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Banana Pi Release New Raspberry Pi Pico Alternative

Onboard StemmaQT and NeoPixel.

The “Pi Silicon” RP2040 SoC of the Raspberry Pi Pico was the abundant source of microcontroller brains during an extended period of supply chain difficulties. It was natural for official partners (Adafruit, SparkFun, Arduino, and Pimoroni) and others, including Banana Pi, to release their versions of the $4 microcontroller. Banana Pi’s newest model, the BPI-Pico-RP2040, has the same 40-pin form factor as the official Pico, but there are a few differences between the two.

Let’s begin with the cost. With a suggested retail price of $6.58 (currently discounted to $5.26), the board is $2 more expensive than an official Raspberry Pi Pico. We receive an onboard WS2812B “NeoPixel” RGB LED connected to GPIO3 (PDF) and a 4-pin JST-PH socket for the additional cost. This socket is more commonly known as Stemma QT, Qwiic, or QW/ST, but it exposes the I2C interface (specifically I2C0 on pins GP8 and 9) for use with compatible devices.

Banana Pi BPI-Pico-RP2040 / Raspberry Pi Pico Comparison
Banana Pi BPI-Pico RP2040 Raspberry Pi Pico
SoC RP2040 Arm Cortex M0+ Dual Core at 133 MHz RP2040 Arm Cortex M0+ Dual Core at 133 MHz
Storage 2MB Flash 2MB Flash
GPIO 40 Pin GPIO 40 Pin GPIO
26 Multi-function pins 26 Multi-function pins
26 x Digital I/O 23 x Digital I/O
4 x Analog Inputs 3 x Analog Inputs
2 x I2C 2 x I2C
2 x SPI 2 x SPI
  2 x UART 2 x UART
  1 x Arm Serial Wire Debug (SWD)
Power / Data USB-C Micro USB
Dimensions 55.8 x 21mm 51 x 21mm

Those with keen eyesight will observe that the dimensions of the Banana Pi board are 4.8mm longer than those of the Raspberry Pi Pico. This may be due to the preference for USB-C over micro USB. The USB-C port is slightly larger and requires more circuitry than the micro USB port. Consider that the change in length also affects the placement of the M2 mounting holes, which are now larger on the USB-C end (17.6 mm vs. 11.4 mm), which could break compatibility with your board designs. Those who wish to replace a Pico with this board must consider the board’s longer length. The longer length may just fit, but be mindful of the mounting hole placement. Since the GPIO pin spacing is identical to the Pico (2.54mm between each pin), accessories and add-ons should function out of the box. Note also the castellations that allow surface mount soldering of the board to a PCB.

The Banana Pi BPI-Pico-RP2040 is a straightforward device to program. We are officially permitted to choose between MicroPython and Arduino. Being an RP2040-based board, TinyGo, Rust, and CircuitPython are alternative options. There are currently no official versions available for the Banana Pi BPI-Pico-RP2040, but an eager community will post them soon.

If you require a similar form factor with Wi-Fi, the Banana Pi BPI-PicoW-S3 should not be ignored. Powered by an ESP32-S3 SoC with a dual-core 240 MHz CPU and 320KB of SRAM, this pin-compatible alternative offers the ESP32 community’s wealth in addition to a Pico form factor. MicroPython, Arduino, and CircuitPython can be used to program the PicoW-S3.

The official wiki provides additional details about the Banana Pi BPI-Pico-RP2040. Schematics and mechanical drawings are available for those who are eager to incorporate the board into their next project. The board is available through AliExpress.

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