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

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

49 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
br3n
br3n
9 months ago

Hey

stumbled across your blog a month ago and decided to leave a reaction 🙂
I’m a beginner in electronics, bright eyed and still naively enthousiastic about all the building possibilities. Also, I’m studying for a degree in IT, took a break now to stand by my mom because she has cancer (JFYI). In my spare time that I have now, I can dedicate it to electronics, which has always been where my heart lies.
Everywhere I look, the raspberry pi boards still get recommended for their distros and community.
I had to pay for a Raspi Zero 2W kit, lost about 80€=80$! And indeed, serious fraying of the edges.
Thinking about selling this and one Raspi 4b 8gb of the 2 I have laying around. (got those before the shortage)
This shortage and lack of progress is a good thing, it pushes people to other boards so their communities can grow. Those companies should fully exploit this and encourage fan base. Like corona in my country, it was a huuuuuge online shop boom.
In the past months I’ve been searching the web for alternative boards to experiment.
I’m interested in learning a lot of things but 3d scanning for my 3d printer, home automation, robots 😀 are tumbling around in my head. And replacing my current Raspi media box for my dumb tv. Suggestions? I’ve been eyeing the ODROID-H3+.
I recently ordered the Orange Pi Zero2, Radxa Zero and the ‘fresh from the oven’ Orange Pi 5 Plus.
ESP32 is also on my list, certainly for it’s Matter capabilities.
I just wanted to say that it is a delight to read your findings, musings, opinions and suggestions. They seem honest among all those other voices.

Keep on keeping on,

from a belgian fan.

Anon
Anon
9 months ago

Been waiting for the RPi Zero 2 for a while now since I think I still might’ve wanted a CSI port and especially since the price went up on the Radxa Zeros, but holy FUCK, IT. IS. A. FUCKING. LIIIIIIIIIE.
Fifteen bux plus shipping from one of these authorized websites (you can only buy one!) to support essentially a dead fucking platform and a shit-ass company? God it really does suck ’cause I was totally bought in on the little boards and their ecosystem. They were perfect for cheap klipper instances and the CPU upgrade might’ve let them actually configure input shaping without bombing themselves – and for only five more dollars! But nah, fuck me I guess, I just have a shitload of Zeros and their accessories that I was lucky enough to buy before THEIR price hike that I’ll never be able to upgrade, awesome.

Sorry for the vent. The MangoPi MQ-Quads look VERY cool as an alternative. They’ve still got a camera port and can be found shipped pretty cheaply. Maybe I could scalp my current Zeros and get them as a replacement? Although a part of me still wants to hold on to them since even getting my Zeros in the first place was a pain.

this is truly the Raspberry Zero (stock) 2: Electric Boogaloo of all time

Anon
Anon
9 months ago

Oh gods, I totally forgot about the hats. I guess I’m gonna have to hold on to some of these Zeros after all; I have no idea if these other boards are electrically compatible, if not software compatible.

Not only did they kill the accessories, but potentially even the components made with this form factor in mind as well.

Joseph H
Joseph H
11 months ago

Does the better Zero 2 CPU mean that it will work a bit better as a cool but weak mini PC? I think the first Zero was just a little bit too weak for moving windows around and things like that. I wonder if this little bit more power will make all the difference, thanks.

CMack
CMack
11 months ago

$15 was always going to be a loss leader, but it definitely drummed up interest and got it into enough hands to show what’s possible. These are capable of replacing the Pi3 B, which is no longer being made, and in some cases is pretty crucial for the success of a project.

Here’s the thing: you’re knocking on this thing for not being innovative or forward-thinking enough, but what do you honestly want? Do you want this teensy little board to run 4GB RAM and 5Ghz wifi with 3Ghz CPU? Because none of that is realistic unless you’ve got a 5.0A power supply at least, not to mention a badass SD card with very good throughput reliability, as well as solid heat dissipation- oops, and now the whole thing is $200 out the door.
More powerful = more power needed = more heat generated. If you really need faster wifi and more RAM, then you are probably working on a more power-hungry project and need a Pi 4.

