The Raspberry Pi continues to rule as the most popular single-board computer (SBC) available. With stupendous support, tons of compatible operating systems, and virtually limitless project potential, the Raspberry Pi is a phenomenal maker board. If you're just getting started, you might be wary of picking up a standalone Raspberry Pi. Instead, you can get a full-on Raspberry Pi kit complete with a Pi board and accessories. Check out the best Raspberry Pi kits for beginners!
Why Buy a Raspberry Pi Starter Kit and What to Look for in a Raspberry Pi Bundle
Sure, buying a standalone Raspberry Pi board and accessories is simple enough. But an all-in-one Raspberry Pi kit is appealing for both beginners and seasoned makers alike. You'll definitely want a quality power supply to avoid damaging your Raspberry Pi board or microSD card. And the majority of Pi starter bundles feature rock solid PSUs. Further, you'll likely save a bit of money. For specialized projects, you can find kits with the complete set of required accessories. Although a case isn't necessary, it's best to protect your Pi, and most kits come with a Raspberry Pi case. Often, you'll save money over buying everything separately too. Many beginner-friendly Raspberry Pi cases come with booklets featuring suggested projects, another motivation for snagging a kit instead of a board by itself.
Why buy a Raspberry Pi kit:
- Simplified purchasing process
- High-quality component guaranteed to work with the Raspberry Pi
- Monetary savings
- May contain books with suggested projects
- Specialized Raspberry Pi project kits
What to Look for in a Raspberry Pi Starter Bundle
The first decision when searching for a Raspberry Pi kit is which Raspberry Pi board to use. I suggest a Raspberry Pi 4 since it's the most recent version of the Raspberry Pi, but the Pi 3 B+, Pi Zero, and Zero W are fantastic for various projects as well. What you plan to create depends on which Raspberry Pi bundle you'll need. For a basic desktop or even a server, smart home hub, or barebones build, virtually any desktop kit with a Pi, case, and power supply will suffice. For maker projects, you might prefer a package including input/output (I/O) devices such as LEDs. Consider what Raspberry Pi project you're creating, the necessary components, and which Pi board you need.
Raspberry Pi starter kit considerations:
- Raspberry Pi version
- Necessary accessories
- What Raspberry Pi project you'd like to complete
CanaKit offers the robust Raspberry Pi 4 desktop kit. It comes with a Raspberry Pi 4 model B outfitted with 4GB of RAM. In the box, there's an official USB-C power supply, red and white Raspberry Pi 4 case with matching keyboard and mouse, micro HDMI to HDMI cable, and 16GB microSD card pre-loaded with NOOBs. As such, this kit is as simple as installing a Raspberry Pi in its case, hooking up your keyboard and mouse, popping in the included microSD card, connecting the power and HDMI cables, and booting up. You don't even need to mount an operating system if you're using an OS included on NOOBs.
For complete beginners, the CanaKit Raspberry Pi Kit for Dummies is a great starting point. This Raspberry Pi 3 starter kit boasts a Raspberry Pi 3 board, microSD card pre-loaded with NOOBs, a Raspberry Pi case, HDMI cable, two heatsinks, and a 2.5A micro USB power supply. But this Raspberry Pi 3 bundle goes a step further by including a copy of Raspberry Pi for Dummies, one of the best Raspberry Pi books you can buy. As such, you gain not only a Pi board and all required accessories, but a phenomenal means of learning more about beginner-friendly projects. Thus, this is easily one of the top Raspberry Pi 3 bundles money can buy.
Kano makes an assortment of STEM-oriented packages for budding makers. Its Kano computer Kit features a Raspberry Pi 3, step-by-step book, and an assortment of accessories including a case, keyboard with touchpad, and programmable LEDs. What makes Kano perfect for children is its focus on simplicity and a focus on programming. Aside from its Raspberry Pi starter kit for kids, Kano offers a number of coding kits such as a Harry Potter wand.
Because of its small footprint and lower power draw, the Raspberry Pi works extremely efficiently as an always-on device. Thus, it's the perfect ecosystem for a FlightAware tracker. This groundbreaking software allows users to track private and commercial aircraft around the world. The PiAware Raspberry Pi starter kit lets you build your own DIY FlightAware tracker. There's a Raspberry Pi 3 B+, ADS-B antenna, and filter for FlghtAware. Although this is a slightly more advanced project, with everything you need included, it's simple enough to spin up a FlightAware tracker on a Raspberry Pi.
With a tiny form factor, the Raspberry Pi fits virtually anywhere. Including inside a laptop. While you could cobble together your own build, the Pi-Top transforms a Raspberry Pi board into a mini laptop. A novel means of making a portable Pi project, the Pi-Top takes advantage of the Raspberry Pi's respectable computing power for desktop, or in this case laptop, use. You can browse the web with Chromium, play Minecraft or Quake III, develop with programming languages, and more. Unfortunately, no Raspberry Pi board is included, but you can pick up a Raspberry Pi on the cheap.
The Raspberry Pi 4, with a complete hardware overhaul, boasts much-improved performance over its predecessor. This NEEGO Raspberry Pi bundle comes packed with a Raspberry Pi 4, 7-inch touchscreen, case, keyboard and mouse, power supply, heatsinks, HDMI cable, and microSD card. Thus, it's suitable for use out-of-the-box. You've even got a display and peripherals (keyboard and mouse) included. Sporting a phenomenal value, you can easily cobble together a wall-mounted dashboard, smart home hub, or other nifty Raspberry Pi project.
Manufacturer Elecrow makes a variety of maker kits including its automatic plant watering system. Elecrow's CrowPi Raspberry Pi starter kit may carry a steep price tag, but it's packed with virtually any item you might need. While a Raspberry Pi 4 is included, you can use its bundled accessories with the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, Pi 3 B+, Pi Zero, and virtually any version of the Raspberry Pi. Perfect for hands-on maker projects, the Elecrow CrowPi kit features a screen, sensors, camera, LED matrix, and a slew of other input/output devices.
Although it's become rather cliche at this point, retro gaming emulation on the Raspberry Pi remains a popular project. For newcomers, retro gaming with RetroPie, Recalbox, Lakka, or Batocera on the Raspberry Pi presents a fun, accessible Raspberry Pi use case. Sure, you can piecemeal a Raspberry Pi arcade together, but a Raspberry Pi retro gaming kit is more convenient. Vilros offers a Raspberry Pi 3 retro gaming kit with a Pi board, gamepads, and NES-style case. Plus, the Pimoroni Picade and Picade Console offer arcade aesthetics. Alternatively, RetroFlag makes its Sega Megadrive, NES, SNES, and Super Famicom lookalike kits.
Best Raspberry Pi Kit for Beginners - Final Thoughts
While you can merely purchase a standalone Raspberry Pi board and separate accessories, a Raspberry Pi starter kit streamlines the entire process. You're guaranteed to have compatible accessories, notably a power supply. Additionally, you're likely to save a bit of money over cobbling together your own build. And for beginners, it's easier than checking for compatibility. Moreover, for specialized uses, such as a FlightAware tracker or a portable Raspberry Pi laptop, you'll ensure a project bound to work. Personally, I use a Raspberry Pi 4 desktop kit as my main Pi board. The official red and white Raspberry Pi Foundation case with matching keyboard and mouse is eye-catching, and features solid build quality plus nifty features such as USB passthrough on the keyboard.
Your turn: which Raspberry Pi starter kit do you recommend?