Want to build an affordable computer and wondering where to start? A Raspberry Pi kit can save you the hassle of buying components separately and then figuring out whether everything is compatible. But which kit should you pick up? Here are our recommendations.
What to Look for in a Raspberry Pi Kit in 2021
The Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer that measures as small as a credit card. The first Raspberry Pi Model B came out in 2012. In the years since, several affordable iterations of the motherboard, some even including wireless connectivity, have come out on the market.
Raspberry Pis have come a long way from a standalone board meant for hobbyists to complete kits for beginners, enthusiasts, and professionals. If you’re new to the Raspberry Pi, we have a detailed guide for the parts you’ll need to build a system.
The latest Raspberry Pi 4 boards, at the time of writing, pack a quad-core 64-bit Broadcom processor, Bluetooth 5.0, dual-band Wi-Fi support, two USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, a compatible USB-C power supply, and more. Also, you can choose a model packing 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB of RAM.
You can install the Debian-based Raspberry Pi OS, Ubuntu, or any other Linux distribution on a Raspberry Pi and use it as a desktop computer. Raspberry Pi also supports specific operating systems for turning it into a Plex server, proxy server, home media center, or retro gaming machine.
A typical Raspberry Pi kits bundle packs essential components ranging from the motherboard, case, microSD card, heatsinks, video cables, and power adapter. If you don’t get a kit, you’ll have to research compatible cases and the right components and then order them individually.
Whether you want an affordable computer for your kid, a retro gaming machine, or to learn to code, picking a specific kit is essential for a hassle-free experience. So if you love doing some DIY projects or want a portable computer, we have rounded up the best Raspberry Pi kit recommendations.
Best Raspberry Pi Overall: Vilros Desktop with Touchscreen Display
- ✓ Single enclosure for display and Pi board
- ✓ Keyboard integrates keypad and numpad
- ✓ Great kit for beginners and enthusiasts
- ✓ Power adapter with a turn on/off switch
- ✗ More costly than the standard starter kit
- ✗ No space for installing a fan
The Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer capable enough to help you build several projects around it. While most kits bundle necessary components, you’ll generally still need a display to plug the Pi. But what if a bundle includes a touchscreen display as well?
We recommend the Vilros Raspberry Pi Desktop with a 7-inch touchscreen for just that reason. The 4GB model is the sweet spot to kick off any project, whether it’s a NAS or another Pi project.
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In the kit, you’ll get a 7-inch touchscreen display, a case to hold the screen with the Pi board, a power supply with a switch, a 32GB microSD Class 10 card, heatsinks, a microSD to USB adapter, and a slim keyboard with a built-in trackpad which also works as a number pad. This model comes in three models with different RAM capacities—2GB, 4GB, and 8GB.
While the touchscreen is useful, you can use the trackpad on the slim keyboard to navigate through menus as well. In addition, you can hook this Raspberry Pi model up to another monitor or TV to enjoy it in a dual-screen setup. The microSD card comes loaded with the NOOBS for a simple Pi setup.
With the touchscreen display and smart keyboard, you get a readymade mini PC that you plug into a power source and simply use. That ease does come at a price, though, as this kit costs more than the average starter kit. However, it’s worth it if you want a pain-free Raspberry Pi experience.
Vilros Raspberry Pi 4
This version of the Raspberry Pi comes with a helpful touchscreen and everything you need for your Pi project. If you want the most hassle-free Pi experience, this is the kit you grab!
Best Budget Raspberry Pi: CanaKit Zero W
- ✓ Compact enough for several smart projects
- ✓ Supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- ✓ Can work easily with a good 5V Power Bank
- ✓ Affordable at a fraction of the cost of a regular Pi board
- ✗ Underpowered compared to other Pi models
- ✗ Can’t be used as a desktop easily
- ✗ No Audio output
While the latest Pi 4 board is quite affordable, there’s also a cheaper and smaller single board computer. The Raspberry Pi Zero W is half the size of the regular Pi board and is a stripped-down version with a small profile. That said, it can support several projects that don’t require powerful hardware.
Do you have an old printer? Make it wireless with a Pi Zero W. Or, you can use the Zero W to run a VPN server and build a smart mirror. There is also the potential for IoT projects like a MagicMirror, a smart alarm clock, or an Alexa-powered speaker.
As a stripped-down version of Raspberry Pi, it’s best to use the Zero W with lightweight Linux distributions like Puppy Linux. This model is perfect to get familiar with the power of the Pi board and make the best of its ultra-compact profile.
The CanaKit Raspberry Pi Zero W gets you a case, Pi Zero W board, 16GB microSD card, a microUSB power supply, USB OTG cable, and a Mini HDMI adapter. The single-core 1GHz processor with 512MB RAM limits the Pi Zero W to specific activities and projects, but it’s enough to run some command-line-based operating systems like Raspbian OS Lite.
CanaKit Raspberry Pi Zero W
If you want to try a Raspberry Pi without spending too much money, CanaKit’s Raspberry Pi Zero W gives you everything you need to get started.