This new Zero W 2 fixes some of the things that caused issues for projects developed around the original Zero, namely processing performance. The CPU is faster with more cores, so now proper multi-threading is possible. The RAM is the same quantity yes, but it’s faster RAM, meaning, again, those numbers get crunched more effectively without causing a pinch point. The USB port is not a USB 2.0 OTG port, offering better throughput with more connectivity options. On top of it all, this one is more efficient. Running stock out of the box, it’s actually COOLER than its older brother running the same processes. All that for only $5 more than its predecessor??? SOLD. I don’t care if it’s $10 more now; EVERYTHING is more expensive right now, what rock have you been hiding under???

This little fella is what you get when you balance your costs against performance. Did you not notice how throughout a large chunk of Samsung’s flagship tablet line, for the longest time, they all maxed out at 2GB onboard RAM and 32GB SDCard max, while others were capable of far better? That embedded RAM is EXPENSIVE compared to other components, and modern wifi chips, while not quite as bad in terms of cost, are power-hungry as heck.

Look, your review seems to smack of outrage for getting so little after spending so much, but then again, you’re the one that waited until they were out of stock to buy one at scalper prices for your review. I got two of the suckers at the $15 price point (though I had to go through two different vendors because they were limiting them to one-per-customer initially). It wasn’t hard to buy one when I first saw they were released and read some existing reviews. They’re absolutely worth $15. They’re still well worth $25 too!

I mean, you paid $57 for something the manufacturer holds its vendors to selling for no more than $15 initially, and now $25 to help cover increased build costs. If I were completely oblivious to the whole global chip shortage and the prior pandemic, yeah I’d be pissed too, since I got a Pi 4B 4GB for $55 easily, before all hell broke loose. Yeah things are different now, but they’ll settle back down in a little while, and when they do, I have a retro computer emulation project that runs its very best specifically on the Pi 3. They don’t make those anymore. Know what replaced it? This thing. And even at the new pricing scheme, I’m getting it for $10 CHEAPER than the 3B sold for, with more modern hardware? SOLD.

My point is you’re looking at the very entry point of the product line and getting upset that the updated version didn’t go far enough for your liking, and cost too much for what it is. You’re completely ignoring the intangible benefits in the process. I dare you to design, build and release better at a cheaper price point, with software that keeps pace with the current supported Linux base.
Go ahead, I work from home, have almost nothing but free time to design and develop my electronics projects, and always set aside funds for them with each pay cycle. I would happily throw many hundreds of dollars your way if I could get my hands on better specs than the Pi Zero W 2 for $15 or cheaper.

Tore André rosander
Tore André rosander
11 months ago

I think you have the missed the point of the rpi, it is supposed to have a low price point.
There is no real need for 5ghz wifi, all APs support both frequencies.

The only fair point in this article is the amount of ram. But then again the reason for it is quite fair too.

Jason
Jason
1 year ago

What are your thoughts on the banana pi m2 zero?

I just recently discovered the lovely pi shortage and scalping, as I had a plenty not being used until recently. Unfortunately, the lesser popularity of alternatives makes it hard to gauge expectations.

I ordered a banana pi m2 zero, radxa zero, and orange pi zero to test as pi zero replacements. You vouched for the latter two, just curious if you’ve used the banana pi version as well. China shipping, so it’ll be a hot minute until I can test them myself.

Ron Bennett
Ron Bennett
1 year ago

Being you are so dis-satisfied with the Pi Zero 2W, I will gladly take it off your hands for $15.00 US.

Ben.G.
Ben.G.
10 months ago

Well said, James!! It’s been a year, I gave them more than a year, came back to check, still no stock everywhere. This is unacceptable, the foundation is as good as being non-existent. I have to design a series of personalized gifts as products for sale, I just can’t count on these kinds of unpredictability. I’m not certain if Radxa is gonna be stable in larger quantities, but at least I am now unblocked to proceed with product design when I can actually get my hands on one! 😁