If you need help in accomplishing your various tasks for the day, Raspberry Pi could be the perfect partner you never knew you needed.
Raspberry Pi is a small and affordable computer board available for as low as $35 only. There are times it gets cheaper. For just $5, you can already purchase the Raspberry Pi Zero. Any normal functions that a computer provides such as a processor, RAM, ports to plug in a monitor, mouse, and keyboard are also provided by the Raspberry Pi.
The world’s third most selling computer is Raspberry Pi after the Windows PC and Apple Mac. This small computer can do amazing things – all of which we will discuss later in this article. It’s a very capable computer despite its small size.
Uses of Raspberry Pi
If you want your kids to learn how to code without spending too much, Raspberry Pi is a perfect choice. It is built to accomplish common tasks like internet browsing and working on documents including spreadsheets and word processing. It can also play games and can do some programming.
To start accomplishing a variety of computing tasks, you will have to plug-in this credit-card sized computer. Raspberry Pi is just the CPU unit of your computer system though so you still need to add peripherals like a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and to set up the whole system – have connector cables. In this article, we will explain every detail with regard to setting up the computer.
Here’s a quick fun fact: Did you know Raspberry Pi has a unique feature called General Purpose Input Output (GPIO) pins that is not available on a regular computer?
When making electronic projects, GPIO pins are used and they can be connected to electronic sensors, motors, and other electronic equipment.
If you’re looking for some inspiration to build your own project with the help of Raspberry Pi, you can find several raspberry pi creations online. There are already so many people who have done this. You can go ahead and check them out.
Raspberry Pi Accessories
You might get confused as to which raspberry pi accessories you need as there are already so many of them being sold in the market. However, the following accessories are the only things you really can’t live without:
1. Power Adapter – In order to power up the microcomputer, you are going to need a 2.5A 5V power adapter.
2. MicroSD Card – You will need a microSD card with a capacity of at least 8 GB and is a class 10. The hard drive of your micro-computer is going to be the MicroSD card which means everything is stored on the card including all your data, even the operating system itself. There are two ways to set up your Raspberry Pi microcomputer. You can either purchase a microSD card with the operating system already preloaded or you can also install the operating system on your own.
Getting started with Raspberry Pi involves only these two accessories – they are the absolute essentials. But if you have a little bit of extra cash in your hands, you’re also free to buy an HDMI cable to connect your TV or monitor with the Raspberry Pi chip and for protection – a case as well.
Let’s Get to Know the Three Raspeteers
Raspberry Pi Model A – It was the year 2013 when this model was released. By the year 2014, a second version called A+ was released as well. Today, you can no longer find the model A in the market while the A+ version is still available for purchase.
Raspberry Pi Model B – This was the original Raspberry Pi. It was released in the year 2012 and many successors were then launched right after. The “+” model, Pi 2, v1.2 Pi 2, and the Pi 3 are the ones that followed and uses the Raspberry Pi B board, which is larger than the A board used in A models.
Raspberry Pi Model Zero – Compact computer went to a whole new level when the Raspberry Pi Model Zero was released. The size of the Raspberry Pi Model A was further reduced because of Model Zero and produced a microcomputer CPU instead. It was sold for 5 dollars only. Later on, this model zero had many successors including a Zero 1.3 board, Zero W and the Zero WH. It was the beginning of 2018 when Zero WH was released.
The Best Raspberry Pi Starter Kits to Choose From
There are several Raspberry Pi Starter Kits being sold in the market today. To make sure you’re getting the right bang for your buck, we’re listing down some of the best kits we found:
1. CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 B
The Raspberry Pi microcomputer might work better for you if you have the Canakit Raspberry Pi 3 B+. Everything you need to get started with the Raspberry Pi is provided by this kit. You will find the Pi 3 B+ computer board, a microSD card preloaded with NOOBS, a case, power supply, and in order to connect everything together – some cables. Of course, you will need to have a keyboard, mouse, and monitor of your own as well apart from these supplies.
This Pi model is said to work much faster than the previous B generations as reported by customers. You cannot see this as a minor performance tweak. Since the processor has gone from 1.2GHz to 1.4GHz, it’s performance has significantly increased. The previous Pi generation used to freeze the system when more than two tabs on the browser are open and playing videos on Youtube even in a small window can become a very painful experience, making it a sub-desktop machine. With the Raspberry Pi 3 B+, however, watching Youtube videos in full screen at 1920×1080 pixels was made possible. This can only mean that the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ is very useful as a proper desktop machine. Its capability of performing various tasks such as word processing and coding, watching videos and playing games is to die for.
