The purchase of an Arduino Starter Kit is the first step of a beginner who wants to approach the field of prototyping. Anyway we need to shed some light over the reasons that lead to this chioice, to avoid the confusion brought by “incautious” and often not ideal purchases. We will then try to answer three frequently asked questions that will help you choose the right kit at the right moment.
1) What is a Starter Kit?
As its name implies, a Starter Kit is “a set of components needed to start some job”. It usually includes a good number of circuital components, the breadboard and some projects you can realize to become familiar with the world of prototyping. The documentation and the sample codes are an integral part of the quality of the Starter Kit. Theory and practice always go together, they should never be considered as separate entities.
2) How much should I spend to buy a Starter Kit?
Some say that the more you spend, the better your purchase… This is not always true. The official Starter Kit usually cost a little more than their “clones”, and its quality is superior. It has the advantage of being designed by those who created both the board and the first projects to use it. On the other side, the clones’ market is not always that bad. You can easily find good kits at a lower price than the original ones. So, if you can’t afford the original kit, and have no clue on what to do, go and ask the community and the specialized blogs. You will surely find out your answer there.
3) What else shoud I get, beside the Starter Kit?
It depends. One of the most widespread (and wrong) beliefs is that a Starter Kit alone can donate the keys of the world of electronics and prototyping. Sadly that’s not the case. The beginning of each Starter Kit starts from our inner self, from our knowledge. We need first to acquire the basic knowledge and back it up, to ensure a stronger learning path for the future. Considering the Starter Kit as the final solution, using just the proposed kits, will transform your wishes in a giant with feet of clay. A sound knowledge of micro-controllers, electrical engineering and computer science will shelter you from nasty surprises and headaches. Beside greatly helping your life.
Let’s take a look at three Starter Kits I personally tested, and that I consider worth buying. They belong to three different price ranges, and will help me sharing some more words of wisdom while talking about their content.
It is the official kit, produced by the developers of Arduino. The board is the Arduino UNO Rev. 3. The added value of this kit is definitely the manual, offering a good number of basic concepts and 10 projects of growing difficulty. Unfortunately, not all the programs on the manual are explained in a perfect way, though it’s the official kit. This is the reason why having a minimum of knowledge is absolutely required to be able to untangle without problems. The kit is sold on the official e-store at about 90 dollars, but some site might sell it with a little discount. If you definitely need a kit and need to be sure of your choice, this is the kit for you.
The Chinese producer stood out during the years for its kits with an optimal value for money. This Super Starter Kit is amazingly complete, offers a Arduino UNO Rev.3 Board and a really substantial allocation of components. Manual and programs are available in the provided CD, and downlodable through the Elegoo website. The price is about 35 dollars. The language translations are not always complete.
If you want to start from the very basic level,this clone kit from Elegoo is more than enough. It contains Arduino UNO Rev.3, standard and RGB LEDs and many components to start experimenting with the world of electronic prototyping. The manual is offered in CD format, and it is also possible to download the contents directly at the Elegoo site. I strongly urge you to use the English version, as other languages are not correctly translated. The price is perfectly fit, around 20 dollars. My advice, if you still have doubts: invest in something more complete, and take the Super Starter Kit.
There are many other kits out there, but the wisdom says “never recommend something you don’t personally know”. Don’t be fooled by reviews saying that clone kits have defective components. A defective component may be found in an original kit as well.