Raspberry Pi Zero 2 Review (It Sucks)

This is what not giving a shit about your product looks like
This is what not giving a shit about your product looks like

It’s no secret that there’s a massive Raspberry Pi shortage right now for consumers due to the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s strategy of allocating boards to business and IoT projects first and then official resellers get whatever is left. Since I own one of every Raspberry Pi that has ever been made I ended up buying one of these scalped from eBay for about $57 (all the way from Europe) which is much better than the street price of $80-$90+ I can get it in the United States.

In other words I payed the scalpers to get my hands on this board so you don’t have to and let me tell you folks, it is honestly garbage and literally the dumbest purchase I’ve ever made. Today I will show and explain why the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 is the lamest and most disappointing product release that the Raspberry Pi Foundation has ever done. Let’s get started!

Hardware Used

This is what not giving a shit about your product looks like
Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W

The Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W is the successor to the Raspberry Pi Zero. It has a quad-core CPU which is substantially faster than the Pi Zero but is otherwise almost identical.

Links: Amazon.com*, AliExpress.com*, Amazon.ca*, Amazon.co.jp*, Amazon.co.uk*, Amazon.de*, Amazon.es*, Amazon.fr*, Amazon.it*

New Features

This won’t take long at all. The CPU was upgraded from a single-core BCM2835 (the CPU of the Raspberry Pi 1) in the Pi Zero W to a quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 processor.

This is a nice CPU upgrade at least if you can get this board from an authorized reseller at non-scalped prices (you won’t any time soon). Credit where credit is due. The CPU definitely needed an upgrade / refresh.

Missing Expected New Features

Let’s talk about the obvious things that they did not fix in this board from the Pi Zero / Pi Zero W.

One limitation of the Pi Zero W is that it cannot do 5 GHz wireless. It can only do 2.4 GHz wireless. Given how many people use the Pi Zero W in projects that need wireless capabilities this is the #1 fix I was expecting. Did they fix it?

The answer to that question is no they did not. The Pi Zero 2 W *still* cannot do 5 GHz wireless. Ugh.

Okay, well surely they got rid of microUSB given that is 2022 and microUSB is complete garbage. Finally we can have a USB-C Pi Zero 2!

Nope. It’s still microUSB 100%. There’s no USB-C. Ugh.

How about eMMC storage then? An eMMC option is dead obvious to add to this board and makes sense for such a small board like this. They added them in the Compute Module 4 lineup and I’m fully expecting the Raspberry Pi 5 to have available eMMC options as well.

Wrong. There are no eMMC options available for the Pi Zero 2. Ugh.

But…. surely they at least upgraded the RAM past 512 MB. It had 512 MB of RAM 5 years ago in the Pi Zero, there’s no way they didn’t upgrade it!

Wrong again, of course they didn’t! The Pi Zero 2 has 512 MB of RAM AGAIN and there will be no larger options available (according to Raspberry Pi). Don’t believe me? Here it is from their own release information about the board:

Will there be a version of Zero 2 W with 1GB of SDRAM?

No. 1GB LPDDR2 monodie are not available, and producing a SiP with two stacked SDRAM dice would be very challenging.

https://www.raspberrypi.com/news/new-raspberry-pi-zero-2-w-2/

Wow. They are saying that producing a board with 1 GB of RAM would be “very challenging”. Is this a joke?

How did the Raspberry Pi Foundation even get this far? You know what is more challenging than that? Creating a credit card sized computer or even smaller in the case of the Raspberry Pi Zero when nobody has ever done it before.

The fact that these things are “very challenging” did not used to stop them. Why is it now? Keep reading and we’ll see if we can figure it out by the end of the article.

Quality Control

There is a visible decline in quality control on the board. It’s very obvious that corners are being cut. I own every Raspberry Pi going back to the very beginning and to be honest you can kind of see the process of this happening over the years. The Pi Zero 2 W though takes this to a whole new level and is a sharp, sharp decline in quality though over some of the other corner cutting.