One just cannot simply ignore its exceptional and multiple functions. To further add to its performance and making it extra-great, is its built-in dual-band AC WiFi. The company chose to go one step further by providing the built-in dual-band AC WiFi because even without it, the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ will still work well even with the 2.4 GHz WiFi.
The easy set up of the operating system to a separately purchased microSD is another reason why it’s one of the best. This small but mean machine works well as a media player using OSMC according to one of its users. You only need your USB drive to be able to watch Youtube videos, stream remote content and play local video or music content.
One pro tip you have to remember is to use a fast memory card for the best performance improvement. You will see a snappy performance if you use a 32 GB U3 Class 10 card.
Bottomline, major performance improvement is being offered by the Pi 3 B+ over the previous version. It may be great to have the 200 MHz increase but the significant increase in networking speed is the real performance gem.
You can find a Youtube video demonstrating the speed of the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ and a comparison of the Pi 3 B+ with the 3 B version.
2. Vilros Raspberry Pi 3 B
Another Raspberry Start Kit that you may find perfect to get started with your Pi computer system is the Vilros Raspberry Pi 3 B+ kit. The following features and parts are found in this kit:
A 16 GB Class 10 microSD card already loaded with NOOBS and two clear case covers – one that allows you to connect ports while the Pi microcomputer is being kept inside the case and another one to completely cover the Pi microcomputer to close down all the ports. In other words, it has the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ board. To make sure the Pi board doesn’t get overheated, heat sinks were designed and for a nice added touch, an integrated power switch that came along with its updated power supply.
The packaging of this product is another thing that will impress you. The outside packaging and the product packaging is of high quality and it also got that professional look. The instructions of this kit are very easy to follow as well so you won’t have a hard time figuring out how to set it up or use it. Even if you don’t know anything about Linux or Rasberry Pi, you will still be able to use it as soon as you got a hold of it. The instructions manual, on the other hand, is not a hundred pages long which means it was written in a very concise way. Since the build quality of individual components in the kit looks good, it doesn’t have a problem competing at its price point.
The many things this small kit can accomplish include the ability to connect wirelessly to the internet, use the office suite, and learn a programming language. It can also make devices that are functional. If you want to learn more about programming and electronics, you will surely find this kit super useful. The best part about this kit is that its affordable and is suitable for all kinds of people. Those who want to do regular internet surfing as well as do serious jobs like programming and electronics will surely appreciate the existence of this Raspberry starter kit.
3. Smraza Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Starter Kit
Next on our list of best Raspberry Pi Starter kits is the Smraza Raspberry Pi 3 B+. This is another good option for you who’s looking for a quality kit. It comes with the following great components:
- For Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, an easy turn on/off switch on 59-inch micro-USB cable
- 16GB SD card
- GPIO Ports
- Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ Case
- Heat Sinks and Cooling Fans
- 3 Heat Sinks and Mini Cooling Fan
- Smraza Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ 2.5A power supply
You probably already seen this in the market and find the price a bit surprising compared to other kits. It costs almost half of what other kits costs and still as popular among customers is because it doesn’t come with the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ board. This kit only contains a case and other components. The main reason why this kit is included in our list is because of the amazing cooling features it provides, and the on/off switch and GPIO ports. It has multiple layers which makes it a complete case unlike other cases being sold in the market today. Removing the protective layers, however, can be a hassle to some of the users.
The on/off switch-enabled USB wire is really what made us fell in love with this kit. It makes the Pi on or off super easy. This feature is something you won’t be able to find too many kits in the market.
If for instance, you want to do some serious computation such as running a stress test on your Pi, the three heat sinks and one cooling fan are very useful if you want to prevent it from overheating. Just like any other computer, leaving your Pi on for long periods of time such as when downloading and extracting large files, can result in overheating so having a cooling feature is super important. Some people might find the sound of the cooking fan annoying – thankfully, the cooling fan of this kit does not make a noise or whatsoever even at ‘fast’ speed. No matter how hard you try to hear it, you still won’t be able to hear any noise.
It only takes about 10-15 minutes to install this kit and the very straight-forward instructions that come with the package will get you started really quickly.
4. 16Gb, White, Raspberry Pi 3 Official Desktop Starter Kit
The company gives only the essential components for this official kit for Raspberry Pi 3. It has a power adapter, microSD card with Raspbian OS already installed on it and NOOBs installer on board. It also includes the official Raspberry Pi case and the official Pi 5.1V 2.5A Power supply which is great.
