Pre-Beginner Question - Which Arduino kit...


I'm planning to get an Arduino and looking forward to doing the various tutorials and other learning projects. There's more board options for sale than I was expecting and I'm looking for a wee bit of guidance before I take the plunge.

Ultimately I'd like to use the Arduino to make a device to dispense toys/treats for my dog. That can be on a timer basis but it would be nice to have it so I can activate it via the web.

So, should I be looking to get one of the IOT boards straight away or is it easy to add the networking functionality to a standard Starter Kit?

Thanks a mill.

I'd say that adding an Ethernet shield to the Uno or Mega you would get in the common starter kits is probably the most beginner friendly route.

However, if you want a WiFi connection to the network instead of Ethernet, then I would say that it's going to be easier to use something like the MKR WiFi 1010, Nano 33 IoT, ESP8266, or ESP32.

The Uno and the Mega are the easiest boards to learn on because they have been around so long that the support (both official and community) for these boards is amazingly good. The newer boards I mentioned also have a good level of support, but they simply can't compete with the classic Arduino boards because they just haven't been around so long to accumulate the massive amount of tutorials, libraries, example sketches, etc. If you're interested in learning about Arduino in general, rather than just doing one project, then it might be the best path to start with something like the Uno or Nano to learn the basics, then move to the more advanced WiFi board once you are ready to make that step.

Thanks for your reply.

I think I'll get the standard starter pack to learn with all the tutorials etc and maybe then look at getting a IOT/WiFi board when I'm more experienced. The boards on their own are cheaper than I was expecting so it's not too expensive to upgrade.

Start monitoring some of the courses, when you find one you like get the kit they use because you can then follow along and try each of the experiments. After this it is very easy to get additional shields. I would suggest purchasing a spare arduino as they can be blown with mistooks. When doing a project check the grounds and be sure they are all connected. eBay is a great but far from the only source of arduino supplies.
Good Luck & Have Fun!



I also suggest getting the following:

a random/misc 'sensor' kit (usually get those 48 modules kits for like $15.00 bucks now a days)

go on ebay get an assorted/misc value kit of resistors and capacitors

get a bag full of jumper wires

in my footer are links to tronixstuff and jeremy blum both sites have a nice set of tutorials to walk through..

I don’t know anything about the kits…

If you don’t know ANY electronics or programming beware there is a LOT to learn because you’ll need to learn some electronics & programming basics, plus learn how to use the Arduino. And, IoT or other connectivity adds greatly to the complexity.

If electronics is going to be one of your hobbies you’ll need a multimeter (mostly for troubleshooting). A multimeter will measure voltage, resistance, and current. It doesn’t have to be an expensive one. The ohmmeter function will mostly be used for finding opens (missing connections) and shorts (unintentional connections). You’ll rarely be measuring current because it’s a pain and it can be “dangerous” to your circuitry and/or you can blow a fuse in your meter if you make the wrong connections.

…If you have a problem (and you will have problems) and you ask for help here, someone is going to ask things like, “What’s the voltage on the base of the transistor?”

And at some point, you’ll need to solder something so, you’ll eventually need a basic soldering kit and a few other tools like wire cutters/strippers. But, that can probably wait until you start making your own custom projects.

I almost forgot… You should have an [u]ESD ground strap[/u] (and a grounded ESD mat if you can afford it). Semiconductors can be damaged by static discharge and it doesn’t have to be a spark that you can see or feel.

a random/misc ‘sensor’ kit (usually get those 48 modules kits for like $15.00 bucks now a days)

go on ebay get an assorted/misc value kit of resistors and capacitors

I wouldn’t go for “random” and I’d hold-off until you’re ready to build something beyond your starter

And then I’d recommend a proper assortment of standard resistor values (something like [u]this[/u]) from a reputable supplier, so if your design calls for a 2K resistor, you’ll have it. And, maybe a similar capacitor assortment.

And then when you buy stuff that you actually need for a specific project, buy extras unless you’re buying something expensive like motors. Most electronic parts are cheap! It’s a bummer when you need to order one part that only costs a few cents! So by extras and try to avoid those little “emergency orders” where the shipping costs more than the parts.

And if you can afford it, do as gilshultz suggests and get an extra Arduino. And extra Arduino can be a handy troubleshooting tool too… If suddenly “nothing’s” working can be handy to try another Arduino.

I’d stay away from “cheap” suppliers on eBay, Alibaba, 3rd-party Amazon sellers, etc. If you order from a reputable supplier you’ll get good parts and more importantly you’ll get a link to the manufacturer’s specs/data sheet. The data sheets are not super-important for “simple” components like resistors & capacitors, but people often get stuck with stuff that’s not well documented (or cheap junk parts) and then they can’t figure how to get it working if it works at all. Here in the U.S., some reputable suppliers are SparkFun, Adafruit, DigiKey, Mouser, and Jameco.

Yes on the multi-meter - in addition to the above uses - today's resistors are so small the color code is useless to my old eyes so I use a meter for the resistance of a resistor

I got a starter kit from Sparkfun, but just got one from here

and think the text is MUCH better and the projects all have a SCHEMATIC as well as a picture diagram of the board wired up. There are many kits available and not too expensive and they come with the parts required to get started.

I find working through the examples good as the structure got me familiar with the language and the layout of a program and structure. I programed in C way back so the language was familiar to me, but the commands to say read an input or turn on/off an output were new.

