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Pi Zero - some typical project system costs

Pi Zero system cost

What's it really cost ?

Both Pi Zero UK distributors are taking advantage of the short supply (and high demand) to 'bundle' the Zero with a few £1 'adapters' so they can 'justify' ripping off the customer for upward of £20 for their 'Pi Zero Starter kits' - but there is nothing to stop you selecting the basic 'Pi Zero only'. So, if you turn down these rip-off 'starter kits', what's it really cost ?

To avoid being ripped off by the 'Pi shops', here are some prices that actually I paid (up to April 2017) for some common 'Pi Zero' items (from China/Hong Kong etc. eBay, post free, except when stated otherwise):-

Pi case (DO NOT get ripped off for the 'offical' case - it provides NO support for cables etc and has no room inside for anything other than the Pi Zero)
Really Useful Box (from many UK hardware stores) = the smallest (0.1L), at 79p, is big enough for USB hub as well as Pi and is drillable and cutable for cable support (unlike the rip-off 'Pi case').
The next size down Really Useful Box (0.07L, I paid £5.99 for a pack of 10, so 60p each) is a bit too narrow for the full Pi Zero PCB width, so you either have to cut a slot in one end (and let it poke out 1-2mm) or mount it diagonally (i.e. bottom corner to top corner) although that makes it hard to line up mini-HDMI to HDMI adpter etc.
To mount the Pi Zero PCB into the box you need some 2.5mm bolts and nuts. These can be found on eBay for pennies (from China) or you can pay 10x that from a UK seller.
You can position the Pi PCB using lots of buts or use small lengths of 2.5mm ID plastic tubing as a 'spacer' (this can be found on eBay for about £1.50 for 1m)
SD card (you DO NOT need to pay £££'s for a 16Gb 'pre-programmed' chip - if you are using the basic system a 4Gb SDHC will do, and even the 'fully loaded' system will fit fine on an 8Gb card)
8Gb micro-SDHC class 6, 10off for £33.95 = £4 each (note: in 2016 I paid £1 each for 4Gb class4 micro-SDHC and £2 ea. the 8Gb size !)
The Pi Zero can make use of faster cards - up to class 10 - and if you are using the Pi camera (and the SDHC card for image/video storage) a fast card will get you more 'bandwidth' (and thus allow higher resolutions / higher frame rates)
Powering the Pi (in 'device mode' the Pi is powered from your PC, in other sases you will power the Pi by 'back driving' from  a USB hub)
UK mains 5v 1A USB power block (Poundland) = £1 :-)
Car adapter 12v-24v to USB 5v 1A (I found some in the old 99p Stores, and they can now occasionally be found in Poundland, although most are 500mA rated)
5v 2A (AC 100-240V) US Plug pins power supply = £1.37 (Size: 77*30*92mm, allowing it to be built into a project box)
PoE pair injector/split off cable, 5pair for £8.81 = 88p ea. (1 with socket + 1 with plug)
PoE injector only cable, 10off for £8.82 = 89p ea. (socket only)
100-240V to DC 12V 1.0A Switching Power Supply UK Plug = £1.79
100-240V Power Adapter DC 24V 1A = £2.99
It's much cheaper to buy a 'general purpose' 12/24v power block and add a PoE 'injector' cable than to buy a 'PoE power supply' (or 'PoE Ethernet switch/hub')
DC-DC adjustable buck regulator 23v to 5v 1.8A, 5 off for £3.40 = 68p each (11x17x4mm = small enough to fit within an Ethernet 'dongle' case for PoE)
Accessing the Pi sockets (DO NOT be tempted to purchase the rip off 'starter kits' which contain a lot of 'adapters' - instead (where possible) purchase cables and USB 'dongles' with the right connector for the Pi Zero)
HDMI to Left Right Angled Mini HDMI cable = £1.46 (short 6" HDMI plugs straight into Pi Zero mini socket out to standard TV HDMI)
NB. For reference, all 3 Pi sockets are 'wide at the top' (so a left 90degree cable will run to the SDHC end of the board, whilst a right 90 runs toward the camera socket end)
Networking the Pi Zero (it is possible to just run an OTG cable from Pi Zero the micro-USB to your computers USB, and both power and control the Pi Zero from your PC = HOWEVER I had problems getting the Pi to 'talk' to the Internnet via Microsoft 'Internet connection Sharing')
micro-USB to 10/100 Ethernet adapter, 5 off for £6.66 = £1.34p each
micro-USB to hub (3x USB sockets) plus 10/100 Ethernet = £3 ea.
Cable, micro-USB (right angle) to USB B (printer type) plug, 2off for £2 = £1 each
Full size USB WiFi Wireless Adapter 802.11n/g/b  = £1.07 (micro-USB versions don't seem to exist)
Full size USB WiFi Wireless 150Mbps 802.11N/G/B USB 2.0 with Antenna = £1.52 (antenna should improve the chances of a decent connection)
USB Adapter, standard USB socket to micro-USB plug, 10 off for £2.09 = 21p each (allows a standard USB 'dongle' to be plugged into the Pi Zero's micro-USB socket)
5pin micro-USB right-angle plug solder pin, 10off for £1.44 = 15p each (when you don't want to solder direct to the Pi USB port 'lands')
Accessing the Pi header (AVIOD the rip-off 'Pi Zero Header pin kit' offered by UK distributors - standard 0.1" pins on eBay are a fraction of the 'kit' cost)
40pin x0.1" header pin strip, 10off for £3.78 = 38p each strip of 40pins (these can be broken into smaller 'sets', so 'price per pin' is 1p)
Using the Pi Camera with the Zero (UK distributors charge £4 for the 'camera cable' which is a TOTAL RIP OFF, especially when the Pi Zero itself was priced at £4 !!)
Camera FFC Cable Line for Raspberry Pi Zero V1.3 Camera Module 6.3 inch 16cm, 4off for £5.12 = £1.28 ea. (eBay, China, and a better design than the UK version)