This official kit is chosen by many people among one of the best Raspberry Pi starter kits for a couple of reasons. One of the reasons is because it is built by the company themselves and it is meant to work seamlessly with the software that is compatible. Another reason is that it is being sold at an affordable price for all the essentials you need to get started with Raspberry Pi. You do need to keep in mind that an HDMI cable is needed, a mouse, a keyboard, and a mouse to get started apart from the kit components already included in your purchase.
This kit, according to some users, is said to pack a lot of power in just a small package. Although it is imperative that the Pi unit remains cool when being used. If you want it to perform to the level of Windows or Apple OS, you need to remember that Raspbian, a Linux based OS, needs active colling.
You might want to drill a half-inch hole in the plastic official case to prevent the overheating of the RAM on the underside. It’s of course up to you if you want to drill a hole or not. The price of this kit is reasonable enough but it would’ve been wonderful to see heat sinks on it as well. Overall, however, we can say that this official kit provides a great value for every dollar you spend.
5. Vilros Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Complete Starter Kit plus Keyboard
Raspberry Pi’s earlier version is the Vilros Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. However, it contains more components compared to other kits. You will find the Raspberry Pi 3 with wireless Bluetooth connectivity in this kit along with a 2.4G wireless keyboard with a laser pointer. You will also get a 32 GB MicroSD card, pre-loaded NOOBS, SD card adapter, 2.5A power supply, HDMI cable, and two heat sinks. A one year warranty for all the components in this Vilros kit is included as well. These things are all necessary if you want to have a great experience in using this kit.
Now let’s get to the advantages provided by this Vilros kit. As already mentioned, this kit includes a keyboard although it has the same price as other kits that don’t include a keyboard. Another great thing about it is that the QWERTY keyboard works like a charm. You also no longer need to add a mess by adding a wired mouse or a keyboard. The next advantage of purchasing this kit is the packaging and the individual parts that are so easy to put together. We all know how annoying it is when kits are hard to assemble so having something that’s easy to do is heaven-sent. You can do a number of this with this kit for only an affordable price whether you use it as a media center or when you build your own servers. You won’t have a hard time following the setup instruction so getting started won’t take a long time. Many Raspberry Pi kits do not come with an HDMI cable but Vilros kit has it which is definitely a great deal.
However, you may have to pay attention to some of the drawbacks that come with this kit. The plastic case for the Pi module is a bit flimsy so it might not be something you would like. There have also been reports from its previous users about its NOOBS software not connecting to the WiFi directly. This one, however, can be resolved by using an ethernet cable. Additionally, there is no shutdown switch on the board itself but you can find some tutorials on Google to help you easily add a switch if you really want to purchase this kit.
6. CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Ultimate Starter Kit
Next in our list is the most fun kit of all. CanaKit comes with additional components to let you experience electronic projects. It contains all the components necessary to get started with Rasberry Pi. They are the following:
- Raspberry Pi 3 B+ board which also has a 1.4 GHz 64-bit Quad Core Processor and 1GB RAM
- 32GB micro SD card with pre-stored NOOBS
- 2.5A Power Supply with 5 ft. micro USB cable and noise filter
- HDMI cable with CEC support
- Pi 3 case
- Two Heat Sinks
- Electronic Components Guide for beginners
- Assembly Guide
- GPIO and resistor colors quick reference cards
- CanaKit GPIO to the breadboard Interface board
- GPIO Ribbon cable
- Large breadboard
- Jumper wires
- RGB LED
- 8 x LEDs (BRYG colors)
- 2 x Pushbutton switches
- 10 x 220 Ohm resistors
- 5 x 10K Ohm resistors
We do have to remind you to read the customer reviews before you decide whether to buy this item or not. This package may provide a great number of components from the company, there have also been reports from some customers that CanaKit branded items don’t perform well.
One customer complained about his CanaKit power supply causing undervoltage in just ten minutes of running a Pi Stress test. You are simply asking the computer to compute all digits of the number Pi when you’re doing a pi stress test. This problem however only happened with the CanaKit power supply. The computations go on for long period of time without showing undervoltage when the customer used the power supply of the official Raspberry Pi foundation. As for the CanaKit branded USB card reader, the same customer found a similar problem with it. The reader failed to read the micro USB card although the micro USB card that comes in the package worked well on other computers. This is another sign of the problems with the CanaKit branded items.
It is advisable that you check the return policy with the company before you purchase this Raspberry Pi kit considering the significant complaints about this product from customers.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Raspberry Pi
Can I work on Raspberry Pi?
