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Should You consider using the Raspberry Pi Pico W for Your Next DIY Electronics Project?

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You might already be familiar with the Raspberry Pi Pico’s earliest iteration, a programmable microcomputer that runs on silicon from the Raspberry Pi Foundation itself. That chipset, the RP2040, incorporates two 133MHz Arm Cortex-M0+ cores and 264KB of on-chip RAM.

Trusted Reviews cites the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Eben Upton enthusing: “Fast cores, large memory, and flexible interfacing make RP2040 a natural building block for Internet of Things (IoT) applications.”

However, “Pico itself has one obvious missing feature for IoT: a method for connecting to the network. Now, this is about to change,” Upton added in June 2022, when a new version of the Raspberry Pi Pico — the Raspberry Pi Pico W — was announced.

What is the Raspberry Pi Pico W’s headline feature?

You’ve probably guessed it: it is built-in wireless internet connectivity. In a Tom’s Hardware appraisal of the Raspberry Pi Pico W, Les Pounder says that it “looks much like its predecessor, but under a tiny silver case lies a Wi-Fi chip which takes the Pico into the world of IoT.”

Otherwise, though, the Pico W has many of the same features as the original Pico — including the same GPIO, microUSB port, and physical dimensions. The Wi-Fi chip is a CYW43439 2.4-GHz affair from the Infineon brand.

It’s possible to buy the Raspberry Pi Pico W from a specialist online retailer like The Pi Hut. Furthermore, once you do have a Pico W, you could be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to get the thing online by writing and understanding five lines of code.

What projects can the Pico W be used for?

The Pico W can be used for basic electronics and breadboarding projects in exactly the same way as the standard Pico. As these two Pico models are identical in their GPIO pinout, the Pico W lets you reuse add-ons you might have originally sourced for use with the original Pico.

Pounder has speculated that this online-ready board “could replace many Raspberry Pi Zero W-based projects, such as low-powered robots and data collection projects.” 

However, he has also reeled off a much longer list of DIY electronics projects you could make with the Pico W: “With Wi-Fi connectivity, we can now build remote control robots, gather data and transmit it to the world, gather information and display it on LCD and OLED displays.”

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There is plenty of scope for fun creativity 

If you like the idea of putting something together with a Raspberry Pi Pico W at its heart but remain uncertain what that something could be, the MUO has shared a few tantalising project ideas.

Those include a network scanner you would be to use when looking for a Wi-Fi network as you go out and about, with an LED strip on the device letting you know if nearby networks are detected.

Another of the highlighted ideas is that of a garage door sensor – which, once you have finished building, you could use easily find out at a glance whether your garage door is opened or closed.

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