In this article, we’re taking a closer look at robotics via the best Raspberry Pi Kit out there. The first computer ever took up 18,000-square feet and weighed 50 tons. What if we told you, today, you could have a computer the size of a credit card. Would you believe us?
“Yes,” you say as you pull a rather small computer from out of your pocket, reading this blog. Well, you get the idea. If you’re interested in small, minimal computers or toying around with robotics, the Raspberry Pi 3 is probably what you’re looking for. We’re going to tell you all about this today and show you the best Raspberry Pi kit to get you going.
What is Raspberry Pi?
Raspberry Pi is a small, credit card-sized single-board computer developed in the United Kingdom to help teach basic computer sciences to students. It’s even used to teach computer sciences in developing countries. It’s basically the motherboard of a computer but at a bare minimum.
The best Raspberry Pi starter kit has everything you need: a processor, RAM, and usually an input for a keyboard, mouse, computer monitor, and internet connection. It may have some drawbacks simply due to its size, but what are the best things to do with raspberry pi? You can do almost anything with a Raspberry Pi kit that you could with a regular full-sized computer.
- Interact with other digital maker projects
- Help people learn to program and understand computers
- Browse the Internet
- Edit documents
- Play games
- Watch movies
See Raspberry Pi’s official website for a comprehensive list of things you can do with Raspberry Pi.
But not only that, the Raspberry Pi board has something most computer motherboards don’t have: General Purpose Input Output (GPIO) pins. This makes Raspberry Pi an excellent choice for people looking to play around and tinker with robotics or just general electronic projects.
The board itself is just a jumping off point. From there, you have the ability to build your own tiny media computer, a nostalgic gaming setup, or even a hub for your smart house devices. The motherboard itself is currently on the Raspberry Pi 3 version and hovers around $35 to $40.
What Do I Need with a Raspberry Pi 3 Board?
The basic Raspberry Pi 3 board itself is kind of useless on its own.
You can get even more, but you will also need:
- MicroSD card
- 2.5 amp/5 volt power adapter
- HDMI cable
- Ethernet cable
- Wireless adapter
Other than the power adapter, all of these are technically optional. Depending on what you’re doing with your Raspberry Pi 3 board, you may not need everything from that list. If you want to use it as a small, portable computer though, you will need most if not everything from the above list.
You’ll need the mouse and keyboard to access the controls of the computer. The MicroSD card will give you digital storage (documents, files, media, etc.). An HDMI cable is required if you want to hook up a computer monitor. You’ll need an ethernet cable or wireless USB adapter if you need to connect to the Internet.
A case, while not necessary, is probably a good idea if you want to protect your Raspberry Pi board. Think about your own computer if you have a full-sized PC at home. It’s not just a raw motherboard of circuitry floating around in mid-air.
It’s connected to and enclosed within a case (usually made of plastic and/or metal) that contains and protects everything important. While you could certainly rock your Raspberry Pi 3 board in its birthday suit–circuitry, processor, and all–a case might be a smart choice.
A Look at the Best Raspberry Pi Kit
Now, we’re here to talk to one of two people:
- The beginners who didn’t really understand that last section
- The people who are in a hurry and just need everything at once
If either of those statements describes you, fear not; this is the section for you.
Like any hobby, such as building RC cars, if you’re new or just ready to dive straight in, you usually want an all-in-one kit. And there’s nothing wrong with that! You just need a jumping off point–something to get you started. Thankfully, Raspberry Pi kits exist. These are combo packages sold–officially or unofficially–with not just the Raspberry Pi 3 board itself but peripherals you may need or want as well.
Not all are created equal, so we’re going to take a look at some options and declare one the best Raspberry Pi starter kit.
Best Raspberry Pi Starter Kit
CanaKit is a starter kit that comes with the latest Raspberry Pi 3 B+ board and a number of peripherals.
