The best Raspberry Pi kit

Computer Components

You can configure a Raspberry Pi computer kit to function as a media center, a retro gaming machine, or other pieces of tech.

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WHICH RASPBERRY PI KIT IS BEST? 

In the old days of computing, users often bought kits and put together their own machines. Part of the fun of owning a computer was figuring out how everything worked together.

You still can build your own computer — and do it inexpensively — when you use a Raspberry Pi kit. This microcomputer kit ships with nearly everything you need to begin using the machine immediately. Each kit offers a few different components, so you can find the best parts for your needs.

For a simple design at a great price, we like the Raspberry Pi 3 Desktop Starter Kit, which requires no additional purchases to get you started right away.

WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU BUY A  RASPBERRY PI KIT

A Raspberry Pi computer is fun to build, because you can add or remove components to give it a personalized feel. However, there are some key pieces you must have included in a Raspberry Pi kit to use it successfully:

Case

Although you don’t have to have a protective case around the Raspberry Pi computer, the majority of people will want one. The case keeps the interior components safe from dust and other contaminants. To keep the build process fun for a child, consider a transparent case, so he or she can see inside it.

Motherboard

The motherboard is the key piece of the kit. It contains the chips and processor required to run the computer. In the most basic sense, the motherboard is the computer.

Power supply

The power supply takes the electrical power from a wall outlet and converts it into a safe level for the computer components to use.

Storage

Raspberry Pi kits use microSD memory cards to store data. The kit should include a memory card reader/slot, but you may have to purchase and supply your own memory card. Or if you want a large amount of storage, you can purchase an external hard drive to connect to the kit via USB.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A QUALITY RASPBERRY PI KIT

Once you’re sure the kit has the key components, you can figure out which extra features you’d like to have. Think about how you want to use the Raspberry Pi computer after you build it, and you’ll be able to determine which features you need.

Connectivity

You’ll want to connect your Raspberry Pi computer to your home network. This means it needs some sort of connectivity option. The majority of kits will have an Ethernet port on the motherboard, allowing you to hardwire the computer to your router. Some will allow wireless connections as well, via WiFi or Bluetooth.

Input devices

The Raspberry Pi kit rarely will ship with input devices, like a keyboard or a mouse. If you already own a keyboard from an older computer, you may be able to use it with the kit. Otherwise, you’ll have to purchase an input device separately.

Display screen 

Again, these kits rarely ship with a display screen. (This is one reason why manufacturers can sell Raspberry Pi kits so inexpensively.) You’ll either need to purchase a new screen, or you’ll need to recycle a display screen from another computer.

Understand that you can always add more hardware and components down the road to give the computer more features.

HOW MUCH YOU CAN EXPECT TO SPEND ON A RASPBERRY PI KIT

You’ll find Raspberry Pi kits in the $50-$100 range for those seeking basic components. For those who want some extra power or high-end parts, expect to spend $100-$150.

RASPBERRY PI KITS FAQ

Q. Can I use a Raspberry Pi kit with an older display monitor?

A. The Raspberry Pi build kit will connect to a display with an HDMI port. If your old screen doesn’t use HDMI, you’ll have to buy an adapter for whatever display port it has.

Q. Are Raspberry Pi kits good for kids?

A. They can be fun for people of all ages. These kits are made to be relatively easy to assemble, so you don’t have to be a technical expert to start using them.

WHAT ARE THE BEST RASPBERRY PI KITS TO BUY? 

Top Raspberry Pi kit

Raspberry Pi 3 Desktop Starter Kit

Raspberry Pi 3 Desktop Starter Kit

Our take: All-encompassing kit, so you can begin working on it immediately without having to worry about purchasing extra items.

What we like: Case uses a snap-together design, simplifying installation. Has both Bluetooth and WiFi technology included.

What we dislike: Operational speed lags behind some other options.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Top Raspberry Pi kit for the money

Vilros Raspberry Pi 3 Kit with Clear Case and 2.5A Power Supply

Vilros Raspberry Pi 3 Kit with Clear Case and 2.5A Power Supply

Our take: Considering its low price, you’ll receive plenty of computational power with the quad-core processor.

What we like: Uses a clear case, so you can see all the interior components. Works with either WiFi or Ethernet connection.

What we dislike: No memory card.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon 

Worth checking out

CanaKit’s Raspberry Pi 3 Ultimate Starter Kit

CanaKit’s Raspberry Pi 3 Ultimate Starter Kit

Our take: Will deliver more power than you might expect to find in a starter kit, but its price is a little high.

What we like: Includes everything you need to start, including multiple cables. Works with WiFi or Bluetooth standards.

What we dislike: Considering its higher-than-average price, the overall build quality should be better.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

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Kyle Schurman writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

 

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