The Raspberry Pi has introduced a successor to the Pico microcontroller, which was based on the RP2040 chip. The new model is called the Pico W and it is more expensive than the standard Pico, coming in at $6. The Pico W is basically the same hardware as the standard Pico, but it includes an 802.11n Wi-Fi radio. The inclusion of this radio enhances the Pico W’s usefulness for building IoT projects. Despite the added functionality, the Pico W is still very affordable and will be a great option for those looking for a microcontroller for their next project.
Adding radios to the product greatly increases the cost, as compliance testing for modern radios can be upwards of half a million dollars. Despite this significant price increase, the $4 Pico model will still be available for those who do not need network connectivity in their device. This makes the Raspberry Pi an enticing option for those looking for an affordable computer board. For those who can splurge a little extra, the W version offers network capabilities that might come in handy. As CEO Eben Upton stated, the increased price is due to the addition of radios and associated compliance testing, but it is still a relatively affordable option compared to other computer boards on the market.
The Pico uses a chip from Infineon called the CYW43439, which is capable of handling wireless connections. That chip also supports Bluetooth, but Raspberry Pi informed us it isn’t enabled at present.
The Pico doesn’t have Wi-Fi built-in. If you want to connect your standard Pico to a network, you have to use an external accessory. These accessories can be quite expensive and bulky, and they use up valuable pins that could be used for other purposes. The Pico W addresses this issue by providing Wi-Fi connectivity in a compact package that can be used as a drop-in replacement for a standard Pico.
In a world of Wi-Fi 6E, the Pico W’s 2.4GHz 802.11n connection seems outdated, but it’s worth noting that the Pico W isn’t meant to be a desktop computer that can browse the internet; it’s designed to manage other electronics or hardware devices instead.