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The Pi kits we got from Element 14 / Newark / Adafruit

December 29, 2012

D – On my search for buying the Pi I eventually landed on the Element 14 website (http://www.element14.com/community/index.jspa). Element 14 is an online community website for engineers. Since engineers need parts partnering with Newark isn’t that far of a stretch. Element 14 links to various electronic component vendors (Newark, MCM) that in the end are all subsidies of Premier Farnell. One might wonder why I even care, but I like to know where I buy stuff from and since RadioShack isn’t really that great when it comes to electronic components I am always on the lookout for a good distributor.

The kits that I bought are not longer offered as such from Newark. They put together new kits which I think are better. So a yay for Newark and an ohhh for me because the change occurred just a few days after I ordered. As it was back then as well, Newark shows 0 stock for individual Raspberry Pis. I expected that when I ordered the delivery would take several weeks until the Pis are back in stock, but it appears as that the kits including the Pi have nothing to do with the stock for the individually sold Pis. It was nice to see that I get my toys sooner than expected. Also, unlike others who sell through Amazon Newark does not mark up the Pis by quite some. The Pi website states it costs 35$ and that is what Newark asks for it – and not 80$ or 90$ that other ‘resellers’ request. Still, the Newark website is for the consumer rather confusing. Although you can order this or that kit in the end the order lists shows each individual item. And when ordering two kits the parts that are the same in each kit get doubled. It got confusing really fast and getting everything distributed over four shipments did not help. I think I was supposed to get one more HDMI cable, but I still cannot tell if that is the case. Even if, I don’t need the extra HDMI cable as the plan for both our Pis is to run with computer monitors via DVI connection.

‘Medium kit’ for dad

The kit that I bought for myself contained the Pi, the BUD Pi Box enclosure, a network cable, an HDMI cable (?), a 4GB SDHC card (Samsung) with Debian for the Pi on it, and a power supply. I call it the ‘medium kit’ because it was not the smallest kit that was offered and not the Adafruit kit, but the one in the middle. It might have had an official name, but I forgot and due to the change in kits I can no longer look it up. I don’t see myself spending much time dabbling with electronic circuits and programming I/O. It is not that I lack interest, but I lack time with a good number of other hobbies and now a blog to post on. I am more in for the fun factor rather than the purely educational aspect. For that reason I did not go for the Adafruit kit for myself. I like this kit and it has enough parts in it to get going, my only complaint is with the BUD Pi Box enclosure, but I post about enclosures later. The kit cost around 60$ which is a fair price.

‘Adafruit kit’ for son

As mentioned in the About page my son likes playing with electronics and computers so buying the Adafruit kit made sense. The kit came with the Pi, an Adafruit enclosure, HDMI cable, 4 GB Dane-Elec micro SDHC card with adaptor, power supply, and the Adafruit Pi Cobbler Breakout kit. The Cobbler kit contains a ribbon cable assembly that connects the Pi’s I/O pins to a breadboard, a full-size breadboard, a handful of resistors, breadboarding wire bundle, the USB to serial cable, the Raspberry Pi badge, and three gigantic LEDs.

I think that is a well put together starter kit for the young electronics fan. I do have two minor complaints. For one, the SDHC card was empty although the description stated that it will contain the Adafruit edition of the Debian distro for the Pi. The card was in in retail packaging and I didn’t think that someone spends the time to carefully open the package, write the image on the card, and then glue the package back together. That problem was easily fixed by downloading the image from Adafruit’s website and writing it to the card. For two, Cobbler kit came in a nice box and was packaged well, but missed a piece of paper with some URLs providing instructions for projects. I did fine the project pages on the Adafruit site. I’d rather see a sheet with the blinking LEDs project included than the badge (although that badge looks neat, also see note at end of post). The entire system is to be educational and fun for kids and teens. Nothing stops them more in the tracks than having no instructions at hand. How great would it be if the young engineers open up the box, plug everything together, grab the breadboard and start building. Now that I think about it I could have just printed out the project instructions myself! The kit cost around 100$ which is also a fair price.

Conclusion

I think Element 14, Newark, MCM Electronics, and Adafruit are excellent representatives and distributors for the Raspberry Pi. The Pi foundation can call itself blessed to have such partners. I also think that whoever puts these kits together did a really great job. In that sense my small complaints are nothing more than just that. I also found that purchasing from Newark was easy. They are mainly a distributor for commercial customers so some of the purchasing process and parts lists make sense to companies that buy a thousand pieces of this and a thousand of those plus 500 connectors. The hobbyists might find this a bit awkward. Also, one typically needs more than what the kits contain and for things like one USB hub or one HDMI to DVI cable Newark seems not to be the right place. The new kits compensate for this quite a bit, but I think Newark could pull through more products with the Pi sales if the selection for likely needed items (keyboards, mice, wireless network adapters, powered USB hubs, HDMI cables, network cables) is better and prices are lower. I get it, as mentioned above Newark is geared towards selling to businesses not the consumer who buys one or two of a kind. Businesses will also not buy their PC keyboards from a company like Newark. For that reason holding on to stock of commodity hardware that is rather large and with low margins just doesn’t make much sense. In the end I bought the parts that I still needed somewhere else (will blog about that later) for less money despite the generous 15% off coupon from Newark. Despite all that Newark gets an A from me!

Here is the link to the Newark Pi kits and accessories page. I just wonder why the list a VGA cable as accessory, it is rather useless for a Pi….unless you use Pi-View.

Note: After writing this post I came across the video about Adafruit Industries. There is a significance to the badge and it is not like these stickers you get with your boxed AMD processor.

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From → The Pi hardware

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