If you're like me, you've probably heard of Raspberry Pi and how it can be used to create your own DIY projects, like setting up a home media server or controlling a robot or monitoring the weather. If you like tinkering with electronics, Raspberry Pi is a good starting point for beginners or advanced users.
If you're an electrical engineer, you probably already know what to buy for a Raspberry Pi, how to set it up, program it, etc. If you are a geek like me but have never messed around with anything like Raspberry Pi or Arduino, the choice can be a little more confusing.
Which Raspberry Pi to buy?
This won't be an extensive comparison of models, as there are already many websites that have covered this topic. Instead I will break it down into very simple terms. If you look at the official Raspberry Pi website today, you have the following models:
The latest and most powerful Raspberry Pi product is the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, released in February 2016. The previous model was the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, which was released in February 2015. There are only three differences between the Pi 3 and Pi 2 Model B:
1. System on a Chip (SoC) version
2. 1, 2 GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 on Pi 3 vs 900 MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 on Pi 2
3. 802.11n Wireless and Bluetooth 4.1 on Pi 3
Everything else is exactly the same, including the price! The Pi 1 Model A + was released in November 2014 and is still in use as it is a very low power device, which is necessary for some types of projects. The Raspberry Pi Zero, Sense Hat, and Compute Module are all geared towards industrial applications or advanced hobbyists.
So basically, in my opinion, if you are new to Raspberry Pi and DIY projects in general, the best option is the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B because it costs the same as the Pi 2 Model B but is much faster and has more tech on the board.
It is also the easiest to get started in terms of setup and ease of use. The board itself is $35, but it's just the board and literally nothing else, not even a power adapter.
Raspberry Pi Kit vs. No kit
Even if you know what you're doing, buying the board may be all you need. However, if you have no idea how to get started with any of these boards, like I do, then it might be worth spending some extra money and buying a kit.
Now, if you search for Raspberry Pi 3 kits online, you'll get a range of results from $60 to $150. Because there's everything from a starter kit to a media center kit to a camera kit to a weather kit. So which one should you buy?
Now, if you want to spend the least amount of money and have no idea what kind of project you want to start, then I suggest just buying a starter kit. All starter kits come with the same important parts:
– Raspberry Pi 3 Model B board
– 1 microSD card with NOOBS preinstalled
– 1 Case
– 1 power supply
– 1 HDMI cable (not all kits)
After that, it really comes down to the starter kit or pack. Some are a bit more expensive and come with a lot of other parts like a breadboard or jumper wires. If you're looking to buy a kit, here are my four recommendations from cheapest to most expensive:
1. 59, 99 € – MCM Raspberry Pi 3 Starter Kit
2. 69, 99 € – Virlos Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit
3. $ 74.99 – CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit
4. $99, 99 – Adafruit Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Starter Pack
For me, I ended up with the Vilros Starter Kit, because it also included a good HDMI cable and two aluminum heat sinks.
Here's how to set up a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
Once you have your stuff, let's go ahead and set it up. Open the package first. Remove the entire contents. Here is my starter package with the board and accessories.
The first thing we want to do is install the two heatsinks on your Pi 3 board. Note that it is not required to use heatsinks, and many of the kits do not include them. However, if you plan on running your board for extended periods of time during intensive CPU or graphical tasks, the heatsinks reduce the risk of overheating the board.
Above is a look at the Pi 3 board. To install the heatsinks, simply peel off the tape at the bottom and tape it down according to the instructions. To illustrate, here's what my board looks like with the two heatsinks installed.
After that, you should remove the microSD card and insert it into the slot on the bottom of the card on the opposite side of the USB and Ethernet ports. It is a tiny slot, so be careful when inserting the card.
Next we have to put the Pi 3 into the provided case. Depending on what type of enclosure is supplied with your kit, the instructions are usually in a separate document. In my case with the Vilros case, I had to open it up. Then insert the board into the lower part as shown below.
What is NOOBS? It stands for New Out Of Box Software and simplify the installation of an operating system on your Pi 3. I will talk about it briefly. First, here's my Pi 3 plugged in and ready to power up.
Note that the Pi 3 turns on immediately after plugging it in. Also, make sure the monitor is set to the correct HDMI input. If your board is not broken or damaged, you should see the following NOOBS screen after a few moments.
You have several options for installing an operating system on your Pi 3. Raspbian is a Linux operating system based on Debian, but optimized for the Raspberry Pi. Kodi Entertainment Center is an open source home theater software package. OSMC is an open source media center. If you want to use your new Pi 3 as a tiny media streaming box connected to your HD TV, choose one of these.
The beauty of NOOBS is that it remains on your SD card even after you install an operating system. Hold down the SHIFT key while booting the Pi to bring up the NOOBS menu again. You can easily install another operating system whenever you like. So, feel free to test things and don't worry about making the wrong choice in the beginning.
In my case, I eventually want to try programming my Pi, so I installed Raspbian, although you can also install Windows 10 IoT Core if you're a Windows person.
The installation of the operating system may take a while due to the data transfer speed. When finished, the unit will reboot and start the operating system you installed. All went well on mine and I was on the Raspbian desktop about 45 minutes after turning on my Pi 3.
[ZEBR_TAG_img src="how-get-started-with-raspberry-pi-3-model-b.-The-desktop-is-very-simple.-Easy-to-use.-There-is-a-button-named-menu-with-which-you-can-browse-installed-applications-and-configure-settings.-Beside-a-web-browser-button,-a-file-manager-button-and-a-terminal-button. This post was an introduction and was only meant to get you up and running with a new Pi 3. Future posts will cover advanced topics as I explore them myself! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to comment.