Raspberry Pi Zero gets wireless to celebrate the Pi’s fifth birthday

The Raspberry Pi is officially five years old today, and the folks behind the low-cost single-board computer are celebrating with the release of a new model, which brings wireless connectivity to the smallest form factor Pi model on the market.

Known as the Raspberry Pi Zero W, the new model keeps the same dimensions as the existing Raspberry Pi Zero design, but adds in the wireless functionality (802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1) that was introduced with the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B a year ago.

Raspberry Pi Zero W

Also unveiled today is a new injection-moulded case designed to snugly fit either the new Pi Zero or the existing model, and which comes which a choice of three interchangeable lids; one with a cut-out for the camera module accessory (the ribbon cable for this is also included), another with a cut-out exposing the 40-pin expansion connector, and the third one with no cut-out.

Pi Zero W case and lids

Pricing for the new Raspberry Pi Zero W is expected to be £9.60 inc VAT in the UK, while the new Pi Zero case is expected to cost somewhere in the region of £5. Both are expected to be available from the usual Pi outlets such as The Pi Hut, Pimoroni and Adafruit.

With wireless capability, the Raspberry Pi Zero W fixes what was the only major drawback of the Pi Zero: no network connectivity. True, you could plug in some kind of USB network adapter, but this would be cumbersome, especially as the Pi Zero has only a micro-USB port and needs an adapter to take standard USB devices.

Pi Zero and Pi Zero W

Top: original Pi Zero
Bottom: Pi Zero W

However, the lack of wireless connectivity has not stopped the Pi Zero from being used for a variety of projects, including build-it-yourself digital camera, when combined with the camera module.

With the addition of built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, the Raspberry Pi Zero W looks certain to find its way into numerous new devices, especially projects aimed at the Internet of Things (IoT), given the device’s small size. The wireless support means the new Pi Zero can connect to other devices or to the internet via a WiFi connection.

In fact, given the small size of the device – 65mm long by 30mm wide – we were at a loss to work out where the antenna is on the Raspberry Pi Zero W. Locating the actual wireless chip is relatively easy, as it is a small silvery package, as seen on the Raspberry Pi 3.

However, the Raspberry Pi 3 also had a small surface-mounted antenna, of which there is no sign on the Pi Zero W. It turns out that the new model has an antenna actually built into the circuit board, located between the miniature HDMI and USB connectors (see image below).

Pi Zero W antenna

This piece of high-tech wizardry comes from a Swedish firm called ProAnt, which specialises in antenna design, and is alluded to by text on the rear of the new Pi that says “antenna technology licensed from ProAnt”.

Here is the hardware specifications for the new Raspberry Pi Zero W, as detailed by the folks at Raspberry Pi.

– 1GHz, Single-core CPU

– 512MB RAM

– Mini HDMI and USB On-The-Go ports

– Micro USB power

– HAT-compatible 40-pin header

– Composite video and reset headers

– CSI camera connector

– 802.11n wireless LAN

– Bluetooth 4.0

These specifications are essentially the same as for the original Pi Zero, save for the addition of wireless, meaning that the new model has a less powerful processor than the Pi 3, but still more powerful than the original Raspberry Pi launched five years ago.