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Published Oct. 10, 2021

The Interaction Design Institute in Turin, Italy, created Arduino in 2005 to provide people of all ages an easy, inexpensive way to build electronic devices and control them with rudimentary code. 

By making Arduino an open-source platform, the Institute made the technology freely available to anyone, which led to a vast array of starter kits. Today, everyone from young children to seasoned professional techies use them to build everything from simple devices that turn on the lights to robots controlled remotely via WiFi. Arduino kits are great for teaching students about science, technology, engineering, and math.

Given their popularity, there are a lot of kits available. We look at some of the best and break down what you’ll find and how to choose one suited to your project and learning goals.

How we chose the products

Methodology

Arduino kits have many similarities, so making our selection was not easy. Often with our reviews there are several key components to highlight, but Arduino starter kits have dozens, if not hundreds, of elements. In this case, it’s not a very practical approach.

What we’ve done instead is ensure that a kit includes key elements, then focus on how each kit satisfies the needs of a particular learner. Does it suit a complete beginner? An intermediate user? Does it meet the criteria for STEM learning? By doing that, we believe we’ve provided a broad selection that offers something for just about everyone.

We also considered value, of course, and most Arduino starter kits are very affordable. That said, we included a premium option for those enthusiastic makers who want to develop multiple projects without having to shop for more components. Not surprisingly, larger kits also tend to offer greater versatility.

The Best Arduino Starter Kit: Reviews & Recommendations

Best overall: Official Arduino Starter Kit

Comprehensive learning platform

The ideal way to introduce beginners to coding and electronics. Arduino

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Why it made the cut: This kit, from the company that invented the Arduino system, teaches makers of all ages how software and hardware interact to produce real-world results.

Specs:

  • Board: UNO R3
  • Number of Components: Over 100
  • Projects included: 15

Pros

  • High-quality components
  • 170-page project book is easy to understand
  • Many additional free resources available online

Cons

  • Premium price
  • Software must be downloaded

Picking the best Arduino starter kit is no easy task given the huge variety. That said, nobody has more expertise teaching beginners than the Arduino organization, and its official starter kit provides a wide-ranging yet easy-to-understand introduction to coding and electronics.

The Official Arduino Starter Kit is ideal for STEM learning, or for adult hobbyists or professionals interested in these areas. It features the latest UNO R3 microcontroller board, and more than 100 components. The array of switches, sensors, actuators, motors and displays offers terrific versatility. The kit includes an excellent project guide book. The Arduino software (called IIntegrated Development Environment, or IDE) isn’t supplied, but is available as a free download.

Buyers pay a premium for the name, but the official Arduino starter kit is backed by an array of online resources that allow makers to expand their learning and undertake projects far beyond the 15 provided within this excellent kit.

Best value: Elegoo UNO Project Basic Starter Kit

Low-cost intro

This entry-level set introduces makers on a budget to the joy of Arduino learning. ELEGOO

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Why it made the cut: Elegoo makes a number of highly rated Arduino starter kits. This one may be the most affordable one you’ll find, but it offers all the basics needed to get started.

Specs:

  • Board: UNO R3
  • Number of Components: Over 100, though many are duplicates
  • Projects included: Eight

Pros

  • Remarkably low cost
  • Good quality components
  • IDE included on CD

Cons

The Elegoo UNO Basic Starter Kit is designed for those who want to try Arduino without spending much money. It includes the UNO R3 microcontroller, a reasonable assortment of components, and a CD that contains a PDF tutorial and the IDE software.

The tutorials focus on introducing the concepts of using code to drive electronic devices. It is a valuable introduction for beginners. The tutorials are very informative, and produce real world-results like illuminating an LED, activating a buzzer, and other fun projects). That said, keen learners will soon seek more demanding challenges, and although they’ll find other projects online, the variety of components included in this kit may limit their ability to pursue them.

