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.
Amazon, Newegg, and EBay don't give a damn. The higher the price something sells for on their marketplace the more money they make. They have zero incentive to try to stop scalpers.
That doesn't mean any of us need to do business with these companies or pay for their subscription programs. Does it matter if I don't renew my Prime subscription? Nope. Does it matter if a lot of people start thinking like me when it comes to not renewing? Yep.
I didn't renew Amazon Prime spring of last year and I've saved a boatload of money. Once you no longer get two day free shipping you'll quickly realize how you don't need that random item that doesn't meet the $25 minimum. I went from weekly deliveries up to as much as 6 months between Amazon orders. Amazon also began delaying my shipment on purpose once I let Prime lapse. My post Prime orders would take up to a week to get delivered.. So now I go to other vendors. Walmart and Bestbuy for example have shipped for free in 2 to 3 days. I now also try to support the unknown businesses. I'm sick of these monopoly mega corporations. There used to be hundreds to thousands of brick and mortar stores and online companies selling PC hardware back in the 90s/early 2000s. I don't think you can find 25 now.
Oh, and any bonus cash for refilling the gift card, or those offers of getting a decent amount of gift card balance if I apply for a credit card, etc.
Part of what needs to happen is the people at Raspberry Pi need to forcefully apply sell limits to resellers. Resellers need to apply buy limits to customers. You get all these assholes who hoard the boards then resell them at a jacked price.
Part of another issue is that the people at Pi headquarters need to stop catering to big businesses that integrate the boards in their final products. It even states this on their website/blog where they talk about the shortage. Something along the lines of, if you need a boat load of Pi's don't hesitate to reach out to sales and someone will help you. How about me? I need roughly 5 a month for my business. Yea, I've sent dozens of emails and can't even get anyone to write back and give me an honest answer.
365+ days lead time for the regular customer who wants one, but you'll get 1000+ of the Pi 4's into the hands of big businesses in record time for their product launch? Give me a break.
So much for that $35/computer for kids to learn on. Might as well go on eBay and buy an ancient Apple IIc and learn to program. But get ready to fork over at least 14.5ish% to eBay. Currently that's the cut eBay will take at this time. I'm sure the seller has upped his or her price by that percentage to cover the costs. Another great idea down the tubes catering to corporate greed.
Raspberry Pi, sadly another company that started out with a good convincing promise but failed to come though for the consumer.
I ordered there three times already, getting an 8GB and 4GB Pi4 and a Pi400. Never spent a dime more than MSRP. Though none of this prevent hoarding or reselling, just make it a slower process. Once bought, people can do with the Pis whatever they want and you can't stop them. I could also go to Amazon or Ebay and sell any of my three Pis for more than their worth... nothing stopping me.
If you need Raspis for your business, there should be options available, too. Though I can imagine that private customers have an advantage currently in this situation.