I recently purchased my first Raspberry Pi along with the other necessary parts. One thing that I hadn’t thought through was the type of case I should get. I quickly realized that the Raspberry Pi case I had purchased wasn’t going to fit my needs. I wanted to write this in hopes that others can avoid the same issues I ran into.
How do you select the correct case for your Raspberry Pi? When looking for a case for your Raspberry Pi, you should consider the following:
- What Raspberry Pi model are you using?
- Do you need access to the GPIO headers?
- Is it tall enough for a heat sink?
- Does it need extra cooling?
- Do you plan to use a camera
- Does your project require more than one Raspberry Pi?
- Does your project include a HAT
- What do you want it to look like?
It’s never fun to have a project planned out, buy all of your parts, and then find out that the case you purchased isn’t going to work. Now, let’s break down each of these questions to make sure that you buy the right case the first time.
What Raspberry Pi Model Are You Using?
This is the mistake that I made when purchasing my first Raspberry Pi case. Little to my knowledge, the mounting holes on the Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi Zero W models are different than the other models.
The Raspberry pi Zero and Zero W mounting holes are 5.8cm apart in one direction and 2.3cm in the other. The rest of the Raspberry Pi models have mounting holes 5.8cm in one direction and 4.9cm in the other.
If you buy a case for a Raspberry Pi Zero, the mounting holes will not line up for a 3B+. Keep this in mind when shopping around for a case.
Do You Need Access To The GPIO Headers?
The GPIO headers are one of the best features of the Raspberry Pi. They are what allow you to use a seemingly endless number of peripherals and add-ons with your Raspberry Pi. If your project is using motors, sensors, or anything else that requires GPIO pins, then make sure that whatever case you purchase makes them easily accessible.
Is It Tall Enough For A Heat Sink?
It is highly recommended that you use a heatsink or two on your Raspberry Pi. For the Pi Zero and Zero W, you should be fine with just placing one on the CPU but for other models, you will want to also put one on the LAN as well. Heat sinks can vary between 3mm and 15mm in height and are made of different materials. You will need to make sure that your case has enough space for whichever heat sink you install.
Does It Need Extra Cooling?
Some Raspberry Pi projects require pushing the board to its limits. These projects may benefit from external cooling sources such as a fan or liquid cooling. If your project is going to require some intense processing power, consider looking into a case that has a fan or room for a liquid cooling system.
My recommended case for higher intensity projects is iUniker’s case that comes with a fan.
Do You Plan On Using A Camera?
The Raspberry Pi camera is a common add on for many projects, so common in fact that Raspberry Pi’s have a port specifically for it. If you are planning on using a camera, be sure that your case has room for the connection. If the camera is a major part of your project, there are several cases designed specifically for the Raspberry Pi camera module.
Dorhea has a great case that can hold your Raspberry Pi, a heat sink, and has a spot to mount your camera.
Does Your Project Require More Than One Raspberry Pi?
Some Raspberry Pi projects use more than one Raspberry Pi. For instance, the OctaPi computer cluster uses 9 Raspberry Pi’s. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could somehow keep all of those Pi’s together somehow?
There is a solution!
Some Raspberry Pi cases are designed to stack on top of each other. This allows for easy cable management and prevents one of your Pi’s from getting lost. I recommend checking out this case by GeauxRobot.
Does Your Project Include a HAT?
Raspberry Pi HATs are boards that mount directly on top of your Raspberry Pi. HAT event stands for Hardware Attached on Top. Raspberry Pi HATs allow you to quickly add functionality to your Pi such as motor control, collecting sensor data, add buttons, or even allow for power over ethernet.
Raspberry Pi HAT’s quite a bit of height to your Pi so your case will need a lot of extra space to accommodate them. There are cases with a taller design so that there is plenty of room for your HATs. Anidees makes a great case that is specifically designed for a Raspberry Pi with a HAT.
What Do You Want It To Look Like?
To some, appearance is everything. With Raspberry Pi cases, you don’t have to sacrifice good looks for functionality. There are hundreds of unique and custom designs for Raspberry Pi cases so at least one of sure to meet your design requirements.
Cases can also be made out of a number of materials, ranging from metal and plastic to wood. People have harvested the shells of Nintendo Gameboys and other handheld devices as well.
Are starter kits a good investment? You need to be careful when purchasing a starter kit. Some kits will definitely save you a few dollars but most kits have parts that you will never use. Be sure to look through the list of parts that come with the kit to see what you are actually getting and that the case meets your needs.
Do you even need a case? While a case will protect your Raspberry Pi, there is no requirement to have one. In fact, keeping your Raspberry Pi cool is actually easier if it is not stored in a small plastic or metal box.