And yes when you order some chips and other parts getting a few extra is good - sort of sucks to need one more $0.95 chip and need to pay $10.00 shipping or drive several miles to buy it if you are lucky enough to live in a town that has a store that sells chips.

Good luck

I only have experience with 2 kits. One is a eBay special. It has very little documentation and half the modules use parts with no identifying part numbers. So, finding a datasheet is nearly impossible without spending a lot of time researching. I don’t recommend those kits.

The other is an Elegoo kit (hope I spelled that correctly). It’s a much better kit and comes with decent enough information on a CD (yup. Old school!). It may not be the best, but worth the price I paid, IMO.

IMO get an Uno or a Nano as your first Arduino; which one is better for you depends on how you want to work (they use the same processor) - the Uno has female pin header on it, so you use it with $hields and/or male dupont jumpers. The Nano (and most other boards) have male pin header on it, so you either stick the pin header into solderless breadboard, or use female dupont jumpers. Once you get the hang of Arduino, and maybe get it all working w/out the internet connectivity, you’ll be in a better position to decide if you want to make it internet-controllable; if you do decide to make it internet controlled, I’d 100% use an ESP8266, specifically a D1 mini - they’re under $5 on ebay, and everyone and their mom uses ESP8266’s so there’s tons of info around the internet on them, and they have native wifi.

Personally, I detest solderless breadboard (it’s unreliable, especially as it gets older or after you’ve plugged a square pin header into a hole. I’m fond of mocking people who use it when they try to show me a project they built on it - there’s always time for such mockery while they inevitably poke at their project trying to find the loose wire when it doesn’t work), and when I wire things up temporarily use female dupont jumpers and male pin header (male dupont jumpers are fiddly IME - though I have also recently been on the receiving end of a bunch of dodgy female jumpers) - and if I want any sort of durability, I solder to protoboard (aka “solderable breadboard”, “veroboard”, etc) But I have also been soldering since grade school, so to me soldering something is barely a barrier - I find stripping wires by hand to be more than half the pain of soldering up something (it was revolutionary when I got my claws on a thermal wire stripper, total game changer, best $60 I’ve spent on electronics tools)

Plenty of people here don’t agree with me regarding breadboard and genders of dupont jumper, though.

Also note that the Nano (or Nano v3.0) is not the same as a Nano Every/Nano IoT/Nano 33 (those three boards, recently released, have literally nothing in common with eachother or the original nano except the physical shape of the board). The nano/nano v3.0 is the one you want to start with, not one of the weird new ones.

Plenty of people here will also disagree with me when I say that official Uno/Mega boards are terrible to start off with - I would always pick a clone with CH340G instead of an official Uno/Mega with the 16u2 as serial adapter. The 16u2 that the official boards use is much easier to trash if you abuse it (electrically) - we get avg more than one post a day from people new to the hobby who connected a power wire wrong or something and trashed the 16u2 on an official board, whereas we get less than one post per month from people who trashed the ch340g on a clone, and as far as I can tell, uno clones outnumber official unos among forum denizens by at least 10:1.

I personally started with a Pro Mini and CP2102 USB interface board - which pre-dated the CH340.

I find the “solderless breadboard” far more versatile than the odd arrangement on the UNO which of course, is not at all compatible with solderless breadboard. I have not had much trouble with it, probably because I do not expect to plug strange things into it such as large potentiometers. So the Nano is my “go to” module and what i always recommend. If you have a “shield” which completes your design in one wallop, then a UNO or Mega 2560 is the answer.

So, should I be looking to get one of the IOT boards straight away or is it easy to add the networking functionality to a standard Starter Kit?

WiFi - which for this sort of thing is going to be vastly more convenient than Ethernet as you are not going to be using it in business or “Mission Critical” - mandates an ESP8266 instead of an Arduino and the WeMOS D1 Mini is the workhorse here though the ESP-01 teamed with a USB module is sufficient and compact for many tasks. There is an argument for using the WeMOS D1 Mini and its “shields (which are breadboard/ stripboard compatible)” as your introduction to microcontrollers if you can follow the 3.3 V discipline.

Yes, you need a $5 multimeter, but consider also an “Ardutester”:

This will conveniently test your leaded components and chip components (using tweezers! :grinning: ). Not much more expensive than the multimeter so you might as well have both. Bit more expensive with its acrylic case.

The only thing that annoys me about the CH340 Arduino clones is calling them "UNO"s as they are actually a Duemilanove variant since they do not have the 16U2 functionality - not that it is ever used in 99.9% of cases.

Yes, you need a $5 multimeter, but consider also an "Ardutester"

Those "transistor testers" are very cool, but there are so many more useful things for a beginner to spend that >=$7 on, that wouldn't even be on the list. I own one because I got it free from a Chinese manufacturer thinking (wrongly) that they could talk me into leaving them positive reviews on Amazon in exchange for free stuff and I have actually only used it a few times in the years I've had it. Maybe more useful to someone who does a lot of salvaging of components from E-waste.

Very useful if you are assembling a kit with a bunch of resistors with less-than-clear coding.

And arguably, the other parts.

Definitely useful, but for someone starting from nothing, I would say that there are a dozen+ items that would be higher on the list.

(do you have wire cutters and strippers? Solder (leaded, lead free is significantly harder to work with) and a temperature controlled iron? Wire? spare USB cables (at least some of the starter kits making the rounds come with poorly made failure prone cables)?

Also throw in a small pair of long nosed pliers - useful for straightening pins on chips, dealing with wire, bending thingd and the uses go on and on