has sold out now as they swapped out the listing.

I share Jeff's view and conclusions.
They have priced themselves out of their original market. I was waiting to buy a Pi5, but now that they are finally available, I am no longer interested. N100 systems, along with a suitable microcontroller for low level work, is now a more viable option for me.

I agree. The $25 SBC was the original attraction, then they became entrenched and rather than getting Broadcom to open source drivers they leaned into the closed source nature of the chipset to prevent competition on both the hardware and software front.

Now that they've become entrenched they're keeping the older designs around not for long term support, but to segment their market and create a fake reason to demand over twice as much per SBC as their original $25 SBC.

This is easily seen by the fact that the jump from 4GB to 8GB of RAM is well under $5, but they're charging 4 times that amount - pure profit. The raspberry pi 5 clearly doesn't take much more to manufacture in parts and assembly than the raspberry pi 4.

I love Raspberry PI, and am looking forward to the followup to the RP2040 - but I'm also wary because they're following the same game plan - make it cheap and cheerful, become entrenched, then increase the profits on later versions. And yes, the later versions are better in performance, but so are the competition - so it's completely fair and reasonable to compare as you've done to show that at this performance point Raspberry pi has little to offer, and its primary advantage has always been low cost.

Given the imminent IPO of Raspberry Pi Ltd, I suspect this trend is only going to continue. Yes, the main foundation is a charity, but all their profit and revenue - including salaries and payments to investors - is handled through the for-profit arm of the enterprise, and they are interested not in education but in increasing their bottom line. If they do go IPO, I fully expect this to get much, much worse, and can only hope that someone else comes in and fills the void. One benefit of them going IPO, though, is they'll at least have to open more of their books to public scrutiny, and it'll then be very obvious how much a for-profit enterprise it all is.

I tend to use Raspberry Pi machines as a desktop for children. It's the community around the device that is more important than hitting a price point. Linux is more conducive to my educational purposes, and I've found that you can get good performance from the Minecraft Java edition client ( I run a server at home on a solid run honeycomb lx2k ). My younger son likes to read the raspberry pi guide book at his nightly storytime. I'm pretty sure that folks that are purchasing the RPi5 in droves ( I've bought six both for myself and as gifts ) are not worried about a cost difference this small. Having a Mathematica license instead of a MS Windows license is also perfect for education.

I think this article is useful in that it resets the cost expectation and image of RPi as an ultra low cost computer. It's not the cheapest, but it also brings significant value beyond the silicon. In that respect, the RPi brand resembles Apple.

I agree with Jeff here... And honestly am a bit surprised by everyone's immediate defenses of the pi5 and some of the frank misinformation.

The reality is these N100 boxes are considerably more powerful for less money. That doesn't mean the Pi 5 is useless, but let's tell it how it is here.

The Pi makes sense in many tinkerer use cases but the general marketing use case of general desktop replacement is better served with the small N100 mini PC.

Thanks Jeff for highlighting this - Perhaps Eben Upton will see this and realize their client base are not happy about getting ripped off. Just because their is a high demand for PI's, they should not just increase their prices.

You used coupons. Without them the PI is still cheaper with all your add ons. Don't you save your old cables? They are all easily obtained from past devices

I would agree this is a "horses for courses" type of choice. I'm mostly a windows (SQL Server, c#, Powershell) guy at work and a linux (MySQL, Java, BASH) guy at home so to stretch my metaphor I don't feel I "have a horse in the race". I saw the N100 and costed it ou exactly like Jeff and here in the UK the prices were identical. Also, I have opted for a little windows box a few years back since my 8 year old customer was not prepared to sit and wait while I compiled a Minecraft Bedrock server for him every time it updated on Android.
But, other factors - open-source; how much power does the N100 box actually use in 24 hours; how much faster is it in practice; how annoying am I going to find the fan; will I still be using it - re-purposed as a webcam or greenhouse watering device - in 10 years?
Also, why are we having this debate? I would suggest it's because the pi and other SOC credit card devices have driven a new market which is why we have cheap x86 CPUs. The pi has gone up in price some but mostly the competition has come down to meet it.

Personally I have two use cases for an SBC and they can be summarized as: playing around with self-hostes stuff or networking, e.g. proxmox, docker, home assistant.
The other use case is: interfacing with things that need GPIO, and usually control something simple or feed data to homeassistant. The former is best accomplished with a real PC (whether it's mini or not) and the latter I accomplish by making custom boards with an STM32 or ESP. I've only used the Pi GPIO directly a few times.

Additionally I don't see Pi type boards really being used for tasks requiring direct GPIO all that much. I guess what I'm saying is that I think the Pi is pricing itself out of relevance.

After Jeff's review here I was second guessing upgrading my Pi4gb that runs HA to now going to the GMKtec G3. I'm located in Canada so pricing for us is more for ether option but love the fact the G3 is ready to go in a package I can wall mount.

Thanks for sharing and helping to find a more cost effective solution.

That's why I use Orange pi 5 plus. It has 32gb RAM, BUILTIN 256 GB drive, built-in wifi, Bluetooth, octacore, a neutral processing unit (great for AI projects!), a GPU, and all kinds of features that an RPI lacks... All... For the same price as a Pi 👀

Not sure whether anyone has really answered the question yet, but the obvious explanation is because, As all the computers expand the amount of memory they need, then the saving from using a cheap-as-chips cpu become less and less noticeable. While a 2gb computer under $50 is still quite cheap, an 8gb around $100 much less so.

Combine this with Intel’s fast pace of progress, who now turn out decent performance cpus for the same price as a Raspberry pi; You see the window of opportunity for Raspberry Pi is closing, because they simply cant keep up with the rate of development of the mighty Intel

Footnote, There seems some convergence around a $100 sweetspot. In the past, to get something useful you paid several hundred and got 8gb, and if that was expensive you settled for something very limited with only 1gb costing peanuts. The latter has stretched up to $100 from the low side by offering more functionality -and $100 still seems small enough that you haven't splahed out for a new computer, so may buy several of them without guilt!
Going forward it'll be interesting to see whether the future direction is to load more power and memory within the $100 low energy envelope, a battle Intel will ultimately win, or whether the sweetspot will slip down further to $50, a price which leaves raspberry p and othersi a niche with profit margins too small to interest Intel

You're comparing raspberries to apples. The fact that you took a module NOT designed as a PC replacement and made it into one is where you incurred all the cost. A basic Pi 5 outfit should be around $120 USD.
Anyone with half a brain can see through this poorly approached comparison.