The kit offers a couple hundred components, but many of them are duplicates. For example, it includes five red LEDs, five green LEDs, etc. Although it includes 130 resistors, they are limited to 10 types. Every component has its use in basic projects, but this kit does not offer the versatility that might appear at first glance.

Best robot kit: ArcBotics Sparki Robot Kit

Real world vehicle control

A programmable multi-function robot used by more than 1,000 learning institutions worldwide. ArcBotics

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Why it made the cut: There is undeniable excitement that comes with building a vehicle that responds to commands and performs actions. The ArcBotics Sparki combines immense educational value with great fun.

Specs:

  • Board: Arduino-compatible (see description)
  • Number of Components: Over 40
  • Projects included: 100

Pros

  • Hugely engaging and educational
  • Enormous range of lessons
  • Robot is pre-assembled

Cons

  • Relatively expensive
  • Some might prefer to build the robot

Most Arduino-based robots don’t come in an Arduino starter kit with a variety of electronic components—they usually arrive with the board pre-installed. Mechanical components like body and wheels (or legs in some cases) may require assembly or they may, like the ArcBotics Sparki, come pre-built. Although this bot comes fully assembled, an assortment of 40 sensors and other modules provide a huge variety of experimental options.

The primary focus here is on coding and the results it can achieve. Users can teach the robot tasks like following a path, avoiding obstacles, grabbing objects, and writing or drawing. They can also control the robot remotely via Bluetooth. Professional educators have developed more than 100 ‘lessons,’ a number that the company continues to expand.

The ArcBotics Sparki doesn’t use an Arduino board, but it is compatible with Arduino code. An included visual drag-and-drop programming environment adds to the learning options (though it’s not helpful if you’re specifically looking to learn coding).

Best beyond the basics: Sunfounder Mega2560 R3 Project Kit

Impressive component collection

This takes beginners beyond the basics without major expense. Sunfounder

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Why it made the cut: Budget Arduino starter kits are great for introducing beginners to coding and electronics, but eager learners soon want more. The SunFounder kit provides the logical ‘next step’ and great value for money.

Specs:

  • Board: MEGA2560 R3
  • Number of Components: 291
  • Projects included: 40

Pros

  • MEGA2560 board offers increased versatility
  • Online tutorials extend capabilities
  • Convenient storage case

Cons

  • Not ideal for beginners

Inexpensive entry-level Arduino kits provide a great way to start learning about coding and electronics. But their versatility is somewhat limited, and those eager to continue learning may soon want more. Fortunately, they don’t need to spend a great deal of money to extend their skill set. This SunFounder kit offers an extensive collection of components and is great value.

The kit is based on the MEGA2560 board, which is larger than the UNO and provides a wider range of connectivity options. That allows users to employ more complicated wiring. Used in conjunction with items like an ultrasonic ranging module, joystick and tilt switch, makers can build more complex mechanisms. Although the kit includes 40 projects, many more can be developed using online resources.

Users must download the IDE separately. While SunFounder provides some code, it, like instructions, is not as comprehensive as it might be. It’s less detailed than some competitors’, meaning learners may have to find solutions elsewhere or use other online resources to maximize the kit’s potential. While these challenges are not difficult to overcome, we would not recommend this kit for beginners.

Best WiFi set: GAR Monster Starter Kit for Arduino

Exploring the wireless world

Enables learners to experiment using WiFi, Bluetooth, and ethernet to control their creations. Goliath Automation & Robotics

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Why it made the cut: It’s expensive, but the GAR Monster starter kit can help beginners build and control complex wireless systems.

Specs:

  • Board: MEGA2560, UNO R3, NANO, ESP32 WiFi & Bluetooth
  • Number of Components: Over 500
  • Projects included: None (see description)

Pros

  • One of the largest component collections available
  • Includes three different microcontroller boards
  • Wireless capabilities

Cons

  • Expensive
  • May be overwhelming for beginners

Goliath Automation and Robotics (GAR) claims its Monster starter kit for Arduino is second only to its $500 Colossus kit as the largest kit available.