Although it may take some time before you get used to it, it is not impossible to work with the Raspberry Pi. It is still fairly useful despite the fact that it’s not as smooth as Windows 10 or the OS people are used to these days. Pi’s operating systems do not support advanced local applications so you might want to avoid it.
You will notice something different in comparison with a regular PC’s performance if you use Pi as a thin client. Transferring data to the USB driver however can be a little slow.
Can I surf the internet on Raspberry Pi?
The official browser of the latest version of the Pi’s OS is Chromium and it allows you to surf the web. Google Chrome produced Chromium. You just need to search for the Chromium in the internet menu and start researching whatever it is you want to know. Raspbian users can browse social media websites, play video on Youtube and Vimeo – all of which are possible just like what you can do any regular browser. You only need to remember that Raspberry Pi won’t work as good and smooth if you play multiple videos or open a dozen tabs.
Can Raspberry Pi accept any kind of Operating Systems?
There are tons of operating systems you can install on Raspberry Pi. Some of them are the following:
- Raspbian OS
- Ubuntu Mate
- Snappy Ubuntu Core
- Windows 10 IoT core
- RISC OS Open Limited
- and OSMC.
Is the Raspberry Pi really capable?
The size and budget of a Raspberry Pi are already mind-blowing, how much more its capability. Learning programming, surfing the internet and working on electronic projects are made easier through the use of the Raspberry Pi. That’s not the only great thing about it. You can also use it as a media center and build laptops, tablets, phones, robots. Conducting experiments with it on the International Space Station is possible with the Raspberry Pi as well.
Raspberry Pi Projects
Here are some amazing Raspberry Pi projects that will surely blow your mind:
- Remote Controls for Toy – Raspberry Pi has been used by people from Adrafruit and created an R2D2 toy remote wifi controls, a webcam, and video projection features.
- Homemade Smartphone – This project will once again remind you to never judge a book by its cover. PiPhone doesn’t look sleek as other smartphones but it has a working touchscreen which is an amazing accomplishment in itself already. You can even make one of your own using software engineer David Hunt’s code that you can get on his site.
- Bartender – A lot of people thought Raspberry Pi is boring until the automated bartender was built by the people at Hacker House. They employed ‘flowmeters’ so that different drinks are mixed in the required proportions. You might find this amazing project a bit hard to replicate but there is certainly no harm in trying!
- Smart Mirror – This one’s one of a kind! It’s a mirror that tells you the time, temperature and news headlines so that you’re not missing any information! A wooden frame that goes around the mirror glass was designed perfectly. If you feel like recreating this beautiful smart mirror yourself, you can go ahead and check out a tutorial on Youtube.
- Create Your Own Google Home – Did you ever think of creating a smart speaker based on Google Home but didn’t pursue it because you’re afraid you won’t be able to do it? Well, fear no more. The people at MagPi magazine proved that just by providing an awesome cardboard kit and adding a Raspberry Pi board, you can already the smart speaker based on Google Home.
- 3G Controlled RC car – You’ve probably seen a normal RC car but have you ever seen an RC car that you can control from your smartphone using the only 3G? If that doesn’t sound amazing, I don’t know what is. Alin Lordache used some soldering and technical acumen in order to make this idea into a real product. A Raspberry Pi B+ was used in order to produce it.
- Internet photo frame – We know you love to take pictures just like everyone else in this modern world. This Pi project will take your photo skills into a whole new level as it can help you work with photos. To build this project, you will need a Raspberry Pi board and a beautiful frame. There’s a Youtube video on how to create the internet photo frame.
- Your Own Media Center – With the use of Open Source Media Center or OSMC, you can turn Raspberry Pi into a media center. You will be able to watch videos in the most popular media formats from any place in the world through this. There is also an app within the media center that allows you to play media on Youtube, SoundCloud, Twitch, and Tunein. The OSMC website will provide you the downloadable software which is required for you to do this.
- WiFi Touchscreen Digital Camera – Do you want to make a digital camera that transfers photos via WiFi? The Raspberry Pi has a camera add-on that will allow you to do this. As to how this Pi-powered camera looks like – that’s for you to find out through Youtube. One more thing, this camera also allows you to add effects, change ISO settings and have night vision. You’ll need an infrared-sensitive camera board though to use the night vision.
- Turn a Normal Printer into Smart One – If your old printer is screaming for an update, this Raspberry project is the answer to answer to your prayers. The good news is you don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for a new and smarter printer. A comparatively easy Raspberry printer is the only thing you need to build. The components you will need are the WiFi-enabled Raspberry Pi and MicroSD card.
