Rust vs. Python: Understanding the Differences

Explore key differences between Rust and Python with a focus on Rust's features and a summary comparison with Python.

By Kevin McAleer,    5 Minutes

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This lesson delves into Rust’s distinctive features, providing an overview for Python programmers interested in understanding what sets Rust apart.

Learning Objectives

  • Grasp Rust’s unique approach to memory management, error handling, and concurrency.
  • Compare these approaches briefly with Python’s to appreciate the situational advantages of each language.

Memory Management in Rust

Rust uses an ownership model to ensure memory safety without a garbage collector. This model enforces rules about how memory is allocated, used, and freed, directly at compile time, leading to performance benefits and prevention of common bugs like dangling pointers.

Error Handling in Rust

Rust promotes a more proactive approach to error handling than many languages, including Python. It utilizes Result and Option types for functions that might fail or return nothing, respectively. This explicit handling makes Rust programs more predictable and safer by design.

Concurrency in Rust

Rust’s approach to concurrency is based on the principles of ownership and type checking, allowing for safe concurrency without data races. This model enables developers to write multithreaded programs that are both efficient and memory-safe.

Comparisons with Python

  • Memory Management: Python uses automatic memory management with a garbage collector. While this simplifies development, it can lead to less control over performance compared to Rust’s ownership model.

  • Error Handling: Python utilizes exceptions for error handling, which can be caught and handled at runtime. Rust’s approach with Result and Option encourages addressing possible errors upfront, differing from Python’s more flexible, but less predictable, exception model.

  • Concurrency: Python’s Global Interpreter Lock (GIL) limits true parallelism, making concurrency more about improving responsiveness than performance. In contrast, Rust provides more tools for achieving real parallelism without compromising safety.

MicroPython vs. Rust

While Rust offers high performance and safety, MicroPython, a lean and efficient implementation of the Python 3 programming language, is designed to be easy to use and quick to deploy, especially on microcontrollers like the Raspberry Pi Pico. Here are some detailed comparisons:

REPL in MicroPython

MicroPython features a Read-Evaluate-Print Loop (REPL), which is an interactive programming environment. This feature allows developers, especially beginners, to write and test code in real-time, line by line, which can significantly speed up the learning process and debugging:

  • Ease of Use: With the REPL, new users can start experimenting with code immediately without the overhead of setting up a complete development environment.
  • Immediate Feedback: Developers get instant feedback for each line of code, making it easier to understand what each part of the program does.

In contrast, Rust does not have an interactive REPL as part of its standard tooling, which can make it seem less accessible to beginners. Rust development typically involves writing the complete program, compiling it, and then running it, which can be more time-consuming compared to the instant feedback loop in MicroPython.

Development Environment

  • MicroPython: Setting up MicroPython for development, especially on microcontrollers, is usually straightforward. After flashing MicroPython onto a device like the Raspberry Pi Pico, you can connect to it using a serial terminal or WebREPL and start writing Python code directly on the device.
  • Rust: Setting up Rust involves installing the Rust compiler and associated tools, writing the code in a text editor or IDE, and then compiling the code for the target platform. For embedded systems like the Raspberry Pi Pico, additional setup is required for cross-compilation and uploading the compiled code to the device.

Code Deployment and Running

  • MicroPython on Raspberry Pi Pico: Once MicroPython is flashed onto the Raspberry Pi Pico, uploading new scripts can be as simple as copying a Python file to the device, or entering code directly via the REPL. This simplicity encourages experimentation and rapid development cycles.
  • Rust on Raspberry Pi Pico: Deploying Rust code to a Raspberry Pi Pico requires a more complex process. You must write your Rust program, compile it specifically for the Pico’s ARM architecture, and then use a tool to upload the binary file to the Pico. This process, while offering more control and efficiency, is less beginner-friendly compared to MicroPython’s straightforward approach.

Despite these differences, each language has its own set of advantages depending on the project requirements and the developer’s experience. MicroPython is often preferred for rapid development and prototyping, especially for those new to programming or embedded systems. On the other hand, Rust offers more control, safety, and efficiency, making it suitable for projects where performance and resource management are critical.


By understanding Rust’s approach to memory management, error handling, and concurrency, you can better appreciate when and why to use Rust over Python. While Python offers simplicity and quick development cycles, Rust provides control, safety, and performance, particularly in systems programming and performance-critical applications.

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