Planning on a Raspberry Pi-based project? You’ll need more than just the low-cost computer, but what else? To help you out, various companies have put together Raspberry Pi kits, each suitable for particular tasks and projects.
Let’s take a look at what’s available, and which kits will suit you project.
Why Buy a Raspberry Pi Kit?
Raspberry Pi kits are a massive time saver. Back when this mini computer was first released, it came on its own. You needed to source your own peripherals, which could be hit-and-miss.
Keeping costs low could easily result in poorly-made cases, and unsuitable, corruption-prone SD cards. Unless you already had good quality peripherals to hand (a perennial tinkerer might but Joe Average might not), then a low-cost $35 Raspberry Pi computer could turn out to be closer to $70.
And that’s before you start considering display options…
Things You Might Find in a Raspberry Pi Kit
Raspberry Pi kits come in two forms: those with the Pi included, and those without. We’re looking exclusively at the former here. After all, what use is a kit if the main component is missing?
In one of these kits, then, you should expect to find:
- A Raspberry Pi computer (2, 3, or later)
- HDMI cable
- A MicroSD card of at least 8 GB (if it’s smaller, look elsewhere)
- Ethernet cable
- USB wireless dongle and USB Bluetooth dongle (not required with a Raspberry Pi 3)
- AC adapter
Alongside these items, you’ll also find specialized items and expansion boards (these are known as HATs) that make the kit you choose ideal for the purpose you’re planning. For instance, you wouldn’t need a battery pack in a Raspberry Pi kit intended for creating music (although it’s possible to make your own).
Three kits in particular are worth taking a look at, which we’ve listed here for your convenience.
CanaKit Raspberry Pi Kit for Dummies ($90)
If you’re starting completely from scratch with hobbyist computing and have never even so much as opened up a tower PC to change memory modules or fit a new HDD, then this is the Raspberry Pi kit for you.
Packaged with the familiar “Dummies” logo and colors, this $90 pack includes a Raspberry Pi 3 and all the extras you need to get started. You’ll also find a few additional electronics, such as resistors, LEDs, jumpers and a breadboard. This is a weekend gift, really, perfect for keeping any tech enthusiast/hobbyist happy for hours on end.
A pre-loaded operating system is included on the microSD card, and there is also a Raspberry Pi for Dummies booklet included (the full volume is $15) to help you get started. You should be able to cover the vast majority of basic projects with this, such as those featured in our list of Raspberry Pi projects.
Educational Kit: The Kano ($150)
One of the original aims of the Raspberry Pi was as a device to teach children basic software development. The basic Kano computer kit features all of the components a child needs to get started with a Raspberry Pi, along with a very clear instruction booklet.
Cables with striking colors match the Pi’s easy-to-construct case, which comes with its own speaker.
The Pi itself is a Raspberry Pi 3 (earlier kits had blocky Wi-Fi and Bluetooth dongles intended for easy USB slot insertion by small hands), and this award-winning kit also features stickers.
Backed by such luminaries as Apple founding father Steve “Woz” Wozniak and Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, the version of Raspbian included with the Kano includes 150 hours of creative play activities. More than enough to teach your children computer skills.
Raspberry Pi Media Center Kit ($85)
From Vilros comes this media center kit, complete with all of the basics for a Raspberry Pi 3 computer. Because this is a media center, however, you’ll also find a 2.4GHz wireless keyboard, complete with touchpad!
Intended for using your Raspberry Pi primarily as a media center, you’ll find that this is easy to set up thanks to the microSD card. This has been preinstalled with the NOOBs software, which aides in the easy setup of operating systems for the Raspberry Pi. A couple of media center options are available with NOOBs, OSMC and OpenElec, both of which are based on the popular Kodi media center distribution.
What this means is that once you’ve got everything plugged in, you can boot up your new Pi and start enjoying streamed video content!
If you have no need for the keyboard, a $60 option is available.
Bonus Item: Raspberry Pi Zero Kit ($28)
We’ve looked at standard Raspberry Pi kits so far, and while the Raspberry Pi 3 is an extremely popular device, there is another model that is particularly useful — the Raspberry Pi Zero.
This is a basic kit with an 8 GB microSD card, USB OTG cable, Mini HDMI adapter and 1A power supply, compiled by CanaKit.
You wouldn’t use a Raspberry Pi Zero for anything heavy duty — there are no GPIO pins, for instance (although you can add them, or connect directly to the array). However, the Zero is ideal for projects where space is at a premium. This might be squeezing a Pi into a game controller to make a portable console, for instance. Or one of many other Pi Zero-specific projects. The low cost of the Pi Zero should prove a useful step on point for those interested in Raspberry Pi computing.
Do you prefer to buy your Raspberry Pi in kit form, or source your components separately? Is it more convenient to buy a Raspberry Pi Zero kit, and complete your project, or do you prefer the flexibility of a full Pi? Tell us in the comments!
Image Credit: Kano