For an obvious example (that you will be able to find on your board as well from what I’ve seen should you get one of these) take a look at the edges of the board:

Pi Zero vs. Pi Zero 2 - Edge Quality Control
Pi Zero vs. Pi Zero 2 – Edge Quality Control

I wanted to show the Zero W (top) vs. the Zero 2 W (bottom).

Notice that the Pi Zero W has a much less pronounced and cleaner edge. That is because they actually cared when they made that board and got rid of most of the perforation in the board with a grinder or some tool meant to take off the rough edges.

On the Pi Zero 2 they did not bother to do this. It’s so bad there are hairs fraying off on the board (you can see these hairs hanging down in the above picture not far from the Zero 2 W label). Orange Pi wouldn’t be caught dead shipping even a $6 board that looked like this. I’ve never seen anyone ship a board that looks like this. Ever.

Here’s another look:

Pi Zero 2 Quality Control
Pi Zero 2 Quality Control

Look at all of those “hairs” fraying off the board and how rough and uneven that edge is. Unbelievable. This is the definition of not even trying.

Remember that I paid $57 for this board and you will pay even more if you want one today off eBay.

Pros / Cons

Pros

  • Quad-core CPU is a nice upgrade from the original (but the only one)

Cons

  • Extremely expensive to actually get your hands on
  • Identical to previous Pi Zero other than the CPU
  • Drop in build quality from previous generation

Conclusion

I hate it. I hate that it’s so obvious that the quality continues to decline on these boards and that they no longer take any pride in making them or put forth any effort to make sure it’s clear it’s a higher quality product than their competitors. It really isn’t anymore.

I hate that a company that started out with the goal of providing low cost computers to people now only sells them to industry insiders meaning the street prices are $80-$90. It’s even worse that they have stuck to this even seeing what it has done to the consumer market for Pis.

I hate that they passed over the most obvious upgrades for the board such as 1 GB of RAM, 5 GHz WiFi and USB-C. It annoys me even more that they said it was because it would “very challenging”. Again, there is no Raspberry Pi Foundation if they can’t take on “very challenging” problems anymore. It’s just another company milking us dry with a name brand.

I honestly see the terrible new NVIDIA 4000 series GPUs as a really similar problem to what is happening to Raspberry Pi. They’ve had people willing to buy their stuff at any price for so long no matter how many they produce that they don’t really have to try. And they aren’t.

If you are going to try to defend this board to me (and Raspberry Pi’s current practices) I’d really challenge you to ask yourself if you are looking at this board objectively or if you are a fanboy. I didn’t write this because I hate Raspberry Pi and I’ve done tons of Pi work over the years. It’s just objectively a lazy and bad product with some rookie quality control issues going on. I wrote this because I want them to do better and it makes me sick to see releases like this.

Price-Dependent Experience

The main problem with this board is that unless you pre-ordered it you are not going to get it for $15 unless you are using the tools that let you know which authorized resellers have them in stock (and by using I mean constantly throughout the day because when they come in stock they’re gone in minutes often times).

If you got this board for $15 you will probably be pretty happy. spinspin on reddit pointed out to me (after giving me a proper reddit trolling, which I forgive him for after our discussion) in a fair criticism of my review that “separating disappointment from the process of judging what the product actually is makes more sense.”.

Well, it’s hard to deny I didn’t separate my disappointment from what the product actually is. He’s right. I’d like to add this section to explain what the product actually is, dispassionately. It’s essentially a Pi Zero W with a quad-core processor. It doesn’t really have any additional capabilities. I don’t recommend getting it unless you are running very heavy loads and absolutely require the quad-core to make your project/use case work.

The reason I don’t recommend it is that the Pi Zero 2 is roughly twice as expensive as the Pi Zero and is not an upgrade that justifies the cost outside of the specific quad-core CPU benefiting a heavy-load project. If you are able to get it for $15 through an authorized reseller (now or in the future) then this is a nicely refreshed Pi Zero W (but with no additional capabilities) albeit with some build quality corner cutting (perhaps justified for whatever reasons). I covered all the things that they did not add in the Pi Zero 2 but I suspect we will see these in the Pi Zero 3 (or at least some of them).