NOTE - on eBay, as a rule, you should ignore all items offered with a 'range' of prices, especially those selling power supplies and micro-SDHC cards. For example, I found items such as "DC 24v power UK plug 99p-£9.99" = these posts are from rip-off sellers trying to 'suck you in' using the old 'bait and switch' scam (the 99p item will be 'plug only' (or 'SDHC adapter only'), but when you select the power supply (or 8Gb micro-SDHC) the price jumps to the rip-off £9.99 !).

You can 'exclude' most of these con-artists from your 'search results' list by setting a 'minimum price' of £1 (for things like SDHC cards)
The 'exception to the rule' is multi-configuration cables and other low cost items (just ignore any with wide price ranges - in my experience ALL sellers with price 'ranges' and more expensive than the 'single price' (specific item only) advertiser)

Note, for the Pi Zero, it's always cheaper to buy the 'correct' micro-USB 'dongle' than to buy a 'standard' USB size 'dongle' and than add an adapter (it's same for all Pi connectors = a mini-HDMI to HDMI is £1.50, whilst standard HDMI to HDMI cable PLUS an adapter is at least £2).

Real-world project costs

The Pi Zero itself

The Pi Zero (as opposed to the Zero W) will cost you £4.80 (Apr. 2017), however they are still being sold 'one per order', so to every Pi Zero you have to add £2.50 'postage', so that's £7.30 to start

This, however, need be the only postage you have to pay = everything else needed to get your Pi Zero project 'up and running' can be found in your local high street (eg Poundland / Pound Deals or on eBay (and purchased 'post free' from China).

Program storage

1) All computer systems need somewhere to store the program code. In the case of the Pi Zero, that's a micro-SDHC card of at least 4Gb.

A basic 'class 4' card used to cost as little as £1 (from eBay, in mid 2016), although now (end 2017) the 4Gb cards are becoming hard to find at any reasonable price. The Pi system needs a little over 1Gb, so 4Gb is more than enough to get you going.
If you need more space, an 8Gb (class4) card still be had for less than £5 = look on eBay for 'Micro-SDHC Memory Cards for Cameras', but BEWARE = eBay is full of 'Zero feedback' sellers offering fake capacity memory cards - and 'UK Sellers' often 'drop ship' i.e. forward your order to their supplier in China (so you pay a premium price and still end up waiting for 4-8 week delivery, same as the cheaper China direct sellers)
You don't need anything faster than 'class 4' to support full HD movies, although saving (full frame) still images from the Pi camera is SDHC speed limited (so using a class 10 card will help).
What you don't need to do is to pay upward of £10 for some rip-off 'NOOBS preprogrammed' SDHC from one of the 'Pi shops'
NB. I'm not including the cost of the PC needed to download Jessie and 'burn' this to the SDHC card :-)

So, to actually get a working Pi Zero, that's £7.30 + £1 = £8.30

2) A box to put it in

Don't waste your money on a 'Pi Zero Case' - not only are they a total rip-off (£5 for 49p of plastic) but they are all much too small to be of any use in your final Project (those that have room for the Pi Camera don't have room for the USB-PoE adapter or DC-DC regulator). Instead you need a box that's going to be big enough to 'support' all the cables you connect to the Pi Zero, as well as containing enough space for 'other bits' (such as the Ethernet hub, Pi Camera, PoE DC-DC converter etc)

I recommend a small 'Really Useful Box'. These are less than £1 and made of a stiff quality plastic that can be drilled and cut to support cables and other components
You will need some nuts and bolts to mount the Pi (and a bit of 2.5mm ID plastic tubing to use as specers) plus maybe even some grommets and glue for the cables :-)
Total for 'boxing up' your Pi Zero project should come to no more than £2.50

So that's £8.30 + £2.50 = £10.80 for a 'boxed' Pi Zero

3) Connecting, powering and controlling the Pi Zero.