While the Monster starter kit is not cheap, it is impressively comprehensive. Although it will definitely appeal to more advanced users, it includes basics like the UNO R3 board that make it suitable for beginners. As a maker’s skills and knowledge increase, the MEGA2560 board allows them to pursue more complex projects, and the NANO and ESP32 platforms make it possible to develop wireless systems. The GAR Monster starter kit also is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and Raspberry Pi.

The instructions are fairly basic, and the main repository for projects is online. GAR offers an expanding library, but that’s really just the start. Given the number and variety of components provided, those wishing to extend their knowledge will find literally hundreds of suitable projects on the internet.

Things to Consider Before Buying an Arduino Starter Kit

Arduino is an open-source hardware and software platform, which means anyone can copy the designs to produce an Arduino starter kit. As a result, many are essentially clones of the original and are largely similar. That said, the quality and content of each kit can vary considerably. Here’s what to look for.

Boards

The core of every Arduino starter kit is a board that contains a microcontroller. This can interpret a signal (input) and perform an action (output) based on instructions supplied by the user. For example, pressing a button might turn on a light or move an object.

Arduino UNO, MEGA2560 and NANO are the most common boards, but many others are available. Each has its own specification, which will become of greater importance as a maker’s knowledge increases. Size may be a consideration if the goal is to build the board into, say, a robot or other confined space. UNO is the most basic and usually recommended for beginners. One of MEGA’s key features is the ability to accept more connections if the project’s wiring is complicated.

Projects/Tutorials

Most Arduino starter kits come with a number of projects or tutorials. These may be contained within a booklet or a DVD containing a PDF. Quantity varies from a single tutorial to the 40 projects included in our best value suggestion.

The creative possibilities of a particular kit usually exceed what is covered by the tutorials, however. Manufacturer’s websites, and those run by Arduino enthusiasts, provide almost limitless expansion and variation. Video tutorials are common. Note however that if they are not specific to a particular kit, buying additional components may be necessary.

Components

There are literally thousands of Arduino components and modules available. It’s certainly an area worth exploring. For beginners it is undoubtedly easiest to buy a starter kit and follow the tutorials provided. A ‘breadboard’ is a key component, allowing circuits to be built without soldering.

While many Arduino components are available individually, there is a compelling argument for buying additional starter kits, even for those people who have gained some experience. This is especially true if a maker has a particular project or range of projects in mind. Larger starter kits frequently contain parts for related projects, and buying one can often be easier than compiling an extensive shopping list. They are convenient, and may offer better value. Compatibility issues aren’t common—all components should follow the Arduino standard—but buying from the same manufacturer ensures everything works together.

FAQs

Q: Which Arduino is best for beginners?

It’s a difficult question to answer, because all Arduino starter kits are essentially aimed at those with little or no prior knowledge. Our selections above offer a variety of solutions suitable for all learning levels and all budgets.

Q: What can you build with an Arduino starter kit?

It depends on the kit, though its contents usually give some idea. Once you understand the basics, you can build movement sensors, smoke or fire alarms, timers, air quality sensors, lighting controls, and basic robots. Every kit includes tutorials, but many others are available online. Once you’ve gained a little experience, you can also develop your own variations and share them with other Arduino engineers.

Q: What’s the difference between Arduino and Raspberry Pi?

In basic terms, Arduino is designed for real-world building of models and prototypes, using simple coding for control. It teaches the interaction between software and hardware. A Raspberry Pi is a mini computer for learning programming and software development. It can be extended to activate hardware, but that’s not its primary purpose.

Final Thoughts

We can’t think of a better place to start the Arduino adventure than with the official Arduino starter kit. It provides a number of excellent examples of how software and electronics have real-world impact. However, it does come at a premium price. The Elegoo Uno is an Arduino starter kit for those who want to test the waters at minimal cost. Nevertheless it has sufficient content to prove absorbing, and deliver satisfying results.

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