GeeekPi kit

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The 2023–24 school year is about to begin, and a great way for your kids to learn about how computers work without putting a dent in their college funds is by buying them a Raspberry Pi kit. Raspberry Pi computers are Linux-based mini PCs that can usually be assembled in a few minutes without any special tools or, in some cases, without any tools at all. Some kits come with internet connectivity via Wi-Fi or ethernet connections, and many can be used to learn programming languages like Python, C, or Java.

A wide variety of Raspberry Pi kits are available at Amazon at prices ranging from less than $30 to more than $500. Assembling a Raspberry Pi kit will not only teach your child about the various components of a personal computer and its functions but completing one of these projects can help teach valuable lessons in following instructions and solving problems. Most of these kits contain small parts and are not intended for very young children.

UCtronics Pico MicroPython Starter Kit

UCtronics Pico MicroPython starter kit

One of the most basic, inexpensive, and educational kits available is the UCtronics Pico Starter Kit, which sells for just $29.99 at Amazon. The kit contains the pre-assembled Raspberry Pi Pico, a solderless plastic breadboard, 30 jumper wires, five push-button switches, 12 LEDs, 10 resistors, a buzzer, two potentiometers, a motion sensor, an LCD module, an LED strip, and a micro USB cable. The Pico uses a dual-core ARM Cortex-M0+ processor with 264KB of onboard RAM and support for up to 16MB of additional memory.

It supports programming in C, C++, and Micro-Python, and a compatible camera module is available for an additional $24.99. Amazon reviewers seem relatively pleased with the kit, giving it an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars.

Garrett Albright called it "fun, educational, and a good value" and added, "I’m pretty happy with it. There’s more than enough stuff in here to do all of the other projects in the book as well as whatever more complex ones you might eventually come up with."

Raspberry Pi Zero W Complete Starter Kit

Raspberry Pi Zero W Complete Starter Kit-Premium Black Case Edition

While the previous kit is more of a basic electronics kit, the Zero W Complete Starter Kit has everything you need to build a completely functioning Raspberry Pi PC. The premium black case edition is currently on sale for $49.99 and includes a pre-assembled mini circuit board and heatsink, a snap-together plastic case, a 16 GB micro-SD card preloaded with the NOOBS operating system, a 2.5A micro USB power supply, a micro USB to 3-port USB A adapter, a 5 feet HDMI to Mini HDMI Cable, and a 2×20-pin male-to-male strip header.

The kit has an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 from more than 1,000 reviewers, with 75% giving it a perfect five stars. Chea called it a "wonderful micro server" and wrote, "Having the ability to run this as a portable headless server is amazing. I am running a few servers on this little device, and it is wonderful that I can take it with me on the road. The SD card that it ships with is preloaded with NOOBS, and so it’s basically plug [and] play. Overall, I definitely recommend this seller and their kit."

Vilros Raspberry Pi 4 8GB Basic Starter Kit

Vilros Raspberry Pi 4 8GB Basic Starter Kit

A slightly more complete and durable kit is the Vilros 8GB basic starter kit, which has an aluminum case and cooling fan and sells for $144.99. The kit also comes in a 2GB version for $119.99 and a 4GB version for $124.99, and buyers have a choice of a black or silver case. The kit includes the pre-assembled motherboard, case with pre-installed fan, two heatsinks, a USB-C power supply, a micro HDMI to standard HDMI adapter, and a neoprene zippered pouch for storage and transportation. The mainboard and case feature built-in Bluetooth connectivity as well as two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a gigabit Ethernet port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and two micro HDMI ports.

This kit has an average rating of 4.7 from nearly 2,500 reviewers, with many praising the high-quality components and clear instructions. Jonas Boone gave it five stars and wrote, "Truly a great value, it puts other kits to shame. For a fair market price, you get superior quality products to what others are offering for even higher price points. Running a full graphical desktop with MATE/GNOME 2 DE and a 720p YouTube video on Chromium, my Pi 4 idles at 45 degrees Celsius, something I never thought possible."

GeeekPi 4b 8GB Starter Kit 128GB Edition

GeeekPi4b kit

GeeekPi is one of the leading makers of Raspberry Pi kits, and the 8GB RAM version of their model 4B 128GB edition is now on sale for $184.99, a discount of more than 1/3 off the usual retail price. The kit includes the Model 4B motherboard and ABS case, a 5V 3.6A power supply, fan and heatsinks, HDMI cables, and a micro SD card and card reader. The unit features a 64-bit Quad-core ARM processor running at 1.5GHz along with 2.4 and 5.0 GHz ac wifi and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity. The model 4B also has 2 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, and a gigabit Ethernet port.

The kit has an average rating of 4.5 from more than 200 reviewers, with some pointing out minor issues getting some of the components to fit together properly but most expressing overall satisfaction with the kit’s performance once assembled.

FushigiMigi gave it three stars, pointing out issues getting the GPIO pins to fit inside the case and with the adhesive on the heatsinks. "Ultimately, I got some good stuff and I’m having fun," they wrote. "But it seems like the folks that put this kit together don’t actually use the kit themselves or they would have seen these issues."

ELECROW 8GB laptop kit

ELECROW 8GB laptop kit

For a more complete (and expensive) setup, go with the Elecrow Crowpi 2 single-board laptop kit with 8GB RAM for $549.99. This kit comes with an 11.6 inch 1920×1080 pixel IPS screen, a black plastic case, and a wireless keyboard that can be used separately from the body or attached to the case with magnets. The system includes a 2MP camera, microphone, and built-in speakers. The Elecrow kit is geared towards education, with a specially designed teaching mode with lessons in programming for Scratch, Python, AI, and Minecraft.

The kit has an average 4.2 rating from just 18 reviewers, though several of them praise the system’s strengths as an educational tool. One reviewer gave the kit four stars and wrote, "This product is great for helping beginners learn about electronics and programming. The guided lessons are quick and informative. The built-in keyboard and screen make the system easy to use."