In most cases, the Pi Zero will be used for some specific task - Media Player, Photo Frame, Juke Box, CCTV Camera - and not as some sort of 'general purpose computer'.

So, whilst 'setting up' your Pi Zero to perform that task will require the use of a PC, the one thing you don't need to buy for the Pi is a keyboard, mouse and display** !

** unless, of course, the keyboard/mouse/display is needed as part of the 'project' (eg a Photoframe needs a display)

However you will need some means of powering and 'communicating/controlling' the Pi. In some applications power and control can be combined down the same cable, so the cost depends on the application, a number of which I consider below :-

Note - your should ALWAYS try to buy the 'correct' cable for the Pi connector (mini-HDMI, micro-USB) since adding an adapter is not only a waste of money but it wastes space and decreases reliability (the more plugs and sockets you have the more likely something will work loose)
When it comes to powering the Pi Zero, I recommend you solder the power wires direct to the i/o pin 'header holes' (micro-USB power plugs are notorious for loose fit and 'flaky' connection)

The specifics (display, communication, control etc) depends on the specific Project, so I consider a number of likely uses below

WiFi Media Player ('KODI box')

Although you might not expect it, a 'multi-media player' for your TV is about the cheapest possible Pi based project !

To start with, the Pi Zero can be powered from a USB socket on the back of your TV = so all you need a 'USB to micro-USB' cable (£1 from Poundland) = or a right-angle coiled cable (99p, eBay). Even cheaper is to cut a standard USB to USB cable in half (with the freed wires soldered direct to the Pi i/o header power holes), at a cost of 50p (for half the £1 cable from Pound Deals).
Next, connection to your TV will be via it's HDMI socket, so all you need a 'mini-HDMI to HDMI' cable (£1, or £1.46 for right-angle version (that looks neater)). This also provides the means to control the Pi (via your TV handset, which can send button presses back up the HDMI cable to the Pi).
Finally, a media player typically connects to the 'rest of the world' (i.e. the Internet) via a WiFi 'dongle'. A standard USB 'dongle' can be had for only £1.07 (or one with antenna for £1.52), to which you have to add a 'USB to micro-USB insert' for an extra 21p.

So that's £10.80 + 99p + £1.46 + £1.07 + 21p = £14.53 for a working Pi Zero KODI box !

Wired Media Player

In many houses the WiFi Router is not in the same room as the TV, and the TV is in a corner (where the Pi Zero KODI box is going to be 'masked' by 2 walls and the TV itself). In such cases, trying to use WiFi to connect your KODI box to the Internet is going to be 'an exercise in frustration' (although using a WiFi 'dongle' that comes with an external aerial may do the trick). However a better solution is at hand = just use an Ethernet cable instead ! (after all, it's not as if you are going to move your TV around like you would a laptop/tablet or phone).

Again, we power the Pi Zero from a USB socket on the back of the TV, so a 'USB to micro-USB' cable = £1 (or 50p for half a standard USB-USB cable).
Connection to your TV is still via it's HDMI socket, so you need a 'mini-HDMI to HDMI' cable (£1), and this also provides control (via your TV handset).
However connection of the Pi to the 'rest of the world' (Internet) is now via a micro-USB to Ethernet 'dongle' (£1.34) plus an Ethernet cable = 5m for £1 (from Poundland)

So that's £10.80 + £1 + £1 + £1.34 + £1 = £15.14 for your wired KODI box

If you don't have a spare USB socket on the TV, then you can add the cost of a separate USB power block for the Pi, for another £1 (Poundland)
An alternative to a local power block is to use PoE (Power over Ethernet). This will be a 'neater solution' (since you are already running the Ethernet cable) BUT this costs a more (you need a 12v power block, a PoE 'injector' and, at the Pi end, you have to 'break out' the PoE wires to a DC-DC converter)

A Pi Zero Photoframe (using an old 4:3 display)

A mix of portrait and landscape photos actually looks best on an old SVGA/EGA 4:3 display (rather than on one of those fancy HDMI 'widescreen' ones that all new PC's come with these days). So, chances are, you already have a suitable display (if not, try your local 'Freecycle', Craig's List or Charity shops)

I recommend you get one that comes with 12v output (for a 'sound bar') and a built-in USB hub (which gives you the possibility of loading photos from a USB stick into the Pi)

