Which Arduino Starter Kit is the Best?

Need an electronics kit? Check out these 4 options.

Which Arduino Starter Kit is Best

The other day my friend called me up. He told me how much he missed building circuits and wanted to start again with the Arduino.

So he asked me “which Arduino starter kit is the best to buy?” At which point, I drew a long breath. Easy question, not always an easy answer.

Picking out an electronics kit depends on a number of factors. You should consider:

  1. Your budget
  2. What you already have
  3. What you want to do

#1 and #2 are probably pretty easy to figure out. For many beginners, it’s “not much” and “nothing.” When you don’t know #3, what you want to do, then it gets trickier. Coming back to my friend, what did I do? Well, I went out and bought each one of the kits in this post. I put myself in his shoes and maybe these are your shoes as well.

Assuming you have about $100 to spend, have no components on-hand now and just want to “get started” consider one of these 4 Arduino starter kits.

Check out the 240p Test Suite


Learned about it in this video from the YouTube Channel My Life in Gaming. Some of their videos are a bit more technical than the general “retro review” style, which is why I started watching.

In their RGB 300 Video Series, they covered a homebrew project called “240p Test Suite.”

This project includes a number of test graphics and patterns to help in adjusting the settings of a modern TV. Even more impressive are the systems it covers:

  • Nintendo Wii
  • NSuper Famicom / SNES
  • Nintendo GameCube
  • Sega Mega Drive (Genesis)
  • Mega CD (Sega CD)
  • Sega Dreamcast
  • PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) / PCE Duo

Check out this wiki page which lists all the tests and download it for your retro gaming platform.

CD-based systems are pretty easy to run since most of the era didn’t have copy protection. For the cartridge systems, you’ll need something like an EverDrive / SD Card reader for ROMs to make it work.

I’ve got mine on order…

Back in the 1990s, a 1.44mb floppy disk was a reasonable storage size for most documents.  For bigger documents or backing up an internal hard drive, other options were necessary. You might remember the Zip Drive, but that wasn’t the first large portable media.

The Bernoulli Box was the precursor to the Zip Drive. It used custom media that could store 10s to 100mbs on portable disks. Well, portable compared to carrying around an entire hard drive. Operating using the Bernoulli principal, the drive’s head never comes in contact with the “floppy” material inside the protective case.

Clint of Lazy Game Reviews takes a look at this cool forgotten drive technology in this video.

How to find parts for your electronics projects and designs

These are the tools I use to find parts, do you?

how-to-find-parts tips

What part is the most important part in building a project? All of them! Okay, bad joke. Selecting the right parts or components for a design is an area where both new hobbyist and veteran engineers struggle. The wide variety of devices make it almost impossible to know if you are selecting the right one.

Looking at a curated List, using component search engines and browsing DIY shops are how I tend to find parts for my projects.

You might want to bookmark these some of these sites so you can use them next time you’re stuck on how to find parts for your project.

Using a learning algorithm known as NEAT, this Super Mario World play through is an example of a machine learning how to beat the level on its own. Using an evolutionary process, a neural network was built–or learned–to complete the level. The name of the program used to control Mario is called… Mar-I/O.

  • N: Neuro
  • E: Evolution of
  • A: Augmenting
  • T: Topologies

The initial play through is fascinating as well as the breakdown of what is going on. Well worth the 5 minutes.

Control a Rigol Scope with Linux

qrigol on GitHub

qrigol waveform plot

The Rigol DS1052E digital oscilloscopes are very popular for both hobbyist and professional engineers. These are very affordable scopes that pack a lot of value. Most of the software tools offered from Rigol only run on Windows. Al Williams has fixed that with the the qrigol project on GitHub.

From the readme file:

  • Uses USB communications with Scope
  • Allows keyboard to be unlocked so you can use both the panel and the software
  • Allows easy reading of all measurements as well as logging of all measurements
  • Control of common scope functions
  • Saves waveforms in CSV format
  • Integrates with external plot software like gnuplot to qtiplot
  • Diagnostic mode to send raw commands to scope

There’s a couple of limitations, but I want to draw attention to one. If your region uses a comma (“,”) as a decimal point, you might run into issues. For more information, you might want to check out the qrigol thread on the EEVBlog.

X-Carve CNC Review and Hands-On with PCB Milling

Can the X-Carve be used for PCB Milling?

X-Carve CNC Review

There are two methods to making a prototype PCB: 1) Etch Your Own or 2) Send to a Prototyping Service. While there are many prototyping service options, most cause you to wait anywhere between 24 hours and 30 days before you get your boards back.

If you need a PCB done today, etching at home is a great option. Chemical etching involves all kinds of steps with all kinds of weird chemicals. If you don’t want your neighbors to think you’re the next Walter White, then mechanical etching is a better option. Which is why I bought an X-Carve from Inventables. It’s a CNC Milling Kit you build yourself.

Keep reading for my X-Carve CNC Review and first-hand experience on etching my first PCB. Plus, lots of pictures!

AddOhms DVD Volume 1 is now Back In Stock

AddOhms DVD 1 Banner

Want to learn more about electronics and support this blog? Check out Volume 1 of the AddOhms DVD. It’s the first 13 tutorial videos from the AddOhms YouTube channel, plus a second disc of Bonus content.

These DVDs are professionally produced and available from my Tindie Store.

Right now I’ve only got United States shipping setup, so please ask for shipping if you’re outside the US. (Not sure which countries to set up first.)

Buy On Tindie

Get electronics help with the right question

Get Electronics Help with the Right Questions

4 keys to getting electronics help for your project

When describing a person, do you ever use the phrase “their strength is their weakness?” That’s how I feel about Internet forums. The strength of forums is the collective knowledge of like-minded people, some with more experience than others. Sadly, that is also the weakness of Internet forums… Whether it is a topic-specific site like the EEVBlog Forum or an almost anything site like Reddit the strength/weakness holds true.

Lucky for us, most engineering-focus forums are a positive place to ask question and get electronics help.

If you ask better questions, you can get better answers. So, here are  4 proven tips to help ask better questions, when looking for electronics help.