In this day and age, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices we are confronted with. Search up anything online, and you’ll find hundreds of different products, all slightly different from the next, with a whole range of reviews and prices.

It can be hard working your way through all of that on your own, trying to make the right decision for what you need. Today, we’re gonna try and make your life a little bit easier by going over four options available for makers looking to dive head first into Arduinos. 

If you want an in-depth course on getting into Arduino, check out our new Arduino Basics course:

Note: You’ll find all our previous Arduino coverage here.

Kit 1: The Official Arduino Starter Hit – $110

While you can get the Multi-language Starter Kit for around $110 here, being new to Arduino myself I chose the kit bundled with the Online Certification Test here, and that version retails for around $126 as of the writing of this article. 

The kit came in a retail style box with full color printing on all sides. On the bottom of the packages is where you’ll find system requirements, and on the back of the box there’s a comprehensive list of what the kit contains, a breakdown of the kit’s many projects, as well as the standard warnings and cautions. The kit comes with a projects book, which outlines 15 projects to get you started working with the Uno R3 which comes with the kit. The quality of the print and feel of the book is nice, and I’m impressed with the quality of the kit all around. 

The book does a pretty good job introducing you to Arduino, how to run the IDE, the basics of electronics, and of course, the fifteen different projects. While relatively simple, each project shows you how to utilize different aspects of the chip to produce different functions, and the diversity in projects demonstrates the possibilities for future expansion. 

Overall, the kit is as good as a starter kit can be, but the biggest hurdle it has to overcome is the price. Compared to all three of the other kits, it comes with very little, for the highest premium. It doesn’t even include the newest Uno variation, which has been out for almost 2 years now. On top of that, multiple projects require you to make your own assets, with one even requiring using a spare disk as a reinforcement for a circular, spinning piece. Maybe when this kit was first produced, disks were far more common, but nowadays a blank disk you can risk scratching by using with a DC motor is gonna be a whole lot harder than just providing a thicker wheel in the kit itself. So, at the end of the day, it hard for me to recommend this with a straight face. I look forward to seeing what Arduino put out for the R4 in the future. 

  Kit 2: The Smraza Arduino Starter Kit – $20 

  Considering how expensive the official kit was, we decided it was important to cover a few alternatives, especially the more budget friendly kits like this one. You can snag of these kits off Amazon for just over $20, and yes, it comes with an Uno R3 manufactured by Smraza to Arduino specifications. To understand just how crazy that is, to buy an Arduino Uno from the main website, you’re looking at $28 plus shipping. For $8 less, you’re getting an Uno R3 and a whole kit to go with it, with free shipping for Prime members. 

The kit came pretty well packaged in bubble wrap inside a tight-fitting box, which is always great to see. It was densely filled, so I don’t think there was any way for loose items to bounce around, causing any damage.  Everything is packed tight in a clear, plastic container. None of the expensive branding and printing like on the official Arduino kit. The Smraza branded Uno R3 comes in a stark black, a pretty big difference from the official greenish blue Arduino branded chip. I was really impressed with everything you get included with this kit. Other than the disappointingly short USB cable, it seemed like an extensive collection of components you can spend hours messing around with, including making many of the projects from the official projects book, or any number of free online projects you can find with a quick google search. 

Having looked over this kit, I can confidently say that for $20, you wont find a better deal with as much potential for fun and creative maker crafts, all powered by a capable piece of Arduino kit! If all you want to do is play around with the chip to see if it’s something that you are interested in, I see no reason why you shouldn’t save your hard earned cash and go for this budget bundle over the official starter kit, and you can take that to the bank! 

Kit 3: The Sunfounder Elite Explorer Kit – $94 

After going over the Smraza budget kit, it was time to move on to the more expensive option of the three kits we’re reviewing. The Sunfounder Elite Explorer kit retails for around $95 on amazon, which puts it under the official starter kit by a decent margin. While being cheaper than the official kit, the Sunfounder bundle also comes with an official Arduino Uno R4, while the official kit only comes with the older Uno R3. It comes packed in a plastic container, slightly larger than that of the Smraza kit. Inside, we were greeted to TONS of components and modules. Over 300 different components, including ultrasonic sensors, water pumps, tilt sensor, LED drivers, and much, much more! With the pump and propeller, you could make a remote-control submarine, or a basic calculator with the keypad and LCD. Wanna make a basic RFID lock? Put the servo motor in a container and unlock it with the card and reader.

So many possibilities lie in what comes in this kit, and the projects provided barley tap the surface of potential that this kit can provide. The provided tutorials are rather basic, but the online pdf provides ease of access to the various projects and programs included with the purchase of the kit. With everything you get in the box, you’ll have enough to keep you making for weeks to come. The only real issue I have is the price. At $96, you’re spending a lot. While it certainly offers a better value than the official kit with an updated Uno R4 and a ton more kit to play with, the Elegoo kit we cover next is going to offer almost identical versatility for almost half the price. Overall, If you know for a fact you want to work with Arduino and want the latest in Arduino technology, this kit offers plenty to keep you busy, so I can recommend it in that regard. For complete beginners, however, I’d stick with the cheaper kits. 

Kit 4: The Elegoo “Most Complete” Starter Kit – $94 

Amazon’s choice, and easily the most reviewed kit on the platform, this Elegoo kit is propped up as the go-to Arduino kit to get your hands on. Is it as good as its popularity suggest? lets see how it compares to the previous kits. 

It arrived in this bubble wrap packaging with custom Elegoo print. Whenever I see a company go the extra mile with its packaging, it lets me know they invested a bit more into the appearance. At least, that’s what I thought until I opened it up and saw the kit itself. Inside was a big plastic container, no dissimilar our previous two kits, although this one is much larger. Elegoo’s custom Uno R3 comes on a dark blue PCB, easily distinguishable from Arduino’s greenish blue board. Like the other R3s, it features a Type B port, and an Ac power jack. Unlike the other two, this kit only offered about eight total projects, with 6 of them being duplicates of the ones I have already covered. For today, I’ll show off the remaining two projects, as well as a third I found online utilizing parts inside this kit.

Like the Sunfounder kit, you get hundreds of unique components and modules, all which are listed off in the official review you can find here. For half the price of the Sunfounder kit, you can’t really go wrong with the sheer amount of stuff you end up with. 

So, is this the perfect middle-ground for a maker looking to get their hands dirty playing around with an Arduino? Honestly, other than the lackluster projects provided on their site, you get far more modules and components to play around with, making a whole litany of special projects that you couldn’t otherwise. The more expensive Uno R4 kit from Sunfounder has almost all of the same pieces of kit, but since it comes with an official Arduino R4, the price is much, much higher at almost $100. For about half that, you can get all of the same modules and jumpers and what not, with the only downgrade being the Uno R3, which is a bit slower, uses Type B instead of Type C, and lacks the LED array. That means no playing snake for us. Overall, I think for those who are looking for a kit with a ton of potential for future projects are gonna want to give this one a look. If you just want something basic, Id stick with the cheaper kit, but with everything you get here, you can’t go wrong spending a bit more for this haul of components. So, Yeah, I’d say this is the best place to start for a good price, especially looking back at that official kit. 

Anyways, that’s our opinion based on which kits we found were generally available at this point of the year. Newer, fancier kits might find their way on the market in the coming months, so make sure to stay in the loop, and keep connected with our Arduino series by following our articles found here! 

That’s it for now. Thank you for spending your time with us here on the Automation Blog, and we hope you have a creative day! 

Written by Joseph Tierney
Technology & Microcontrollers
Insights In Automation

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Joseph Tierney


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