HomeRaspberry PiRaspberry Pi Zero 2 W vs other Zero boards

Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W vs other Zero boards

Zero 2 W vs other Zeros

Now that I have the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W in my hands, I can run some basic benchmarks. We know that while the footprint is the same, the latest Raspberry Pi comes with a much faster CPU. This will boost the board’s performance but will also have a negative effect on power draw and heat generation. I’m going to compare the board with other boards from the Zero series since I have all of them.

Raspberry Pi Zero series benchmark

Before we jump dive into the benchmarks and results, let’s remind ourselves of the basic specs for each board to have a better understanding of each Raspberry Pi Zero iteration.

Raspberry Pi Zero Raspberry Pi Zero W Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W
CPU 1 core,
1GHz BCM 2835
1 core,
1GHz BCM 2835
4 core,
1GHz Cortex A53
WiFiN/A 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n wireless LAN 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n wireless LAN
Bluetooth N/A Bluetooth 4.1, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Bluetooth 4.2, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Even on paper, it’s clear that the performance boost will be huge. Raspberry Pi claims a 5-time speed boost, a figure that makes sense since single-core boards have to share the burden of keeping the OS going as well.

In this article, I will focus exclusively on Raspberry Pi Zero boards, if you are looking for more information about how each WiFi interface fairs across the whole range of the Raspberry Pi series, then I have a dedicated article outlining that.

In my benchmarks, I will be using the latest RaspberryPi OS Lite (without desktop env) updated to today’s date running on ScanDisk Ultra 32GB class A1 card on the following boards:

  • Raspberry Pi Zero v1.3
  • Raspberry Pi Zero W v1.1
  • Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W v1.0

CPU – Speed

Having 4 cores to do all the bidding will definitely improve the speed. To test how well the new Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W board performs I used a simple 7z benchmark to calculate a typical score (MIPS rating) for each board:

sudo apt install p7zip-full
7z b -mmt1    // single core benchmark
7z b          // multicore benchmark

This should illustrate how much performance impact running OS has on single-core devices.

Single Core performance vs multicore

What’s more interesting is the performance breakdown of a single core for each Raspberry Pi Zero board. The performance gains on the 1GHz core of the Cortex A53 can be explained by the core not being used to keep the OS running.

7 Zip single core 7 Zip multicore
Raspberry Pi Zero434 MIPS456 MIPS
Raspberry Pi Zero W440 MIPS445 MIPS
Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W 882 MIPS3010 MIPS

It’s clear that in both categories Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W is a clear winner. It’s worth noting that thanks to sharing the OS workload between 4 cores, the single-core performance is significantly boosted without the need for overclocking.

CPU – Temperatures

Here where things are quite interesting. My tests were run at 17℃ ambient temperature without any passive or active cooling solutions. I stressed the CPU with

sudo apt-get install stress-ng
stress-ng --cpu 4 --cpu-method matrixprod  --metrics-brief --perf -t 300
stress-ng --cpu 1 --cpu-method matrixprod  --metrics-brief --perf -t 300
Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W stress test
Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W stress test

To introduce the excessive processor computations and warm up all Raspberry Pi Zero boards. I’m actually surprised how well Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi Zero W performed. On the other hand, running the stress test for 15 min on Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W raised the temperature significantly, but not enough to throttle the processor.

IdleCPU at 100%
Raspberry Pi Zero30℃ 37℃
Raspberry Pi Zero W29℃ 36℃
Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W 29℃ 67℃

Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W shows great overclocking potential, as Cortex A53 can be OC to 1.3 GHz without using over the top coolers like Ice Cooling tower for Raspberry Pi 4.

Power consumption

Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W hooked up to MiniWare MDX--XP
Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W hooked up to MiniWare MDX–XP

The more powerful processor will bring changes to how much power Zero series boards consume. I connected all Zero series boards through my MiniWare MDP-XP power system to monitor the current draw and made some notes.

IdleIdle with USB EthernetCPU at 100%
Raspberry Pi Zero0.070 – 0.120A0.220 – 0.230A0.290A*
Raspberry Pi Zero W0.070 – 0.120A 0.220 – 0.230A 0.150A
Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W 0.090 – 0.120A0.240 – 0.250A0.480A
*(USB Ethernet connected)

It’s worth noting, that adding USB Ethernet to Raspberry Pi Zero boards raises the current use significantly. This was consistent across all tested boards.

WiFi performance

Raspberry Pi Zero Series
Raspberry Pi Zero Series

Raspberry Pi Zero W and Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W have 2.4GHz WiFi built-in, so I put that to a test as well. I spun up an Iperf3 server on my desktop machine (connected via 1Gbps ethernet) and place each board in the optimal wireless performance position (line of sight, 2m from the router).

I run the iperf in normal and reversed mode and recorded some data to see if the 2.4GHz chip will run better on Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W thanks to extra shielding and a faster processor.

To ServerAs Server
Raspberry Pi ZeroN/A N/A
Raspberry Pi Zero W25.7 Mbits/sec24.6 Mbits/sec
Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W34.7 Mbits/sec32.1 Mbits/sec

It looks like the WiFi on the new board brings some improvements as well. The results were more consistent on the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W which means that your projects will benefit from that stability too.

LAN over USB

Handling the network over USB is a CPU intensive process, so I hope to see a boost from Cortex A53 in the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W. For this benchmark, I connected a 1Gbit USB 3.0 adapter via a micro USB – USB-A extension cable.

To ServerAs Server
Raspberry Pi Zero88.2 Mbits/sec176 Mbits/sec
Raspberry Pi Zero W84.6 Mbits/sec170 Mbits/sec
Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W224 Mbits/sec230 Mbits/sec

Indeed, it looks like the additional CPU boosts the USB-Ethernet which outperforms other Raspberry Pi Zero by almost a factor of 3 in the client configuration. Running Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W as a server, also brings performance gains, although smaller.

Final thoughts

It’s hard not to be excited about the new Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W. The original Zero series boards were inexpensive, but lacked performance, while the fully featured Raspberry Pi B series often felt like overkill for a project that meant to accomplish a single thing. Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W costs around £13 and bridges the gap between the small form factor, performance and affordability. So what’s next? Well, let’s hook it up to my 3D printer and run Octoprint on it! That’s coming up soon. Got questions? Let me know in this Reddit thread.


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