Best Raspberry Pi Starter Kit: 400 Personal Computer Kit
- ✓ Keyboard doubles as the case
- ✓ Perfect to start using it with minimal setup
- ✓ Affordable desktop at a cheaper price point
- ✓ Preloaded with Raspberry Pi OS
- ✓ Easy to carry around
- ✗ Keyboard houses Pi 4 board and can’t be replaced
- ✗ Keyboard can get warm since it houses Pi 4 board
- ✗ Thermals are a concern with the lack of a fan
Dealing with hardware components can be nerve-racking. Wouldn’t it be better if you had to deal with just two components? For that, you can pick up the official Raspberry Pi 400 Personal Computer kit.
The beauty of this kit is that the physical keyboard houses the Raspberry Pi 4, doubling as a case. The keyboard offers a port for plugging gigabit ethernet, three USB ports, and two micro HDMI ports that can output a maximum resolution of 4K at 60 FPS. You’ll also get a beginner’s guide that will make setup easy.
With just a keyboard and mouse, you can put this Pi in your backpack or luggage and carry it wherever you go. In addition, the Pi 4 board supports Wi-Fi 802.11ac to help you connect to the wireless network if you don’t want to plug in a LAN cable.
The bundled microSD card comes preloaded with the Raspberry Pi OS, but you can run Ubuntu, Arch Linux ARM, EndeavourOS ARM, or any other OS. If 16GB isn’t enough, you can buy a bigger micro SD or plug in your external drive to increase the storage.
Raspberry Pi 400 Personal Computer Kit
If the task of building a Raspberry Pi seems daunting to you, picking up the Raspberry Pi 400 Kit is a good idea. It comes with everything you need and includes a beginner’s guide that will walk you through the process.
Best Raspberry Pi for Learning to Code: CanaKit 4 (8GB RAM)
- ✓ Top-tier 8GB RAM model
- ✓ Premium case and low-noise bearing fan
- ✓ Official Pi keyboard and mouse are part of the kit
- ✓ Custom USB-C Switch to turn on and off
- ✓ microHDMI to HDMI cable bundled
- ✗ More expensive than most kits
If you’re interested in learning to code, getting a Raspberry Pi is a great idea. A Pi gives you a dedicated computer to learn different programming languages and write code for hardware by using the GPIO pins on the board.
It’s also better to have more RAM at your disposal especially when you plan to learn multiple programming languages. With a dedicated Pi, you can have different setups and learn to write in more than one language at a time.
The CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 is perfect for coding since it packs 8GB of RAM to give you extra memory headroom to complement the quad-core processor. In addition, the bundle includes a nice glossy Raspberry Pi case that looks great and gives plenty of room for the board. You can even install a low noise bearing system fan apart from applying the heatsink, making sure your Pi stays cool.
On top of this, you get the official keyboard and mouse to complete the system. All you need is a large monitor to view your code! Unlike the official power adapter, the one bundled with the Canakit has a physical switch to the system turn on or off. That’s quite helpful since standard Raspberry Pi units don’t have a power switch.
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4
If you’re trying to dabble in coding, this Raspberry Pi kit is a great purchase. The CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 makes it easy to learn programming languages and experiment.
Best Raspberry Pi for Retro Gaming: Vilros 4 SNES Style Retro Gaming Kit
- ✓ SNES console-style case
- ✓ Two retro gamepads included in the kit
- ✓ 32GB memory card and 8GB USB drive to manage game ROMs
- ✓ Bundles heatsinks
- ✓ Power adapter with switch on/off switch
- ✗ Expensive compared to a starter kit
- ✗ Need to configure audio output separately
- ✗ No cooling fan in the case
Retro gaming is simply more fun when you’re playing from a retro console. Finding the old consoles and games and maintaining them, however, is less fun. Vilros’ SNES Style Retro gaming kit packs a case that looks like a Super Nintendo, and you even get two SNES-themed gamepads that connect directly to the case. It’s almost like the real thing.
This retro gaming kit also includes a Pi 4 board with 8GB of RAM, 32GB microSD card, an 8GB flash drive, heatsinks, a micro HDMI to HDMI cable, a USB-C power supply with a built-in switch, and an SD card adapter. While the heatsinks are enough, the retro case also allows the installation of a cooling fan.
The wired gamepads assure you stable connectivity compared to Bluetooth SNES-style controllers on the market (although some aren’t bad if you’re looking to go wire-free). The SNES colors for the case and gamepads certainly make this kit look like a classic retro console, too.
For gaming, you can install an OS crafted specifically for retro-style emulation. The microSD card in the kit comes pre-loaded with NOOBS, or you can try out Lakka OS or RetroPie. You have plenty of choices depending on what OS and interface you like most.
Besides the memory card, you get the 8GB flash drive to load the game ROMs, and you only have to go through the setup process once. Check our detailed guide on building a retro gaming console using Pi to make sure it goes smoothly!
Vilros Raspberry Pi 4 SNES Style
For many, a Raspberry Pi is a compelling choice for retro gaming. This kit gives you a Raspberry Pi 4, controllers, and a shell that looks like a Super Nintendo.