Raspberry Pi Zero Networking Solutions
Having been lucky enough to get a Pi Zero when they were first released on the cover of the MagPi magazine, we’ve had plenty of time to try out a number of different things on it.
During that time, one of the things that we’ve always had to consider is the question of how to get our Pi Zero on the network, so we’ve spent a little time investigating some of the different networking options for the Pi Zero.
Given the option, we would generally prefer a wired network connection for our Raspberry Pi, since we’ve always had fairly mixed luck using wireless networks, which we’ve unfortunately found to be particularly prone to dropping the connection.
With this in mind, one really simple option for network connectivity is to use a Micro USB RJ45 adaptor. These seem to be fairly readily available and would plug straight into the OTG port of the Pi Zero.
Along similar lines, there is also the option of using a USB RJ45 adaptor, again plugged into the Pi Zero OTG port, but this time using a Micro USB OTG adaptor.
One of the other wired network connection options that we really like is to make use of a Google Chromecast Ethernet adaptor. This adaptor is basically a power supply which has a built-in Ethernet port.
The real beauty of this solution is that the adaptor plugs straight into the OTG port of the Pi Zero through which it can provide both power to the Pi Zero, and also network connectivity by plugging an Ethernet cable straight into the Ethernet adaptor.
One slight disadvantage to this solution is that because the Pi Zero is being powered through the OTG socket, it is not possible to plug in any other USB devices such as mouse or keyboard. However, for many standalone applications, this may not be an issue, since the Pi Zero could be accessed remotely using a remote access application such as VNC. Any initial setup for the Pi would have to be done using either a different network connection option or a different model of Pi (for the USB connectivity). However, having installed VNC, and providing a means of determining the IP address of the Pi, this solution may then be moved on to the Pi Zero.
Here are a couple of pictures of our Pi Zero running our simple weather forecasting program, using the Chromecast Ethernet adaptor for network connection.
As previously mentioned, we have had fairly mixed luck with USB WiFi adaptors; some proving to be rather less reliable than we would hope. Our main issue has generally been that of the WiFi connection periodically dropping out unexpectedly. However, we have tried out a couple of WiFi based solutions, as for many people this may be the only available option.
One of the options that we really like is to use a USB WiFi adaptor plugged into a USB Hub with at OTG connection; for example:
Because this hub has an OTG connector, it will plug straight into the OTG port of the Pi Zero without the need for an OTG adaptor.
Although, as already mentioned, some USB WiFi adaptors can be something of an unknown quantity, we have found the Broadcom WiFi adaptor (which also has 2 USB ports built into it) to work really well:
Although this WiFi adaptor is a little too bulky to plug directly into the Pi Zero, it can be plugged into a separate USB Hub or straight into the Pi Zero OTG socket by using a short OTG cable. The pictures below show two configurations that we have used very successfully.
Other Wired Options
Another option for wired Ethernet connection (although it’s not one that we’ve tried ourselves) is to connect an SPI Ethernet adaptor to the Pi Zero. This will involve a little soldering, as the adaptor needs to be connected to the SPI GPIO pins of the Pi Zero. The following link explains this option in plenty of detail:
Also, if you don’t mind a little hacking, yet another option (again, not one we’ve tried) is to deconstruct a USB WiFi dongle, and solder it to your Pi Zero, as described in the following link: