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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best Arduino starter kits

Last Updated May 2019

When the Raspberry Pi microcomputer was first released, it sparked a revolution. Thousands of users around the world discovered single-board microprocessors — they were dirt cheap and could be used to build tiny computers that handled common tasks ranging from basic desktop computing to powering a complete retro arcade machine. But while the Raspberry Pi quickly became the most popular board overnight, a second option quietly carved out its own niche in the market: Arduino boards.

Arduino boards are single-board microcontrollers that are slightly less powerful than the Raspberry Pi but even more affordable and suited for building digital devices and controllers. For example, where you might use a Raspberry Pi to build a media center computer, an Arduino board is more appropriate for building a robot car or weather station. Arduino hardware is also open-source, which means that others are free to improve on it, 

The other big difference: Arduino boards work with lots of add-ons like servo motors, receivers, and sensors, so they’re more complicated to set up. That’s why Arduino boards are sold as kits that include the most common parts and accessories you need to get started.

Whether you’re a veteran user of single-board microprocessors or you’re looking to join the revolution, now’s a great time. Arduino kits include everything you need — even good instructions. Here’s what you need to know to find the perfect Arduino starter kit and a few of our favorites for your consideration.

If you’re new to Arduino, start with a kit that includes the UNO board. It’s the most popular Arduino board there is, which means it’s got the most documentation and the biggest community.

Key considerations

There are more than a dozen different versions of the Arduino, so before you start trying to tell them apart, consider these questions. They’ll help you find the ideal kit.

What do you want to make?

Finding the right Arduino kit means knowing what you want to make with it. Search the web for project ideas or browse kits to get a sense of what other people build. Most kits include a temperature sensor, so consider a project that integrates one, such as a soil moisture sensor so you can keep tabs on when it’s time to water your favorite plant.

Do you have any relevant experience?

Consider your own experience building computers or working with microcontrollers. Are you a newbie or a seasoned veteran? If you’re new to Arduino boards, look for starter kits aimed at beginners. They usually have a smaller number of parts that can be used to build a handful of specific projects. If you’ve built computers in the past, you may want to look for a more advanced kit that includes more project options.

Perfect for budding engineers

The official Arduino Starter Kit is our favorite because it’s so good at being accessible to everyone. The included tutorials are well thought out, easy to follow, and perfect for newbies. You can use it to make a digital hourglass or even use it with a door lock (that only opens for the right secret knock). If you’re buying a starter kit for a project with a child, or you simply need a good kit to learn with, this is the one to get.
 

Arduino starter kit features

So how do you tell different Arduino starter kits apart? It’s all about what they include. Here are our favorite add-ons that you’re likely to see in a starter kit.

Shields: Like all single-board microprocessors, you can add more hardware to an Arduino board to introduce new functionality. Different kits include various shields, ranging from those that can add Ethernet functionality to cameras and LED screens.

Project instructions: Starter kits usually include a CD-ROM filled with projects you can make with your kit, including step-by-step instructions. Some smaller kits only offer a few projects, while larger ones can include instructions for several different options.

Solder-free components: Some Arduino projects require you to solder components to the board, which can be messy and downright dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’re not comfortable with a soldering iron, get an Arduino kit that includes wires with pin headers so you don’t have to do any soldering.
 

Resistors: Of all the components you’ll find in a typical Arduino starter kit, the resistors are among the most important — and some projects use many. Keep an eye on the number of resistors included with different kits you compare. If you plan on making multiple projects, get a kit with plenty of resistors.

EXPERT TIP

Buy the Arduino starter kit with the clearest instructions. Many manufacturers post their user manuals online, and reading them ahead of time gives you insight into whether a kit is a good fit for your project.


Staff  | BestReviews

Arduino starter kit prices

Basic: These Arduino starter kits cost between $25 and $35. Kits in this price range are perfect for beginners because they’re focused on simple projects and often include thorough documentation. And kits in this range are ideal for kids who want to learn the basics of programming or robotics. Keep in mind that some of the more powerful board add-ons (like WiFi or Bluetooth) may not be included in this price range.

