Update 3/2/2022 2:38AM PT:
Raspberry Pi co-founder Eben Upton has responded to our questions and we have included Upton's responses in the updated story.
With sales now exceeding 45 million units in its first decade, you'd be forgiven if you thought that the Raspberry Pi was immune to the global chip shortage. Sadly this isn't the case as most major retailers in the U.S. and UK are out of stock of Raspberry Pi 4 models, with third-party Amazon sellers and eBay scalpers marking the boards up as much as 400 percent.
In a recent episode of The Pi Cast, Raspberry Pi co-founder Eben Upton revealed that demand was far exceeding what the organization could supply.
To celebrate 10 years of the Raspberry Pi, Tom's Hardware hosted a special episode of The Pi Cast, featuring Raspberry Pi co-founders Eben Upton and Pete Lomas.
When asked by a viewer "When can we expect supply of the Raspberry Pi 4B to be back to normal?" Upton initially quipped that he was "stopping answering this question" but then went on to confirm that they were making around 500,000 Raspberry Pi computers per month but there is a "credible backlog of one to two million units", and that "backlog eats everything that we can make."
Upton continued to explain that some of the backlog is with resellers who are offering the units for sale as and when they arrive, while others operate a pre-order system. In Upton's response to our questions, Upton states that "the issue here isn't a shortfall in production: it's an inability to ramp production *up* to meet surging demand. It's a fairly broad-based constraint across a number of components on the board."
Upton has been upfront with the supply of Raspberry Pis, writing a blog post covering the situation in late 2021 when the organization had to raise the price of the 2GB model hit with a $10 price increase and bring the 1GB model of Raspberry Pi 4 out of retirement in order to hit the $35 price point.
The resellers which offer a pre-order, such as Farnell are showing exceptionally long lead times. At the time of writing the UK arm of Farnell states there is a 372 day lead time on 2,4 and 8GB models of Raspberry Pi 4. The wait is even worse for US customers, with no stock expected until April 17, 2023. We put the long lead times to Upton and his response was "I'm not sure that algorithmically computed lead times on websites make a lot of sense at the moment." Upton goes on to illustrate the point by highlighting that some STM32 microcontroller parts are listing lead times up to 2027. Upton goes on to say that the "best advice I can give is to speak to your reseller" and to understand lead times and how often they are receiving new stock.
With supply dwindling to a trickle, it is inevitable that prices will increase and scalpers will meet the need of the desperate. A quick search of eBay sees pages of Raspberry Pi 4s selling for well over its list price. We spotted a 1GB Raspberry Pi 4 at a "Buy It Now price" of $105, $70 more than the list. Another seller offered new Raspberry Pi 4 2,4 and 8GB models at a respective $140, $170 and an eye-watering $210.
When will this all end? Upton believes that "it'll finish when the global semi-conductor shortage finishes and trying to predict that moment is making fools of us all"
The Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W is also impacted by supply shortages. While Upton didn't reveal any details specifically for the Pi Zero 2 W, the Zero range of boards have historically been limited. Older models of the Raspberry Pi Zero saw purchase limits imposed to prevent bulk purchases. Right now the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W is out of stock everywhere, even with the official resellers.
One Raspberry Pi that has only been lightly impacted by the shortage is the Raspberry Pi 400. This keyboard centric Raspberry Pi 4 4GB is an exceptional piece of kit, but the change in form factor breaks direct compatibility with HATs, though it is easily mitigated with a breakout board. At most e-tailers, a Raspberry Pi 400 goes for around $100, but Micro Center has it for just $69.
Other Raspberry Pi products, such as the Raspberry Pi Pico seem to be unaffected. Raspberry Pi now directly sells its Arm Cortex M0+ powered SoC in reels of 500 and 3,400 units. The RP2040 is an efficient use of silicon, with a 300mm wafer yielding around 21,000 dice. Upton confirms that the Pico is currently insulated from the global supply shortage, with enough "material in hand for 10-20Mu of RP2040, so no impact on Pico or any of the other RP2040-based boards out there."
Finding a Raspberry Pi
Waiting a year for a pre-order or paying over the list price is not the ideal. If you want to score a Raspberry Pi for the best price then you need to be proactive.
André Costa's rpilocator scrapes the main resellers website's for stock levels and reports the results every few minutes. The site tracks many different models of Raspberry Pi, from the Zero 2 W, to the unobtanium that is the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4. The results are also reported via Twitter, for those times when you are not at the computer.
For now we have to ride out this rollercoaster of supply and demand.