The quality control issues are concerning but shouldn’t impact the functionality of the board. Let’s just hope they don’t continue in that direction as part of the reason I love Raspberry Pi’s was their build quality (especially historically, all my old ones still work 100%).

Exploring Alternatives

It’s pretty clear to me that Raspberry Pi has become like Apple and NVIDIA. Most people seem to be willing to defend this. I’m not. I think this board is my breakup with Raspberry Pi. I’ll likely not be doing a lot of Raspberry Pi content going forward as it’s just no longer a community I recognize or respect. They apparently *love* what Raspberry Pi is doing no matter what it is. I’m the first one off the train when things get cultish and are no longer about the hardware or technology.

This site is about technology and hardware though. I’ll be doing my best to bring attention to alternative products and ecosystems here as well as supporting projects to provide an affordable and quality alternative to the Raspberry Pi. See the “Other Resources” section for work already done on this.

Unfortunately Raspberry Pi is not where interesting developments are happening anymore in the SBC world for now. If the Raspberry Pi 5 looks a lot better then I’ll definitely cover that but I’m definitely a “wait and see” at this point for Raspberry Pi. I’ve made my voice heard on this board and the direction of Raspberry Pi. I don’t intend to keep talking about it though (that was just to try to help them correct course).

Now it’s time to move past them just like any other bad breakup. You just have to leave them and their people that are too far gone behind. I have to do it all the time in technology when people won’t adapt and change. The internet and reddit was just as angry about my warning about the GPU market and mining. Most people totally lost their minds and ignored the warning and now anyone who didn’t listen got left behind (or worse). Those people are now bankrupt or (it’s dark, but true especially in the case of crypto) are no longer with us. It did not help them to downvote me and lose their minds for telling them the reality of the situation and it won’t here either.

I’m totally used to this unfortunately. It’s really hard to give people bad news / tell them what they don’t want to hear and the internet/algorithms generally punish you for this (if not outright suppress/censor you especially in the case of reddit). I’ll always try though for the people who are truly open to new information and don’t just need their existing ideas/biases stroked. So far over the years there are enough of you out there to make the site work without me trying to appeal to crowds/cults like this and to just try to give you my honest review/perspective. That’s all I really know how to do and it has generally worked out for me so far.

Other Resources

I’d recommend the Orange Pi Zero 2 any day over the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 (at least the Orange Pi has USB-C)

If you want a dirt cheap board (about $6-$7 + shipping and yes you can actually buy it for MSRP) I recently revamped the image for the Orange Pi i96. It’s not as powerful as the Pi Zero or Pi Zero 2 but it is actually cheaper and more important available for the cheap price to actually buy.

If you do attempt to buy one of these see my Raspberry Pi shortage guide for some tips on how to potentially get this cheaper or from an authorized reseller

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FlyingCow
FlyingCow
28 days ago

I think the Radxa Zero is a good alternative. It retails for 19.90 USD on AllNetChina’s website with the 512mb RAM configuration. It also destroys the performance of the Raspberry Pi Zero Two and uses USB-C.

butre
butre
1 month ago

there’s plenty that I wish was different. micro USB is inexcusable (I get that type c is more expensive, but at least give me mini), 512MB of ram is unfortunate and leaves that nice quad core CPU wanting more, and no 5ghz is a real pain. I have to ask though, how much of your review comes from the price you paid? I got mine without the help of a scalper by preordering it, so I’m reasonably happy with it. the form factor is what draws me to it, not the specs, and an extra $5 for those extra cores ain’t bad.

I feel like availability is the only real drawback. at $15 I can forgive everything except micro USB, but with scalpers in the mix I’d certainly go for something else.

Giancarlo Bregante
Giancarlo Bregante
2 months ago

Hello James:
I 100% agree with your article.
More over, I was obligated to change a Ionizer control board I designed with the RPZ, and replace and redesing the board around the OPZ H3, because RPZ shortage.
This happened before to start the first production lot.
Same happened with the RP CM3 and CM4 modules.

