The CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Starter Kit offers almost everything you need to start using the Pi right away, including the Pi, a microSD card, a case, a power supply, and cables. You need only a keyboard, mouse, and screen.
You have a lot of points of entry with the Raspberry Pi, depending on what type of project you want to tackle first, but we recommend CanaKit’s Raspberry Pi 4 Starter Kit (2GB) if you’re not totally sure what you’ll do with it. That way, you have the basic necessities and you can expand from there.
That kit includes the Raspberry Pi 4 itself, a USB-C power supply, a case, a 32 GB microSD card, an HDMI cable, and a few other extras. If you do plan on using the Raspberry Pi as a computer, there’s no better option than the Raspberry Pi 400 Personal Computer Kit, which crams the the Raspberry Pi into a compact keyboard and includes a mouse, power supply, SD card, HDMI cable, and a beginner’s guide, so all you’ll need is a screen. Otherwise, you’ll need to bring your own mouse, keyboard, and TV or monitor. If you want to connect the Pi to objects like sensors, knobs, or buttons, CanaKit’s Raspberry Pi 4 Ultimate Kit includes the Pi alongside a breadboard, a ribbon cable, jumper wires, LEDs, resistors, and push-button switches. If you want to pick up your own case and microSD card and don’t need all the random cables, CanaKit has a simpler kit that includes the Pi, a power supply, and a couple of heat sinks.
The $55 4 GB model is a worthwhile upgrade for anyone looking to use the Raspberry Pi as a desktop computer, for machine learning projects, robotics, or a web server. Most people can skip the $75 8 GB model unless you want to run virtual machines or a database server.
Part of the fun of the Raspberry Pi is customization, and though you have thousands of options for cases, we like either the official case or the colorful Rainbow Pibow. If you already have plenty of microSD cards and a power supply, you can always buy just the Raspberry Pi 4 (2GB) itself, but be sure to never pay much more than the $35 retail price.
If you want a lot of storage, which is especially useful for game emulators and media servers, the 64 GB SanDisk MicroSDXC card for Nintendo Switch will provide plenty of room.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $15.
Like any computer, the Raspberry Pi needs an operating system to do stuff. Most machines these days run Windows or macOS, but the Raspberry Pi primarily runs Linux, and you have a lot of options. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has an official general-use operating system, called Raspberry Pi OS, that’s optimized to work on the Pi. It includes free software for coding, an office suite, and of course, a special version of Minecraft. Raspberry Pi OS now even includes an app store to make downloading third-party software easier. Several other specialized operating systems are built around particular projects, like Recalbox for retro games or OSMC for a media center.
Unlike most computers with built-in hard drive or SSD storage options, the Pi’s OS is installed onto a microSD card, which is also where you’ll put all your files since the board doesn’t include any built-in storage (though you can boot from an external storage drive too). This structure makes it easy for you to expand the storage and switch between different operating systems by swapping out microSD cards. (It also makes the Pi resilient: If you bork your OS install, you can just reimage the card on another computer and you’re back in business.)