Premium: These Arduino starter kits cost between $35 and $90. The big difference with pricier kits is flexibility — the more you spend, the more components and accessories you get. For example, where a basic kit includes a handful of sensors, a premium one can include hundreds. Project instructions are also a lot easier to follow with nicer kits, so if you’re concerned about getting in over your head, you might want to spend a little more.

If you find that not all of the circuits on your Arduino board are functioning properly, get a multimeter to help you troubleshoot where the problem is.

Tips

  • Find a complete video tutorial for your first Arduino project. No matter how simple your first outing is, it never hurts to have help. Having a visual walkthrough can make the entire process go a lot faster, so pick a starter project accordingly.
  • Get a starter kit that includes a 9-volt battery pack if you want your project to be mobile. A lot of great Arduino projects are made to move, like robot cars, and they don’t really work if they’re tethered to the wall for power. Thankfully, Arduino boards work with 9-volt battery packs, so they can roam free. If you’ve got mobile ambitions for your Arduino, make sure to get a kit with a battery pack.
  • Try out the Arduino software on your computer before you buy a kit. You’ll program your Arduino board using Arduino software — a cross-platform app that lets you code and add specific actions and behaviors to your Arduino board and its components. It’s a free download, so you can try out the software ahead of time or watch a video tutorial to get a sense of how it all works.
DID YOU KNOW?

Some Arduino shields require memory cards to function. For example, the data logger shield, which records all incoming and outbound transactions, needs a standard SD card to store the data on. If you’re building a project that uses a memory card, get the biggest one you can afford.

Beginner’s luck

The EL-KIT-008 is a starter kit for anyone who’s serious about learning the ins and outs of Arduino boards. It’s got plans for building projects, and each project is focused on teaching you a skill that’s central to other projects, like making LEDs blink or following a wiring diagram. Best of all, it also teaches you how to troubleshoot Arduino projects, which is essential to getting them to work correctly. If you’re all in on trying out an Arduino kit but new to it, this may be your perfect starter kit.

Other products we considered

If you’re not sure about an Arduino single-board microprocessor, and you want something a little simpler, consider the SmartFly Tinker Board kit. The ASUS Tinker Board is one of the commercial competitors to Arduino and Raspberry Pi, and while it’s a little more expensive, it’s also a lot more powerful than both and better suited for novices. If you’re looking to get started with a microcomputer, but you’re not sure you’re up for the wiring and coding an Arduino kit requires, look closely at the Tinker Board — it might be a better fit. If you’re curious about the brand that started it all, check out the CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3B+ kit. The latest iteration of the Raspberry Pi, the 3B+ is the fastest yet and is simple enough that any user can have one up and running in a matter of minutes. Best of all, the Raspberry Pi platform boasts a wide array of available add-ons ranging from high-fidelity digital-to-analog converters (DAC) to touchscreens.

One of the few things that most Arduino starter kits don’t include is a case. You’ll need to leave the board exposed while you’re programming it and setting it up, but once it’s complete, a case is a great way to keep your board safe and dust-free.

FAQ

Q. Do I need to know how to code to use an Arduino starter kit?
A. No, but it will help because some moderate coding is required. To get your Arduino project to work, you’ll need to use the Arduino software to make a “sketch,” which is the company’s term for a code-based set of instructions that tells the board how to operate. Sketches can be as simple as 50 lines of code or as complex as hundreds of lines. Most users learn to code for Arduino by copying code from other users and modifying it to make changes.


Q. Where do I go if I get stuck with my Arduino project?
A.
The Arduino project community is pretty passionate, so if you ever run into problems, you can always find help on the user forums. There are also hundreds of troubleshooting videos and tutorials online, which can be useful for getting you out of a jam.


Q. What tools do I need to build my Arduino kit?
A.
The tools you need will vary based on the project you’re building, but in most cases, at a minimum, you’ll need needle-nose pliers, wire strippers, and a precision screwdriver set.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Jaime
    Jaime
    Writer
  • Kristin
    Kristin
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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