- Motion-Detector Alarm – The James Bond film should seriously look into featuring this Raspberry Pi-powered motion detector alarm. It’s amazing. Any movement can be detected by the infrared sensor so any intruder won’t be able to pass through. You will be asked to enter a disarm pin to the alarm before it buzzes the sound alarm and the warning light flashes. Not only that. It will also take a picture of the intruder and send it to your email account. This one’s so underrated – it deserves a lot more attention.
What are the Best Ways of Using the Raspberry Pi?
1. FM Radio Station – Listening to your own voice on the radio will surely sound really cool. If you’re one of those people who like to share a message in their local community, you will definitely find radio stations especially helpful in delivering your message. Fortunately, this can be made possible by the Raspberry Pi as it can give the right platform to your voice. However, you cannot broadcast on FM Radio without the appropriate license. You might still get away with it though because the Raspberry Pi broadcasts are just over a small distance but it isn’t highly recommended unless you’re sitting in an actual radio station and got the station’s permission.
You are going to need a portable battery solution and some soldering to set up the Pi as an FM Radio. If you do end broadcasting on the radio channel, a microSD card is needed to store it in advance.
2. Robot Controller – The choices for Robot Raspberry Pi projects are endless, There is a dedicated Robotics package that is built for Raspberry Pi and there’s also a unique design built from parts you already have. It’s up for you to decide which one you like most.
You will need to have the Raspberry Pi Zero to be able to make a robot controller. Since this version of Pi has wireless connectivity, building lightweight robots won’t be as hard to do. You will have to pay attention to USB ports if you use them with other Rasberry Models that are heavier than the Zero W.
3. Minecraft Server – The official OS, Raspbian comes with a pre-installed Minecraft simply because every Raspberry Pi users love playing the game. You can also use the Raspberry Pi as your Minecraft server, awesome right? This means once you house your Minecraft game world within this Raspberry Pi server, you can play from any location on your network. You can take your game to the next level as well if you play with other Minecraft fans by using multiple Pi servers. It doesn’t get better than this. If you feel like using the Raspberry Pi as a game server for other games such as Quake, Civilization, Doom, and OpenTTD, you can!
4. Retro Gaming Machine – Another reason why Raspberry Pi is popular is that it can be used as a retro gaming machine. You can use it for various gaming setups even though it’s small in size because it’s still very powerful. For instance, if you own a full-size arcade machine, you can use this as one of the lightest parts. In gaming projects, Pi is also commonly used because it can slip in small spaces. Recalbox and RetroPie are the two best options you have for retro gaming.
5. Stop Motion Camera – You’re probably also captivated with a stop motion video. If you ever wondered how stop motion videos are made and want to do it yourself, then you’re going to need a Raspberry Pi. To completely make it work, you will also need a camera module aside from the Raspberry Pi.
Learning a bit of Python, a programming language, is another key to creating the perfect stop motion video. To shoot the stop motion video, you will need to have a mount and proper lighting. Obviously, you won’t be able to perfect this in an hour, so take some time to practice and more patience.
6. Time Lapse Camera – There is a little bit of difference when building a time-lapse camera with Raspberry Pi. Shooting time-lapse videos require single frames with a timed delay. For your camera setup, you will need a tripod and a portable battery. You can already shoot a timelapse video with a smartphone tripod.
Shooting your very first time-lapse video can be anything from people passing by, to weather changes in the sky or capturing the facial expressions of the people close to your heart. There are literally countless things you can do. Just a pro tip: if there is any lag or the image quality is not doing well, use the Pi to create time-lapse on a DSLR camera instead. You can find tons of sample time-lapse videos on Youtube for some inspiration.
7. Twitter Bot – Have you noticed random information on Twitter coming from different accounts? This is done by a Twitter bot. They do branding strategies for companies and send notifications or messages to users. Unfortunately, many of these notifications are absolutely annoying and spam.
With the help of a Raspberry Pi board and an internet connection, you can already create your own Twitter bot to send useful messages. You also need a Twitter app registered on the Twitter website to make sure that the Twython software can converse with the Twitter API. Next, you need to mention the text that you want your bots to tweet. Easy right? Having a bot that broadcasts your messages on twitter is a genius! You can find a Youtube video that will help you create your own Twitter bot as well.
With the Raspberry Pi, you are able to create your own home automation projects rather than using a proprietary closed system. Pretty awesome, right?
There you have it! We were able to break down everything you need to know about the Raspberry Pi including the many uses of it, its versions, the components that come with it, and more. Happy to help!