To provide extra storage for more photo's I used an 8Gb SDHC rather than a 4Gb one, so +£3 (2017 prices)
If your old display comes with an EGA socket all your need is a 'mini-HDMI to EGA cable' (cost £1)
If your display is VGA only, then you will need a 'mini-HDMI to VGA converter' (about £3.50) plus (to plug this into the displays VGA socket) a 'gender changer' (£1)
Power can be taken from the displays 12v 'sound bar' output (£1 for a 'USB car socket' plug + £0.50p for half a cable = £1.50)
To link the Pi to the display USB hub, you need a micro-USB A-B style 'printer' cable (£1, China, via eBay)
To update photos 'on-line' (i.e. without needing to copy them to a USB Memory stick first), you can connect the Pi to your LAN using a standard USB WiFi dongle + insert (total £1.28) or USB-Ethernet dongle (& Ethernet cable) for about £1 extra

To the basic 'boxed' Pi Zero cost (£10.80) this adds + £3 + £1 + £1.50 + £1 + £1.28 = £18.58 (or £15.58 if you stick with the 4Gb SDHC card (which is enough for about 1,000 photos = remember you only have to store 'display' sized thumbnails, not the full sized photo) and drop the LAN connection)

CCTV camera / Astro camera (using PoE)

It's to be noted that the 'standard' Pi Camera may deliver HD, however it's quality is not very good due to the rather poor lens. I thus recommend you consider replacing the lens for something better. Note also, in a real CCTV 'solution' you need to add security lighting (or a camera with IR capability) for night-time use

The 'biggie' is the Pi camera. You can get the old 5 megaPixel camera from China for £8.61 (with Pi Zero cable included), or you can pay £24 for the 'Version 2' 8 megaPixel camera (and then get ripped off for an extra £4 for the Pi Zero camera cable) from a UK Pi supplier.
Since a CCTV camera is likely positioned away from mains power, it makes sense to use PoE (power over Ethernet). For a 25m cable run, I used a 24v supply, so cost is approx :-
25m Cat5 Ethernet cable £7.69 (UK seller, eBay), 24v 1A power block @ £2.84 (eBay) and the 'injector' £1.
At the Pi end, you will need a 'micro-USB to Ethernet' dongle (about £2.50) plus a 24v-5v DC-DC buck converter (less than £1)
Note = I used the Ethernet for digital 'transmission' of HD video to my PC (running 'iSpy' CCTV system software). If, however, your Pi camera has to 'drive' a 'classic' CCTV recording box, then you need to pick off the analogue 'TV out' from the Pi and run it down 25m of co-ax AV cable, which typically costs more than using 25m of Ethernet cable !

To the basic 'boxed' Pi Zero (£10.80) we add £8.61 + £7.69 + £2.84 + £1 + £2.50 + £1 = £34.44 for a basic PoE CCTV Pi camera unit

A Pi JukeBox

My most expensive project to date, the Pi Zero based JukeBox, needs to 'play' CD's as well as connect to my 'music server' via my LAN. This means it needs an Ethernet+3port USB hub, but that's still much cheaper than using a Pi B+. It also needs a (much) bigger box (to provide space for the CD drive).

I started by adding an extra £3 for a bigger box and some extra nuts and bolts (and glue) to house the Pi, hub and the CD drive.
A 'micro-USB to Ethernet+3port USB hub' is about £2.35, plus a 5m Ethernet cable** £1.
** If you decide to use WiFi instead, add an extra £2.50 or so
A 'pHAT DAC' digital audio board (for quality stereo output) costs about £12, plus about 50p for the RCA sockets and another £1 for cables to your existing stereo amp. / media system.
You can get an 'External USB 2.0 Slim CD RW DVD RW Burner Writer Drive' for £4.54 (which is less than the cost a case + USB interface for an old laptop drive). An A-B USB cable will cost an extra £1.
To power all this you will need a decent (2 socket) 2A USB 5v power block which will cost about £4.50. This powers both the Pi and the CD Drive (which should come with it's own power cable). You can 'get away with' a single socket power-block if you use it to power the hub (which in turn powers both the CD drive and the Pi (after you mod the hub so it 'back drives' the Pi down it's micro-USB cable)).
Note. The Pi media player ('MPD') software can be controlled across your LAN from your PC (or Tablet/ Smart phone etc), so no need for any 'local' display, however a couple of push-button switches would be a 'good idea' for 'load music from CD' (and 'load from USB stick'). The actual music tracks would normally be stored on your PC / Server (or fetched from some streaming service across the Internet), although you could use a bigger SDHC to store copies of music tracks 'locally' (thus making the unit more portable)

To the basic 'boxed' Pi Zero (£10.80), add £3 + £2.35 + £1 + £12 + £1 + £4.54 + £1 + £4.50 = £40.19

My JukeBox costs so much more than the Multi-Media Player because it's not using my TV to play the music. Dropping the pHAT-DAC and connecting to my TV (via HDMI) would not only improve the sound (I can get 5.1 surround sound via HDMI and my TV 'Home Cinema' system, but only stereo out of my 'audio system') and this would reduce the cost to less than £30

Next page :- Developing with the Pi Zero