If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard about the Raspberry Pi and how you can use it to create your own projects, such as setting up a home media server, controlling a robot, or observing the weather. If you enjoy tinkering with electronics, the Raspberry Pi is a great starting point for beginners or advanced users.
If you’re an electrical engineer, you probably already know what Raspberry Pi to buy, how to set up, program, etc. Pi or Arduino, the choice can be a little confusing.
Which Raspberry Pi to Buy?
This will not be a detailed comparison of the models, because there are already many sites dedicated to this topic. Instead, I’ll break it down into very simple terms. As of today, if you look at the official Raspberry Pi website., you have the following models:
The newest and most feature-rich 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 Pi 3 and Pi 2 Model B:
- System-on-a-chip (SoC) version
- 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor @ 1 , 2 GHz on Pi 3 vs. 900 Quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 MHz on Pi 2
- 802.11n wireless and Bluetooth 4.1 on Pi 3
Otherwise, everything is exactly the same, including the price! The Pi 1 Model A + was released in November 2014 and is still in use today because it is a very low power device, which is a requirement for some types of projects. The Raspberry Pi Zero, Sense Hat and Compute Module are for industrial applications or experienced hobbyists.
So basically, in my opinion, if you are new to Raspberry Pi projects 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 desk.
Plus, it’s the easiest way to get started in terms of customization and ease of use. The board itself costs $ 35, but it’s just a board and literally nothing else, not even a power supply.
Raspberry Pi Kit vs No Kit
Again, if you know what you are doing, buying a board might be all you need. However, if you, like me, have no idea how to get started with one of these boards, it might be worth spending a little extra money and getting a kit.
Now, if you search the internet for Raspberry Pi 3 kits, you will get a lot of results ranging from $ 60 to $ 150. That’s because there is everything from a starter kit to a media center kit, a camera kit, and a weather kit. So which one is better to buy?
Well, if you want to spend a minimum of money and do not know which project you want to start, then I suggest purchasing only a starter kit. All starter kits basically contain the same basic components:
- Raspberry Pi 3 Model B board
- 1 microSD card preloaded with NOOBS.
- 1 chassis
- 1 power supply
- 1 HDMI cable (optional)
After that, it really depends on the starter kit or package. Some are a little more expensive and come with a whole host of other parts such as a breadboard or jumpers. If you are planning to purchase a kit, here are my four recommendations from cheapest to most expensive:
- $ 59.99 – MCM Raspberry Pi 3 Starter Kit.
- $ 69.99 USA – Virlos Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit.
- $ 74.99 – CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit.
- $ 99.99 – Adafruit Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Starter Kit
As for me, I settled on the Vilros starter kit because it also included a high quality HDMI cable and two aluminum heatsinks.
How to set up a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.
Once you receive your kit, let’s get started setting it up. First open the package and take out all the contents. Here’s my starter pack with board and accessories.
The first thing we want to do is install two heatsinks on your Pi 3. Note that heatsinks are optional and many kits don’t even include them. However, if you plan on keeping your board running for a long time while doing CPU intensive or graphics intensive tasks, then the heatsinks will reduce the chances of the board overheating.
Above is a close-up view of the Pi 3 board. To install the heat sinks, simply peel off the tape at the bottom and glue them according to the supplied instructions. For reference, this is what my board looks like with two heatsinks installed.
After that, remove the microSD card and insert it into the slot located at the bottom of the board on the opposite side from the USB and Ethernet ports. This is a tiny slot, so be careful when inserting the card.
Next, we need to fit the Pi 3 into the enclosed case. Depending on what type of enclosure comes with your kit, instructions are usually found in a separate document. In my case with the Vilros case, I had to open it and then insert the board into the bottom as shown below.
After that, I put it on both sides, and then the lid at the top. Once your board is securely placed in the case, we can start connecting cables to it. Basically, there are five things you need to plug in: a USB keyboard, USB mouse, HDMI cable, Wi-Fi or Ethernet, and a power cable. It’s worth noting that if you have a NOOBS SD card, you don’t need to be connected to the Internet.
So what is NOOBS? It stands for New Out Of Box Software and basically makes it easy to install the operating system on the Pi 3. I’ll talk about that shortly. First, here’s my Pi 3 plugged in and ready to turn on.
Note that as soon as you plug in the power, the Pi 3 will turn on immediately, so make sure you do this last. Also make sure the monitor is set to the correct HDMI input. If your board is not broken or damaged, you should see the next NOOBS screen after a few seconds.
You have several options for installing the OS on the 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 suite and 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, pick one of these.
The good thing about NOOBS is that it stays on your SD card even after installing the operating system. When the Pi boots up, simply press and hold the SHIFT key to bring up the NOOBS menu again. You can easily install a different operating system whenever you want. So feel free to test the material and don’t worry about making the wrong choice in the beginning.
In my case, I want to end up trying to program my Pi, so I installed Raspbian, although you can also install Windows 10 IoT Core if you’re a Windows person.
Operating system installation may take some time due to data transfer speed. Once completed, the device will reboot and boot with the operating system you installed. Everything went well for me and was on the Raspbian desktop about 45 minutes after turning on my Pi 3.
The desktop is very simple and easy to use. There is a button called “Menu” that allows you to view installed applications and adjust settings. Alongside there is a web browser button, a file manager button and a terminal button. This post was an introduction and was only meant to get you started with the new Pi 3. Future posts will cover more advanced topics as I research them myself! If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment. Enjoy!