Stuart Naylor
Stuart Naylor
3 months ago

The PiZ2W is an amazing board for $15, in fact absolutely epic for $15 and who cares if the edges of a pcb are rough, its a pcb.
The big problem is Raspberry has turned its back on makers and its a lotto if you will get one of these for $15.
Raspberry keep waffling about scalpers but that is not true as there is no stock and its them who are letting a whole range of OEMs rot without product as they concentrate on commercial interest.
There are scalper products at just ridiculous prices, but the qty avail is tiny absolutely miniscule and its the manner of raspberries stock release that these things are so rare scalpers have been created.

The PiZ2W is prob the best product do other than there great low price psu’s as both are amazing product for $, but you if you want one its likely 2023 and if you don’t get orders in on the 1st couple of days likely you can forget about it.
Raspberry are operating in a model that means its suicide to be hardware dependent on raspberry and they will lose the maker space that contributed to raspberries success.

renaudrenaud
renaudrenaud
2 months ago

Bought for at the moment they it the market for 16.5€ each, with shipping.
It’s a lot of fun. Found OS in 64bit is better than 32 bits. I use Docker on it and run few containers. Tried to deactivate some cores and reduce the speed. It is working with 2 cores and a 400MHz speed with Docker and portainer agent. I use it as an audio player, squeezelite as a container, use a stack for monitoring etc… Really lot of fun and so few watts in consumption! Anyway, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to buy it. I use a Pi400 for the code I produce and also very happy with it. Got a Pi800 from Xunlong one month ago to test and use Orange Pi Zéro 2 as an audio server and with portainer to manage all the dockers and the containers from the other computers, with grafana, Postgres, prometheus etc.
There is a lot of choice today and even the weaker SBC is able to propose something at the moment a Linux is bootable.
I only regret 5years ago when an Orange Pi Zéro was 8€ with shipping, with a quad core Allwiner.

Jim
Jim
3 months ago

I agree is a scrap work in mine the usb ports are unbalanced one is more up than the other,, definitely it does not worth 50 something but its ok in 17 something,i took it when it was first out at 16.8 usd to replace my Rpi3 (smaller size, less power requirements etc)

They could at least put an extra 512 ram under the cpu if it was not fitting in the soc as they saying.

Now for the 5ghz wifi i think is more an Rpi3B
miniature than an Rpi3B+
But still i dont think it will cost so much to put 5ghz

The onboard wifi anyway has a less range coverage than the Zero1 (lower quality? / Scrap work?)

The pcb cut hairs issue looks definitely they were in a hurry or something

USB C should be present too

Jim
Jim
3 months ago

Orange pi i96 its nice i would take it if it had hdmi or at least vga out,i cannot really work headless (without a native screen connection)
Why they did not put at least a micro hdmi input ??

I knew most negatives about zero2 almost from the moment i took it,but with 17usd it did not really bother me so much.

Im with you the reality the facts not the marketing or the fake echoes

I’ve discard zero1 as a hotspot too much interference with internal antenna and just too slow to handle connections as the cpu with one client connected was going over 50%

I made Orange pi one the hotspot very stable and bigger network output/coverage with enough horsepower to handle connections

I took it at 2017 only 15 usd now its over 40

Cant imagine what issues Rpi5 will have when its out,i will wait at least one or two Revisions to fix the bugs/issues it might have before i take it, and if i take it!!

Jim
Jim
3 months ago

Very interesting all this nice to he compatible the board with other modules,send an email to the raspi factory to put a sata port :p

no more usb cases that dont work correct

You are right raspi is becoming like apple or sony,their psu also is very weak they whould put a 5a at least

Jim
Jim
3 months ago

Hey james do you know if also the normal xu4 with the fan has also the sdr104 memory card controller??

Jim
Jim
3 months ago

Hi,i want to use thermal paste instead of tape
Do you know any brand/brands that will do the job and not dripping/running and stay in place?

there are so many i don’t know what to take

Thanks