The kit includes:
- 32 GB Samsung EVO MicroSD card
- USB MicroSD card reader
- 2.5 amp USB power supply
- GPIO quick reference card
- Two heat sinks
- HDMI cable
Basically, this has everything to get you off the ground and running. On top of that, it comes with a pretty important thing: NOOBS. NOOBS is the out-of-the-box operating system making your Raspberry Pi kit easy to control straight away. As a beginner, you’re looking for something that’s not only good but easy, too.
If you’re a beginner to drones, you may need to consider some important aspects before purchasing your first drone, such as its out-of-the-box state. Some drones are “ready to fly” and others are not. This is an important aspect to keep in mind. The same basic principle applies to electronic tinkerers looking into the best Raspberry Pi kits. Something usable out of the box should be a top priority, and having NOOBS preloaded on your MicroSD card is important to have.
All in all, the CanaKit is an excellent option. Keep in mind, that while reviews are good, some people complain about the cheap and poor quality build of the case. This shouldn’t be too much of a worry as you can always swap cases out. Plus, maybe you like rocking that naked, natural look anyway!
Best Raspberry Pi 3 Starter Kit for the Money
This one comes from the source itself: the Raspberry Pi foundation. It’s officially the “official” starter kit for a Raspberry Pi 3 setup.
This particular kit includes:
- Raspberry Pi 3 Model B board
- 16GB MicroSD (pre-installed with Raspbian operating system and NOOBS)
- Official Raspberry Pi white case
- Official Raspberry Pi 2.5 amp power supply
You may notice a few distinct things about this kit. It only comes with a 16GB MicroSD card, it does not come with an HDMI cable, and the MicroSD card is pre-installed with Raspbian OS. It’s important to note here that Raspbian is the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s own operating system. The tiny computer can support other operating systems, though, such as Ubuntu and Windows 10 IoT Core.
Not everyone is going to want a Raspberry Pi kit with Raspbian pre-installed if they have other plans for their build in the long run. Rather, this kit is for the person looking for the “official” Raspberry Pi experience. Not only do they want a Raspberry Pi 3 board, but they want an actual Raspberry Pi 3 device (case, operating system, and all).
You could argue that the case and power supply are superior in this kit compared to others on this list, but that’s debatable and partially subjective.
Best Raspberry Pi Kit for the Experienced
Now, let’s move away from the official starter kit and get back into another unofficial offering.
The V-Kits starter kit comes to you via Vilros and includes:
- Raspberry Pi 3 B+ (B Plus) board
- 16GB MicroSD card (preloaded with NOOBS)
- Clear case
- Two heat sinks
- HDMI cable
- 2.5 amp USB power supply
Once again, we’re left with only 16 GB of storage included. But then again, we get an HDMI cable included, as well as extra heat sinks and a clear case. This one is an interesting choice due to the clear case. It’s the perfect combination of protecting your Raspberry Pi 3 board but keeping that naked and beautiful look.
Most reviews of this one seem positive, and to top it off the MicroSD card is not preloaded with Raspbian OS, giving you more options out of the box.
Best Raspberry Pi Controller
Simply put, if you’re looking for a nostalgic video game console, here you go!
The following are included:
- Raspberry Pi 3 board
- Classic, retro gaming controllers and case
- 32 GB MicroSD card (preloaded with NOOBS and RetroPi)
- HDMI cable
- Two extra heatsinks
- 2.5 amp power supply
Not only does this one come with a 32 GB storage card, but it also is preloaded with RetroPi. RetroPi is just about all you need to jump into retro gaming headfirst. Obviously, this isn’t someone looking for a PC or general robotic projects, but it suits a particular need very well.
And the Winner is…CanaKit
All in all, if you simply want to know what the best Raspberry Pi 3 kit is, look no further than the CanaKit! Then again, if your goal is simply retro gaming via the Raspberry Pi 3 board, then you should definitely look at Vilros’ option.
But if a simple Raspberry Pi 3 starter kit is all you want, CanaKit provides everything at an agreeable price point. It gives you a 32 GB storage card versus the 16 GB from the V-Kit, and although the case may be lacking for some people, it will get the job done.