Sorry for clickbait question but it really bugs me why Arduino is still a thing in the age of ARM based boards like Pine64, Raspberry Pi, Bannana Pi, Whatever Pi etc.

I'm more or less aware of Arduino capabilities as I used to program PLC controllers but I don't really see any rational reason to use Arduino platform over ARM devboards (unless we need mission-critical level reliability however I believe commercial realtime OSes for ARM boards also exist). Even PLC and in general industrial controllers seem to shift towards platforms driven by actual RT OSes underneath running on powerfull hardware.

Getting 30$ quad core 1.2 ghz ARM board with 512M RAM, ethernet, GPIO, I2C, SPI, USB, SD card and actual Linux OS which can do virtually everything whatsoever over 25$ Arduino Uno board with abacus level performance, similar or inferior i/o, capable of only pretty basic stuff sounds to me like no brainer. Arduino sounds to me like extremely cost ineffective solution for almost anything. And I can't seem to find any rational explanation to why people still use such thing now? Maybe as Linux engineer I'm a bit biased towards Unix based solutions because I feel "safe" in this ecosystem but still I think my points are kind of objective no matter if availability of unix itself on platform is considered serious advantage or not.

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    When's the last time you did hard realtime in Linux? Or even on ARM? Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 21:25
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    You might not need 512M RAM and 1.2 GHz quad ARM core to blink a LED :). 2K RAM and 16 MHz single AVR core might be sufficient. And the learning curve not as high. In any case, what type of GPIO performance (highest pin toggle frequency) can you get using Linux (from user space)? Bare metal has its charm (and fun). Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 21:55
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    Possible duplicate of When Raspberry Pi is preferred over Arduino
    – RubberDuck
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 23:42
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    One way to approach answering your question is to look at some specific implementations. Take, for instance. 1-Wire and study how the respective implementations on rpi and arduino are done (and how easy they are to use, understand, etc). Another example is MQTT or some other high level TCP/IP protocol. Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 0:44

2 Answers 2


This is the ATtiny.


It costs < $1 and is completely capable of most tasks that a hobbyist requires of a chip. Truthfully, it’s more than capable of many tasks a pro requires as well. It’s perfect for adding just a little bit of smarts to a project. Not every project needs an ARM chip, dual cores, or a Linux distro running. In fact, in low power situations, that’s likely the last thing I want. How long does your smart phone battery last? A day? I’ve heard of people powering ATtiny based projects on 3 AAs for over a year!

The Arduino is an excellent little dev board for these micros. For the cost of a few cups of coffee I can have one for my work bench. Heck, I’ve used them at work as dev boards for prototyping. It’s cheap enough to put one on the desk of every dev on a project. We can verify our code works on the target architecture very early in the dev process. That was unheard of just a decade ago.

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    One year on 3 AAs? I have an ATtiny running since June 2012 on 2 AAs. As much as I love my Raspberry, I'm sure it can't do that. Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 22:28
  • It's just uC. ARM SoCs are also super cheap but that's not the point. It's not board with meaningful i/o, just single component. You need either custom PCB for that or some of the shelf one as it doesn't even have any form of power delivery (though I can't seem to find off the shelf i/o boards for ATTiny). It's not ready to use platform. I got flushed by Arduino Uno price. Didn't consider it's mostly price of programmer, debugger and whole starter kit rather than uC itself. However like I said I can't seem to find universal i/o boards for ATTiny with something like GPIO
    – Lapsio
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 22:29
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    @Lapsio: See the Trinket. Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 22:36
  • The 328P & 32u4 (most commonly used chips for Arduino) are similar enough to the Tiny to use them as dev boards. Atmel has really done a fantastic job of keeping their libraries portable between their devices.
    – RubberDuck
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 23:05
  • @RubberDuck My concern about common Arduino dev boards was that they're expensive. Too expensive considering capabilities compared to ARM boards. But with i/o boards like mentioned Trinket it's fair price. 7$ is significantly less than 30$ and this is something I can understand.
    – Lapsio
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 23:14

An arduino board is really a breakout for a micro processor. Microprocessors you can get separately. A rPi is really a full system without that modularity.

There are also other size factors for that breakout board, many of which are much smaller than a rasberry pi and will have a much better battery life. And very often the abacus-level perf and half a dozen GPIO pins is all you really need.

Also some people enjoy having direct control over the chip in a way that a semi-stripped linux OS on a poorly documented platform just doesn't give. Hard realtime when you don't have full control over the system means you need to trust the RT-OS writers to actually hold to their documented deadlines.

  • On the other hand from engineering standpoint it doesn't really seem to be wise to trust your own code more than industrial solutions at least as long as you didn't break everything into ASM code and compared against timings of individual instructions for certain uC. It's general rule of thumb to use as much of the shelf stuff as possible while designing RT systems to avoid necessity to prove time limits.
    – Lapsio
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 21:43

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